Home ice hasn’t been kind to Bowling Green this season.
The Falcons are only 5-8-2 in the Slater Family Ice Arena, including a 4-7-1 record in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
BG is hoping the home-ice advantage can help it wrap up home ice for the quarterfinals of the league playoffs. The Falcons can clinch the final home-ice berth this weekend with a sweep of Alabama-Huntsville in the SFIA.
The Falcons are 15-17-2 overall and 12-13-1-1 going into the final weekend of the regular season. BG had turned the SFIA into a difficult place for opponents to play, posting a 24-9-6 record during the two previous season.
“It’s huge, but we haven’t taken advantage of home ice,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said of playing at home this weekend. “We haven’t played as well as we would have liked at home.”
BG’s most-recent game in the SFIA was a 3-0 nonleague victory over Mercyhurst. The Falcons shook off a sluggish first period to play well during the final 40 minutes on a night they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the BGSU Ice Arena. The arena was renamed the SFIA in December.
“It’s still our home rink, and I know our guys love playing here and love playing in front of the student section, love playing in front of our crowd. It’s going to be huge,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “Hopefully, we can build off some of the momentum we created from Merychurst.”
The Falcons are 3-6 in their last nine games in the SFIA, a span that includes being swept by Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan.
“It’s not acceptable,” Bergeron said.
Part of the reason BG hasn’t fared well at home is slow starts. The Falcons have been behind or tied after one period in 12 of their last 14 games in the SFIA, including the last nine games. In those 12 games, the Falcons have been tied six times and been behind six times.
“I don’t know why we’re not able to jump on teams more here in our building, in terms of the scoreboard,” Bergeron said. “It’s something we’ve struggled with all year long. We’re going to have to get away from it to get a thumb on it.
“Right now, we’re still engaged. We’re still elbows deep in it. We’re still competitive, competing trying to figure out the day-to-day stuff. It’s really hard to look back and reflect what’s gone wrong. It’s something I would like to see us do better and take advantage of getting a good start and getting a jump on teams on the scoreboard.”
BG hasn’t always played poorly at home during the first period, but it’s been hurt by turnovers and penalties that have led to goals for the opponents. In addition, the Falcons haven’t scored during the first period of their last five home games and seven straight games overall.
“We can do some things well, and we don’t get results and make one mistake, and it ends up in our net,” Bergeron said. “Then we’re questioning and scrambling and trying to fight that momentum game again. It’s something, especially in our building, we want to take advantage of those. When you’re not scoring, it puts pressure on the other parts of your game.”
FAREWELL: Five Falcon seniors will play their final regular-season home games in the SFIA against UAH. Forwards Kevin Dufour, Pierre-Luc Mercier and Matt Pohlkamp; defenseman Sean Walker; and goalie Tomas Sholl are BG’s seniors.
PLAYOFF PUSH: While BG is striving to clinch home ice, UAH is trying to earn a playoff berth. The Chargers are next-to-last in the 10-team league, one point behind Northern Michigan for the eighth and final playoff spot.
UAH (9-20-3, 9-14-3-0) finished last in the league and missed the playoffs last season. The Chargers were ninth in the coaches and media polls this season.
“They’ve been trying to change a culture,” Bergeron said. “They’re definitely a team that plays with more purpose. They’re more skilled, but that’s all under the umbrella of playing hard. They play hard all the time. They’ve got good goaltending. They’re capable of defending. They’ve got good special teams. It’s a dangerous group. There’s no doubt about that.”
STATS: UAH is eighth in the league in scoring (2.31 goals per game), ninth in power-play conversions (12.1 percent), and last in both goals allowed (3.47 goals per game) and penalty-killing (78.9 percent).
LEADERS: Junior forward Josh Kestner is UAH’s leading scorer with 22 points on nine goals and 13 assists. Junior forward Max McHugh has eight goals and 11 assists.
On defense, sophomore Cam Knight has three goals and 16 assists, and sophomore Kurt Gosselin has nine goals and nine assists.
Junior Jordan Uhelski is UAH’s No. 1 goalie. He has a 6-8-3 record in 22 games to go along with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage. Uhelski has started 19 of UAH’s 32 games this season, including the last five contests.