Bowling Green learned how to win last season.
The Falcons are learning how to be successful at an even higher level this season.
It hasn’t been easy.
The Falcons, ranked eighth nationally, are 18-7-5 overall and 14-5-3 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
But BG is just 5-4-2 in its last 11 games overall and 6-4-2 in its last 12 league games, and its play has been inconsistent.
“The second half has been a little more up and down than the first half was,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. “When you have a first half like we had, you have to expect some adversity, especially with what I feel is a young group in this situation.”
The Falcons struggled to hold leads last season, but they’re 17-2-4 when leading or tied after two periods this season. They’re learning what it takes to win consistently and when the expectations are higher.
“I still feel how you deal with the adversity, how you deal with the inconsistency is huge,” Bergeron said. “We’re trying to deal with it the best we can.”
BG posted a 4-1 win at Ferris State last Friday, but lost a 3-2 overtime decision Saturday. Ferris started quickly, building a 2-0 lead in the first 11 minutes. The Falcons needed almost a period and a half to right their game.
“The way we started the game Saturday said, ‘Are we ready to win at a really, really high level?’” Bergeron said. “We’re learning how to win at an even higher level, and that’s not easy.”
WHAT’S AT STAKE: BG and Northern Michigan (11-13-6, 8-10-4) try to improve their standing in the league Friday and Saturday nights in the Ice Arena at 7:07.
The Falcons are third in the WCHA with 31 points, eight behind second-place Michigan Tech and nine behind first-place Minnesota State.
BG has two games in hand on both, but only six games remaining. Minnesota State hosts Tech Feb. 27-28.
According to the WCHA, the Falcons need just one point to clinch a home-ice berth for the league quarterfinals. BG also can clinch if Bemidji State gets two or fewer points this weekend against last-place Alaska-Anchorage.
NMU is tied with Ferris and Bemidji for the final home-ice spot. All three teams have six games left, but NMU also has a home-and-home series to play against Tech.
OPPORTUNISTIC: BG’s Ben Greiner scored at Ferris, his third goal in just eight games this season. The freshman forward also has an on-ice rating of plus-2 as he often skates on BG’s fourth line.
“He’s one of those guys who helps your team depth, who helps the internal competition because he’s knocking on the door every day,” Bergeron said.
“He’s put the time in and continues to put the time in. What we need to do is get a bunch of guys who put the time in on a daily basis, and raise our internal competition and, hopefully, get more out of everybody.”
The 6-foot, 193-pounder played for Rio Grande Valley of the North American (Junior) Hockey League last season, totaling 22 goals and 29 assists. The 21-year-old is from Newport Beach, Calif.
“He’s one of those guys who may have deserved to play more than he has,” Bergeron said. “Every time he’s played, he seems to take advantage of his opportunity.”
DEBUT: BG freshman defenseman Braden Pears made his debut at Ferris Saturday. He was on the ice for both of BG’s goals, and even played in the overtime.
Pears (6-0, 175) is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who plays hard, Bergeron said.
“He’s had a couple good weeks, maybe three, so we decided to give him a chance,” Bergeron said. “He’s a pretty calm guy. He doesn’t get too up or too down.”
Pears became eligible this season after winning an appeal with the NCAA, which originally didn’t give him credit for some of his high school classes. When he came to BG, the appeal was still pending.
Pears played in the British Columbia (Junior) Hockey League last season.
“It took him a while to catch up because he didn’t come into the year thinking he was going to be in the mix to play,” Bergeron said. “He deserved to play Saturday. He did a good job for the most part.”