Bowling Green’s holiday break ends Friday night.
The Falcons play the Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology at the Huntington Center in Toledo.
BG has been off since a Dec. 16-17 split at Alaska (Fairbanks). The Falcon players returned to BG Monday, and have been practicing since Tuesday morning for the unofficial second half of the season.
The Falcons had a disappointing pre-Christmas portion of their schedule, going 9-11-2 overall and 8-7-1-1 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. They were the coaches pick to win the league this season.
“It comes at a great time,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said of the RIT game. “You go 12 days without playing a game and your next league series is a big one, and they’re all big. It’s great to get back in the hockey mode. It’s great to get back into detail. It’s great to get back into a game.”
BG returns to league play Jan. 5-6 when it hosts 15th-ranked Bemidji State. It then visits No. 19 Minnesota State Jan. 13-14.
Bemidji leads the WCHA with 43 points, followed by No. 13 Michigan Tech with 36, BG with 26, and Minnesota State and Alabama-Huntsville with 20 each.
FRIENDS OR FOES: The RIT coaching staff has strong ties to the Falcon program. Wayne Wilson is in his 18th season as the school’s head coach, and Brian Hills, Wilson’s teammate with the Falcons, is in his 12th season as an assistant coach at RIT.
Wilson was a four-year standout defenseman for the Falcons, serving as a co-captain on BG’s NCAA championship team in 1984.
Hills, a center, is the second-leading scorer in Falcon history. He totaled 270 points in 156 games from 1979-83. His 116 goals are the third-most in BG history, while his 114 assists are tied for the most in school history.
Wilson and Hills also were assistant coaches at BG.
SO FAR: RIT is 8-9-1 overall, but is 8-5 for second place in Atlantic Hockey where it was first in the league coaches poll. The Tigers have been off since Dec. 9-10 when they were swept at home by Providence in a non-league series.
“I like our team,” Wilson said. “We’ve got the potential to be real good. We’ve still got a lot of growing to do. We’ve got the basics down on what we want to become as a team. Now, we’ve got to start fine-tuning that foundation and become more detail oriented. We’ll start adding some little things and start harping on the details for what we’re trying to do.”
The Tigers returned 19 players from last season when they were 18-15-6 overall and fifth in Atlantic Hockey with a 14-9-5 record. But RIT won the league playoff championship to advance to the NCAA playoffs.
RIT’s returnees consisted of 12 forwards, four defensemen and three goalies.
BG is 3-0-1 all-time against RIT, including a 2-2 tie in Rochester last season.
“They’re going to play really hard,” Bergeron said. “What struck me last year is they played really hard, and they probably had more skill live than you could tell on tape. Not that you don’t see skill on tape, but sometimes it’s hard to get that.
“They were really skilled and they played hard, and I’m expecting both of those things, for sure,” Bergeron added. “That’s a staple of any team that Wayne and Brian coach.”
MORE RIT: The Tigers are scoring 3.39 goals per game and converting at 22.2 percent (19 of 83) on the power play.
“We’ve always been pretty aggressive offensively, and our defensemen are pretty active,” Wilson said. “That’s just how we want to play. To score goals, you have to be that. We want to try to press things and make things happen.”
Junior forward Myles Powell is RIT’s leading scorer with 18 points, including a team-best 10 goals. Sophomore forward Erik Brown has nine goals and six assists, while senior forward Caleb Cameron has five goals and 10 assists.
Junior defenseman Brady Norrish has no goals and a team-best 15 assists, and an on-ice rating of +5.
The Tigers are looking to improve their team defense during the second half. RIT is allowing 2.94 goals per game and its penalty-killing is at 80.6 percent (75 of 93).
“We’ve been a little loose with our team defense,” Wilson said. “That’s something we’re addressing. It’s a little more positional than anything else. It’s not so much about effort or even knowing what to do. We just need to fine-tune some things positionally.”
Senior Mike Rotolo has started 13 of RIT’s 14 games in goal, posting a 2.56 goals-against average and an .893 save percentage.
TRAVEL: RIT will bus to Toledo today and practice in the Huntington Center tonight and Friday morning
THE CONCLUSION: Friday’s game completes a home-and-home series between the schools after BG visited RIT last season.
ATLANTIC HOCKEY: RIT is one of two Atlantic Hockey opponents for the Falcons this season. They’ll host Mercyhurst Feb. 11 in the Ice Arena.
The BG-Mercyhurst series is home-and-home, but Bergeron said the return game at Mercyhurst hasn’t been scheduled. Mercyhurst is located in Erie, Pa.
BACK IN TOLEDO: The Falcons are playing in Toledo for the fourth time.
They’re 0-2 at the Huntington Center where they were 1-0 losers Dec. 30 last season to Western Michigan and 4-1 losers to Michigan Nov. 21, 2009. BG played a 2-2 tie with Robert Morris in an outdoor game Jan. 3, 2015 at Fifth Third Field.
DOUBLEHEADER: The BG-RIT game is part of a doubleheader with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, who host Brampton at 8:15. The BG-RIT game is at 5:07.
RIVALRY RETURNS: The Falcons announced last week they’re playing a two-game, home-and-home series against former Central Collegiate Hockey Association rival Michigan State next season. The teams will play Oct. 13 at BG and Oct. 14 at MSU.