The NCAA hockey season is coming to a close, and all three of our teams are done for the season. We look at each of the three teams' seasons as we put a close on what was a fantastic season.
Ah, Bowling Green. Their youth is so evident that you can smell the new player smell still on them. Ok, so aside from my creepiness Bowling Green did come into 2011-12 with another young team that was expected to contend for the CCHA cellar again. They met expectations, but put up a nice fight throughout the year. Shoot, they got an upset here or there, so they did pretty darn good.
Season Review: The Falcons started the season well. They really did. They went 4-0-1. Now granted that 4 of those games were against Alabama-Huntsville and UConn, but they still won their first CCHA game. Things really looked like it might be a different year.
And then the losing started.
BG would not win another conference game until the middle of January. 3 months without winning a conference game (they did sweep Canisius in November). Now that doesn't mean they didn't get some good ties. They tied a then cold Miami team, Western Michigan (their only shoot-out loss), and the #1 team in the nation at the time Ohio State twice!
They would collect wins @ Alaska, @ Notre Dame, vs WMU, and vs Michigan to get some momentum heading into the CCHA Tournament. What would happen next will go down as one of the better runs in post-season history...........
Bowling Green finished last, and drew 6-seed Northern Michigan. Sound familiar? It should, because it is the same match-up as last year when Bowling Green pulled a huge upset. Flash forward to this year, when these teams meet 3 weeks after a pair of two goal wins by NMU. Bowling Green again pulls the upset after dropping game 1, needing no OT or double OT to (eventually) end the Wildcats' season.
And that's where the review ends.............not! The Falcons traveled to CCHA Regular Season Champ and now Frozen Four participant Ferris State's house. The Bulldogs had only lost 2 games at home all year, and was undefeated there against teams not named Western Michigan. It took 2 OT wins, including a Dan DeSalvo hat-trick in Game 3, but Bowling Green did it, they pulled the biggest series upset in CCHA history.
And that is where the story should end. But we have to press on. We have to include the hard-fought, double OT loss to Michigan in Detroit, a game where the Falcons had a 2-0 lead, but the Wolverines fought their way back, and pushed in the goal that for all sakes and purposes ended the Falcons' season. They went on to lose the 3rd place game against Miami, playing on fumes.
Season Record: 14-25-5
Conference Record: 5-19-4-3 22 points
Conference Standing: 11th of 11
Departures: The Falcons graduate just 2 players, and only one of them was on the roster in Detroit. Cameron Sinclair was a 3rd or 4th line Forward, so his offense shouldn't be too hard to replace. James McIntosh was the other senior.
However, Mike Fink and Max Grover are also gone. I have no reasons, and no indications of transfers, so I don't know whats going on there. Fink is a sophomore forward and Grover is a junior d-man. They combined for 6 goals and 16 assists in 149 combined games. With all the other youth blossoming though, I don't think that either will hurt the team too much.
Key Returnees: Easily the biggest one is junior net-minder Andrew Hammond. He was huge all season long, and will be the key early on if the Falcon offense is struggling next season.
I think you also have to include the captains for next year Freshman Ryan Carpenter and Sophomore Cam Wojtala. Both were in the top 3 in points for Bowling Green, and were 1-2 before DeSalvo's freakish breakout in the tournament. Let's throw DeSalvo in there too. Any time you score 10 goals in 6 games (he didn't have any in Detroit, so I'm leaving that out), you have to be considered "key".
2012-13 Outlook: This is a young team that loses very little. They return pretty much every key player, and coach Bergeron said in one post-game interview in Detroit, "We finally found our stride. We know what it feels like to win and these guys want that feeling". Will they be top of the CCHA? Probably not. They still need to put together a full season, and technically were .500 in the CCHA tournament. Middle of the pack probably, and hosting a first-round series is the median for this team, with a low first round bye being the ceiling.