Notebook: Falcons looking to clinch home ice

By February 27, 2015Notebooks

Bowling Green visits Alaska-Anchorage Friday and Saturday, needing just one point to wrap up home-ice for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.

The Falcons have 31 points, seven ahead of fourth-place Northern Michigan and Bemidji State. All three teams have four teams remaining. Also this weekend, NMU hosts Lake Superior and Bemidji visits Ferris State.

BG can still finish in a tie for second, but will lose a tiebreaker with Michigan Tech.

Minnesota State leads the league with 40 points, one ahead of Tech, as those two teams meet this weekend in Mankato, Minn.

The Falcons are 18-9-5 overall and 14-7-3 in the league.

TIME RUNNING OUT: Alaska-Anchorage is last in the WCHA with 10 points, three behind Lake Superior for the final playoff berth. Huntsville is eighth with 15 points.

“There’s going to be a level of desperation,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “They’re fighting for their playoff lives.”

Even though the Seawolves are 7-19-4, 4-18-2, they’re 4-6-2 at home.

MORE UAA: The Seawolves, who advanced to the WCHA Final Five last season, have lost eight straight games and 12 of their last 14 contests. The two wins came Jan. 16-17 at Alaska (Fairbanks).

Freshman Olivier Mantha is UAA’s No. 1 goalie, posting a 3.02 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage in 25 games.

“This young goaltender they have is legitimate,” Bergeron said. “His numbers are really good for a team whose record isn’t what they want it to be. His numbers are still very strong.”

Junior forward Blake Tatchell leads the team in scoring with 20 points, totaling five goals and 15 assists in 20 games.

The Seawolves are eighth in the 10-team league in scoring (1.97 goals per game) and next-to-last in goals allowed (3.27 gpg).

NO CRISIS: Although Bergeron was unhappy with two soft goals allowed by Tommy Burke and Chris Nell last weekend in BG’s 3-2 (overtime), 4-3 losses at home to Northern Michigan, BG still ranks second in the WCHA in save percentage (.920).

“It’s not a goalie crisis for us,” Bergeron said. “We’re fine. We have guys capable. This past weekend, it was just a bad goal each night that cost us momentum, and ultimately were part of the result.”

Bergeron said Burke and Nell have played consistently well, even though neither has established himself as the No. 1 goalie.

“The bounces for Chris Nell haven’t been quite the same, the team’s offensive output for Chris hasn’t been quite the same, and Tommy Burke has been pretty darn consistent,” Bergeron said. “I talked to Tommy. I didn’t like the second goal Friday night, and if he wins that game 2-1, he plays Saturday.”

The Falcons are scoring 2.8 goals per game in Burke’s 15 starts this season and 3.08 gpg in Nell’s 12 starts. But of the four games the Falcons have scored five goals this season, three have come when Nell was in goal.

Nell is just 1-4-2 in his last seven starts, but the Falcons are averaging only 2.29 gpg in those seven contests.

ROAD WARRIORS: The Falcons are 10-4-3 on the road this season, their most road wins since the 1995-96 season when they won 11 road games.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Although the BG penalty-killing was only 5 of 7 against Northern Michigan last weekend, the Falcons still lead the nation at 91.6 percent.

The Falcon power play was 2 of 5 in Saturday’s game against NMU, but is sixth in the league at 15 percent.

UAA is seventh in the league in power-play conversions (14 percent) and next-to-last in penalty-killing (79.4 percent).

The Seawolves are the league’s most-penalized team, averaging 16.5 minutes per game. BG is sixth at 12.5 mpg.

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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