Arguably the toughest test of the season for 12th ranked BG Falcon Hockey lies ahead this weekend in the form of the 3rd ranked Minnesota State Mavericks. The Falcons and Mankato have been level with each other the past few years, sharing a head-to-head record of 5-5-2 in their last 12 meetings. So, with the stage set, here are three things to watch for as Bowling Green takes on Minnesota State:
1. Alex Barber
The freshman forward is coming off of an overtime game-winning goal against Ferris State and could see a bigger role come his way after being put in one during the said overtime against Ferris State. Max Johnson, only day-to-day, went down during the latter half of the third period against Ferris- Barber slotted into his spot in overtime and eventually gave the Falcons the victory.
Head Coach Chris Bergeron has cited Barber as being inconsistent, but after responding positively to the push from Bergeron, perhaps there is a reward of more ice-time headed his way. Barber has three points in his last four games.
2. Special teams
Minnesota State and Bowling Green have the top two special teams net scores in the WCHA respectively; however, the matchup that may be the most interesting in terms of the man advantage is how many times the Falcons will be able to draw a penalty. BG leads the WCHA and the nation in penalties drawn with 95 on the year, while the Mavericks have taken the least amount of infractions in the WCHA.
Despite the somewhat streakiness of the Falcon powerplay, building momentum and keeping possession in the offensive zone on the man advantage will bode well for Bowling Green.
3. First goal wins
Even though they were able to come from behind multiple times against the Bulldogs in Ferris State, as Coach Bergeron puts it, “Minnesota State is a whole different animal”. The Mavericks are 11-0-0 in games they have scored first in this season, but Bowling Green answers with a record of 8-1-0 when potting home the first marker of the game.
The message in the locker room should be the same going into the series. “Minnesota State is a team that will bury in the first period if you are not ready to play. They’ve done that before to us”, said Bergeron on Wednesday.
No matter how the weekend starts or finishes for the Falcons, a bright spot for them has to be the way that Western Michigan has played after BG swept them earlier this year. The Broncos are 5-0-1 in their last six games including a sweep of 11th ranked North Dakota. As WMU and the Ohio State Buckeyes continue to rack up wins, an at-large bid is not out of the question for Bowling Green if proving to be necessary.