Bowling Green is striving to win the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season championship.
The team faces two critical series in its championship bid the next two weekends.
The Falcons host Michigan Tech Friday and Saturday and visit Minnesota State Feb. 5-6. The two series are the last of the head-to-head games among the league’s top three teams this season.
Defending champion Minnesota State leads the league with 29 points, followed by BG with 26, and Tech and Ferris State with 22.
Minnesota State and Ferris each have played two more games than BG and Tech. The Falcons and Tech will make up those games in hand this weekend as Ferris is idle and Minnesota State is playing nonleague games.
The Falcons are 10-1-2 in their last 13 league games, including a 6-2, 6-2 sweep of Alaska-Anchorage in the Ice Arena Thursday and Friday.
“It’s huge, especially with those guys coming into our barn,” BG sophomore forward Brandon Hawkins said of the UAA sweep and the Tech series. “We got some momentum with a couple great crowds both nights. Now, we have to carry the momentum into next week.”
The Falcons are 15-7-5 overall and 11-3-4 in the WCHA.
BG also hosts Ferris Feb. 27-28. Minnesota State and Tech have no remaining games against Ferris.
OFFENSE: BG had its most productive weekend of the season against UAA with the 12 goals and 78 shots on goal. The Falcons also scored eight 5 on 5 goals after totaling just 37 in their first 25 games.
“That’s just the start of it,” Hawkins said of the offense. “It was bound to happen eventually, and we took advantage of our opportunities around their net. Hopefully, we can keep on doing that.”
Veterans Hawkins, Mark Cooper, Brent Tate and Matt Pohlkamp all contributed to the scoring. Hawkins had three goals and two assists in the series, while Cooper had a goal and two assists, and Tate and Pohlkamp each had a goal.
Freshmen forwards Shane Bednard, Stephen Baylis, Joe McKeown and John Schilling combined for two goals and four assists. Freshmen defensemen Connor McDonald, Adam Smith, Chris Pohlkamp and Jordan Ernst added two goals and four assists.
“You’ve got younger people feeling more comfortable, and people understanding the way we want to play a little bit better,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
STINGY: The Falcons lead the WCHA and are fifth nationally in goals allowed (1.85 per game). They’ve allowed two or fewer goals in 20 of their 27 games.
HOT STICK: Hawkins is heating up after totaling no goals and just two assists in the first 10 games. He has a point in nine of the last 16 games, totaling all eight of his goals and six assists.
Hawkins led BG last season with 16 goals and 30 points in 39 games. This season, he has eight goals and eight assists in 26 games, including three power-play goals and three game-winning goals.
PP: The Falcons’ two power-play goals Saturday ended a streak of three straight games without a man-advantage goal by BG.
BG is 16 of 101 with the extra man, converting at 15.8 percent.
PK: The BG penalty-killing hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in five straight games after going 9 for 9 against UAA.
BG’s penalty-killing is 17 of 17 in those five games and has allowed just two goals in the last 10 games (28 of 30).
For the season, the Falcons are 83 of 98 (84.7 percent).
ATTENDANCE: After drawing a season-best crowd of 3,511 for Thursday’s game, BG had another strong turnout for Friday’s series finale with a crowd of 2,945.
JY: Former Falcon head coach Jerry York, who guided BG to an NCAA championship in 1984, became the first college hockey coach with 1,000 wins by winning at Massachusetts Friday night.
York is in his 22nd season as the head coach at Boston College. He also spent 15 seasons at BG and seven seasons at Clarkson. York was 342-248-31 at BG from 1979-1994.
“It’s hard to imagine that many wins,” Bergeron said. “The appreciation I’ve gotten for Bowling Green over the last 5½ years since I’ve been here and how big a part of the history he still is, congratulations to him and his staff at BC, and everyone that’s been involved with Bowling Green’s program.”