Notebook: Falcons faring well on the road

By January 30, 2015Notebooks

Road games don’t faze Bowling Green.

Instead, the Falcons have fared well on the road this season.

They’re 9-2-2 overall on the road, including a 6-1-1 record in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

BG is back on the road Friday and Saturday nights when it visits Bemidji State.

The Falcons, ranked sixth nationally, are 15-5-4 overall and 11-3-2 in the league. Bemidji is 9-12-3, 5-8-3.

Faceoff is 8:37 Friday and 8:07 Saturday.

“We’ve stayed together and, for the most part, we’ve stayed fairly level,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “We’ve stayed focused and we’ve been rewarded for that. We haven’t gotten too high or too low with leads.”

The Falcons have played well on the road. They’re averaging 3.62 goals per game on the road, compared to 3.2 gpg overall. They’re allowing 2.15 gpg on the road, compared to 2.2 gpg overall.

On the road, BG’s power-play is converting at 17.5 percent (11 of 53) and its penalty-killing is at 89.8 percent (44 of 49).

Even though the Falcons lost a 2-0 lead Jan. 16 in a 4-3 loss at Michigan Tech, BG has generally handled adversity well on the road.

Tech and Clarkson both cut two- and three-goal leads to one goal on the road, but BG held on to win both. It also earned a 5-5 tie at Northern Michigan, even though it lost a 5-2 lead.

“You’re going to have momentum changes on the road,” Bergeron said. “You know the home team is going to have the momentum. You know you’re going to have to defend. You know you’re going have to handle adversity. You know you’re going to have to be resilient. We’ve done those things.”

GOOD STRETCH: Although Bemidji is seventh in the 10-team league, it’s 6-2-3 in its last 11 games. The Beavers are coming off wins against No. 3 Minnesota State and No. 7 Minnesota-Duluth last weekend.

Bemidji started the season 3-9, 2-6.

“Their skill is good, there’s no doubt about that, but they’re not a team that relies on their skill,” Bergeron said. “They’ll come at you. Their second and third effort this year, compared to last year, is much better.”

The teams already have played one series this season, with BG posting a 3-1, 3-2 sweep in the Ice Arena Nov. 21-22. Last season, the Falcons were 5-3, 5-2 winners over Bemidji in BG.

“When you’ve got good intensity and good effort, and you add skill to that, you’ve got a really good team,” Bergeron said. “They’re a team that’s better than their record indicates. They’ve proven they can beat anybody.”

BEAVER BITS: Bemidji is fourth in the WCHA in scoring (2.88 goals per game) and sixth in goals allowed (2.62).

Senior defenseman Matt Prapavessis leads the team with 17 points. He has six goals and 11 assists in 24 games.

Freshman Michael Bitzer is Bemidji’s No. 1 goalie, posting a 2.10 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage in 15 games.

Since Dec. 12, he leads the nation with 1.12 goals-against and a .950 save percentage. He’s started the team’s last eight games, posting a 5-2-1 record with three shutouts.

PLAYOFFS: Just six points separate the fourth- through last-place teams in WCHA.

Bemidji has 13 points, three behind fourth-place Ferris State.

Eight teams make the playoffs, but sixth-place Alaska is ineligible for postseason play because of penalties for NCAA rules violations.

BOUNCE BACK: BG senior forwards Adam Berkle and Dan DeSalvo both played well in last Saturday’s 3-1 win over Lake Superior. Neither played well the previous night when the Lakers posted a 3-1 victory.

Berkle was largely responsible for two of the Lakers’ goals in Game 1. Berkle, DeSalvo and junior linemate Mark Cooper were on the ice for all three Laker goals. All three goals came in the first period, the first two coming in the first 13 minutes.

But in Game 2, Berkle had one goal, one assist, seven shots and an on-ice rating of plus-1. His assist came on the power play.

“We were disappointed in the way he played Friday, but he responded well,” Bergeron said. “The message to Adam and the older guys is we can’t have a 10-minutes like we had on Friday night from our older people. There’s no excuse for it. There’s no reason for it. We shouldn’t have to be responding to poor efforts.”

DeSalvo assisted on Berkle’s goal just 10:46 into the game.

Berkle and DeSalvo are two of BG’s best offensive players. They’re often used on the power play, and both kill penalties.

“Those are two guys we need,” Bergeron said. “They’re eating a bunch of minutes, and they’re important minutes. We can’t effort for them to be minus-2 in the first 10 minutes of the game.”

POWER PLAY: The Falcon power play has scored a goal in four of its last five games, going 4 of 21 in that span.

BG is fourth in the WCHA (17.5 percent, 17 of 97).

“We want to move the puck around and have zone time, but we need results and we’re going to need the power play to be successful,” Bergeron said.

The Falcon penalty-killing remains first nationally at 93.7 percent. The only other school at 90 percent or better is Vermont (92.4 percent). BG is 39 of 40 over the last nine games.

Bemidji is sixth in the league in power-play conversions (15.5 percent, 9 of 58) and seventh in penalty-killing (82 percent, 50 of 61).

But the Beavers have killed off 32 of their last 36 short-handed situations.

“Over the next 12 games, the playoffs, the special teams are going to play a huge role in the outcome of every game,” Bergeron said.

WELL BEHAVED: Bemidji is the league’s least-penalized team at 9.3 minutes per game.

Every other team is at 10.8 mpg or more, including BG at 11.3.

ROAD TRIP: The series at Bemidji is BG’s longest bus trip of the season. According to Google Maps, Bemidji is just under 14 hours from BG, located approximately three hours and 40 minutes north of Minneapolis.

The Falcons traveled to Bemidji via sleeper bus, leaving Wednesday night at 8. They’ll return home immediately after Saturday’s game.

SERIES: The Falcons are 4-2 against Bemidji all-time.

BG’s only previous series at Bemidji came during the 2011-12 season when the Beavers posted a 4-1, 2-1 sweep.

Kevin Gordon

About Kevin Gordon

Kevin joined BGSUHockey.com after wrapping up a 27-year run as the Falcon hockey beat writer for the Sentinel-Tribune. He now provides his features, notebooks, and insights with BGSUHockey.com to continue providing Falcon hockey fans with the in-depth coverage they've loved for nearly three decades. He can be reached by e-mail at Kevin@bgsuhockey.com and on Twitter at @KGordonBG.

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