Although the team bus managed to pull into snowy MacInnes Arena last Friday, the 16th-ranked Bowling Green Falcons were in a rut. Losers of four in a row, the Falcons had lost their grip on a home-ice spot in the WCHA standings and were free-falling out of the top 20 in the PairWise rankings. Captain Alex Rauhauser stepped off the bus unruffled and unfazed, and calmly unplugged his earbuds.
“We want to come in here and face a hostile environment, face some adversity, and hopefully our team can get over that,” he said.
The 24-year-old senior is not easily ruffled, he has been through all the highs and lows of NCAA hockey in his four years at Bowling Green, and he exudes a quiet confidence that ripples through the Falcon locker room. He participates in the dryland soccer, but he is not the excitable voice echoing through the MacInnes end zone.
Rauhauser marshals his energy in the locker room, calmly flipping on his gloves and then taking over a 1-0 game in the second period.
BGSU captain Rauhauser pops on his work mitts pic.twitter.com/ylyTqxA9xL— FloHockey (@FloHockey) January 13, 2020
The frenetic pace of college hockey often resembles pinball, a game of instantaneous puck pokes, stick jabs, and goals resulting from intentional crease collisions. This is not Rauhauser’s game. There are no stats for puck touches, but he rules the eye test with the amount and duration of his possessions, never more obvious than on the BGSU power play. It is there that he calmly quarterbacks the Falcon unit from the top of the point, shooting and passing Bowling Green to the most extra-man goals in the nation.
With Michigan Tech’s Tyrell Buckley in the box in the second stanza, Rauhauser exploited the depleted Huskies, possessing the puck on a proverbial string, mixing in passes, feints, and shots, until he fed Connor Ford — and watched his mate sweep in a 30-footer to extend the Falcon lead to 2-0.
Five minutes later, the Falcons were on the penalty kill. A clearing shot was blocked, creating a wide skating lane for Rauhauser. Rather than dump the puck 200 feet, he turned defense into offense.
The only criticism of the 6-foot-3 Rauhauser is that he is not a classic skater. He has an upright bow-legged gait that may offend hockey purists, but he frequently proves them wrong with dashes in and around the rink. He motored nearly 200 feet on this shorthanded foray, and it resulted in an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
The NCAA's top scoring defenseman Alec Rauhauser pops a Shorty vs Tech. pic.twitter.com/ILXx7mpQu2— Tim Rappleye (@teeraps) January 13, 2020
“I shot it five-hole because I’ve done it before,” the captain said after the game. “I know it’s a good shot to shoot in that situation. I’m usually a pass-first guy, but this year I’ve been trying to shoot more, and I’ve been scoring some more goals.”
His eighth goal of the year proved to be the ultimate game-winner, and his 26 total points lead all NCAA defensemen. But he is hardly a one-dimensional player. He uses his 216 pounds liberally in BGSU’s defensive zone, and he can escape the tightest spots with his deft stickhandling and ample wheels.
It takes mere seconds for BGSU's Rauhauser to turn a Tech offensive push into 1-man breakout attack. pic.twitter.com/B3w9eEX8Ma— Tim Rappleye (@teeraps) January 13, 2020
He is the Falcons’ version of a Major League Baseball stopper, the guy a club turns to when they need to end a losing streak, and he delivered in spades last Friday. Not only did Rauhauser lead the team in scoring, blocked shots, and a dizzying amount of puck possession, but he also dominated the intangibles beyond the scoresheet, personifying the bold “C” on his jersey.
“I like playing in hostile environments,” Rauhauser said. “After losing four in a row, I love that. I love leading the team in those situations.”
Bowling Green’s seasonal brush with adversity was washed away after their five-point weekend in Houghton, as the Falcons rallied behind their leader. You’ll see his image at the end of their signature victory chant, minus his jersey and sporting a mustache.
You won’t find Alec Rauhauser leading locker room cheers, but you can’t miss him inside the glass, leading the Bowling Green attack up the ice and headed for the postseason yet again.
Tim Rappleye is the author of Jack Parker's Wiseguys: The National Champion BU Terriers, the Blizzard of '78, and the Road to the Miracle on Ice. He can be reached on Twitter @TeeRaps.