HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Bowling Green’s regular season ended with regret Saturday night, even though the team played well in a 5-0 victory over Alabama-Huntsville.
The Falcons still were lamenting a league championship which slipped away 24 hours earlier.
They didn’t play well during the first and third periods Friday in a 7-5 loss to Chargers, leaving them two painful points shy of Western Collegiate Hockey Association co-champions Michigan Tech and Minnesota State.
Michigan Tech earned the No. 1 seed for the WCHA playoffs, based on it having more league wins than Minnesota State. Michigan Tech was 18-7-3 in the league, while Minnesota State was 16-5-7.
Both teams had 39 points, while the Falcons finished with 37 from their 16-7-5 record. Had BG won Friday, it also would have had 39 points.
The Falcons were locked into the No. 3 seed for the playoffs after Friday’s loss. They’ll host sixth-seeded Bemidji State in a best of 3 quarterfinal series March 11-12-13 in the Ice Arena.
UAH finished last in the league with records of 7-21-6, 5-17-6.
“If we win both nights, we tie for the MacNaughton Cup (the league trophy presented to the regular-season champion),” said BG sophomore forward Brandon Hawkins, who had a goal and two assists in each game of the UAH series. “That’s a ton of regret from us, but it’s nice to have this win and build some momentum for next weekend.”
The Falcons were third in the league for the third straight season. They tied Alaska (Fairbanks) for third in 2014.
BG was second in the WCHA coaches poll this season, trailing defending champion Minnesota State by 10 points and finishing one point ahead of Tech.
“Coming into this weekend, we were in a position to win the league,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “We’re closing the gap, but the intention isn’t third place.”
The Falcons were 11-3-5 overall and 8-2-4 in the WCHA entering Christmas, but they were only 9-9-1, 8-5-1 during the second half. BG’s play was inconsistent during the second half.
“When we look back over the course of the season, there’s going to be three, four, five games that cost us,” Bergeron said. “We’re going to have to find a way to be on the good side of those games in the future.”
Even though the Falcons finished third in the league in 2014 and 2015, they were never a factor in the championship race.
BG finished eight points behind Minnesota State last season and seven behind runner Michigan Tech. In 2014, the Falcons and Alaska were 12 points behind champion Ferris State and 11 points behind runner-up Minnesota State.
“I’m a firm believer in it just wasn’t our time yet,” Bergeron said of the league championship. “We are closing the gap, but it’s not our time.”
BG is 20-12-6 overall this season, marking the first time since 1995 and 1996 it has posted back-to-back 20-win seasons. The Falcons were 23-11-5 last season.
The win was the 100th for Bergeron, who is 100-110-31 in six seasons at BG. The Falcons are 61-38-17 since the start of the 2013-14 season.
Bemidji finished 16-14-6, 11-12-5. The Falcons posted a 4-1, 2-0 sweep at Bemidji on Dec. 11-12.
Tech claimed the No. 1 seed with its 5-1 win at Northern Michigan and Bemidji’s 1-0 win at Minnesota State. Ferris State finished fourth and earned the final home ice berth for the quarterfinals, even though it was a 3-2 loser at home to Lake Superior. The Bulldogs finished one point ahead of NMU for the final home-ice spot.