Hockey heads into season with high expectations

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Marcus Perrier, BG defensemen, hits the ice after a play in a game last season. The BG hockey team takes the ice for the first time this season on Oct. 6 at 7p.m. against Niagra University in New York; Last season the Falcons were 14-25-5.

Reporter and Reporter

Since his first day on the job, BG hockey coach Chris Bergeron has been very public about his desire to raise the expectations for his team.

In fact, it was one if his main talking points at his introductory press conference nearly two and a half years ago.

“The expectations have to improve and they will improve; that starts with me and my staff, and then the players will follow along,” he said on April 12, 2010, the day he was introduced as the seventh hockey coach in BG history.

Internal expectations for the team have been high for Bergeron’s first two seasons as coach. But the team finds itself in unfamiliar territory as it enters year three of the Bergeron era: increased external expectations.

Those expectations come on the heels of one of the more remarkable postseason runs in the history of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Entering the tournament as the No. 11 seed, the Falcons eliminated Northern Michigan for the second straight season.

They followed that up by shocking No. 1 seed — and eventual national runner-up — Ferris State in a dramatic three-game series to advance to the CCHA semifinals for the first time since 2001. There, BG was minutes away from knocking off Michigan to advance to the final, but allowed a late third period goal and eventually lost in double overtime.

How much higher those external expectations will rise remains to be seen — the conference has yet to release its preseason poll. After graduating only two seniors from last year’s team, it is evident that the team is ready to graduate from being the underdog.

“As far as we’re concerned it starts individually, every single person in this program has to take responsibility,” Bergeron said. “However, there is also responsibility to wrap our arms around these expectations and make it better. I don’t know if there’s an exact answer to that, but we’re going to continue to work and set the bar high every single day.

“But we’re not going to change anything because that would be the absolute biggest mistake we could make. It’s been two hard years, but there have been strides being made every single day.”

Those strides can be seen in the talent and skill level present on the team this season.

While BG is one of the few teams in the CCHA to have no NHL draft picks on the roster, six players attended NHL prospect camps this summer as free agent invitees.

Forwards Adam Berkle and Ryan Carpenter, along with goalie Andrew Hammond, attended camp for the Chicago Blackhawks. Forwards Cam Wojtala and Brent Tate — an incoming freshman to the program — attended Washington Capitals camp while forward Ted Pletsch went to the prospect camp for the Detroit Red Wings.

Hammond, a senior and two-time reigning team MVP, said going to the camp was a great experience, but also touched on what having six players invited to various camps says about the state of the program.

“For us to have six [invitees] it just speaks to the direction that the program is heading and the skill that we’re bringing in now,” he said.

From Hammond’s perspective, he will once again be counted on to carry the load between the pipes. He started every game during his junior season, posting a school record for minutes played (2,615:18) and stopping the second most shots in a season in program history (1,114).

The depth behind Hammond took a bit of a hit this summer, as Wyatt Galley decided to leave the program after missing most of last season with injury. Scott Zacharias and Tommy Burke, who have combined to make three collegiate appearances totaling 70 minutes, will back up Hammond.

“Like last year, it’s Andrew’s job going into the season,” Bergeron said. “Andrew’s biggest challenge is going to be taking care of himself, making sure that he’s ready for every day to take his game to that next level.”

Carrying that weight doesn’t bother Hammond, as he said he prefers to start every game. Another thing that doesn’t bother him is those increased expectations.

“With that playoff run [last year], we set the expectations for ourselves,” he said. “We proved what we are capable of and now that we’ve raised that bar it’s about meeting that bar this season. We have confidence now that we can beat the top teams in the country.”