Column: Hockey’s new era begins with high expectations

Maxwell Marko and Maxwell Marko

BGSU hockey has seen a multitude of changes to the program over the past six months.

In April, the program saw Chris Bergeron, who has collected the second-most wins as a head coach in program history, return home to Oxford and begin tenure as head coach at Miami University. Shortly after, Lukas Craggs and Ryan Bednard both gave up senior seasons to sign NHL contracts on top of an already departing senior class. Despite all this, BGSU hockey should have high expectations for itself this upcoming season.

One of the larger credits to Bergeron’s legacy was the culture change around the hockey program. He was able to build a Division I team on the proverbial chopping block into a consistent conference contender with a large student and community backing. This shouldn’t change under Ty Eigner, a Bergeron protégé who is arguably more passionate about Bowling Green hockey. 

Where the concern lies is the talent and depth on the ice. Bednard was quietly one of the best goaltenders BGSU has ever seen. During his last year, he was able to post career highs in most statistical categories and lead the team to the NCAA tournament. Now the crease belongs to junior Eric Dop, whose nine starts ranked second-to-last in the WCHA this past season. His small sample size is something to appreciate, but his consistency across a 41-game season is a scary unknown. 

Bednard was also gifted with a strong supporting cast on defense. Seniors Chris Pohlkamp, Connor McDonald and Adam Smith provided strength and poise in their own end but are players who could be replaced with ease. Defensemen Will Cullen, Tim Theocharidis and incoming freshman T.J. Lloyd boast the ability to move the puck up ice while Alec Rauhauser is always a threat on the powerplay. These attributes should bode well for a team that is strong on the forecheck.

While the aggressive forecheck should continue into this upcoming year, the Falcons’ best aggressors in Lukas Craggs, Stephen Baylis and Johnny Schilling have departed. This leaves the same role open to the stronger returning players. Senior Frederic Letourneau, junior Connor Ford and junior Sam Craggs should be expected to grow into bigger roles with the team. 

The culture within the hockey program was never expected to take a hit with Bergeron leaving, but his absence should in no way deter supporters from expecting the team to once again be in contention for a conference championship. After all, the team is dubbing this season “The Revenge Tour.”