Bowling Green still is looking for consistency.
Inconsistency in all areas of their game is one of the major reasons the Falcons are 2-7-1 overall and 1-3 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. They return to action Friday and Saturday when they visit Northern Michigan (3-6-1, 1-4-1) in a league series.
The Falcons’ latest stretch of ups and downs came last weekend in a split against Ferris State in the Ice Arena. They played well Friday in a 4-1 win, but weren’t quite as good Saturday in a 3-1 loss. They also didn’t compete hard enough in the loss.
BG was coming off a solid series the previous weekend when it split a nonleague series at Miami. The highlight was a quality performance in a 4-1 win during the series finale.
The start has been a surprise because the Falcons were picked to win the WCHA championship in the annual poll of league coaches. They returned many of the key players from last season when they were third in the league, just two points behind co-champions Michigan Tech and Minnesota State. BG also returned a veteran leadership group.
“I’d like to see us be more consistent night in, night out,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
The Falcons still had a chance to sweep Ferris, even though they weren’t as sharp Saturday. But they were hurt by two undisciplined penalties that helped Ferris score its second goal, and a power play that went 0-of-8 and allowed a short-handed goal to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead.
“It’s hard to play at your best every night, and we were pretty darn close to our best Friday,” Bergeron said of the win over Ferris. “To be able to match that Saturday is difficult. Being difficult is not an excuse and not letting us off the hook. We need to find a way to be more consistent.
“We know, that over a college hockey season, when you look at the weekends, it’s the great teams that can finish off over those weekends and get the sweep, and the good or OK teams that are splitting.”
Bergeron said the inconsistency begins in practice.
“We’re a little bit inconsistent on the practice ice, and that is leading to inconsistency in games,” Bergeron said. “Where I would like to start with our group is our mental and physical engagement, just engaged in that practice. If we can do that more often, it will help us stay more mentally and physically engaged over the course a weekend.
“What I like about this whole thing, the level we’ve shown (in the wins over Miami and Ferris), it says the bar is pretty high. We just need to get to that bar more often. The only way I know how is to believe that’s on a daily basis, on the practice ice every day. That makes it easier to make Friday and Saturday just another day if you’re doing it all the time.”
The Falcons are sixth in the league in scoring (2.3 goals per game), eighth in goals allowed (3.8), seventh in power-play conversions (11.4 percent, 8 of 70) and last in penalty-killing (73.1 percent, 49 of 67).
WCHA: The Falcons already are nine points behind fourth-place Lake Superior for the final home-ice berth in the first-round of the league playoffs. BG is ninth in the 10-team league with three points, one behind eighth-place NMU.
The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs, with the top four teams hosting those first-round series.
“We’ve gotten off to a start where these games become more and more important because we can’t continue to dig ourselves a hole that we’re going to have to find a way to get out of,” Bergeron said. “We’ve got a big string of league games. We need to take advantage of them.”
The Falcons are playing NMU in the second of seven straight league weekends going into the Christmas break.
BG and Alaska-Anchorage each have played just four of their league 28 league games, while NMU, Alaska, Lake Superior and Michigan Tech have played six. Alabama-Huntsville, Bemidji State, Ferris State and Minnesota State each have played eight.
Under the WCHA’s new point system, teams receive three points for a regulation or 5-on-5 overtime win, two points for a 3-on-3 overtime or shootout victory, and one point for losing in the 3-on-3 overtime or the shootout.
NO GOALS: The Falcons’ Kevin Dufour hasn’t scored a goal this season. The senior left wing was expected to be one of BG’s top scorers, but has just five assists in 10 games.
“He’s been doing some good things. He’s been skating. I’d like to see him be more consistent with that,” Bergeron said. “I’d just like to see him, engaged, competing and skating a little more consistently. He’s been as consistent as he’s ever been with that stuff.
“When Kevin’s competing and skating, goals usually follow or points. That hasn’t happened. I’d like to see just a little more consistentcy. He’s capable of (scoring), and it will happen. It’s just a matter of when.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound Dufour has 36 goals and 26 assists in 123 career games at BG, including 14 goals and eight assists in 40 games last season.
“I’m looking at him skating, I’m looking at second and third efforts below the tops of the circles, and Kevin’s been involved as much as any forward we have,” Bergeron said. “I’d like to see it just a little bit more of the time because that’s what you expect from seniors, to do it all the time even though it’s difficult. If he can do it every day in practice, then the games because just another day.”
SERIES: BG is 46-41-8 all-time against NMU, including a 2-1, 4-3 (overtime) sweep in the Ice Arena last season. The Falcons won four straight in all against NMU.
The teams did not play at NMU last season. The Falcons’ last trip to NMU was during the 2014-15 season, resulting in a 5-5 tie and a 5-0 win.
INJURIES: The Falcons have no injured players, Bergeron said.