Bowling Green is looking to clinch a spot in the NCAA playoffs this weekend.
The easiest way for the Falcons to do that is to win the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff championship.
They most likely will wrap up an at-large berth by beating Michigan Tech on Friday in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Five at The Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
The Falcons, ranked ninth and 23-10-5 overall, face No. 4 Tech (28-8-2) in the first semifinal. Top-ranked and WCHA regular-season champion Minnesota State (27-7-3) meets Ferris State (18-19-2) in the second semifinal at 8:37 p.m.
The championship game is Saturday at 7:07 p.m. There is no third-place game.
But a loss to Tech could leave BG out of 16-team national playoffs.
The Falcons haven’t played in the NCAAs since 1990.
“The reality is we’re a bubble team and our guys know that,” said BG coach Chris Bergeron, who is in his fifth season. “We have to go play well this weekend to get ourselves off the bubble.”
The NCAAs consist of the six league playoff champions and 10 at-large teams.
The Falcons are 12th in the Pairwise Rankings, which mirror the selection criteria for the NCAAs. But the top 16 teams aren’t guaranteed to play in the nationals if teams outside the top 16 win playoff championships.
Twelve of the 26 teams playing this weekend aren’t in the top 16 of the Pairwise.
U.S. College Hockey Online says 11 teams — including Tech and Minnesota State — have clinched NCAA berths.
The NCAA pairings will be announced Sunday at noon on ESPNU.
“We win one game, it looks like we’re good,” Bergeron said. “We win two, obviously, we’re good. If we don’t win any, we’re on the bubble.
“We do have some control, that’s what teams want. They want to control their own destiny and we control ours.”
The Falcons were third in the Pairwise on Jan. 16, but fell to 14th on March 12.
BG has won four straight games to move into 12th place entering the Final Five. Its recent winning streak came after the team went 8-7-2 at one point during the second half, including a 1-4 stretch in February.
Bergeron said the coaches and players have discussed the team’s NCAA situation each Monday for the last six weeks.
“We’ve put ourselves in not a great spot by being inconsistent and not having a whole lot of room for error,” Bergeron said. “By us talking about it, it’s something I hope puts the players at ease and realize it is what it is.
“The only way we control it is to play well. We’re still in a spot where we kind of, sort of control what happens. It’s the right thing to do to talk about it.”
The Falcons split at Tech earlier this season, posting a 3-2 win in Game 2 of the series after the Huskies were 4-3 winners in Game 1.
“I hope (talking about the NCAAs) takes the focus right away from that and right onto Friday night’s game,” Bergeron said. “Let’s be open and honest and talk about it, and put it to rest, so we can focus on the task at hand.
“There was talk our season was crumbling. That’s not we felt. We weren’t playing great consistently, but we were still splitting. That’s what is hard for our guys to understand, how elite that 16-team field is.”
BG won a national championship in 1984. Tech’s last NCAA appearance came in 1981.
Following its NCAA championship, the Falcon program slowly declined and became one of college hockey’s bottom-feeders. The BG program nearly was cut by the university for financial reasons approximately six years ago.
“I’m not sure I can put it into words how much it would mean,” Bergeron said of the NCAAs. He coached in the NCAA Frozen Four as an assistant at Miami in 2009 and 2010. The RedHawks lost in the championship game in 2009.
“We’ll have to talk about that if and when we get there,” Bergeron said. “But thinking where we were then and where we are today, it would mean quite a bit. But we’ll leave that until next week and deal with it either way.”
The NCAAs consist of four four-team regionals, consisting of single-elimination play.
Regionals in Fargo, N.D., and Manchester, N.H. are March 27-28. Regionals in South Bend, Ind., and Providence, R.I. are March 28-29.
The regional champions advance to the NCAA Frozen Four in Boston on April 9 and 11.
Once the 16 teams are decided, the top four are No. 1 seeds, teams 5-8 are No. 2 seeds, teams 9-12 are No. 3 seeds and teams are 13-16 are No. 4 teams.
The Falcons still have a chance of finishing in the top 8 and being a No. 2 seed.