Bowling Green cracked the national Top 10 Monday.
Just over 30 hours later, the Falcons turned in a disappointing performance en route to a 4-1 nonleague loss at Western Michigan.
The Falcons, ranked 10th in both polls this week, couldn’t overcome a slow start.
Western dominated early and scored twice in the first 11 minutes to improve to 2-0-1 overall. The Falcons fell to 2-1 following a 6-3, 2-0 sweep of Ohio State to open the season last weekend.
“For a program that wants to be the program we want to be, we’re going to have a target on our back and that target was huge tonight,” said BG coach Chris Bergeron, who is in his sixth season.
“Western Michigan came hard at us and got what they deserved.”
BG climbed from 16th to 10th in this week’s U.S. College Hockey Online poll and was among the teams receiving votes in the first USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
The Falcons are hoping to challenge for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season and playoff championships, and earn their first NCAA playoff berth since 1990 this season.
On the other hand, Western was next-to-last in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference coaches poll. The Broncos were next-to-last in the NCHC last season, going 14-18-5 overall and 6-13-5 in the conference
Western played well most of the game.
“Everybody knows what the rankings say and Western Michigan was fully aware of what went on last weekend and what they were playing,” Bergeron said. “They were prepared for that and we weren’t.
“If we want to be the team and the program we want to be, these are opportunities and we let an opportunity get away from us.”
SLOW START: The Broncos took a 1-0 lead on Kyle Novak’s breakaway goal, just 75 seconds into the game on a delayed penalty to BG’s Mitch McLain. Even though Novak scored, the Falcons still had to kill off the McLain penalty.
BG goalie Chris Nell stopped a breakaway shortly after that, but Western doubled its lead at 10:41 on Oliver Kaski’s harmless wrist shot from the right-wing boards near the top of the right circle.
“It was exactly what we knew Western was going to do, and hats off to them for doing it and executing,” Bergeron said. “We didn’t start well.
“We were really chasing the game the first five minutes, and then the second goal was terrible. Now, we’re in real trouble. Not the start we’re looking for against a really good opponent.”
The Broncos increased the lead to 3-0 on Matteson Iacopelli’s goal at 10:42 of the second period. BG closed within 3-1 on Kevin Dufour’s goal, just 2:14 later.
Griffen Molino closed out the scoring for Western with an empty-net goal with just 1:51 remaining in the game. The Falcons had pulled Nell for the extra attacker to get back to 5 on 5 after BG was penalized with 2:11 to play.
“We have no excuses,” Dufour said. “Coach (Bergeron) told us it was going to be a fist fight 100 times, and we just didn’t show up. The first period cost us the game.”
The game was the third in five nights for both teams, and BG has road games against Canisius and the Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology this weekend.
“What I don’t like is there are too many excuses that could come from this,” Bergeron said. “There are no excuses. We did not start right.”
POWERLESS: The Falcon power play was 0 of 7 and had eight shots in 11:44 with the extra man. Five of the power plays came during the first two periods.
“Half the time it was fine. Half the time it was awful. Not even close to good enough,” Bergeron said of the power play.
“These situations, when you start poor, you’re going to have opportunities on the power play against an aggressive team like Western, and we had those opportunities. Mentally, we weren’t engaged in the battle tonight.”
The Falcon power play is 0 of 12 this season and hasn’t scored since its next-to-last game of last season.
“We have to hit the net because we have good looks,” said Dufour, who plays on one of the two power-play units. “We just can’t finish, putting it on net. If we get traffic in front and put the puck on the net, we can have success.”
Western’s power play was 2 of 5.
BETTER: The Falcons raised their level of play over the final two periods and were outshot just 28-26 in the game.
“We’ve proven time and time again that when we get painted into a corner, we’ll fight, but that’s what losing programs do,” Bergeron said. “You get down a couple, three goals, and then you start fighting. That’s not what we want to be. That’s what we did when we first got here.”
SHOTS: The Falcons attempted 58 shots in the game, but 31 never made it to WMU goalie Lukas Hafner. Western blocked 17 shots and BG missed the net on 14 of its attempts.
“We didn’t have a lot of quality shots, but we had our chances,” Bergeron said. “They blocked a ton of shots. Our poise with the puck wasn’t very good, whether that was them blocking it or our just not being hard enough on pucks.
“But we had enough chances to be dangerous and chip ourselves back into that game. Hafner was there when we had those chances.”
ALL IN THE FAMILY: Hafner, who made 25 saves, is the cousin of former Falcon defenseman Rusty Hafner.
The senior is 2-0-1 this season, posting a 0.96 goals-against average and a .970 save percentage.
REMATCH: The non-traditional home-and-home series between the former Central Collegiate Hockey Association rivals concludes Dec. 30 at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo. Faceoff is 5:07 p.m.