Bowling Green attempts to turn its season around again this weekend.
The Falcons are 0-5-1 overall as they prepare to travel to Miami in a nonleague series Friday and Saturday nights.
They’ve lost three straight games, including 5-4 and 6-1 losses to 15th-ranked Ohio State in a home-and-home series last weekend. The Falcons allowed two third-period goals at home as OSU rallied for the win in Game 1, and the Buckeyes jumped to a 3-0 first-period lead in Game 2 at OSU.
“It’s going to take us playing better, more of the time. I don’t think we’ve played well enough,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
Most glaring for the Falcons are their team defense, goaltending and special teams.
BG is last in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in goals allowed (4.83 per game), and its three goalies have combined for an .808 save percentage. The Falcons are last in the WCHA in penalty-killing (66.7 percent, 30 of 45 ) and eighth in power-play conversions (10.6 percent, 5 of 47). Their average of 2.17 goals per game is seventh in the league.
“We’re not playing well, and the results are showing that,” Bergeron said. “It’s going to take us playing better for more of the time to win games. It’s going to take us playing better and preparing better in practice on a daily basis because, in my opinion and opinions vary, the better prepared you are and the better you prepare, the more confidence you’ll have, and the more confidence you’ll have, the better you’ll play. You can’t manufacture confidence. It’s not just something you have.
“When you’re not playing great and the results show that, you’re not going to be confident. We need to find a way to create some confidence. It’s going to take baby steps. That’s how we’re going to do this.”
Bergeron said the Falcons haven’t always played well during recent seasons, but the team was helped by outstanding goaltending and solid play from its special teams.
“In the past, that play might have been masked by outstanding goaltending or special teams play or something that covered up the fact that we weren’t playing very well,” Bergeron said. “That’s not happening this year.”
The Falcons were the coaches pick to win the WCHA regular-season championship. BG finished third or tied for third in the league the last three seasons, and fell just two points shy of co-champions Michigan Tech and Minnesota State last season.
“One of the ways we need to do it is together,” Bergeron said. “We can’t come apart. That starts with me. We need to do this together. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. But we’re going to keep focusing on us and keep focusing on playing better with our process on a daily basis.”
INJURIES: BG sophomore forward John Schilling and red-shirt sophomore forward Matt Meier are back to 100 percent, Bergeron said.
Schilling missed the OSU series, the result of a hit to the head during the series finale against Western Michigan Oct. 15. Meier missed out Game 2 of the OSU series because of an upper-body injury.
SERIES: The Falcons are 61-47-8 all-time against Miami, but the RedHawks have won the last three games. BG’s last win against Miami came Oct. 10, 2014 in the Falcons’ home-opener that season.
The teams are meeting for the third straight season after they didn’t play during the 2013-14 campaign, the first under college hockey’s new league structure.
BG and Miami were long-time rivals in the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association before the Falcons moved to the WCHA and Miami joined the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
TROUBLES: The Falcons are 1-10-1 against Miami during Bergeron’s six-plus seasons as head coach, including an 0-7-1 record in Oxford.
“A win against anybody would be big. I’d like us to play well against Miami,” said Bergeron, a Miami alum who was a forward for the RedHawks from 1989-93. He later was an assistant coach at the school for 10 seasons before he was named BG’s head coach in April, 2010.
Falcon assistant coach Barry Schutte also played for the RedHawks, skating as a defenseman from 1993-97. He was Miami’s arena manager when he was named an assistant coach at BG in spring of 2010.
“I’d like us to play better in that building. If our process is good, we’ll take the results,” Bergeron said. “We’re going to have to be ready to play in a rink where we haven’t had a whole lot of success, but we haven’t played well.”
WHY: BG and Miami are playing two games in Oxford this season, instead of their traditional home-and-home series. Miami wanted an extra home game this season, Bergeron said, adding the RedHawks will place twice in BG next season.
START: Miami is 2-1-2, including a 5-0 win and a 3-3 tie at home against Maine last weekend. The RedHawks opened the season with a split at No. 14 Providence, and played a tie against OSU last weekend.
The RedHawks’ 26-player roster includes 14 freshmen and six sophomores. They also have three juniors and three seniors.
“They’re a young team, but they’re hungry, and they’re very skilled,” Bergeron said.
Miami’s roster has had a large turnover recently, in part, because of underclassmen who have left school early to sign professional contracts.
Sophomore forward Kiefer Sherwood is Miami’s leading scorer. The Columbus-born sophomore forward has eight points on two goals and six assists. Junior defenseman Louie Belpedio has three goals and three assists, while senior forward Anthony Louis has three goals and two assists.
Belpedio was a third-round NHL Draft pick of Minnesota in 2014, while Chicago chose Louis in the sixth round in 2013.
MORE MIAMI: Freshman Ryan Larkin has played every minute in goal for the RedHawks, posting a 1.75 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. He’s the cousin of Detroit Red Wings’ forward Dylan Larkin.
The Redhawks have scored 14 goals and allowed nine in their five games. They’ve also scored on nine of their 42 power-play attempts, while killing off 29 of their 30 short-handed situations.
NEXT: The Miami series ends a stretch of six straight nonleague games for the Falcons, who return to Western Collegiate Hockey Association play Nov. 4-5 at Ferris State. BG is 0-2 in the league, losing twice at Bemijdi State to begin the season Oct. 7-8.
The Ferris series starts a stretch of seven straight WCHA weekends for BG to finish the team’s pre-Christmas schedule. The span includes trips to Northern Michigan, Alabama-Huntsville, Lake Superior and Alaska (Fairbanks).
The Falcons’ only remaining nonleague games come against Atlantic Hockey opponents, Dec. 30 against the Rochester Institute of Technology and Feb. 11 against Mercyhurst.