Things did not go as planned for Chris Bergeron last season in his first year as Bowling Green’s coach.
“I think I made too many assumptions last year, personally,” said Bergeron. “I need to do a better job of developing relationships with these young guys where you can develop them through recruiting and when they get here you just carry on. Well, I didn’t have a chance to recruit most of these guys, in particular, the guys from last year.”
The guys from last year recorded the worst offense in the nation (1.80 goals per game) the 36th-best defense in the nation (3.00 goals allowed per game), a power play that converted 10.3 percent of the time, and a penalty kill that was effective at a rate of 81.6 percent.
While the team ended its season with two lopsided losses to Michigan in the second round of the CCHA playoffs, the Falcons did manage to eliminate Northern Michigan in Marquette the week before.
“I’m hoping that experience will help our guys with their confidence,” said Bergeron. “We found ways for bad things to happen in situations [last season] where we could have won games. Northern had nine more league wins than we did but our season series we went 3-3-1 so we’re pretty close. I hope that was a small step in that belief in the building of our culture and foundation.”
There are several things working in Bergeron’s favor this season. One is the capable goaltender Andrew Hammond, who played behind Nick Eno last year. “He’s a very mature young guy and he takes that approach on a daily basis,” said Bergeron. “He’s very good at talking about where his game is, where he is physically, mentally. On top of that, knowing there’s plenty of room for improvement. He has the physical capabilities of being as good as any goalie in this league.”
Another plus for Bergeron and Bowling Green is the 10-member freshman class. That’s 10 guys who don’t remember last season.
“We have a chance to mold them within the foundation and culture that we’re trying to create. This year’s 10 recruits, with the exception of one, chose Bowling Green I hope on the basis of that culture.”
What spells doom?
The rookies aren’t the only ones who are young. The Falcons plan to play three freshmen defenders every game, and in addition to the newcomers, there are nine sophomore on the BG roster.
“You can’t teach experience,” said Bergeron. “Of the 19 young people that we’re going to have in our lineup most nights, most don’t have experience. The brand or the model isn’t solidified yet so they’re looking for someone to lead the way and we’re still trying to figure each other out.
“We want to teach experience every day and you can’t. You’ve got to live it. It’s going to sound like an excuse but it isn’t. It’s a fact. We’re young.”
About the Falcons
2010-11 overall record: 10-27-4
2010-11 CCHA record: 3-21-4-2 (11th)
2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): 11th
Key losses: Forwards Jordan Samuels-Thomas and David Solway; goaltender Nick Eno
Players to watch: Forwards James McIntosh, Brett Mohler, and Marc Rodriguez; defenseman Jake Sloat; goaltender Andrew Hammond
Impact rookie: Defenseman Marcus Perrier
Why the Falcons will finish higher than the coaches poll: Ten new players who don’t carry the baggage of the culture before Chris Bergeron arrived, and remaining players committed to improve.
Why the Falcons will finish as picked in the coaches poll: Ten new players, a developing culture, lingering defensive issues and no Nick Eno.