Bowling Green is out of second chances.
The Falcons, who have been plagued by inconsistency during the second half of the season, start the must-win portion of their schedule this weekend.
They’ll host Bemidji State in the quarterfinals of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs this weekend in the Ice Arena.
The best-of-3 series is Friday, Saturday and, if needed, Sunday nights at 7:07.
The Falcons finished third in the WCHA with records of 20-12-6 overall and 16-7-5 in the league, two points behind co-champions Michigan Tech and Minnesota State.
BG entered the final weekend with a chance to earn a share of the league title, but lost a 7-5 decision Friday to last-place Alabama-Huntsville. The Falcons played two poor periods in that game, allowing UAH to score there times in the first period and four times in the period.
The Falcons, however, rebounded to play a solid game Saturday in a 5-0 win.
BG is 9-9-1, 8-5-1 since Christmas. Bemidji (16-14-6, 11-12-5) finished sixth in the league.
“We’re focusing on every play,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. “We’re focusing on process. We’re focusing on details, all from an individual and a collective standpoint. The better we are individually with all that stuff, the better we’ll be collectively, something we’ve struggled with all year.
“I don’t think it means you change the plan, and we’re not going to change the plan. We’ll re-evaluate the plan at the end of the year. At this point, it’s focus on the things we focus on all year long and, hopefully, we’ll get the best version of everybody within our program.”
The Falcons appeared to have the inconsistency issues behind them entering the UAH series, having played well in their last 10½ periods. They had won three straight games, including a 4-3, 6-2 sweep of Ferris State in the Ice Arena Feb. 26-27.
“I thought we were trending. Does it mean we’re back to Square 1? No,” Bergeron said. “It’s a consistent fight to get that consistency, from an individual and a collective basis. We’re going to continue to push in that direction to get it.”
HOME ICE: BG is looking for its third straight first-round home sweep in the WCHA playoffs. The Falcons beat Northern Michigan last season and Michigan Tech in 2014.
“(Playing at home) doesn’t guarantee anything, but you’re comfortable,” Bergeron said. “You’re in your own surroundings, on and off the ice. We’ve been in this position before the last couple years, so we want to act like it.”
The Falcons don’t have classes this week since BG is on spring break. Bemidji’s break is next week.
“It’s huge, just being able to play at home and be in your own environment,” BG sophomore forward Tyler Spezia said. “There’s no hotel bed. There are no excuses.”
PLAYOFF SUCCESS: The Falcons have won six playoff series during the last five seasons in the WCHA and the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association. BG won first-round CCHA series on the road in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and a quarterfinal series as well in 2012.
“There’s a ton of guys in the room who have been there,” Spezia said. “They know what to expect. You’re not going to win the series in Game 1. You’ve still got to come back and do the same thing in Game 2 and Game 3. There are a lot of guys on our team who have been through it and can lead the ship.”
“(Playoff experience) helps,” Bergeron said. “How much does it help? We’ll find out. Your experience only matters if guys step up and lead the way. That’s something that hasn’t been easy this year, either.”
BG has lost in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Five in each of the last two seasons. The WCHA playoff champion earns an NCAA playoff berth.
This season’s WCHA Final Five is at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. March 18-19. The semifinals are March 18 at 4:07 p.m. and 7:37 p.m., followed by the championship game March 19 at 6:07 p.m.
BRUTAL HIT: Spezia is OK after taking a brutal hit at center ice from UAH senior defenseman Frank Misuraca at the end of the first period Saturday. Misuraca launched himself at Spezia and punched him, bloodying Spezia’s face. The hit wasn’t penalized. Spezia returned for the second period.
Ironically, the two are “good buddies,” Spezia said. The two live approximately five minutes apart in Clinton Township, Mich., and play summer hockey together. Spezia said the friendship has flourished since the two were in junior hockey.
Spezia had the puck in the center ice faceoff circle with two seconds remaining and figured the period was over. He said he didn’t see Misuraca coming.
“It’s hockey, but at the same time, I wasn’t too thrilled about the play, the hit,” Spezia said Tuesday morning. “He did apologize over text after the game. I haven’t responded yet. I’ve kind of let it cool over and I’ll see him this summer.
“He’s a good kid. I know he didn’t mean for any of it, but at the same time, I wish it didn’t happen. I didn’t see him coming. I figured there were two seconds left in the period, this puck is going to die. He claims he didn’t have a stick and kind of got caught in-between. I’m not buying that.”
HEALTHY: Bergeron said BG sophomore forward Mitch McLain suffered no lingering affects of a knee-on-knee hit from UAH senior defenseman Anderson White with 1:38 remaining in the first period Saturday.
McLain had to be helped off the ice, but returned for the second period. White received a 5-minute penalty for kneeing.
PAIRWISE: The Falcons have to win the WCHA playoff title to advance to the NCAAs for the first time since 1990. They’re 26th in the Pairwise Rankings, which mirror the NCAA selection criteria.
The 16-team NCAAs consist of the six league playoff champions and 10 at-large berths. The top 16 in the Pairwise may not make the NCAAs because of upsets in the league playoffs and Atlantic Hockey has no teams in the top 16 of the Pairwise.
Michigan Tech is the top WCHA team in the Pairwise at No. 14, while Minnesota State is tied for 22nd. Atlantic Hockey champion Robert Morris is 21st.
REMATCH: BG and Bemidji have played one series this season, with the Falcons posting a 4-1, 2-0 road sweep Dec. 11-12. The teams combined for just 83 shots on goal in the series as they played on a soft and bumpy ice surface
|Head coach||Mike Hastings,
|16-7-5, 3rd||WCHA record||16-5-7, tied 1st|
|0-0||Neutrai site record||1-1|
|2.85, 2nd/WCHA||Goals per game||2.62, 4th/WCHA|
|2.17, 3rd||Goals against |
|30 of 163, 18.4%, 3rd||Power play||29 of 179, 16.2%, 4th|
|134 of 157, |
|Penalty-killing||119 of 137, 86.9%, 1st|
|10.3, 8th||Penalty minutes|
|32-38-45-2—117||Score by periods for||35-31-35-1—102|
|28-29-31-1—89||Score by |
|29.2||Shots for per game||34.6|
|Mark Cooper, Sr.,|
Brandon Hawkins, Soph.,
Matt Pohlkamp, Jr.,
|Top forwards||Teddy Blueger, Sr.,
Bryce Gervais, Sr.,
C.J. Franklin, Soph.,
|Sean Walker, Jr.,|
Mark Friedman, Soph.,
Connor McDonald, Fr.,
Chris Pohlkamp, Fr.,
|Top defensemen||Casey Nelson, Jr.,
Jon Jutzi, 39 games,
Sean Flanagan, Jr.,
|Chris Nell, Soph.,|
36 games, 18-10-6 record
.931 save percentage
Tommy Burke, Sr.,
7 games, 4-3 record,
.896 save percentage
Tomas Sholl, Jr.
|Goaltending||Cole Huggins, Jr.,
24 games, 12-10-2 record,
.914 save percentage
Jason Pawloski, Fr.,
17 games, 8-2-5 record,
.901 save percentage
|WCHA Final Five,|
Saturday, 6:07 p.m.
vs. Michigan Tech
or Ferris State
|Next||WCHA Final Five,
Saturday, 6:07 p.m.
vs. Michigan Tech
or Ferris State