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Hockey Is Picked To Finish Ninth By Coaches And Seventh By Media

Sept. 30, 2008

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. - The Bowling Green State University hockey team has been picked to finish ninth and seventh respectively in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Conference, according to the CCHA coaches and media polls that were released Tuesday at the CCHA's annual Media Day in Grand Rapids, Mich.

National runner-up, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, were chosen as top dogs by the league coaches, while defending CCHA Regular-Season and Tournament Champion, the Michigan Wolverines, were selected to take the crown according to the media. Both squads were picked second in the opposite poll, while the Miami RedHawks were third in the coaches' poll and the Michigan State Spartans were third in the media poll.

A record 83 members of the media ranked the 12 CCHA teams in projected order of finish for the regular season. Points were awarded on a 12-11-10-9, etc., basis. League coaches ranked the CCHA teams, excluding their own school, in the order they predicted the regular season will end.

"We feel real good about what we've seen in practice thus far," said BG head coach Scott Paluch, now entering his seventh season as coach of his alma mater. "There has really been two things that stand out thus far. The fact that 21 guys are returning off an 18-win team a year ago and the quickness we've seemed to add this season. We're excited about what we have and we have our sights set now on a top-four finish - where us a program expect to be."

The new season brings plenty of promise for the Falcons, who come off an 18-21-0 season, as their 18 wins were the most by any BG squad in the last 13 seasons. They finished 13-15-0 in the final CCHA standings, finishing in seventh-place - good enough to host their second home playoff series in the past four years after suffering back-to-back 12th-place finishes.

A total of 21 letterwinners are back for Paluch and the Falcons (tied for the most in the league with Michigan), including 12 forwards, six defensemen and three goalies. Gone are five players, including Falcon Century Club member, Derek Whitmore, who ended his Falcon career with 102 career points and 70 career goals, but coming in are six highly-talented players ready to replenish the void.
 

 

"We're very confident that we'll see significant contributions from this group of players we're bringing in," said Paluch. "Our two new defensemen will provide immediate help to the blue line and our there is an opportunity I think for all four of our incoming forwards to immediately contribute as well. It's a group we're excited about and one we feel will have a lot of key roles for us this season."

One of the top returning Falcons that will carry one of the biggest key roles will be sophomore forward Jacob Cepis. Cepis, the Falcons' top returning scorer after scoring 31 points (15g, 16) a season ago and a Preseason All-CCHA honorable mention selection, will be looked upon heavily to up his goal scoring with Whitmore's departure.

"He [Cepis] is going to be the most watched guy for us this season," said Paluch. "He [Cepis] knows that though and he wants to improve upon what he's done for us. He's driven by production. He wants 25 goals. He wants 30 goals and he works hard at what he does."

Other big point contributors returning for BG will be junior forward James Perkin (7-18-25), senior defenseman Kevin Schmidt (4-21-25), the Falcons leading returner for points on defense and sophomore forward Dan Sexton (7-14-21).

In net, BG will return one of the best one-two punches in the league in sophomore Nick Eno and senior netminder Jimmy Spratt. Eno, an All-CCHA Rookie Team member as a freshman, finished his rookie year with a 12-10-0 record between the pipes with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. Spratt then had a career-year as a junior, tying his season-best total for wins and setting a new career-best goals-against mark of 3.08.

"We see a lot of experience when we look at our goaltending unit," said Paluch. "It has to be the most comfortable we've felt at this time of the year about our goaltending situation since we had Jordan Sigalet."

Helping to glue the team together this season then will be new assistant coaches Dennis Williams and Frank Novock. Williams, a successful Division III head coach, returns to his alma mater after a brief stint as an assistant at Alabama-Huntsville, while Novock comes to BG from Wayne State.

The Falcons will play 20 home games in 2008-09, as their schedule will feature 14 games with teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season.

BG opens the 2008-09 campaign on Saturday when they host Wilfrid Laurier in the their lone preseason contest, before opening the regular-season on Oct. 10 with RIT. Face-off between the Falcons and Golden Hawks is set for 12 p.m.


FIGHTING IRISH AND WOLVERINES SPLIT TOP SPOT

Media and Coaches Disagree Once Again

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. - For the third straight year, the coaches and media disagree over who should hold down the No. 1 position in the CCHA's annual preseason polls. The conference's 12 head coaches ranked Notre Dame first while the media voted for defending regular-season and playoff champion Michigan.

In the coaches poll, the Irish took eight of a possible 11 fi rst-place votes, two seconds and one third-place vote. Michigan received three of the remaining fi rst-place votes as well as 43 number-one tallies in the media poll, earning the Wolverines the top ranking. Miami, Michigan State and Northern Michigan fi lled out the third, fourth and fi fth-place slots in both polls. The RedHawks garnered the only other fi rst-place ballot among the coaches while all three teams received first-place votes from the media.

The Irish, coming off their first appearance in an NCAA Championship game, have 18 returning letterwinners including starting goaltender Jordan Pearce along with four defensemen and 11 forwards including impact players Erik Condra, Ryan Thang, Kyle Lawson and Ian Cole. Condra, a 2006 draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, and Lawson, a 2005 draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, are CCHA Preseason All-Conference First Team selections, and Pearce was honored as the RBK Best Goaltender award winner last season. Notre Dame is returning eight of its top 10 scorers from last season in coach Jeff Jackson's fourth season behind the bench.

The Wolverines bring back 21 players, tied for most in the CCHA with Bowling Green, including all seven defensemen from a squad that won 33 games last season while capturing CCHA regular-season and tournament titles. Michigan is backstopped by senior goaltender Billy Sauer, who had a 30-4-3 record with a 1.95 goals-against average and .924 save percentage last year. Michigan is led offensively by sophomore Aaron Palushaj, who had 44 points, along with five other returning Wolverines who broke the 20 point barrier.

The RedHawks have 15 lettermen back, including a pair of 40-point scorers from last season, senior forward Justin Mercier and sophomore forward Carter Camper. Michigan State will be led by senior captain and goaltender Jeff Lerg, who has been named to the CCHA Preseason All-Conference First Team for three straight seasons. The Wildcats bring back 10 of their top 12 point producers from last season and look to finish in the top three for the fi rst time since 2004-05.

A record 83 members of the media ranked the 12 CCHA teams in projected order of fi nish for the regular season. Points were awarded on a 12-11-10-9, etc., basis. League coaches ranked the CCHA teams, excluding their own school, in the order they predicted the regular season will end.

Media Poll

1. Michigan (43) 945

2. Notre Dame (35) 915

3. Michigan State (2) 776

4. Miami (2) 746

5. Northern Michigan (1) 700

6. Ferris State 529

7. Bowling Green 444

8. Nebraska-Omaha 415

9. Ohio State 339

10. Lake Superior State 322

11. Alaska 198

12. Western Michigan 145

Coaches Poll 1. Notre Dame (8) 128

2. Michigan (3) 122

3. Miami (1) 108

4. Northern Michigan 102

5. Michigan State 96

6. Ferris State 84

7. Ohio State 67

8. Nebraska-Omaha 59

9. Bowling Green 56

10. Lake Superior State 46

T-11. Alaska 28

T-11. Western Michigan 28