Bowling Green is closing out games this season.
The Falcons are 15-2-5 when leading or tied after two periods this season.
“A big key to this year was last year, going through the situations having the lead more than we had it before and not doing well with that,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “That’s given us experience.”
The Falcons struggled to hold leads in the third period last season. They were only 17-9-6 when they were leading or tied after two periods.
But with a veteran team, the Falcons are using the lessons of last season to close out games this season.
Although the Falcons have won by holding leads in the third period, Bergeron isn’t happy with the team is played in 5 on 6 situations when trying to protect those leads the final minute.
The 5 on 6 results when the trailing team takes its goalie off the ice for an extra skater in an attempt to tie the game.
“We haven’t been perfect, but we found a way (to win), and we’ve done it a bunch,” Bergeron said.
The two games BG would most like to have back are a 2-2 tie Jan. 30 at Bemidji State and a 3-2 loss at home to Ohio State Nov. 14.
Bemidji scores twice in the final four minutes to erase a 2-0 deficit, including the tying goal with just 55 seconds left.
Against OSU, BG held a 1-0 lead with five minutes remaining before the Buckeyes rallied. OSU scored the winning goal with just 34 seconds remaining and only 42 seconds after BG had tied the game 2-2.
“For the most part, we have kept the lead and even coming back a few times,” Bergeron said. “It’s the overall experience the past 24 months. The more times in a situation, the better you’ll be in that situation next time.”
EXPECTATIONS: In addition to playing well with the lead, BG is rebounding from slow starts.
The Falcons rallied from a one-goal deficit in both games last weekend to post a 2-1, 3-2 sweep of Ferris State. BG is 4-3-3 when the opponent scores first and is 4-6-3 when trailing or tied after two periods.
“That has a lot to do with expectations,” Bergeron said. “When you’re not playing up to expectations, as an individual or collectively, our guys have found a way to right the ship (during a game).”
During Saturday’s win over Ferris, the Falcons played a strong third period after trailing 1-0 after one period and 2-1 after 40 minutes.
Bergeron said he no longer screams at his teams after a bad period, which wasn’t the case during his early seasons at BG.
“I haven’t said anything to them; I go in and coach, and talk about adjustments or what to expect,” said Bergeron, who is in his fifth season. “The yelling and screaming in between periods to motivate people is over.
“If that’s going on, that’s going on player to player which is exactly the way it needs to be to truly have an impact. It comes down to not playing up to expectations either personally or collectively, and saying we’re going to put a stop to this and get it right.”
During Bergeron’s early years, the Falcons level of play rarely improved in a game if they didn’t start off well. Saturday’s win was the latest example of BG coming back from a slow start, whether it is after one or two periods.
“The vibe going into the third period Saturday was we’re not going to be denied tonight and that’s the way we carried ourselves,” Bergeron said. “We found a way to elevate collectively to have a really good period and win the game.
“Expectations have changed. When guys aren’t play up to those expectations. It’s not going to be accepted. They’re not going to stand for it. They find a way to elevate.
HEALTH: Bergeron said BG continues to have “only the usual bumps and bruises” at this point of the season.
Rest remains a majority priority for the Falcons, who will play at least 11 straight weeks during the second half. The stretch consists of the final 10 weekends of the regular season and the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
“We’re really trying to do a good job of balancing rest and enough preparation,” Bergeron said. “I truly feel part of our preparation at this point of the year has to be rest. It just has to be.”
The Falcons’ trip to Ferris State is BG’s shortest league trip of the season. The trip is four hours and the Falcons will go via charter bus, instead of their usual sleeper bus.
BG still has a trip to Alaska-Anchorage Feb. 27-28, which is the next-to-last weekend of the regular season.
“That comes at a tough time because that’s going to take a lot of out of us, and we want to be playing our best hockey right around that time,” Bergeron said.
“We’re really trying to manage practice time. That will helps the bumps and bruises heal up.”
BALANCE: BG, St. Lawrence and Yale are the only the teams in the country with a winning record, despite not having a 20-point scorer this season.
Kevin Dufour, Matt Pohlkamp and Brandon Hawkins each have 19 points for BG, and Ben Murphy and Pierre-Luc Mercier both have 18. Four others have 14 or more.
Twenty Falcons have at least one goal this season.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: According to the WCHA, the Falcons already have clinched a berth in the league playoffs.
Minnesota State and Michigan Tech also have clinched playoff berths.