Now that the winter sports seasons have ended, Falcon Fodder is taking a look at BG’s hockey, women’s basketball and men’s basketball teams as all three prepare for the 2013-14 season. This week the focus is on the hockey program.
In this installment, our focus shifts to the new-look Western Collegiate Hockey Association, BG’s home next season.
Here we go …
THUMBNAIL: The Chargers suffered through a difficult season that saw them play just five home games. The team’s biggest problem came in scoring goals as UAH managed just 36 in 25 contests. While graduation takes away just four players, one of those seniors was goalie John Griggs, who posted a 3.96 goals-against and 89.6 save percentage. The young team, which had eight freshmen and eight sophomores on the roster, will return leading scorers Jeff Vanderlugt (7-3=10) and Kyle Lysaght (5-5=10).
ALASKA-ANCHORAGE: 4-25-7 overall, 2-20-6 WCHA (12th)
THUMBNAIL: The Seawolves finished last for the fifth time in eight years under coach Dave Shyiak, who lost his job after UAA lost its last nine in a row and staggered to a 1-20-3 finish. The team managed just 67 goals in 36 games (1.86 per game), and only Alabama-Huntsville scored fewer. Blake Tatchell led the offense as a freshman (9-16=25), while Scott Allen (12-7=19) topped the team in goals. A pair of juniors split the work in goal as Chris Kamal was 2-14-3 with a 3.31 goals-against and 88.8 save percentage while Rob Gunderson was 2-11-4 with a 3.89 GAA and 87.3 save percentage.
ALASKA (Fairbanks): 17-16-4 overall, 12-13-3-1 CCHA (sixth)
THUMBNAIL: The Nanooks lose seven seniors from this season, including leading scorer Andy Taranto (16-14=30), an All-CCHA second-team pick, and four other forwards. The returnees up front include Cody Kunyk (11-17=28), Colton Beck (11-10=21) and Tyler Morley (10-11=21), with Morley earning a spot on the CCHA’s all-rookie team. The only graduation loss on the blueline is Kaare Odegard, while freshman John Keeney saw the bulk of the action in net (13-11-3, 2.33 goals-against, 90.9 save percentage).
BEMIDJI STATE: 6-22-8, 5-16-7 WCHA (11th)
THUMBNAIL: The Beavers won only once after Dec. 15, although they gave Minnesota fits before losing their first-round WCHA playoff series. Bemidji State loses nine seniors, including its three of its top four leading scorers in Brance Orban (9-14=23), Jordan George (9-10=19) and Aaron McLeod (11-5=16), along with blueliners Brady Wacker (3-6=9) and Jake Areshenko (0-4=4). Andrew Walsh (5-14-6, 2.65 goals-against, 91.6 save percentage) returns after seeing the majority of the work in goal, while Danny Mattson (4-15=19) is expected to lead the offense.
FERRIS STATE: 16-16-5 overall, 13-12-3-1 CCHA (fifth)
THUMBNAIL: The Bulldogs were able to earn a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs but were knocked off by Ohio State on the road in the second round. FSU will lose leading scorers Kyle Bonis (19-8=27), an honorable mention All-CCHA choice, and Travis Ouellette (11-15=26), but Garrett Thompson (11-15=26) and Cory Kane (9-9=18) return. C.J. Motte was strong in goal in his first season as the starter (15-15-5, 2.19 goals-against, 92.7 save percentage), also earning All-CCHA honorable mention, while Jason Binkley (2-18=20) and Simon Denis (4-14=18) return on the blueline.
LAKE SUPERIOR STATE: 17-21-1 overall, 11-16-1-1 CCHA (eighth)
THUMBNAIL: The Lakers were able to snag the CCHA’s final home bid for the first round of the playoffs but lost that best-of-three series to Bowling Green (after posting a 2-0 shutout in the first game, the Lakers were outscored 13-3 in losing the last two). LSSU also will lose leading scorers Domenic Monardo (20-11=31), an honorable mention All-CCHA pick, and Nick McParland (6-17=23) to graduation. Both goalies -– Kevin Murdock (10-12-0, 2.51 goals-against, 93.0 save percentage) and Kevin Kapalka (7-9-1, 2.86, 91.6) –- are expected to return, as will a large portion of the Lakers’ blueline corps.
