Bowling Green returns to Western Collegiate Hockey Association play this weekend.
The Falcons host Ferris State Friday and Saturday as they attempt to build momentum from last weekend’s nonleague split at Miami.
BG, the coaches pick to win the WCHA championship, played well overall at Miami. The Falcons posted a 4-1 win Saturday in Game 2 after Miami scored a 2-1 overtime victory Friday in Game 1.
Even though BG is 1-6-1 overall, it’s just 0-2 in the WCHA as it plays its first league series in almost a month.
The Falcons opened the season with 2-1, 4-1 WCHA losses at Bemidji State Oct. 7-8, and then played six straight nonleague games. The Ferris State series starts a stretch of seven straight league weekends for the Falcons, ending with a trip to Alaska (Fairbanks) Dec. 16-17 to finish the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule.
“The first eight-game segment is not what we had planned, but there’s only been two league games played, and we’ve got a bunch of league games to play,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. The Falcons evaluate their season in eight-game segments.
“We’re not going to be able to flip on a light switch and just start playing better because it’s league play. We had a good weekend this past weekend. Our process, for the most part, was pretty good. We got a result, could have had two results. There’s positives to come from the weekend.”
The win over Miami was BG’s first and broke a four-game losing streak.
Ferris State also is off to a tough start after winning the WCHA playoff championship last season and finishing fourth in the coaches poll this season. The Bulldogs are 1-7-1, 1-4-1-1, but posted a 4-3 victory Saturday at 10th-ranked Minnesota State.
The Falcons and Alaska-Anchorage have both played only two league games, the fewest in the WCHA. Alaska (Fairbanks) and Lake Superior both have played four, while the other six schools have played six each. The league schedule is 28 games.
“We should take some momentum from (Miami), but we’re going to have to see,” Bergeron said. “I liked the vibe (Tuesday). I liked the vibe (Monday). Ferris State has a bunch of momentum, too. To go into Minnesota State and win, there’s momentum there. It’s going to be two teams feeling good about the way they played.
“There’s momentum there (from BG’s standpoint). These guys have worked hard, a little inconsistent, but they’ve worked hard with nothing to show for it. Now, we’ve got something to show for it against a pretty good team in a rink that’s hard to play in. To this point, it looks like our guys are going to use this as some momentum. I don’t see why they wouldn’t.”
TEAM DEFENSE: The Falcons had a solid weekend defensively, allowing just three goals and 34 shots against the highly-skilled RedHawks.
“For the most part, in (our defensive-zone coverage), we were decent (taking away) time and space,” Bergeron said. “The first 10 minutes of the game Saturday, I didn’t like the way we were backchecking and (giving up) the odd-man rushes. It was either a 4 on 2, a 3 on 2, and there were a bunch of them.
“But our (defensive-zone) coverage was pretty good, and we were pretty good with our sticks in terms of jamming up plays and going stick on puck to make it difficult to make small little plays which Miami is really good at.”
Bergeron, however, said the Falcons’ forechecking and backchecking improved as Saturday’s game went on, reducing the number of odd-man rushes Miami had.
SHARP: BG goalie Chris Nell played well at Miami in his best weekend of the season. The junior stopped 31 of 34 shots in the series.
“He looked more like himself,” Bergeron said of Nell, a first-team All-WCHA honoree last season when he posted a 1.31 goals-against and a .930 save percentage in 37 games. “He was more confident. His body language was better. He seemed to be on top of it. He seemed to be more confident. As the game went on, he continued to play better and that confidence grew. Chris deserves to feel confident because of the way he played. He played well.”
Nell has a 3.10 goals-against and an .857 percentage in seven games this season.
Bergeron said some of Nell’s best work came in the first period Saturday when the Falcons trailed 1-0. BG eventually took a 2-1 lead during the final five minutes of the period and clinched the victory with single goals in the second and third periods.
“He made a bunch of saves, and they were timely saves which is what Chris has become known for,” Bergeron said. “I don’t think we’re a team that gives up a whole lot of shots or a whole lot of chances, generally speaking.”
BG opponents are scoring 4.0 goals per game, even though they’re averaging just 23.1 shots.
“At 1-0 Saturday, we got that save, and then we were able to get to 1-1 and take the lead and not look back,” Bergeron said. “He made some good saves at a key, critical time on Saturday that kept the deficit at 1-0, and then we were able to get back in it. That save, we’ve struggled getting over the course of the last six games. This weekend, we got those saves.”
PK: The Falcons have killed off 13 of their last 15 short-handed situations, including a 7-of-8 effort at Miami. The only power play goal Miami scored came in overtime Friday.
“We just didn’t execute very well at all (on the winning goal Friday),” Bergeron said. “Other than that, the penalty-kill was pretty good, for the most part.”
The Falcons remain last in the WCHA in penalty-killing at 69.8 percent (37 of 53).
PP: The BG power play scored just once in 10 chances at Miami. The Falcons rank seventh in the league in power-play conversions (10.5 percent, 6 of 57).
INJURIES: The Falcons have no injured players, Bergeron said.
HOME ICE: The Ferris State series is BG’s first two-game home weekend of the season.
The Falcons played six of their first eight games on the road, including road trips to Bemidji State and Miami. They also played home-and-home series against Ohio State and Western Michigan.
FOOD DRIVE: The BGSU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will hold its annual Falcons Fighting Hunger food drive prior to Friday’s game.
The SAAC is accepting non-perishable food items that will go to a local food bank. Money will not be accepted.
For more information, contact volleyball player Katie Scholten at email@example.com.
TRANSFER: Former BG forward Brandon Hawkins, who left the team just before the start of the season, has transferred to Northeastern. He’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining with the Huskies.