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November 9, 2012

Bowling Green vs WMU Hockey Preview

Bowling Green State Falcons

Location: Bowling Green, OH
Home Arena: BGSU Ice Arena (Capacity: 5,000)
Head Coach: Chris Bergeron (3rd year, 26-57-11)
2011-12 Record: 14-25-5 (5-19-4-3, 12th in CCHA)
2012-13 Record: 2-5-2
2012-13 CCHA Record: 1-2-1-1 (5 pts, t-7th)

Last Season:Last year started off great for the Falcons, winning 4 of their first 5 games, and with a lone tie keeping them from perfection. However, that success quickly disappeared as they lost 13 of their next 17 games, with a pair of wins over Canisius, a shoot-out win over Miami, and a shoot-out loss to the Broncos.

However, they turned the calendar and opened a new page of strong play in the 2nd half of the season. After capturing 4 of 6 points against then #2 Ohio State, they split 3 straight series with Alaska, WMU, and Notre Dame. They would split with Michigan after getting swept by Northern Michigan and then #1 Ferris State, heading into the CCHA Playoffs as the 11-seed.

After repeating their magic from 2011, when they upset 6-seed Northern Michigan in 3 games, the Falcons were matched-up with the CCHA Regular Season Champion Ferris State Bulldogs, who had only lost twice all season long at home. After splitting the first two games, and then down 3-0 in the 3rd, the Falcons stormed back with 3 goals from Dan DeSalvo to win 4-3 in OT and secure the biggest upset in CCHA history. They would lose a heart-breaker in double-OT to Michigan in the CCHA Semi-Finals, and then would lose to Miami to finish their run as the 4th place team in the tournament.
Summary: 1-2-1-0 (4 pts) vs WMU, 12th place finish in CCHA regular season, 4th place finish in CCHA Tournament.

This season: The Falcons got the rare opportunity to open the entire NCAA season with a game against Niagara. They would tie that game 2-2 and head back home to play their exhibition game. They would then drop 4 of their next 5 games, with two coming against a ranked Union squad. However, they have rebounded nicely to take 5 points in their past 3 games against Ohio State and Michigan State. Bowling Green's offense has again been cold, scoring just 1.78 goals/game. They have one of the worst power-plays, converting just 7.3%, and their PK has been shaky as well, killing just 75.7%. All 3 are either last or next to last in the CCHA.

Forwards: After struggling to score most of last season (1.43 goals/game in CCHA), the Falcons turned it on in the playoffs, scoring 25 goals in 8 games including 22 in their first 6 against NMU and Ferris State. Dan DeSalvo exploded for 10 goals in those series to end up leading the team in goals by season's end with a mere 14 (14-11-25). Ryan Carpenter (11-19-30) led BG in points, and both he and DaSalvo will be sophomores.

In fact, the Falcons are a very young team, with their forwards being the freshest portion of the team. With a lone senior in Marc Rodriguez (3-0-3), Bowling Green will rely heavily on juniors and sophomores. However, they are not bad players. While young, BG looks to build chemistry and scoring. They also return Cam Wojtala (10-13-23), Adam Berkle (7-14-21), and Bryce Williamson (9-7-16) to help bolster the scoring.

Defense: Last year, the Falcon defense was porous at best. The lone team in the CCHA to give up 80+ goals in conference play, and 110+ overall, the defense really hurt the Falcons in many games by digging a hole early. Bobby Shea (9 pts, -13) will be the senior leader on defense, who really tightened up as the season went along. Ryan Peltoma (3 pts, -11) and Marcus Perrier (9 pts, -13) started against Michigan in the CCHA semi-finals last season, and look to be the top D-Line again this season. Connor Kucera (8 pts, +2) will be the lone defenseman returning with a positive +/- from last season, and just 1 of 3 Falcons to say that they accomplished that feat (DeSalvo +4, Carpenter +2).

Goaltending: Andrew "The Hamburglar" Hammond returns to hold down the crease for Bowling Green in his final season. After splitting time his freshman and sophomore seasons with Nick Eno, he almost exclusively held the starting role last season, setting an astounding mark of 2,615 minutes played. Hammond could have easily been the All-CCHA Championship Team goalie, but WMU's Frank Slubowski edged him out for the award. Hammond ended the season with a 2.73 GAA and a .903 save percentage, saving an incredible 1,114 shots.

Behind Hammond there isn't much. Tommy Burke has put up better statistical numbers as both seemed to split time so far this season. Burke is 1-2-1 with 2.42 GAA and a .901 save percentage.

Coaching: Head coach Chris Bergeron entered his 3rd season at the helm of the Falcons, after compiling a combined record of 24-52-9 in his first two seasons. While that may not look great, the Falcon's strong finish has Bergeron hoping for a strong season in 2012-13. After losing to Miami in the 3rd place game, Bergeron said, "These guys don't want to feel like this again. (They know) what it takes to win, and it's time for us to put it together for an entire year."

Bergeron won't be alone. Behind the bench with him will be Barry Schutte and Ty Eigner. Schutte came over with Bergeron from Miami, as part of the Enrico Blasi coaching tree that includes former WMU coach Jeff Blashill. Eigner was a successful high school coach in Minnesota prior to becoming an assistant at his alma mater. Both have helped Bergeron attempt to rise Bowling Green from the CCHA cellar.

Match-up against the Broncos: Bowling Green looks like they haven't found their offense yet, and that doesn't bode well against a team that plays tough defense like the Broncos. Even if Dan DeKeyser cannot play this weekend, the Broncos have a good enough defense to stop the oft anemic offense of the Falcons. Add in the fact that Western should come out with some fire after their 4-0 loss to Notre Dame, and we see this series going the full way of WMU. All 6 points by one comfortable (2+ goals) and one close margin

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