TOLEDO — Matt Pohlkamp was missing from the Bowling Green lineup Friday night in the Huntington Center.
The senior forward and assistant captain suffered a lower-body injury in practice earlier in the week, Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said following his team’s 3-0 victory over the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Pohlkamp has seven goals and four assists in 22 games, and is one of BG’s best two-way players.
“Hopefully, he goes back into preparation mode on Monday,” Bergeron said, adding Pohlkamp is undergoing “lots of therapy” for the injury.
The Falcons return to action Thursday and Friday when they host 15th-ranked and WCHA leader Bemidji State. They then travel to No. 19 Minnesota State Jan. 13-14. The Mavericks are tied for fourth in the WCHA, just three points behind BG.
“We’re not going to rush him,” Bergeron said. “This can’t be something he struggles with the whole second half. If he has to take another couple games off to make sure he’s right, we’ll do that. But sitting here right now, he should be back in the conversation for next week.”
The 6-foot, 199-pound Pohlkamp also provides BG with a physical presence, thanks to his forechecking and presence around the net on the power play. He also kills penalties.
“He does a lot of little things that go unnoticed with his play and in the locker room,” said Falcon junior forward Brett D’Andrea, who had one goal and one assist against RIT.
Pohlkamp was coming off one of his best games of the season Dec. 17 in a 6-3 win at Alaska (Fairbanks) to earn a split of the WCHA series. He had one goal, five shots and an on-ice rating of +2.
“When Matt’s right, I miss his work ethic and his second and third effort,” Bergeron said. “Matt’s one of those guys who does it by example. The way Matt Pohlkamp played Saturday night at Fairbanks, if we could bottle that, that was Matt Pohlkamp at his best. His second and third effort was outstanding. He was not going to be denied, just the Matt Pohlkamp we’ve grown accustomed to.
“He’s a guy who can go out there and change the momentum of the game in one shift with his effort,” Bergeron added. “He’s capable of being physical. He’s capable of creating offense. There’s layers of what we miss when he’s not there, but the guys did a nice job of picking up the slack with him not playing.”
SECOND HALF: The Falcons are hoping the win over RIT is the start of a big second half. They were picked to win the WCHA championship in separate coaches and media polls, but entered the break 9-11-2 overall and 8-7-1-1 in the league.
“It’s huge after the first half of the season wasn’t what we wanted,” D’Andrea said of the victory over RIT. “We started the second half off good, and we can build a lot of momentum.”
BG played RIT after a 12-day break. The Tigers were the coaches pick to finish first in Atlantic Hockey. The Falcon players returned to BG Monday and then resumed practice the following morning.
“That’s exactly what (the break) was, a fresh start,” D’Andrea said. “We knew that wasn’t us in the first half, some of it was, the good play. That bad play wasn’t us, but we’re ready to bring our good play for the second half.
“A lot of the guys were feeling good,” D’Andrea added. “We got a couple good skates in, a couple good lifts with Kenny (strength coach Goodrich). We got our legs going again, and that translated to the ice.”
FAST START: BG dominated the first period against RIT, leading 2-0 and holding a 10-4 edge in shots on goal. The goals came from Mitch McLain at 11:19 and D’Andrea at 17:51.
BG was playing for the first time since the Alaska series. players returned to BG Monday and resumed practice Tuesday. RIT had been off since losing twice at home to Providence Dec. 9-10.
“Our start was great,” Bergeron said. “We tried to simplify in terms of the coaching before the game … We tried to focus on our energy and intensity, two things we thought we could control. Our start was really good.”
After the start, the Falcons defended well and limited RIT to just 17 shots. Chris Nell was in goal for the eighth shutout of his career, a school record. The BG defense corps of Jacob Dalton, Mark Friedman, Sean Walker, Adam Smith, Alec Rauhauser, Connor McDonald and Chris Pohlkamp turned in a solid effort.
RIT is 8-10-1 overall, but 8-5 in Atlantic Hockey.
“They took control of the game from the start,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “The game was lost in the first period. They won more battles. “
BACK ON TRACK: D’Andrea scored for the first time since Nov. 25 against Alaska-Anchorage. He had gone seven games without a goal, totaling just two assists in that span.
“It’s big, always nice,” D’Andrea said. “You always feel good when you score a goal and get some points. It gets your momentum going and gives you confidence that you can make those little plays all the time. I want to keep translating that to the rest of the season.”
D’Andrea has five goals and seven assists in 21 games. He also has an on-ice rating of +2.
“As of late, I’ve been struggling a bit, but, hopefully, I can keep this going,” D’Andrea said.
PERFECT AGAIN: The Falcon penalty-killing was 2 of 2 against RIT and is 38 of 41 in the last nine games. BG hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in seven of its last nine games.
With Matt Pohlkamp sidelined, forwards Lukas Craggs, John Schilling, Stephen Baylis and D’Andrea saw increased time on the penalty-killing unit.
POWER PLAY: D’Andrea scored on BG’s first power play of the game against RIT, but the Falcons failed to score on their final three attempts.
The last power play came after five-minute major and game-misconduct penalties to RIT’s Matt Abt for checking from behind, just 48 seconds into the third period.
The Falcons held a 2-0 lead and had a chance to put the game away with the lengthy power play, but they had only two shots on goal during those five minutes. BG finally took a 3-0 lead when Frederic Letourneau scored with 9:56 remaining.
T-TOWN: The game was played before an announced crowd of 1,674 and was a part of the Toledo Walleyes’ Winterfest. The ECHL’s Walleye hosted Brampton in the second game of the doubleheader.
“If it can be a tradition or something we can do every couple years, we value them allowing us to be a part of this,” Bergeron said. “The relationship is nothing but positive. Hopefully, it’s something that we can continue.”
The Falcons were playing in the Huntington Center for the third time. They played Western Michigan last season and Michigan during the 2009-10 season. BG also played an outdoor game at Fifth Third Field in Toledo during the 2014-15 season.
“It’s cool every year we can get together with the Walleye,” Nell said. “It’s really cool for the fans and just the hockey community in this area to expose this and the Walleye to more markets.”
“They did a great job of putting the game on,” Wilson said. “Zero complaints about the facility. Good locker room. No problems.”
LINEUP: BG dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the game. Joe McKeown and Casey Linkenheld were in the lineup as forwards. Shane Bednard, Jakob Reichert and Matt Meier were the other forwards who didn’t play.
FAMILIAR FACES: Wilson was a co-captain and standout defenseman on BG’s 1984 NCAA championship game. He’s in his 18th season as the head coach at RIT.
Brian Hills, the second-leading scorer in Falcon history, is in his 12th season as an assistant coach at RIT. He and Wilson were teammates with the Falcons and both are former assistant coaches at BG.
NONLEAGUE: The Falcons improved to 2-3-1 in nonleague games this season with one game remaining, Feb. 11 at home against Mercyhurst. The Lakers are 7-10-1 overall and 7-6-1 in Atlantic Hockey.