As BGSU hockey enters their final regular season series, their postseason fate is out of their hands. A harsh January month has left them in the clutches of numerous tiebreaker scenarios. From a broad perspective, however, their seeding may not be as unpleasant as was once thought.
Sitting in sixth place for the latter half of the regular season changed the mood of the team. “Soul searching” was done in order to get out of a month long funk. Following the sweep of Ferris State, Bowling Green moved up to a tie for fourth in the WCHA heading into the last two games on the regular season calendar. They have their sights set on moving up even further, but will need to wait for the other four series to end to see where and who they will play in the first round of the WCHA tournament.
For the Falcons to get a third place finish, they will need to sweep Alabama-Huntsville. The same can be said for a fourth place finish. The other two teams factoring into this outcome are Alaska Fairbanks and Northern Michigan.
For the Falcons to secure the third seed:
BGSU needs to earn six points against UAH.
NMU can earn no more than one point against MTU.
UAF can earn no more than five points against UAA.
It is important to note that while the Falcons could reach as high as third place, they could also fall back down to sixth.
To fall to the sixth seed:
BGSU needs to earn no points against UAH.
MTU needs to earn three or more points against NMU.
The Falcons are currently tied for fourth with Alaska Fairbanks, but if it were to stay that way after the weekend the Falcons would be given the fifth seed due to a tiebreaker rule with Fairbanks. Because the two teams have only played each other two times this year, the higher seed goes to the team with the highest winning percentage. This tiebreaker rule would be the same case if the Falcons were tied with Northern Michigan.
To just jump Fairbanks for the fourth spot would also secure home ice for the first round of the playoffs for the Falcons. Also, if BGSU earns more points than UAF they will jump Fairbanks.
Looking back on this team right after the winter break, it is hard to imagine a third place finish would still be salvageable.
“We’ve seen some different momentum swings this year, more so maybe than other years,” head coach Ty Eigner said. “To have the momentum swinging in the positive way is certainly something we want to continue.”
The Falcons 1-8-1 run through the month of January has been met by a 4-0-2 run since. They are finally registering a full roster of forwards, and Eigner and the coaching staff are comfortable with the lines they are rolling out.
“Hopefully it’s an advantage where we’re trying to push as best as we can once the playoffs start,” he said. “We were as deep as we’d been this past weekend in at least a month … We made a conscious effort to play more people.”
Eigner noted he wanted to ease Alec Rauhauser’s ice time headed into the postseason because of the increased minutes he normally plays.
Still, the odds do not stand in Bowling Green’s favor when it comes to reaching the third seed. On the positive side, the odds are in favor of Bowling Green hosting a playoff series in the first round instead of sliding down to the fifth or sixth seed.
According to PlayoffStatus.com, BGSU has a 61% chance of playing their first tournament game on home ice. However, when relying on percentages Eigner said he tends to wonder what could have been.
“When you start to look at the what-ifs and the different scenarios you really drive yourself crazy,” Eigner said. “There’s at least three games where we probably left significant points on the table and that’s coming back to bite us right now. Had we had one more point in any of those games where we had leads headed into the third period, we wouldn’t be in a position where if we win two and Fairbanks wins two we’re going to end up tied.”
Two teams the Falcons held third period leads against, Northern Michigan and Alaska Fairbanks, now sit directly above them in the WCHA standings. Had Bowling Green pulled away with those games, they would sit in sole possession of third place going into this weekend with 49 points.
“To me, those games seem like a long, long time ago,” Eigner said.
In recent years, this Falcons team has been one of the most inconsistent teams defensively. The Falcons are giving up an average of 2.6 goals per game, ranking 22nd in the country. Last year the Falcons’ defensive efforts were nationally recognized with their 1.83 goals allowed per game ranking second in the country.
“We’re not where we should be,” Eigner said. “We need to get back to that and be harder to play against and compete more there.”
Instead the Falcons are focused on the road ahead and the series at hand. They can only control the outcomes of the games they play in.
The Chargers of Huntsville have been allowing an average of 4.3 goals per game while only scoring at a pace of 1.7 goals per game. The Falcons will begin their weekend series on Friday at 8:07 p.m. then continue on Saturday at 4:07 p.m.