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BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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BG hopes to go back in time with Paluch

It has become northwest Ohio’s version of Atlantis. The lost kingdom, tucked away next to 17,000 square feet of ice. The BGSU Ice Arena’s brand-spanking-new velvety-plush Alumni Lounge sits squarely in the middle of a $750,000 addition to the Ice Arena last year. Located next to the rink, it is a shrine to Bowling Green Hockey. A photo mural of teams past is spread across one wall.

Several dozen color photos of BG hockey alumni who have reached the peak of the sport -the NHL- are on another wall. In a corner, select NHL jerseys are in a glass showcase, including Rob Blake, the 1990 alum who is one of only two Falcon players to reach hockey’s summit: hoisting the Stanley Cup.

No other BG sport has had so many professional alums. No other BG team sport has won a national championship. No other BG team sport has had Olympic gold medalists among its ranks. And no other BG sport has such a rebuilding project on their hands.

The Falcons haven’t finished with a winning regular season record in six years. This year’s club was 3-8-1 heading into the December 7-8 weekend series against Notre Dame. Crowds at the Ice Arena have become notoriously sparse for games that don’t involve big-name opponents like Michigan or Michigan State.

For BG, it is a case of wanting to go back in time. To make the coming seasons the promised land that the 1980s were, when BG won the 1984 national championship and a Central Collegiate Hockey Association title in 1987. That job falls in the hands of first-year coach Scott Paluch.

Paluch, a rookie head coach, played for those BG teams of the mid-’80s. An All-American and All-CCHA selection with BG, he was drafted in the fifth round of the 1984 NHL amateur draft by the St. Louis Blues before he entered college. He eventually signed with the Blues and played several seasons in their farm system. Paluch’s future was in coaching, however. Upon earning his sport management degree from BG in 1991, he spent several years as an assistant coach for the Falcons. Paluch then moved on to Boston College, where as an associate head coach, he helped guide the Eagles to four consecutive NCAA Frozen Fours (the hockey equivalent to basketball’s Final Four) and an NCAA title in 2001.

Young, ambitious and passionate about hockey, he was a prime candidate to fill the BG head coaching vacancy created by the dismissal of Buddy Powers last spring.

On April 15, he was named the fifth head coach in the history of the program. To Paluch, few things compare to coming back to his alma mater and coaching.

“It was a tremendous experience being here as a player and then as an assistant coach,” he said. “BG is a very special place.”

The first order of business for Paluch was to inject some new energy into a program which had plodded through much of the previous two years. Many of the veteran players said they immediately noticed a difference with Paluch. He kept practices more spirited, kinetic, with very little down time.

“The biggest thing is the level of enthusiasm,” goaltender Tyler Masters said. “Being here in this atmosphere, he makes it fun, makes it so we want to work hard.”

“[Paluch] believes every practice is big,” assistant captain Tyler Knight said. “Practice is high-intensity. Every practice is a chance to get better.”

Paluch’s energy is infectious to his players and staff. Everyone in the program seems upbeat and optimistic. Smiles abound in the hockey office.

Paluch said his energy isn’t fabricated. It is part of his personality.

“It is not a difficult thing to do,” he said. “The energy that comes out of me is a pretty natural thing. I have the same enthusiasm I had as a player.”

One of Paluch’s biggest coaching influences was the man in charge when he was a player at BG. Jerry York coached BG through one of its most successful runs from 1979-94. Under York, the Falcons never finished below .500 and reached the CCHA championship game four times.

“To watch Coach York as a player, to see how he put together championship teams, that helped me come up with a formula as a coach,” he said.

Being around winning can be addictive, something Paluch learned as a player and had reinforced as an assistant at Boston College. Paluch’s goal is to remake BG as a perennial powerhouse. He said if he has a team that is successful for one year and cannot maintain it, that is not real success. As a college coach, he can never coach for just one year. He always has to be looking several years away as well.

“There’s never going to be a point where I can say ‘we’ve made it’,” he said. “When we’re consistently at a point where we’re competing for championships, then the task begins to maintain that. If our record was reversed and we were 13-5-2 instead of 5-13-2, I’d still want that train to keep moving.”

They are expectations he has tried hard to impress on his players.

“I think we can always move so much further,” captain D’Arcy McConvey said. “We need to not worry about how far back we are and worry about where we could be at the end of the year.”

McConvey said Paluch is ambitious, but not consumed by ambition. He said he wants to get BG hockey back on the national stage not so he can prove himself as a coach, but for the sake of the city and the program.

Paluch said BG holds a unique place in the annals of college hockey.

“Hockey is unique here in that there wasn’t large exposure to hockey prior to this program,” he said. “We have done a lot more in a lot less time, since the program’s only been around since 1969.

There are college hockey programs that date to the ’30s and ’40s.”

BG hockey also has some very famous support. Some college athletes that make it to the pros put their colleges behind them. Not so for Paluch’s program. Many NHL alums of BG still keep in contact and support the program. Much of the bill for the Alumni Lounge was footed by Falcons now earning a paycheck on skates. Having Stanley Cup champions like Blake on your program’s bandwagon is both tension-building and exhilarating, but Paluch welcomes it.

“It all plays into the energy I have for this program,” he said. “The concern our alums, especially our NHL alums, show for this program is truly something special.”

McConvey said that when BG was conducting its coaching search, some of BG’s NHL alums called in with candidate suggestions.

Three months into his first season at the helm, Paluch is pleased with what he’s seen out of his players, but far from satisfied. There is still a lot of work to be done.

“The first half has been a tremendous improvement in our off-ice training,” he said. “We’ve had an excellent semester in the classroom as well. If you take a look at where we were in September to where we are now, we are a better hockey team. But we have to keep making ourselves a better hockey team everyday. “The fans, and community of Bowling Green deserve that.”

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