Bowling Green is off to an encouraging start.
The Falcons earned a split with 10th-ranked Miami over the weekend, including a 3-2 defeat Sunday in Oxford.
Miami dominated the second period, scoring twice to pull away from a 1-1 tie.
The Falcons closed to within 3-2 on Mark Friedman’s goal with 16:55 to play in regulation, but Miami held on for the win.
Miami finished with a 29-27 edge in shots, but BG had nine shots to the RedHawks’ two in the third period.
On Friday, the Falcons played well most of the game en route to a 3-2 win in the Ice Arena.
“We’re encouraged, and we were encouraged at the start of the season that we had a team that people need to pay attention to,” said BG coach Chris Bergeron, who is in his fifth season. “This weekend, we proved that.”
The Falcons were third in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association coaches poll, but they believe they’re capable of contending for the league title.
“If we piece it together and look at the weekend as a whole, it was positive,” Bergeron said. “But we don’t want to let go of any opportunity by not playing how we can play.”
BG returned most of its team from last season when it tied for third in the WCHA with records of 18-15-6 overall and 13-11-4 in the league.
“We just have to keep taking steps forward, and worry about the process, not the results,” BG goalie Tommy Burke said.
DIFFERENCE: Miami’s second-period domination was the difference in the game Sunday.
The teams traded goals in the first period.
The RedHawks built a 3-1 lead, thanks to two goals from Sean Kuraly at 1:29, on the power play, and at 14:47.
Miami out-shot BG by a 15-5 margin in the second period. The RedHawks also held the edge in play during the first period, but the Falcons stayed close with the help of four power-play attempts.
The RedHawks, who have 20 juniors and seniors on their 28-player roster, are attempting to rebound from an uncharacteristic poor season last winter. Miami was 15-20-3 overall and 6-17-1 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
“We’re not good enough to overcome poor periods like that,” Bergeron said. “Full marks to (Miami). They came out like we knew they would come out tonight.
“We weathered the storm a bit in the first. The second period was not acceptable.”
Miami is expected to battle No. 2 North Dakota for the NCHC title.
The RedHawks’ Kuraly, Riley Barber, Blake Coleman and Kuraly are some of college hockey’s best forwards.
“When you’re playing a tough opponent in a tough building, you can’t have periods like that. That hurt us,” Bergeron said.
The Falcons had too many turnovers in the game, especially in the second period. BG’s turnovers fueled Miami’s transition offense and prevented the Falcons from setting up in their offensive zone.
“We’ve been harping on turnovers since the beginning of the year. Our play with the puck consistently wasn’t good enough last year,” Bergeron said.
“When you’ve got players like Miami, has turnovers are momentum killers,” Bergeron added. “Not only does that turnover lead to a goal or a penalty, it’s just poor hockey and not the way we want to play. We have to be better with the puck.”
The Falcons are at their best when they’re controlling the puck in the offensive zone.
“When you turn pucks over like we did in the neutral zone, it’s tough to get into your game plan,” Bergeron said.
The Falcons rebounded to play a strong third period.
“I was happy with the way we played in the third period, but you can’t leave it to chance like that,” Bergeron said.
INJURED: BG played without junior forward Brent Tate, who suffered what Bergeron termed a “lower body injury” during Friday’s game.
Tate, who is one of BG’s most valuable players, was hampered by back and knee injuries his first two seasons.
“He’s spent so much time working on his skating and so much time working on his lower body, that’s something we have to be careful with,” Bergeron said, adding he did not know how long Tate would be out.
DEBUT: Freshman forward Brett D’Andrea made his BG debut Sunday, taking Tate’s place.
D’Andrea played in BG’s non-counting exhibition against Simon Fraser Oct. 4.
He moved into Tate’s spot, skating on a line with Adam Berkle and Dan DeSalvo.
ROOKIES: D’Andrea was one of seven BG freshmen to make their collegiate debuts in the series. They played well overall, and were used in key situations and on the special teams.
“They get some work in, some more practices under their belt, some more games under their belt, and hope they’ll be a good product.”
GOALTENDING: Burke gave BG a solid game in goal with 26 saves, 24 coming during the first two periods.
The junior started after Tommy Sholl was sharp with 22 saves Friday. Freshman Chris Nell, who is expected to start a game at Alabama-Huntsville next weekend, also is challenging for the No. 1 job in goal.
“We didn’t him quite the same effort we gave Sholl on Friday, but he played well,” Bergeron said.
Two of Miami’s goals came on deflections, the second went in off a BG stick. The other goal came from a wide-open RedHawk to Burke’s right.
Burke posted a 2.43 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage in 28 games last season.
PP: The Falcon power play was 3-of-11 in the series, but only 1-of-5 Sunday.
BG had a chance to tie Sunday’s game on the power play with 13:44 remaining, but had only approximately 15 seconds of time in the offensive zone.
PK: BG’s penalty-killing was 5-of-6 in the series.
STUFF: Junior forward Kevin Dufour and Friedman had BG’s goals Sunday. Dufour had three goals in the series, while Friedman’s goal was his first.
BG freshman defenseman Nolan Valleau assisted on four of BG’s five goals in the series.
SWITCH: Miami goalie Ryan McKay, who made 35 saves Friday, was replaced because of an injury just 6:15 into Sunday’s game.
The junior appeared to suffer a lower-body injury when he was knocked to the ice by BG sophomore forward Matt Pohkamp. However, a Miami player appeared to push Pohlamp into McKay.
Pohlkamp was penalized for interference, but the Miami player was unpenalized.
McKay stopped the only two shots he faced. Junior Jay Williams finished, stopping 23-of-25 shots.
ATTENDANCE: Sunday’s game drew a sparse crowd of 1,860 as Miami is on fall break.
The Goggin Ice Center has a capacity of just under 3,700.
The teams played Sunday instead of Saturday in hopes more Miami students would be at the game after returning from break.
WHAT’S IN A NAME: Anthony Pikul, the son of a former Falcon Mike Pikul, is a freshman goalie for Robert Morris.
Anthony Pikul played last season for Brockville, Ontario in the Central Canadian (Junior) Hockey League. He posted a 3.01 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in 50 games.
Mike Pikul was a co-captain and standout defenseman on BG’s 1984 NCAA championship team, He lives in Cleveland.
BG and RMU play Jan. 2-3.
NEXT: The Falcons start WCHA play Friday and Saturday at UAH.
UAH, last in the league coaches poll, is 0-2 after losing 3-2, 4-3 at Colorado College over the weekend.