Bowling Green faces what could be a tricky challenge this weekend.
The Falcons visit Alaska (Fairbanks) in their bid to earn a share of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship.
But BG has been inconsistent during the second half and can’t afford to stumble against the next-to-last place team in the league. It can clinch no worse than a tie for the WCHA title by winning its final six games.
The Falcons, 16-10-6 overall and 12-5-5 in the league, are tied for second place in the league with 14th-ranked Michigan Tech with 29 points. The teams are four points behind No. 19 Minnesota State, and one point ahead of fourth-place Ferris State.
Minnesota State is off this weekend and Ferris has a nonleague game Friday at Michigan, so the top four teams each will have four league games remaining with two weekends left.
Alaska (7-17-4, 5-13-4) is ninth with 14 points, two behind Alaska-Anchorage for the final playoff spot and one ahead of last-place Huntsville. The Nanooks, who were idle last weekend, were swept 4-0, 2-1 at home by Ferris Feb. 5-6.
“Our concern is their lineup. Our concern is what they look like on tape,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said of Alaska. “Their lineup is really good, and they took like a really good team on tape. Right now, they don’t seem to be getting a whole lot of bounces, but we don’t want to be the reason their luck changes or the bounces start going the their way.”
After winning the series opener at Alaska, Ferris scored a power-play goal in both the third period and overtime to earn its 2-1 win in Game 2. The Falcons’ most recent outing resulted in a poor outing at home, a 4-1 loss to Miami in which they were outshot by a 49-22 margin.
“The way we do that is by going up there and not being ready to compete at a high level,” Bergeron said. “That’s why we started (Monday) talking about we’re playing for a championship, and they’re playing for a playoff bid. Make no mistake about it, both teams are playing for something.”
The Nanooks, who have lost five straight games, were fifth in the WCHA coaches poll.
“I know they’re going to come out hungry,” Bergeron said. “They’ve been off a week. They didn’t have a good weekend against Ferris. They’re going to want to make that right. The first five minutes Friday are going to be huge for us. That’s been the message.”
HONOREES: Although the Nanooks are eighth in the league in scoring (2.36 goals per game), they returned two all-league players from last season — senior center Tyler Morley and junior right wing Marcus Basara.
Morley, who was first-team all-league, is tied for the WCHA lead in goals with 14 and his seventh in points with a team-best 27. But he’s questionable for the series, the result of an upper-body injury suffered Jan. 31 at Wisconsin. He didn’t play against Ferris.
“You’re not going to stop him,” Bergeron said. “The thing about him that is underrated is he plays really hard. He’s got some grease to his game, and he plays really hard, never mind the skills that go with a top-level player.”
Basara, a third-team honoree, has six goals and seven assists in 28 games.
HAPPY RETURN: Alaska sophomore forward Justin Woods celebrated one year of being cancer free last week. The Fairbanks native missed all of last season while he was being treated for Ewing’s Sarcoma, a bone cancer.
Woods has played in 26 of the team’s 28 games this season, totaling a goal and three assists.
SERIES: The Falcons and Alaska are meeting for the only time this season. BG was 3-0-1 last season, winning twice in Fairbanks and earning a win and a tie at home.
The Falcons are 5-0-3 in their last eight meetings against Alaska, including a 4-0-2 record since the schools became WCHA rivals.
HEATING UP: After scoring just one goal in his first 20 games, BG senior assistant captain and forward Brent Tate has a goal in three of the last six games.
BG junior captain and defenseman Sean Walker has a goal and four assists in his last seven games.
ROAD SUCCESS: The Falcons are 8-6-1 on the road this season, including a 6-4 record in league play.
On other hand, Alaska is 3-8-1 at home. The Nanooks are 0-8-1 at home since Nov. 7.
RECORD PACE: The Falcons are on pace to set the school record for the fewest goals allowed in a season. BG has allowed just 68 goals in its 32 games. The school record is 90, also in 32 games, during the 1975-76 season.
The Falcons are on pace to allow 81 goals in their 38 regular-season games. The school record for the fewest goals allowed per game is 2.385. BG is second in the WCHA and ninth nationally in goals allowed, 2.125 per game this season.
IN GOAL: BG sophomore goalie Chris Nell ranks fifth nationally with a 1.79 goals-against average and ninth with a .933 save percentage. He leads the WCHA in both categories.
POWER PLAY: The Falcons have scored a power-play goal in four of the last six games, going 5 of 27 in that span.
Alaska’s penalty-killing is last in the league at 75.6 percent, while BG’s power play is fifth at 15.7 percent.
PENALTY KILL: BG has allowed a power-play goal in five straight games, going just 16 on the 21 on the penalty-kill in that span.
PENALTIES: The Nanooks are the seventh-most penalized team in the country at 13.6 minutes per game. BG is the least-penalized team in the WCHA, 9.9 minutes per game.
ACADEMIC HONOR: BG junior forward Matt Pohlkamp, junior goalie Tomas Sholl and sophomore forward Jakob Reichert were named WCHA Scholar-Athletes, the league announced Thursday.
Sholl is a two-time winner of the award.
To be eligible for the award, players must have completed at least one year at their present school prior to the current academic year. They also must have must have a grade-point average of at least 3.50 on a 4.0 scale for the previous two semesters or three quarters, or may qualify if their overall GPA is at least 3.50 for all terms at their present institution.