Bowling Green is seeking improvement from its penalty-killing unit.
The Falcons have allowed six power-play goals in their last five games, giving up those goals in just 21 chances.
The BG penalty-killing is just fourth in the league and 33rd nationally at 80.4 percent as they prepare to host Northern Michigan this weekend.
Last season, BG finished second in the nation at 89.8 percent and was ranked first for part of the season. The Falcons also led the league.
“We’re close (to being right with the penalty-killing),” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “We need to get on the same page, … that starts with me in terms of the way we’re talking about it and coaching it.”
Bergeron is pleased with how BG has forechecked on the penalty-killing unit. He’s also happy the Falcons have won 50-50 pucks, and they’ve made it hard for teams to enter the offensive zone.
“In the zone, we look in between which means I’ve done a poor job of articulating what we want to be in the zone,” Bergeron said, “Guys are not sure if we want to pressure. They’re not sure if we don’t want to pressure. Then, you end up looking like you don’t know what to do.”
Because of the uncertainty, BG is leaving too many shooting lanes open, and it didn’t do a good job of blocking shots against Alabama-Huntsville last weekend. The UAH power play was 3 of 11 in the series.
Ten of UAH’s 19 quality scoring chances in Saturday’s game came on the power play.
The NMU power play will provide BG with a solid test. The Wildcats are third in the league at 22.6 percent, scoring 12 goals in 53 attempts.
“Once teams do earn the zone, once teams do get control, we need to be on the same page and shut people down,” Bergeron said.
GROWING: Brett D’Andrea is becoming a regular in the BG lineup after sitting out five of the first six games.
The sophomore forward has played in three straight games and in five of the last seven contests. He’s also earned a spot on the power-play unit.
He scored a power-play goal Friday in an overtime win against UAH, and was on the ice in the final minute of BG’s one-goal wins against UAH Saturday and Michigan Tech Nov. 14
“He’s been more consistent then he has been,” Bergeron said of why D’Andrea has played more of late.
Several of BG’s regulars also haven’t played as well as expected, also opening spots in the lineup.
“We’re still looking for more intensity from Brett … but why not give Brett an opportunity?,” Bergeron said. “Brett’s been fairly consistent with his approach in practice. That’s what earned him a spot in the lineup.”
D’Andrea has one goal in six games this season after playing in only 17 of 39 games last season. He had three goals and one assist, and an on-ice rating of plus-5 as a freshman.
“The alternative is not playing. He doesn’t not want to play,” Bergeron said. “There’s purpose there. There’s intensity there. What we’re trying to do is make that every day. That’s the consistency we’re looking for.
“The consistency has been trying to get his game to a level we expect it to be at.”
D’Andrea is a left-hand shot, something the Falcons need on the power play. He was a scorer and a member of the power-play unit during his three seasons of junior hockey from 2011-14.
He had 36 goals and 27 assists in 105 regular-season/playoff games with Port Huron in the North American (Junior) Hockey League, and 24 goals and 53 assists in 78 games for Carleton Place in the Central Canadian (Junior) Hockey League.
WE MEET AGAIN: The Falcons and NMU have played 22 times since the start of the 2010-11 season, including first-round playoff series in 2011, 2012 and last season.
The teams are 10-10-2 in those 22 meetings, but NMU is 6-3-1 at BG during that span. The Falcons swept last season’s playoff series after NMU won twice at BG during the regular season just three weeks earlier.
“There’s always been a little bit of a rivalry there, at least from our perspective,” Bergeron said. “You think about the six years we’ve been here, playoff series, four regular-season games last year — those are ways you develop a good, healthy rivalry, especially with the way Northern plays the game as hard as they play.
“It’s going to be a fun series, but it’s going to be difficult (because the) opponent is a very difficult one.”
The BG-NMU series dates back to the 1977-78 season when the rivalry began in the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association.