The Falcon Hockey program at Bowling Green State University has been a topic of debate for the last several years. Has their internal rebuild been successful? Have they returned to their historic, dominant form? Are they good or are they great?
There is a fine line between a good hockey team and a true contender. Good hockey teams in the NCAA win 15-20 games a year, always finish in the top half of their conference, and are capable of winning a post-season series. Yet, their trophy case is left empty and their name vacant from the NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket. If you’re a follower of college hockey, you can name a few teams that fit this mold, but Bowling Green is definitely one of them.
Under Head Coach Chris Bergeron, the Falcons have gradually improved over time. There is an obvious answer to the question regarding their internal rebuild. It has been successful and it continues to be. The only problem is, how exactly do you measure success? In the beginning, it was all about gaining an identity and following the mystical “process” that is often referred to by the team and coaching staff. Fortunately for the program, after several years of good recruiting, expectations begin to change.
Three or so years into the new era, there has to be an adjustment to what is considered success. The coaches, team, and fans eventually want to see results on the scoreboard. During the 09-10 season (before the coaching change), the Falcons only mustered five wins, an incredibly poor result for any college hockey program. The 11-12 season saw 14 wins, including the historic run to Joe Louis Arena in the dwindling years of the CCHA. The 14-15 season was a breakout year, with the Orange and Brown reaching the 20-win marker for the first time since the 94-95 campaign. Twenty wins is good, especially when paired with positive post-season results, but this equation is still missing something. The past three seasons, Bowling Green has earned a +0.500 record, won a first-round playoff series, and then ended it without any hardware.
The Falcons desperately need to take the next step. They may never truly regain the dominance of their historic teams, but how can you expect them to match the talents of George McPhee, Dan Bylsma, and Rob Blake? This team needs to learn who they are now and what they are capable of. To put it bluntly, they need to get their hands on a championship trophy because it has been far too long since they have done so. At this point in their rebuild, this is the only true measure of success and they are right on the cusp of it. Just last season, the Orange and Brown faced a devastating double-OT loss to Michigan Tech in the conference finals. In their current campaign, they are 6-4-3, but are just one point out of first place in the WCHA. With their great depth on offense, overall solid play on defense, and a tandem of Ryan Bednard and Eric Dop in net, this could be the team to do it.
Is it time for Bowling Green to be great? The short answer is yes. The staff has dedicated themselves to this program and have turned it in the right direction. Although the previous few seasons have been positive, players and fans alike are left wanting more. The Falcons are good, but with just one outstanding season, they can be great. Six wins through 11 games isn’t exactly stellar, but they are currently 11th in the Pairwise Rankings (which determine NCAA Tournament eligibility). If they continue to develop as a team, earning positive results along the way, why not them? Why not now? It’s time for the Falcons to respond to the bell and prove that they can be great.