Bowling Green moved closer to clinching home ice for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
The Falcons still have control of their fate, and they’re starting to play well.
They were sharp in every phase of the game Friday night in a 7-0 win over Alabama-Huntsville in the Slater Family Ice Arena.
BG and Ferris State remained tied for the fourth and final home-ice spot with 41 points, but the Falcons can clinch home ice with another victory over UAH Saturday since it holds the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs. Ferris was a 6-4 winner at Lake Superior.
The Falcons only need to match the number of points Ferris earns Saturday night to host a best-of-3 quarterfinal series against the Bulldogs March 3-4-5.
BG and Ferris are guaranteed to finish fourth and fifth in the 10-team league, but the location hasn’t been decided. The positions will be decided Saturday, the final night of the regular season. Ferris is at Lake Superior again Saturday.
The Falcons were dominant against UAH, scoring twice in the first period, once in the second period and four times in the third period.
Kevin Dufour led BG with three goals and one assist, while Frederic Letourneau and Alec Rauhauser both had one goal and one assist, and Pierre-Luc Mercier added four assists. Chris Nell had 33 saves for BG, which had 42 shots.
The Falcons also won the special teams, going 4 of 11 on the power play and holding UAH scoreless on its seven chances with the extra man.
“We want to play well,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said when asked if it was more important to play well or earn home ice. “We want to play to our potential. We want to play to our level in all three zones, in all situations. That’s always been the focus of our group, to make sure the process is as good as we possibly can, 20 guys engaged, both mentally and physically. That will always be our number one focus, and we’ll let the rest of it take care of itself.
“We want to put two, three, four, five, six good days in a row together, and today we did that. Today was another good day. This time of year, you want to play off momentum. You want to play off confidence. We need to continue to create those things for ourselves and tonight we did that.”
Although the Falcons were off last weekend, they played well during the final two periods of their 3-0 win at home against Mercyhurst Feb. 11. They hope to play as well again tonight in the series finale against UAH.
Saturday’s game is BG’s Senior Night when Dufour, Mercier, Matt Pohlkamp; defenseman Sean Walker and goalie Tomas Sholl will make their final regular-season appearance in the SFIA.
“We want to put a bunch of good days together,” Bergeron said. “We want to win a game, keeping this momentum, keep this good karma, this good confidence going and feeling good about how we’re playing.”
The Falcons are just 16-17-2 overall and 13-13-1-1 overall after being picked to win the WCHA in separate polls of the league coaches and media. But, BG is hoping for a big run in the playoffs. UAH, next-to-last, is 9-21-3, 9-15-3-0.
“We’re starting to click at the right time,” Nell said. “You want the regular-season championship, but … if you’re not playing the right hockey at the right time at the end of the year, your season is going to end up shorter than you want. As a group, we still have one more game this weekend, but if we can come out and play like that and get some momentum going into the playoffs, we’re a tough team to play against, especially in the new format where the first two rounds are three-game series.”
And it all starts by playing consistently well.
“Guys are playing with a lot more confidence now,” Bergeron said. “At the beginning of the year and through our inconsistent parts of the season, guys were afraid to make mistakes, and guys were afraid to go out there and have fun. This last little stretch, guys are just going out and playing hockey. If one guy makes a mistake, another guy is there to make the next right play. That’s what’s been happening.”