Bowling Green is striving for improved penalty-killing this weekend.
Even though the Falcons lead the nation in penalty-killing, they haven’t been as sharp during the last month.
BG didn’t allow a power-play goal against Alabama-Huntsville Saturday, ending a streak of six straight games it had allowed at least one-power play goal.
The Falcon penalty-killing was just 22 of 30 in those six games, but it still leads the nation at 89.4 percent entering this weekend’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff series.
BG, 21-10-5 overall and seeded third for the playoffs, hosts sixth-seeded Northern Michigan (14-16-6).
The teams play a best-of-3 quarterfinal series Friday, Saturday and, if needed, Sunday. Faceoff all three nights is 7:07.
“Our attention to deal hasn’t been as good,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said of the penalty-killing.
Bergeron said many aspects of BG’s penalty-killing need to improve, but the one area that stands out is shot blocking.
“We haven’t done a good enough job blocking shots the last eight to 10 games, and it’s costing us goals,” Bergeron said. “It’s difficult to block shots because people are taught to get pucks through.
“It’s something we’ve taken pride in, the penalty-killing in particular. But we haven’t been as good as of late. It’s not the level, the standard we’ve set for ourselves.”
NMU has the third-best power play in the WCHA at 18.7 percent. The Wildcats were 3 of 15 in four games against BG this season.
Five Wildcats have at least four power-play goals each, including junior forward Darren Nowick and senior defenseman Mitch Jones with four each.
“They’ve got really good players. We’re going to have to be disciplined,” Bergeron said. “They’re a team that plays really hard, and that means emotions are going to be high on both sides. They’re a team that can hurt you on the power play.”
PP: The Falcon power play has been improved of late, going 6 of 18 in the last five games.
BG is fifth in the league at 16.9 percent. NMU’s penalty-killing is fifth at 85.7 percent.
The Falcons were 5 of 16 in four games against NMU this season.
RECAP: The Falcons are coming off a 7-2, 2-1 home sweep of Alabama-Huntsville, a series in which they played well most of the weekend.
“All in all, I’m happy with the way we’re playing over the last two games,” Bergeron said. “The past 10, it’s been too up and down. The momentum, the vibe around our team, based on last weekend, is good.”
DNP: Kevin Dufour, who is BG’s second-leading goal scorer, didn’t play against UAH.
The sophomore forward has 13 goals and is tied for fifth on the team with 19 points.
“He has to compete harder. His intensity, from the beginning of the shift to the end of the shift, has to be better,” Bergeron said when asked what Dufour has to do to get back in the lineup. “Ultimately, it’s something he’s struggled with.”
Dufour had eight goals in the first six games and nine goals in eight games, but he was a healthy scratch for the first time at Michigan Tech Jan. 17.
Bergeron said when Dufour has had the puck of late, his shots haven’t been on net and his passes haven’t found the stick of a teammate.
“Early in the year, he was scoring goals and it didn’t show up as much, as blatantly as it has of late,” Bergeron said. “For this age group of kids, if they keep getting thrown back on the ice, why would he change?
“We’re not asking him to change from black to white. We’re asking it just to be a little bit. He knows that.”
NO SECRETS: The Falcons and NMU already have played four times season, with the Wildcats posting a 3-2 (overtime), 4-3 sweep of BG in the two most recent games in the Ice Arena Feb. 20-21.
BG earned a 5-5 tie and 5-0 win at NMU Dec. 5-6.
“We know each other very well. There won’t be any surprises,” Bergeron said. “This is about who is willing to execute at a higher level, who is willing to compete at a higher level with some sort of discipline, discipline with the game plan, discipline with their actions.”
“It’s no different than any other weekend, but it will be hard-hard fought series.”
The Wildcats have lost three straight games and seven of their last 10.