Special teams key to BG-Ferris series, other notes

By March 2, 2017 Notebooks
Bowling Green's Tyler Spezia (right) handles the puck as Alabama-Huntsville's Jordan Larson defends during Saturday's game (Photo by Todd Pavlack/BGSUHockey.com).

Bowling Green’s penalty-killing has been outstanding of late.

And the Falcon power play has been scoring more, although it remains inconsistent overall.

Quality play from the special teams is a must this weekend for the Falcons, who host Ferris State in the quarterfinals of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Playoffs.

The best-of-3 series is Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday, at 7:07 p.m.

“Overall, I’m good with the special teams,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. “But they’re going to have to be really good this weekend.”

The BG penalty-killing was 18 of 18 against Alabama-Huntsville last weekend and is 90 of 99 in the last 21 games, including a 48-of-50 effort in the last nine games. BG is at 83.1 percent overall, including 87.5 percent in league-games only.

The penalty-killing has been effective because of the goaltending of Chris Nell, and the Falcons’ solid play in front of him.

“It’s guys buying into the system and being on the same page, and not being denied and giving us momentum when we get back to even strength,” BG junior penalty-killer Tyler Spezia said. “We’re making it hard on the other team.”

“I like the execution of our penalty-kill,” Bergeron said.

The Falcon power play was 4 of 11 in Friday’s 7-0 win over UAH, but was 0 of 5 in a 2-0 win Saturday. BG’s power was 0 of 9 in its last three games before the UAH series after scoring in seven of its eight games prior to that.

BG is converting at 14.3 percent overall and in league-games only, ranking fifth in the WCHA in both.

“I’d like to see our power play executing better in terms of results, but I believe our power play is capable,” Bergeron said. “I just want more goals. I’m not down on the power play. I would just like to see us score more over the course of time.”

Ferris is fourth in the WCHA in both statistics, 15.5 percent on the power play and 85.3 on the penalty-kill.

In four games against Ferris this season, the Falcons were 3 of 24 on the power play and their penalty-killing was 22 of 24.

“Goaltending and special teams matter all year,” Bergeron said. “But this time of year, when tomorrow is not guaranteed in terms of hockey, those two areas become even more magnified and even more important.”

PENALTIES: BG is looking for improved discipline after taking 12 penalties, including eight stick infractions, against UAH Saturday. BG forward Mitch McLain, one of league’s best players, had four penalties.

“Unacceptable,” Bergeron said of the 12 penalties. “What I’m trying not to do is put too much on Saturday night and not get too crazy about 12 penalties because that hasn’t shown its head since really early in the year.”

The Falcons are the fifth-most penalized team in the league, averaging 15.6 minutes per game. Ferris is the third-least penalized team, averaging 14 minutes per game.

“We have to be disciplined with our actions,” Bergeron said. “I don’t want to be sitting people on the bench and taking hockey away at this time of the year. You can’t have it. It has to be unacceptable to the individual. Ultimately, it has to be unacceptable to the group, so the group can put pressure on the individual not to do it because we’ve proven we can play on the edge and hard without taking penalties.

“How are we going to change it? We have to decide we’re not going to put ourselves in that situation. We’re not going to hand our opponents opportunities, whether it be a turnover, not being focused on a faceoff or a penalty. (Ferris is) going to earn enough. We can’t give them opportunities by being undisciplined.”

SERIES KEY: Bergeron said the key for the Falcons is to play as much of the series as possible in the offensive zone. They’re at their best when they’re controlling puck in the offensive zone, resulting in scoring chances and power-play opportunities.

The Falcons have had 196 power plays this season, second-most in the nation. Quinnipiac is first with 211. The offensive-zone play also takes pressure off of BG’s team defense and Nell.

“We’ve got to spend as little time as possible in our own zone,” Bergeron said. “Our breakouts have to be as clean. Our exits have to be clean off of any defensive-zone coverage. We have to take away time and space from their top guys all over the ice.

“We have to turn their (defensemen) around and make them defend, not because they’re not capable. They’re very much capable, but because that puts is in a position of strength with our offensive-zone play.”

Kevin Gordon

About Kevin Gordon

Kevin joined BGSUHockey.com after wrapping up a 27-year run as the Falcon hockey beat writer for the Sentinel-Tribune. After providing another two years of the Falcon hockey coverage fans had grown to love over the past three decades, Kevin decided to hang up his notebook and is now enjoying the retired life. Please join us by sending Kevin a tweet and thank him for all the time he's dedicated to BGSU hockey: @KGordonBG.