|Falcon hockey seeks better penalty-killing (03-01-13)|
|Written by KEVIN GORDON Assistant Sports Editor|
|Friday, 01 March 2013 09:40|
Bowling Green's hockey team is seeking improved penalty killing as it enters the final weekend of the regular season.
The Falcons are 55th out of 59 teams nationally in penalty-killing at 77.3 percent as they prepare to visit 11th-ranked Notre Dame tonight and Saturday.
The penalty-killing is one of the major reasons BG is only 13-16-5 overall and 10-13-3-1 in the CCHA.
The Falcons, seventh in the CCHA, can still finish as high as sixth and as low as ninth in the league. Sixth-, seventh- or eighth place would earn BG home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
The penalty-killing has been frustrating because virtually all of the players on the unit returned from last season when BG was at 82.5 percent.
"The older guys have proven they kill at this level," BG coach Chris Bergeron said. "They need to execute at a higher level."
Bergeron said 80 percent of the 30 power-play goals BG has allowed have come after defensive-zone turnovers.
"We have to find a way to get guys not to grip the sticks so tight that they can't execute, but put some pressure on themselves to get the job done," Bergeron said.
HAMMOND: BG goalie Andrew Hammond will dress for the ND series, Bergeron said Thursday.
The senior standout has missed the last six games with a knee injury suffered in practice Feb. 6.
Hammond will practice this morning at ND and a decision on tonight's starting goalie will be made after the workout.
"He saw enough practice time towards the end of the week that he and our staff feel confident in him dressing this weekend," Bergeron said.
PENALTIES: Bergeron said the Falcons are having to kill too many penalties. BG has faced at least eight power-play attempts in six of its last seven series, allowing 12 power-play goals in that span.
BG also has received six major penalties, all for checking from behind or boarding, in its last 14 games.
"We've been way too careless with our plays in terms of seeing numbers and engaging," Bergeron said. "We have to do better with that."
IRISH: ND (19-12-3, 15-8-3-2) is third in the CCHA with 50 points, trailing Miami with 56 and Western Michigan with 41. The Fighting Irish are 4-1-2 in their last seven games, including two ties at No. 7 Western Michigan last weekend.
The Falcons and ND split two games at BG earlier this season. ND was a 4-1 winner Dec. 15, but BG posted a 4-2 win Jan. 15.
The key for BG is to play as much of the game as possible in ND's defensive zone. The Falcons are at their best when they're controlling puck in their offensive zone and they did that just that in their January win over ND.
"We have to find a way to get to our game as quickly as possible," Bergeron said. " If we don't play our game, which is to get to the offensive zone and make them defend game, it's very difficult for us. "It's a very difficult matchup for us, but it's one we've proven we can successful in, if we play the game a certain way.
"There's a lot of challenges there. I don't think are guys are intimidated going on the road to play, but it's difficult place to play and they're a difficult team to play against especially when they're on."
STATS: The Fighting Irish - who have a nice mix of speed and skill, size and strength - are second in the league in goals scored (2.91 per game) and third in goals allowed (2.76). ND also is deep and talented.
ND is fourth in the league in power-play conversions (16.2 percent) and seventh in penalty-killing (83.2 percent).
Anders Lee leads ND with 17 goals and 14 assists, while junior forward Bryan Rust has 12 goals and 15 asissts, and T.J. Tynan has eight goals and 16 assists.
Defensemen Robbie Russo, Sam Calabrese, Stephen Johns and Shane Taker have combined eight goals and 53 assists. Steven Summerhays is the No. 1 goalie, posting a 1.99 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in 30 games.
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