Notebook: Falcons showing positive signs

By November 15, 2016Notebooks
Bowling Green's Pierre-Luc Mercier (right) competes to make a play against Ferris State earlier this season.Mercier had two assists last weekend in the Falcons' sweep at Northern Michigan. (Photo by Todd Pavlack/

Bowling Green is starting to show signs of turning the corner after a slow start.

The Falcons have won four of their last five games, including a 5-1, 5-3 sweep last weekend at Northern Michigan.

BG is 4-7-1 overall and 3-3 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association following an 0-6-1, 0-2 start to the season. The Falcons struggled at the start after they finished first in the league coaches poll.

“Two days after a sweep is too soon to tell,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said when asked if he thought the team finally was headed in the right direction. “We’re going to have to put a bunch of games together. Hopefully, the second half of the first half is better than what the first half of the first half was.”

The Falcons still have five series, all in-league play, before the Christmas break. They travel to Alabama-Huntsville (4-8-2, 4-4-2) Friday and Saturday. BG is seventh in the WCHA, five points behind the fourth-place Chargers.

“I don’t want us to forget we worked through bad things to play better,” Bergeron said. “It took effort, and it took attention to detail, and it took focus on the process. I don’t want us, now that we’ve won a couple games, (to) get loose and we forget about the details, and we forget about the process, and we stop working. There’s only one way this group can be successful and that’s with process, that’s with detail and purpose to what we’re doing, and that’s with everybody.

“I don’t want winning four of the last five to have us take our foot off the gas and think, OK, we’re the team we were supposed to be, the team everyone thought we’d be, so we don’t have to work. We don’t have to do what we did to fight through that bad start to get to the point we’re at right now. I just want us to remember how we got here.”

MORE: The Falcon offense has been more productive of late, scoring four or more goals in four of the last five games.

BG is fifth in the WCHA in scoring, averaging 2.75 goals per game after scoring one or two goals in five of its first seven games. The Falcons also have allowed three or fewer goals in six straight games, including four games of one or two goals against.

“We score north of three goals, we think we’re going to give ourselves a pretty good chance (of winning), based on the way we want to defend,” Bergeron said.

Bergeron said the increased offense takes the pressure off BG’s goaltending and team defense, allowing it to survive soft goals — whether they be from a turnover, a bad goal by the goalies or a goal that comes during a 5-on-3 power play.

“You can live through a bad goal,” Bergeron said. “Those little goals against that cost you, they don’t cost you as badly when you’re scoring,”

Fourteen Falcons had at least one point in the NMU series, including eight different goal scorers. BG had five different goal scorers in each game. The points came from 10 forwards and four defensemen.

“I don’t think we’re necessarily known as a high octane, high offensive team, but we’re capable of it,” Bergeron said.

GRIT: The Falcons won Saturday’s game at NMU, even though they didn’t have their best game of the season. They trailed 2-1 after one period and later scored twice in the third period to pull away from a 3-3 tie.

The Falcons’ first three wins this season came when the team played well overall.

“Over the course of the last two years, we won games where maybe the process said or the effort said we shouldn’t have won,” Bergeron said. “That hadn’t happened this year, and we found ways to lose games and not found ways to win games.”

Earlier this season at home, the Falcons settled for a tie with Western Michigan and lost to Ohio State when they led in the third period. BG also lost at Bemidji State in a game that was tied going into the third period.

“Saturday was a night we found a way to win a game in a difficult place to play against a good team after having a pretty good win on Friday night,” Bergeron said. “We knew there was going to pushback (from NMU), and there was. That, as much as anything, should help and remind this group … we can still win games when we’re not at our best. That’s what we did Saturday. That’s a positive sign.”

INJURIES: Even though the NMU series was tough and physical, BG has no major injuries and all players practiced Tuesday.

MOTIVATION: The Falcons should have plenty of motivation this weekend after they split at UAH last season in the final series of the regular season.

The Chargers’ 7-5 win in the series opener prevented BG from earning a share of the WCHA regular-season championship. BG finished third in the league, two points behind co-champions Michigan Tech and Minnesota State.

Although the Chargers were ninth in the WCHA coaches poll this season, they’ve already posted league sweeps at Ferris State and Alaska-Anchorage. But UAH is coming off a 3-3 tie and a 3-1 loss at home to Alaska (Fairbanks) last weekend.

“They’re an improved team. They’ve got sneaky good skill,” Bergeron said. “We’re going to expect a big push. We’re expecting a very difficult series. We know we’re going to have to be sharp. We know we’re going to have to be right. We’re expecting a very hungry team.”

The Chargers have bounced back from last season when they were last in the WCHA with records of 7-21-6 overall and 5-16-6 in the league.

UAH is in its fourth season under head coach Mike Corbett. It has seven seniors, seven juniors, nine sophomore and four freshmen.

“It’s also their game plan and culture and system,” Bergeron said of UAH’s growth. “The coaching staff has done a great job to improve their talent, but they’ve also set a foundation there. This is who we are now. There’s a culture there. They expect to win, and they’re winning more.

“There’s expectations there now and they’re real. You put some expectations that are real, along with some talent, which they have, and you’ve got a dangerous team. We know that. They proved it to us lond and clear last year in that series.”

The BG series is the second of three straight home series for the Chargers, who host Ferris Dec. 3-4. UAH is off Nov. 25-26.

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.