Bergeron Trying to Raise the Bar at Bowling Green
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
OXFORD, Ohio The scene outside the Bowling Green locker room on Saturday night was not one of a team that is winless in its last seven CCHA games. Not at all.
The Falcons had just "tied" Miami, earning an extra point after a shootout win after coming back from one-goal deficits to tie the game on four different occasions. On the final instance, freshman Ryan Carpenter — averaging a point per game this season — scored with just over a minute remaining in the third period.
And it left second year head coach Chris Bergeron beaming afterwards.
"I got after the team a little bit last night and today," said Bergeron, referring to Miami's Friday night 4-0 whitewash of the Falcons. "Miami won every foot race last night. They wanted it more than we did. And that has nothing to do this talent. Until we get to the same level as other teams talent-wise, we have to show we want it more. So when we have opportunities like last night that we just let go by the wayside — and Miami gets credit for that — that's upsetting.
"So I was proud of them for the fact that they kept fighting back tonight. We made mistakes, but we'll take mistakes out of hard work or out of being young, but not out of not being willing to compete."
This win was clearly special for Bergeron, who had been an assistant at Miami for 10 seasons before taking the head coaching job at a precarious Bowling Green program whose future — set to enter the WCHA in 2013-14 — is now much stronger than it was two years ago.
As an assistant for the RedHawks, Bergeron was part of eight 20-win seasons and six trips to the NCAA Tournament. And many years before that, Bergeron was a two-year captain and won a CCHA championship as a player for Miami from 1989-93.
"It'll always mean something to me coming back here," said Bergeron. "No matter when it is or what it's for, but coming back to Miami and to Oxford, it means a lot to me. It was nice to come back."
Bergeron is faced with the task this season of managing a team that finished 11th in the CCHA last season and now features over a dozen freshmen and sophomores in the nightly lineup.
So, after losing 4-0 on Friday night to Miami, what did Bergeron expect from his team before Saturday's 4-4 tie and shootout win?
"It's hard to tell," admitted Bergeron. "I really didn't know. We were quite frankly talking about it as a staff, 'What are we going to get tonight?' I hope that they not only answered things to us as a coaching staff but they answered some things to themselves — that with the right mindset, that with the right focus on competing, they can play with good teams."
The Falcons came out of the gate this season playing well — 4-1-0 in their first five games. And junior goaltender Andrew Hammond has shown flashes of brilliance — notably, a 1-0 shutout at Lake Superior and Saturday's shootout, stoning Miami forwards Reilly Smith, Bryan Paulazzo and Austin Czarnik on consecutive attempts.
Said Bergeron, "We have high expectations for Andrew. He's a real mature, young guy. He's really on top of the self-evaluation. He knows where his game is at. He knows it's not good enough. It's good, but we need him to be an all-league type goaltender, and he's fighting to get to that level."
Bergeron has been in Bowling Green for over a year now — introduced as head coach in April 2010. And as the Falcons continue to struggle in their quest to find nightly consistency, Bergeron insists that his primary message hasn't changed.
"There are days where we question everything," said Bergeron. "Are we doing the right things? Are we getting in the way? Are we too negative? Are we too positive? The one message that hasn't changed is: we expect more. We expect better.
"That being said, we have to be willing to go get better. Because people aren't going to hand it to us. We still need to make strides day to day."
With a team that has 18 freshmen and sophomores and just two seniors, the Falcons have plenty to gain over the coming seasons.
And perhaps no longer does Bowling Green find itself hoping to win each night.
Thanks to Bergeron, it's now expected.