MICHIGAN TECH: 13-20-4, 8-16-4 WCHA (tenth)
THUMBNAIL: While the Huskies will lose seven seniors, their up-and-down season was the result of youth throughout the program. Among the returnees are a pair of goalies who will be sophomores in Pheonix Copley (8-15-1, 3.22 goals-against, 90.0 save percentage) and Jamie Phillips (2-2, 2.40, 90.7). The team’s leading scorers -– Alex Petan (15-19=34), a member of the WCHA’s all-rookie team, David Johnstone (10-19=29), Jujhar Khaira (6-19=25), Blake Pietila (14-10=24) and Tanner Kero (11-13=24) -– all should be back, while Riley Sweeney (2-11=13) and Brad Stebner (1-10=11) are the top returnees on the blueline.
MINNESOTA STATE (Mankato): 24-14-3, 16-11-1 WCHA (fourth, tied)
THUMBNAIL: The Mavericks are the only team in this group that qualified for the NCAA tournament, and the team featured just five seniors. The key for MSU is in goal, where Stephon Williams was voted the WCHA’s top goalie and freshman of the year after going 21-12-2 with a 2.00 goals-against and 92.4 save percentage. While Eriah Hayes (20-16=36), a third-team All-WCHA pick, was lost on offense, top scorers Matt Leitner (17-30=47), who also was voted third team All-WCHA,, and Jean-Paul Lafontaine (9-26-=35) return. Several top defensemen also are gone, but the blueline returnees include Zach Palmquist (7-18=25) and Josh Nelson (5-9=14).
NORTHERN MICHIGAN: 15-19-4, 9-15-4-1 CCHA (tenth)
THUMBNAIL: The Wildcats struggled on special teams, giving up a whopping 36 power-play goals and a mind-bending 13 short-handed goals. NMU got solid play in goal from Jared Coreau (15-19-4, 2.70 goals-against, 91.9 save percentage), but he will not return after signing a pro contract after his junior season. Leading scorer Matt Thurber (6-26=32) is one of five seniors lost, as is defenseman Scott Macaulay (5-11=16). Reed Seckel (13-12=25), Erik Higby (9-12=21) and Stephan Vigier (7-14=21) will need to pick up the scoring, while C.J. Ludwig (4-11=15) will be asked to anchor the defense.
LEAGUE OVERVIEW: Based on last season’s results, the league favorites should be Minnesota State, Ferris State and Alaska – probably in that order. Among the other teams expected to push for the upper echelon should be the Falcons, along with Lake Superior, Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech and Bemidji State. It may take some time before Alaska-Anchorage and Alabama-Huntsville are league title contenders.
COACH CHRIS BERGERON SAID: “Next year we’re going to have legitimate expectations, and I think they are going to be real – and be deserved. We’re going to have to learn how to play with them. We haven’t done that very well. We won’t sneak up on anyone. We’re older, we’re deeper, and we’re going to have to learn to play with [expectations].”
NEXT YEAR’S SCHEDULE: The Falcons’ entire schedule has not been announced, but Bergeron said the non-conference portion of the schedule will include games against Union on the road and Colgate at home (to complete home-and-home contracts with both schools) as well as early season mid-week games against Ohio State. Bowling Green also will compete in the Three Rivers Classic, a tournament typically played between Christmas and New Year’s Day at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The competition will feature Boston College, Penn State and the host school, Robert Morris.
The Falcons’ WCHA schedule is a 28-game slate that features four games against five opponents and two games against the other four league members. Bowling Green will play its travel partner, Alabama-Huntsville, home-and-home, and also will play home-and-home series against Alaska-Anchorage, Minnesota State and Lake Superior State. The early season schedule shapes up as difficult as BG plays Minnesota State twice and Ferris State once (on the road) after opening with Alaska-Anchorage at home.
Click here to view BG’s 2013-14 WCHA schedule.
WCHA PLAYOFFS: The WCHA announced changes to its playoff format, which is called the “WCHA Final Five.” The top eight teams in the regular-season standings will advance to the playoffs, which will feature four first round “best-of-three” series hosted by the higher-seeded team. The four winners of those series will advance to the Final Five for one-game semifinals and a championship contest. The site of the Final Five will rotate between Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2014 (next season) and 2016, while the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., will host the event in 2015 and 2017.