There are no more second chances in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
The league’s single-game, winner-take-all championship game increases the urgency from the start for Bowling Green and Michigan Tech.
The Falcons visit Tech Saturday night at 7:07 to play for the Broadmoor Trophy and the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Playoffs.
The first two rounds of the playoffs were best-of-3 series, providing the teams with a second chance if they had a poor game.
“It changes everything because there isn’t a next game to be played if you lose this one,” BG junior defenseman Mark Friedman said of the single-game format. “This is a whole new mindset. This one means that much more. Each shift, each faceoff, each hit, each shot, everything is amped up that much more.”
BG is in the playoff championship game after losing in the semifinals the last three seasons. Those games were played in a single-elimination format of the WCHA Final Five in Grand Rapids, Michigan and St. Paul, Minnesota.
“There has to be (more urgency),” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. “If you’re not urgent, all of a sudden, after the game, you’re thinking what just happened?”
The Falcons trailed after the first period in each of their three previous semifinals, and scored the game’s first goal just once.
“I don’t think we’ve been urgent enough in the three semifinal games,” Bergeron said. “I don’t think we’ve played poorly, but I don’t think we’ve been urgent enough, especially at the start.”
A capacity crowd of 4,456 or more is expected at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena is expected, but a few stand-room-only tickets still were available Thursday morning. Tickets were going for $200 on Craigslist earlier this week. Tech has a great fan base, both at home and on the road.
“They’re going to come out hard. It’s going to be crazy there,” Bergeron said. “The first five minutes, we’ll have to be in the moment, ready to go and have that urgency right way. It’s not pressure. It’s urgency. A one-game situation brings that out a little bit more than a series does.”
NEXT STEP: The Falcons swept WCHA regular-season champion Bemidji State last weekend to advance to the final. BG posted a 4-3 (overtime), 2-1 sweep at Bemidji. It’s BG’s first appearance in a league-championship game since it won the Central Collegiate Hockey Association championship in 1988.
“The more times you’re in a situation, the better you’ll do,” Bergeron said. “We’ve been in that semifinal … Our group acted that way. We found a way. It’s become more difficult with this on-campus stuff, especially when you’ve been traveling.
“I really like where the group’s focus is,” Bergeron added. “I like where the group’s mindset is. We’re happy. We’re not going to change anything.”
REST: The Falcons returned to practice Wednesday after taking three days off. BG usually is off Sunday and Monday but they also took Tuesday off this week.
“It’s huge,” Friedman said of the time off. “We’ve been working our butts off the last couple weeks. Practices have been shorter, but the hockey’s getting more gruesome. The pace is getting a lot higher. Each play means a lot more than it did during the regular season. It’s nice to get those couple days off.”
ON A ROLL: The Falcons are entering the final week playing their best hockey of the season. BG has won seven straight games to improve to 21-17-2 overall. Tech, which finished second in the WCHA, is 22-14-7.
“We’re playing very well,” Friedman said. “That start (0-6-1) didn’t show the team we had. It’s been a completely different from how we started to where we are now and how we’re finishing it up the season. It starts from the goaltending. Our defense has been a lot better. The forwards are putting pucks in the net when they need to go in the net. It’s an all-around team game right now.”
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: BG senior forward Kevin Dufour and junior goalie Chris Nell received weekly awards from the WCHA.
Dufour was the offensive player of the week. He scored four of BG’s six goals in its sweep of Bemidji. Three of the goals came in Game 1, the last coming in overtime.
Nell was the defensive player of the week. He stopped 70 of 74 shots in the series and helped BG kill off eight of its nine short-handed situations.
MAJOR AWARDS: Bemidi junior goalie Michael Bitzer received two major honors this week.
Bitzer was named one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, presented annually to the nation’s most outstanding player. He also was named the WCHA’s player of the year. He leads the nation with a 1.71 goals-against average and six shutouts, while ranking fourth with a .932 save percentage.
Bemidji’s Tom Serratore was named the WCHA coach of the year, while Minnesota State sophomore defenseman Daniel Brickley was the defensive player of the year, and MSU freshman forward Marc Michaelis was the rookie of the year.
Serratore, who finished his 16th season, led the Beavers to the WCHA regular-season title. The Beavers were 22-16-3 overall and 20-6-2 in the league.
Brickley had eight goals, 23 assists and an on-ice rating of +9 in 31 games.
Michaelis is the WCHA’s leading scorer with 36 points, totaling 14 goals and 22 assists in 39 games.
POLL VOTES: The Falcons received five points in this week’s U.S. College Hockey Online Top 20.
INJURIES: Outside of the usual bumps and bruises at this point in the season, BG has no new injuries this week. Forwards Casey Linkenheld (lower body) and Matt Meier (upper body) remain out.
SERIES: BG is 9-15-3 all-time against Tech, including 3-1, 2-1 losses Dec. 9-10 in the Slater Family Ice Arena.
The teams first met Nov. 24, 1972, when the teams were members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association from 1981-84.
TRAVEL: The Falcons will travel to Houghton, Michigan first thing Friday morning.
NO TV: The game will not be televised, but will streamed online at WCHA.tv for a fee.