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Goaltender from Paradise is beginning his first season with school's NCAA Division 1 hockey team
He appeared in only 10 games last year, recovering from shoulder surgery in his final season as a Canadian junior hockey player, and while he’s close to being 100 per cent healthy, Zack Rose will be dueling for playing time a third-year veteran on the Bowling Green Falcons university squad in Ohio.
No matter, though, for the 20-year-old goalie from Paradise who figures he still has time on his hands as he enters his first season of NCAA hockey in the United States.
If plans falls into place, Rose will be 23 or 24 with three or four years of college hockey hockey under his belt, and depending on the results, in a good position to – hopefully – field some free agent offers from pro teams.
“The Canadian Hockey League (which encompasses the three major junior circuits in Canada) is obviously a great operation,” Rose said. “It’s a fast track to the pros.
“But for a goalie, it might be easier (going through the) NCAA because guys are older and the pros are looking for the older, more mature players.
“The fact I wasn’t drafted (by an National Hockey League team) was a kick in the butt, too, so for me, I feel this is a better route (as opposed to turning pro straight out of the junior ranks).”
He’s not alone in his thinking. Some college players prepare for a possible free-agent professional deal, he said, by rushing their degree programs by taking extra courses during the season and returning to school in the summer.
That way, if a pro offer comes along before their graduating year, the player is that much closer to completing his degree.
Rose plans to do five business courses this semester, and is already mulling over returning to Bowling Green next summer.
The six-foot puck-stopper committed to a full athletic scholarship at Bowling Green in 2018, but opted to play out a second year with the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia junior ‘A’ circuit.
It was a bit of a lost season, however, as he made only 10 appearances for the Grizzlies after shoulder surgery in the summer of 2018.
He originally suffered a torn labrum during a summer skate in St. John’s two years ago, and then hurt the shoulder again during a BCHL game against the Cowichan Capitals in 2018 when a player fell on Rose.
But thanks to a 2019 summer of workouts designed to strengthen the damaged area, Rose reports he’s “feeling back to normal” and ready to go head-to-head with Ohio native Eric Dop, back for his third season at Bowling Green.
Last year’s starter or the Falcons, Florida Panthers draft pick Ryan Bednard, has moved on after signing an entry-level contract with the NHL team last spring.
The Falcons have another goalie in the fold, Brett Rich, who actually grew up in Bowling Green.
But it's Rich’s third season with the Falcons, and he’s still looking to play.
Which means, for now, Rose and Dop will be rotating in the starting job early on. Last weekend, Bowling Green opened its WCHA conference season with a game against Miami of Ohio. Dop registered the win with 15 saves.
“They told me before the season even started they see me and Dopp vying for the starter’s job,” said Rose, “and right now, he looks to have the edge.
“But we know things can turn on a dime pretty quickly.”
The game against Miami on Sunday took on new meaning for Bowling Green. Behind the Miami bench was coach Chris Bergeron, hired by that school last spring after running the Falcons for nine years.
“It’s crazy,” Rose said. “The atmosphere in the rink is something else. They have bands playing, fans have their cheers. Everybody’s into it. It’s pretty cool to see.’
From his perch on the Bowling Green bench, Rose could see the game was played at a faster pace from what he’s seen the past two years in Victoria.
Part of the reason is the players are older. The Falcons’ captain, Alec Rauhauser, for example, is 24. He spent three years in the United States Hockey League, an American junior A circuit and is now in his fourth year at Bowling Green.
“Again, because it’s an older league, that will only help with my development,” said Rose, who caught the attention of Bowling Green and other NCAA programs with his play at the 2017 World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Truro, N.S., where he backstopped Canada West to the gold medal.
He allowed only seven goals on 120 shots for a 1.58 goals against average and .942 save percentage, and was named tournament's MVP and all-star netminder.
He made 35 saves in a 5-1 win over the United States in the tournament final.
Since leaving St. John’s as a 15-year-old to play prep school hockey in Lake Forest, Ill., the NCAA has always been Rose’s focus.
And the fact he's part of a renowned program like Bowling Green makes it all the better.
The Falcons are playing host to the annual Icebreaker Tournament this weekend in Toledo, Ohio, entering the event as the 17th-ranked NCAA men’s hockey program by U.S. college hockey online.
On Friday, Bowling Green played the Rochester Institute of Technology in their tournament opener, with Dop getting the start. The Falcons will play either Ohio State or Western Michigan today.
Last season, the Falcons were 25-11-5, advancing to the WCHA championship game for the second time in three years. Bowling Green went on to play in its first NCAA Tournament in 29 seasons.