Notebook: 10th-ranked Falcons face three road games this week

By October 13, 2015Notebooks

Bowling Green is back in the national top 10.

The Falcons were 10th in both the U.S. College Hockey Online and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls announced Monday.

In the U.S. College Hockey Online Top 20, the Falcons received 521 points, up from 316 two weeks ago when they were 16th in the preseason poll.

In the USA Today Top 15, BG had 174 points, an increase from 39 last week. The Falcons were among the teams receiving votes last week and would have been 16th.

BG opened the season with a 6-3, 2-0 home-and-home sweep of Ohio State last weekend.

The Falcons were ranked as high as sixth last season, and were still ninth on March 16.

BG plays three nonleague games on the road this week.

It faces Western Michigan Tuesday, and visits western New York for games against Canisius Friday and the Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology Saturday.

REVIEW: The Falcons played well for a large part of the OSU series, winning Game 1 Friday at OSU and Game 2 Saturday in the Ice Arena.

“The process both nights was pretty good, the way we evaluate the process,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. “Both nights, we came out with the results we were looking for, based on that process.”

The primary concerns remain turnovers and playing consistently well defensively, although the Buckeyes have a number of skilled forwards. OSU played well Saturday and generate plenty of quality scoring chances.
“I’d like to see our care for the puck in all three zones get a little bit better,” Bergeron said of the turnovers.

“There’s five or six plays that come to mind each night where I don’t think we defended the way we defend every day. That’s as much (a credit to OSU) as it is us. That’s something we knew we were going to face. I don’t think we handled it great.”

POWER PLAY: The Falcon power play was 0 of 5 against OSU, but had a number of quality scoring chances. One came when it missed an open net from the inside of the left circle during a 5 on 3 Saturday.

“We’re not far away,” Bergeron said. “There’s good movement going on. There are good opportunities and chances going on. We just have to get the results.

“If you miss the net, the puck has no chance of going in. We’ve got to make sure it gets on net. We have to win that puck battle and be more competitive on loose pucks.”

COMPETITION: Tommy Burke, Chris Nell and Tomas Sholl continue to battle for the No. 1 job in goal. Burke and Nell both played well against OSU, combing to stop 52 of 55 shots for a .945 save percentage in the series. Nell was in goal for the shutout.

“It’s every day,” Nell said of the competition in goal. “All three of us can play at this level and probably beyond. Every day in practice, if you don’t show up, you’re going to get exposed.

“But we support we each other. No one is ever wanting someone to play bad. We’re all happy for each other when we play well. We push each other to be our best and every day that happens.”

DEBUTS: Four BG freshmen — forwards Shane Bednard and John Schilling, and defensemen Connor McDonald and Chris Pohlkamp — played well against OSU.

Schilling had one goal and one assist in the series, and Bednard had an assist. They also killed penalties, and Bednard skated on the power play.

“We saw exactly what we’d thought we see from them— a good work ethic, some competitiveness,” Bergeron said of Schilling and Bednard. “Guys who are just good hockey players. They made good hockey plays all over the ice. They’re winners. They’re contributing. Their impact is only going to get better as they get more confident.”

McDonald and Pohlkamp both saw a regular shift, and both killed penalties.

“They’re being thrown into the fire … They’re eating good minutes,” Bergeron said. “We’re playing against top level forwards. Those top guys for Ohio State they have are veterans and they’re good players. They’re not going to face faster or more skilled players.

“They handled themselves just fine. As they get more confidence and experience at this level, their impact is going to be more and more positive.”

2-0: The Falcons are off to a 2-0 start for the first time since the 2004-05 season. It’s the 12th time in BG history the team is unbeaten, untied after two games.

The longest winning streak to start the season came when the 1976-77 team went 7-0. Only eight other teams have started the season 3-0 or better. The most recent team to do it was the 1996-97 team.

NEXT: The Broncos are 1-0-1, posting a 3-2 win and a 1-1 tie against Ferris State of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The win came at home Friday, while the tie was at Ferris Saturday.

Western almost always plays well at home, and traditionally has a good mix of size and skill.

“They’re a very difficult team to play against,” Bergeron said. “They play extremely hard.”

The Falcons and Western haven’t played since the 2012-13 season when both were members of the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

“We have to execute at a high level,” Bergeron said. “We have to be ready to go come the drop of the puck.”

The Falcons played well during most of the first two periods Friday against OSU, but didn’t have a good first period in Game 2.

“If we’re not ready to go, they’re going to jump us hard the first five, eight, 10 minutes (of the game),” Western said. “It’s our responsibility to be ready.

“At this point, that readiness is more mental than physical for our guys. They want to play. Physically, both teams will be ready to play. It will be who can execute mentally and who will be ready and focused to get to their game plan.”

Western was seventh (next to last) in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference coaches poll. Two Broncos left school early to turn pro — defenseman Kenney Morrison and forward Colton Hargrove.

The Broncos were 14-18-5 overall and 6-13-5 in the NCHC last season.

STATS: Junior Sheldon Dries is Western’s top returning scorer. He had 14 goals and 15 assists for a team-best 29 points last season.

Senior Lukas Hafner and junior Colin Olson split time in goal against Ferris, posting a .959 save percentage.

Hafner is the cousin of former Falcon defenseman Rusty Hafner.

Olson, a sixth-round NHL draft pick of Carolina in 2012, played at OSU during the 2012-13 season.

But he left the school, and played for the U.S. National Development U-18 Team and Sioux City in the United States (Junior) Hockey League during the 2013-14 season, He also played for Sioux City last season.

The Broncos were 3 of 12 on the power play against Ferris, while the penalty-killing was 11 of 12.

Kevin Gordon

About Kevin Gordon

Kevin joined after wrapping up a 27-year run as the Falcon hockey beat writer for the Sentinel-Tribune. After providing another two years of the Falcon hockey coverage fans had grown to love over the past three decades, Kevin decided to hang up his notebook and is now enjoying the retired life. Please join us by sending Kevin a tweet and thank him for all the time he's dedicated to BGSU hockey: @KGordonBG.