Bowling Green visits Bemidji State this weekend in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series.
The Beavers are 4-2-1 in their last seven games. They began the season with a 3-2 win over Minnesota-Duluth and a 4-4 tie against North Dakota. Both of those games were at Bemidji. UND earned a split with a 5-2 win at home in Game 2.
Duluth is ranked 17th by U.S. College Hockey Online this week after starting the season ranked second. UND is ranked fourth this week.
The 14th-ranked Falcons and Bemidji play Friday at 8:37 p.m. and Saturday at 8:07 p.m.
“They’re a really good team,” Bergeron said of Bemidji, which returns 19 players from last season, including seven of its top eight scorers.
The Beavers were 13-5-5 in their final 23 regular-season games last winter. They finished fifth in the league and were fourth in this season’s coaches poll.
But Bemidji had to replace three senior defensemen, including All-WCHA second-team pick and leading scorer Matt Prappavessis.
The Beavers are fourth in the league in scoring (2.47 goals per game) and third in goals allowed (2.33). Sophomore Michael Bitzer has a 2.46 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage in 11 games. He was the league’s rookie of the year last season.
“Their forwards are really good,” Bergeron said. “They’re still defending really well. Their goaltending is experienced. Their goaltending is good.”
Sophomore forward Gerry Fitzgerald, who leads Bemidji with eight goals and 12 points, missed last weekend’s series against Ferris State with an undisclosed injury.
NUMBERS: The Falcons are tied with Michigan Tech for second place in the WCHA with 16 points, two behind Minnesota State. BG and MSU each have played 12 games, two fewer than Tech.
Bemidji is eighth in the league, but is just six points out of second. The Beavers have played 12 games.
RECORDS: The Falcons are 9-3-5 overall and 6-2-4 in the league. Bemidji is 5-7-3, 4-6-2.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Bemidji’s special teams have fared well this season.
The penalty-killing unit leads the WCHA and is 12th nationally at 89.1 percent. The Beavers have killed off 36 of their last 39 short-handed situations dating back to Oct. 24, a span of 11 games.
The power play is second in the league at 22.2 percent. Bemidji is 13 of 41 (31.7 percent) at home with the man advantage, although it is 0 of 15 during the last last five games.
The Falcon special teams are looking for improvement.
BG has allowed nine power-play goals in its last nine games, killing off just 29 of 38 chances. The power play was 8 of 17 in one recent four-game stretch, but is 0 of 9 in the last three games.
MCDONALD: BG freshman defenseman Connor McDonald has an assist in three straight games.
He also has an on-ice rating of +5 this season, and was a +2 in each game against Minnesota State last weekend.
SERIES: The Falcons are 4-3-1 against Bemidji all-time, including a 4-1-1 record in their first two seasons as WCHA members.
BG swept its two series at home, but didn’t play well in its only two games at Bemidji last season.
The Falcons were outshot in both games at Bemidji last season, losing 5-2 in Game 1 and playing a 2-2 tie in Game 2. Bemidji scored twice in the last four minutes, including the tying goal at 19:05, to earn the tie.
“We have to find a way to play better in their building,” said Bergeron, whose team is 4-3 on the road this season.