Notebook: Falcons look to continue improvement

By November 23, 2016Notebooks
Bowling Green's Tyler Spezia (left) makes a play against Miami's Grant Hutton earlier this season. Spezia had two goals and three assists in BG's sweep at Alabama-Huntsville last weekend (Photo to by Todd Pavlack/

Bowling Green looks to continue its improved play this weekend.

The Falcons have won four straight games and seven of their last eight contests going into their Western Collegiate Hockey Association series against Alaska-Anchorage in the Ice Arena.

“We’re more confident now than we were four weeks ago, based on our results,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. “We’re playing better. Most of the facets of our game are better, sharper than they were four, five weeks ago.”

BG is coming off a 4-1, 8-3 sweep at Alabama-Huntsville, its second straight WCHA road sweep. It’s 6-7-1 overall and 5-3 in the WCHA, good for fourth place in the league with 15 points and just six points behind second-place Michigan Tech.

The Falcons divide their seasons into eight-game segments. They were 1-6-1 overall and 0-2 in the league during their first eight-game segment, but are 5-1 overall and in the WCHA during their current eight-game segment.

BG has scored four or more goals in five of those six games and allowed three or fewer in all six contests. Bergeron said the team’s process was “poor” during the first eight games, but has been “good” during the last six games.

“We have a chance to really finish this segment strong,” added Bergeron, whose team was picked to win the league championship in the annual poll of WCHA coaches. “Our focus is still getting better. Our focus is still consistency.”

HOME COOKING: The Falcons are playing at home following the road sweeps of Northern Michigan and UAH. BG has played just four home games, including one two-game series, that coming Nov. 4-5 against Ferris.

“We’re anxious to play at home,” Bergeron said. “Guys are excited to be at home and stay at home for a weekend.”

WINNING: BG has found a way to win its last three games, even though it faced adversity in each of those games. The team trailed entering the third period in the first game at UAH, and trailed late in the second period of Game 2 at UAH and NMU. The Falcons played well overall in their first three wins this season.

“I do like the fact we’re finding ways to win,” Bergeron said. “It’s not new for this leadership (group) to find ways to win. We needed to be reminded of it a little bit and prove we can which I think we’re doing more of late. That’s what good teams do.”

GOALTENDING: The series should feature good goaltending from juniors Chris Nell of BG and Olivier Mantha of UAA.

Nell has a 6-2 record in his last eight starts, posting a 1.80 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in that span.

Mantha has a .925 save percentage in his last five starts. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has played in 11 of the team’s 12 games, starting 10 of those contests. Mantha has a 3.00 goals-against and a .911 save percentage.

PENALTIES: The Falcons have been a more disciplined team recently, taking five or fewer penalties in five of their last eight games. They took 35 penalties in their first four games, including 22 in a series against Western Michigan.

“We seem to have stabilized with our discipline in terms of our actions,” Bergeron said. “There’s progress.”

But Bergeron still is looking for consistency in the discipline, citing the Falcons’ seven penalties in Saturday’s win at UAH. All three of the Chargers’ goals came on the power play where they had seven attempts.

The Chargers scored twice on Stephen Baylis’ major penalty for checking from behind to take a 2-1 lead in the second period before BG rallied for the victory. One of those two goals came during a 5-on-3 power play.

POWER PLAY: The Falcon power play is  7 of 31 during the last six games, including a 3-of-9 effort at UAH. BG has scored a power-play goal in six of its last seven games.

PENALTY-KILL: Despite giving up the three power-play goals Saturday, the BG penalty-killing has been good of late. The Falcons have killed off 26 of their last 32 short-handed situations to improve to 81.8 percent (38 of 44) in league play, fifth-best in the WCHA.

“Overall, our PK has been much, much better,” Bergeron said. “The common theme for us right now is blocking shots. We’re there (in position), but we’re not blocking the shot, and that makes it difficult on the goaltender to find those pucks. I’d like to see us do a little bit better job of executing that play on the penalty-kill.”

UAH’s first power-play goal came after BG turned the puck in its defensive zone, and the last two resulted from 4-on-3 and 5-on-3 power plays.

PERSONNEL: The Falcons have no injured players, Bergeron said.

BG defenseman Adam Smith has returned to practice after missing the UAH series because of a “personal situation,” Bergeron said.

UAA: The Seawolves are 1-10-1 overall and 0-5-1-1 in the WCHA, including a 3-2 loss and a 1-1 tie at home against Michigan Tech last weekend. But UAA won the shootout to break the tie to earn its first two WCHA points of the season.

“They’re going to be hungry,” Bergeron said of the Seawolves, who were eighth in the coaches poll. “The season hasn’t gone the way they’ve wanted it to go to this point. It’s a team that’s going to work. It’s a team, like any other team in our league, it’s dangerous if you give them opportunities, if you turn pucks over, if you’re not ready to compete at a high level, all of the things we talk about all of the time.”

Junior forward and captain Matt Anholt is UAA’s leading scorer with six points in 12 games. He has two goals and four assists.

UAH is last in the league in scoring (1.25 goals per game) and power-play conversions (8.1 percent, 5 of 62), eighth in goals allowed (3.33 GPG) and seventh in penalty-killing (82.4 percent, 56 of  68). The Seawolves are the league’s third-most penalized team at 17 minutes per game.

UAA’s 26-player roster consists of five freshmen, 10 sophomores, six juniors and five seniors.

FRIEND OR FOE: Former Falcon defenseman Louis Mass is in his second season as an assistant coach at UAA.

Mass was a solid defensive defensemen and an outstanding shot blocker for the Falcons, playing in 140 games from 1997-2001. The Anchorage native also was a captain at BG and earned a degree in business administration.

SERIES: The Falcons are 8-3-1 all-time against UAA, including a 4-0 record in BG and a 6-3-1 record as WCHA rivals.

Kevin Gordon

About Kevin Gordon

Kevin joined after wrapping up a 27-year run as the Falcon hockey beat writer for the Sentinel-Tribune. After providing another two years of the Falcon hockey coverage fans had grown to love over the past three decades, Kevin decided to hang up his notebook and is now enjoying the retired life. Please join us by sending Kevin a tweet and thank him for all the time he's dedicated to BGSU hockey: @KGordonBG.