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Preview: Miami at Bowling Green

WHO: Miami RedHawks (5-6-1) at Bowling Green Falcons (6-4-3).

WHEN: Friday, 7:37 p.m.; Saturday–7:07 p.m.

WHERE: Slater Family Ice Arena, Bowling Green, Ohio.

TV: None.

NOTES: Bowling Green dropped a 6-1 decision at Minnesota State last Friday but followed that up with a 4-1 win, as that is the Falcons’ lone loss in their last nine.

BGSU has dropped just one decision at home this season, going 4-1-2 at the recently-renamed SFIC.

The Falcons visited Cady Arena in 2016-17, and the teams split the series. Overall Bowling Green holds a 62-48-8 record vs. Miami, but the RedHawks have won the overwhelming majority of games the past decade.

In 13 games, four Falcons have already recorded double-digit point totals. Cameron Wright leads the team in assists (9) and points (14), having scored five times.

Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron (BoB file photo).

Stephen Baylis and Max Johnson have 11 points each, and Alec Rauhauser – the team’s defenseman points leader – has 10.

The Falcons have three juniors, three defensemen and two freshmen blueliners on their roster, but despite the relative youth, they are 10th in the NCAA in goals allowed per game (2.31).

A big reason for that is the play of sophomore G Ryan Bednard, who has a 2.01 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. He was rotating with Eric Dop, but Dop was pulled from his start last Friday and does not have nearly as good of numbers.

So Bednard may be in net both nights.

Bowling Green still has a Miami feel on its coaching staff, as the head coach is former RedHawks assistant Chris Bergeron, and assistant Barry Schutte also played and coached at MU.

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#10/#11 Miami v. Bowling Green

Former Miami captain and assistant coach, Chris Bergeron, brings an improving Bowling Green program into the 2014-15 regular season against his alma mater. (photo: Todd Pavlack/Bowling Green Athletics)

With the start of the 2014-15 season just a few days away, hope springs eternal in Bowling Green, Ohio where Miami man, Chris Bergeron, has the Falcon faithful dreaming of an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since 1990. Bergeron, 43, spent four years as a player at Miami in the early ’90s as a teammate of current Miami head coach, Enrico Blasi. Then after several seasons of professional hockey, he gave the program another 10 seasons as an assistant coach before leaving Oxford for the barren wasteland that is Bowling Green before the start of the 2010-11 season.

At Bowling Green, Bergeron has revitalized a once-proud program by guiding them to their first plus .500 season in a decade, and in the now lesser WCHA, has a reasonable chance to take the Falcons into the NCAA tournament. The Falcons finished 2013-14 with a respectable 18-15-6 record and played in the WCHA’s “Final Five” after sweeping a home playoff series against Michigan Tech before falling to eventual Broadmoor Trophy champion, Minnesota State 4-0.

The Series

Over the past decade, this series has belonged to Miami. The RedHawks have dominated the Falcons as the football team has done to them year after year on the gridiron. Yet, because of the former dominance of the BG program in the ’80s and early ’90s, the all-time series still favors Bowling Green 58-46-8 as the Falcons would routinely crush the then Redskins when Miami’s program was just getting started. At the same time, BG was winning national titles coached by legends such as Ron Mason and Jerry York, and was, well, relevant. And, because they showed us no quarter “back in the day,” I have no feelings of remorse reminding everyone that Miami has owned their longtime MAC rivals for the better part of the last decade. While the teams haven’t played since the 2012-13 season, the final season of the now defunct CCHA, Miami is 12-1-1 against the orange and brown in the past 14 and you have to go back to the 2007-08 season to find the Falcons last non shootout victory over the Red and White.

But, this is a new Bowling Green.

The Coach

They’re headed by a Miami man in Chris Bergeron who was a successful college star and helped lead Miami to back-to-back Frozen Four appearances as an assistant. He knows how to coach and he’s successfully turning the BG program. Around? Stay tuned, but they are certainly in a much better place today than how he and former Miami icer Barry Schutte, found them.

The BGSU Ice Rink, est. 1967, has been in need of improvement for years.

The BGSU Ice Rink, est. 1967, has been in need of improvement for years.

Along with more success on the ice, Bergeron has overseen substantial renovations at BGSU Ice Rink including new locker rooms. And, while (thankfully) the old curling parlor is still in use by the BGSU curling team, it has been largely changed over into another skating sheet to help save wear and tear on the main rink.

The Team

As for the team on the ice, Bergeron has nine of his top thirteen scorers returning from last year’s fourth place WCHA squad. Most importantly, both Falcon netminders are back including Tommy Burke who finished 2013-14 with an impressive 14-7-6 record with a 2.43 GAA and .912 save percentage. Burke figures to get the bulk of the work this year with back up Tomas Sholl (4-8, 2.68 GAA and .896 save percentage) relieving him from time to time.

