Bowling Green still is working to score more goals.
The Falcons are averaging just 2.36 goals per game this season, including scoring only six goals in their last four games and 14 goals in their last seven games. Six of those 14 goals came in a win over Clarkson Jan. 2 in the Ice Arena.
Even though the Falcons are seventh in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in scoring, they’re still 13-7-5 overall and 9-3-4 in the league. They’re ranked 18th nationally and tied for second in the league going into home games Thursday and Friday against Alaska-Anchorage.
Offense wasn’t expected to be an issue for the Falcons, who returned many of the key players from last season when they were third in the league in scoring at 3.05 goals per game.
The Falcons have scored two or fewer goals in 16 of their 25 games this season. They’re 9-0 when scoring three or more goals in a game this season.
BG is allowing only 1.84 goals per game, fifth-best nationally and best in the WCHA.
“We’ve been getting quality shots. We’ve been getting quality looks,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. “It’s a little bit about bearing down, a little bit of luck around the other team’s net, which you have to earn.”
The Falcons have had three goals disallowed by video review in their last six games, the result of goalie interference or a Falcon player being in the crease.
“I can see our guys getting a little discouraged getting three goals called back over the course of six games, all for the same thing,” Bergeron said. “But we’re telling them don’t get discouraged, keep doing what you’re doing when it comes to going to the other team’s net.”
The Falcons had enough quality chances in Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Miami, which scored the winning goal with two seconds left. Among BG’s chances were a missed open net in the first period and a shot that hit the post earlier in the third period.
Ironically. BG’s goal at Miami came on a harmless shot from the left circle. The puck went in off the arm of the goalie.
“That’s sports. That’s competition,” Bergeron said. “Sometimes, (the puck) bounces your way. Sometimes, it doesn’t. That’s why we focus on the process and let the results follow the process. The better the process is, the better chance we have to get the results, not only in games, but in scoring.
“Part of the process of scoring is quality shots, quality opportunities, putting pucks on net, going to the net hard, stopping front of the net.”
In WCHA play, the Falcons are averaging just 2.19 goals per game, next-to-last in the league.
OFFENSE II: In addition to focusing on the process, BG is hoping an improved power play and including the defensemen in its offense can increase the team’s output.
The Falcons have scored only 14 power-play goals, and they’ve been held scoreless with the extra man in eight of their last 11 games.
“We’re not happy with the power play,” Bergeron said. “We’re going to continue to work on it.”
The addition of freshmen Jordan Ernst and Adam Smith gives BG two more defensemen with good offensive skills. They’re also capable of joining the rush, giving the Falcons an extra option when they’re attacking.
Four of BG’s top six defensemen are freshmen, the others being Connor McDonald and Chris Pohlkamp.
Sophomore defenseman Mark Friedman is BG’s second-leading scorer with 14 points. He has three goals and 11 assists in 25 games, including a team-best 13 points in league play.
“They add offense to our group, but they’re still young,” Bergeron said of the freshmen defensemen. “We’re still going to continue to get them involved some how, some way, to create offense.”
60 MINUTES: The Falcons continue to stress that every play matters. Although Miami’s winning goal came late, BG still failed to convert on a number of good chances and had other breakdowns during the game.
“Every play has to matter,” Bergeron said. “It wasn’t about that last play (Miami’s winning goal), but all those plays that added up to it. That’s just reaffirming every play does matter. We want to be on the positive side of most of those plays. if not all of them. We want to find that level of consistency.”
STINGY: BG goalie Chris Nell is second nationally with a 1.41 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage, but the sophomore is just 9-4-5 in 20 games. The Falcons have scored two or fewer goals in 13 of Nell’s 19 starts, including four games with just one goal and three shutouts.
“We haven’t scored enough,” Bergeron said. “You’ve got a goaltender who is on top of his game, or at least has been most of the season, and you’re not supporting him.”
In 15 league games, Nell leads the WCHA with a 1.38 goals-against and a .948 save percentage.
North Dakota sophomore Cam Johnson leads both categories nationally with a 1.28 goals-against average and a .979 save percentage.
Johnson is 10-1-1 for UND, ranked second nationally with records of 19-3-2 overall and 10-2 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. He’s started 13 of the team’s 24 games.
NELL II: In just 33 career games, he already holds the BG career record for goals-against (1.76) and save percentage (.934)
He’s also on pace to set BG’s single-season record in both categories this season.
IMPROVEMENT: With at least 12 games remaining, UAA already has passed its overall and league win totals for last season. The Seawolves are 9-10-3 overall and 6-8-2 in the WCHA, compared to 8-22-4, 5-21-2 last season.
UAA’s season includes a 3-2, 3-2 sweep at No. 17 Michigan Tech Dec. 4-5, and a Halloween split with the Falcons in Anchorage. Tech is tied with BG for second place in the WCHA
“This is a good team,” Bergeron said. “We have to be ready to go, a very difficult opponent for sure. They defend well. They’re a group that works hard and they’ve got good goaltending.”
UAA and Alaska (Fairbanks) are tied for the eighth and final playoff berth in the league with 14 points. They’re two points behind Lake Superior, three behind sixth-place Bemidji State and four behind fifth-place Northern Michigan.
UAA and Lake Superior each have played 16 games, two fewer than Bemidji and NMU and four fewer than UAF.
KEY PLAYERS: UAA senior forward Blake Tatchell is the league’s sixth-league scorer with 18 points. A third-team all-league selection last season, he has five goals and 13 assists in 22 games.
Sophomore forward Tad Kozun has 10 goals and five assists in 22 games, including six power-play goals.
Sophomore goalie Olivier Mantha has a 2.62 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in 20 games, posting an 8-9-3 record.
But UAA will be without senior captain and standout defenseman Austin Sevalrud for the series, Seawolves coach Matt Thomas told the Alaska Dispatch News Wednesday. Sevalrud has an upper-body injury, suffered during the first period of Sunday’s win at Lake Superior.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE: BG is 6-1-4 in the Ice Arena this season, including a 4-0-4 record in league play.
SOCIALISM: Seventeen of the first 44 WCHA league series this season have resulted in splits, with another four ending in two ties.
There have been only 14 league sweeps, along with nine three-point weekends. Of those sweeps, Minnesota State has four, and BG and Michigan Tech each have two.
As a result, the top three teams in the league are separated by just three points and only six points separate first- through fourth-place. Just five points divide fourth-through eighth-place.
The top eight teams make the league playoffs, with the top four hosting quarterfinal series.
CLOSE GAMES: Forty-seven of the first 88 WCHA league games have been ties or a one-goal decision, including 26 overtime games.
Twenty-one league games have had a tie-breaking, game-winning goal in the third period, including seven in the last five minutes of regulation. Nine victories have come in OT.
FIND A WAY: Fifteen of BG’s 16 league games have been decided by two or fewer goals. They’re 5-1 in one-goal games and they’ve played four ties.