The Bowling Green hockey team will open the 2012-13 season at Niagara on Saturday starting at 4:05 p.m. The Falcons then return home for an exhibition game against Ontario Institute of Technology on Sunday, with faceoff at 5:05 p.m. at the Ice Arena.
On Wednesday BG coach Chris Bergeron and co-captain Cam Wojtala talked to the media about the preseason CCHA predictions, the start of the season and the hockey team in general. Here are some of the highlights.
- First, as you probably know by now, the Falcons were NOT picked to finish last in the 11-team Central Collegiate Hockey Association for the first time since the 2008-09 season. For those who might have missed the details, BG was picked to finish in an eighth-place tie with Northern Michigan by the league's coaches and ninth by 87 media members.
I was one of the 87 who votes, and I'll pass along my vote (with a few comments) in a separate post later Thursday.
Both Bergeron and Wojtala said the Falcons won't pay much attention to the poll, even though it shows the program has taken steps forward.
"As far as I'm concern, we're [still] at the bottom," Bergeron said. "The poll is what it is. We'll pay no attention to it, like we have in the past. It says we're gaining some respect among the coaches and media in our league, and that's about it."
Wojtala agreed, adding, "I haven't heard anybody say anything about them. Obviously we see them -- they're right in your face -- but they don't mean anything to us. We take them as a day-by-day thing. Is it nice to earn some respect from people around the league? Yes, but you still have to earn it throughout the season."
Bergeron said part of the reason the Falcons moved up in the poll was because of the losses of the two teams behind them in the poll, Alaska (which returns 16 lettermen but lost seven) and Lake Superior State (which returns 20 but also lost seven). By comparison, BG returns 21 and lost only five.
- Bergeron provided a nifty capsule of the Falcons in a few sentences. "People know we're solid in goal, and most teams want to start there. We're unproven offensively, but people know we can defend."
- Bergeron had an interesting answer when I asked him about the goals for the program. "I want us to be more consistent, and I want to talk about myself first," he said. "Last year, the first half of the year especially, I got way far away from the process and the details and the focus of what our program is and got too caught up in the results. And we all know the results weren't very good.
"I want us all to become more consistent as individuals without our program, in terms of day-to-day focus. I want us to be more consistent with our collective effort. What that leads to, in our experience, will be positive. Our expectation for this season is for our program to be more consistent. You will know what you're going to get from Bowling Green, in the classroom, on the ice, community service. And that starts with the coaching staff, me in particular.
"We're not going to talk about how many wins or getting home ice or anything like that. We're going to talk about more consistent focus in this program."
- Bergeron said goaltender Andrew Hammond benefited from taking part in a prospect camp this past summer. "He was in a prospect camp with the Chicago Blackhawks, and he got to see how these pros prepare -- and how important that preparation is, especially at that position," Bergeron said. "He's such a smart kid and took that all in. He didn't go there thinking it would be cool just to put the jersey on; he watched how people prepared, and their mental focus. Physically, he's talented. But that will be the difference: How is focus is mentally is from day to day. I have no doubt he'll take his game from good to great."
- Defensively, Bergeron said the Falcons don't have a very offensive-minded group after Ralfs Freibergs was suspended for 33 games. The issue was his Latvian Junior team played in a professional league in that country, which will cause Freibergs to miss nearly all of the coming season. He could redshirt this year, but a decision on his status has not been made.
- While the Falcons will look for contributions from a deep and talented freshman class, Bergeron is pleased the program has reached a point where depth will increase competition and spread the workload over more players.
"If you look at successful teams around the country, they don't have to rely on their freshmen," he said. "The freshmen get to come in and watch the upperclassmen operate on a daily basis and learn from them. And what they contribute is what they contribute ... They can watch our older guys and learn that it is a process. They are guys who are going to have ups and downs. But now we can get through those ups and downs together and realize our program is moving forward even as they're still figuring things out."
- Bergeron was asked what type of game he expects in the opener against Niagara on Saturday. "I think it's going to be an intense, high-energy game," he said. "I don't think the execution will be great, so it will come down to execution. ... I think it will be sloppier than most games. They will be playing at home, so that will help them. It will be a matter of who can execute better in a situation where execution will be difficult."
I will have a season overview on the Falcons in Friday's Blade.