Bowling Green returns their top goal scorer (14) from a year ago in junior Mark Cooper and top points man (32) in senior Dan DeSalvo whom Miami fans should remember from the CCHA. In addition, the Falcons return two other 10 goal scorers and their top returning threat from the blue line is Pierre Luc-Mercier, who just deserved to have his name typed because it’s so cool. Departed are clutch scorer Ryan Carpenter along with top defensive scorer Ralfs Freibergs and Marcus Perrier, but the Falcons appear to have some depth that should worry Miami this weekend.

On the recruiting trail, the Falcons are not loaded with top tier recruits, but have a large freshman class consisting of 10 players who are hoping to make an impact on the college stage. But then again, Miami won with lower-tiered recruits during Bergeron’s time in Oxford as the program has become a destination for the nation’s top junior players. I’m certain Bergeron is getting the type of player that he feels best fits his system as he builds their compete level and a culture of consistency in northwest Ohio.

The RedHawks

When taking about this year’s squad, these previews nearly write themselves.

As you’re well aware, the RedHawks will run out top end forwards Sean Kuraly, Blake Coleman, Riley Barber, Anthony Louis and Austin Czarnik and expect to get bounce-back seasons from junior goaltenders Ryan McKay and Jay Williams. Everyone in RedHawk nation must hope the defense corps will improve with the additions of super Freshman Louie Belpedio and Boston College transfer, junior Colin Sullivan. Returning RedHawks like Matt Caito, Trevor Hamilton and the Joyaux brothers must be improved or Miami will find the going tough once NCHC play begins on Halloween in Duluth.

Looking back at the weekend, some of Miami’s old defensive problems resurfaced in a 3-0 loss to the US Under-18 team and 11-0 thrashing of Simon Fraser (whom the Falcons also defeated 7-2).

The captains.

The captains.

In the exhibition opener, Jay Williams allowed all three goals playing the entire game, but Miami was unable to solve the younglings defense. On that team is incoming Miamian Jack Roslovic who contributed a shot on goal for the Red, White and Blue. Hopefully the US game was just a matter of Miami finding its legs, but the RedHawks have struggled against top-talented teams over the past year and some defensive letdowns were apparent.

 

The Prediction

Overall, Miami is much more talented than the Falcons. However, you know Bowling Green will be fired up to face another out-of-league school who also happens to be a longtime rival in their building on Friday night. I expect a close game with Miami winning 4-3 Friday and then taking it to the Falcons 5-1 on Sunday in Oxford.

Note: This is a Friday/Sunday series with Friday’s game starting at 7:07 PM EST at Bowling Green. Sunday’s affair starts at 5:05 PM at Steve Cady Arena. All games can be seen and/or heard via Miami All Access and you can watch Friday at WCHA.tv (which is a heckuva lot more expensive than the NCHC’s package which also provides superior hockey) and watch Sunday on Time Warner Cable or NCHC.tv.

CCHA Playoffs: Round One

It’s been a fairly boring weekend of playoff hockey in the first round of the CCHA playoffs with only the Bowling Green State University Falcons providing a bit of drama.

Beginning last season, when the CCHA contracted to 11 teams after the loss of UNO to the WCHA, the top five teams in the regular season standings receive a bye in the first round meaning there are three first round best-of-three playoff series at campus sites.

On Friday, all higher seeds held serve at home as Northern Michigan defeated Bowling Green, Lake Superior topped Alaska and Notre Dame beat duhOSU.

And, on Saturday, Notre Dame finished off duhOSU while Lake sent Alaska back to Fairbanks with two-game sweeps.

However, in a rematch of last year’s 6 vs. 11 series that saw Bowling Green upset Northern Michigan 2 games to 1, the Falcons appear to be staging that same first round drama as they beat the Wildcats 5-3 last night to force a third and deciding game despite trailing 3-1 in the second period. Former Miami captain and assistant coach, Chris Bergeron’s, team has been a thorn in the side of NMU and are hoping to reach the second round of the CCHA playoffs for the second consecutive year after a last place regular season finish.

If Bowling Green pulls off the upset and advances, here’s how the second round match-ups would play out. The teams are re-seeded after each round.

#4 Miami v. #5 Michigan State

#3 Western Michigan v. #6 Lake Superior

#2 Michigan v. #7 Notre Dame

#1 Ferris State v. #8 Bowling Green

If Northern Michigan pulls it together and staves off the Falcons, you’ll see these match-ups.

#4 Miami v. #5 Michigan State

#3 Western Michigan v. #6 Northern Michigan

#2 Michigan v. #7 Lake Superior

#1 Ferris State v. #8 Notre Dame

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see Chris Bergeron do it again and advance to the second round where they’d have a real shot at knocking off #1 seed Ferris State. I’d also LOVE to see Notre Dame and Michigan in the second round meaning one of those two teams would not make it to the Joe. Plus, I think it would be a great series with the Irish possessing the talent to take two of three from the Wolverines at Yost. A Lake/Michigan series would greatly favor the Wolverines and I’d expect a sweep.

We’ll update the match-ups after tonight’s game. The Falcons and Wildcats face off in a winner-take-all decisive game at 7:35pm EST at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Mich.