|Falcon icers .500 at midway point of season (12-18-13)|
|Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor|
|Wednesday, 18 December 2013 10:20|
Bowling Green's hockey team entered the season with high expectations.
Now that Falcons are at the midway point of the season, they're still in a good spot in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
But it's been a difficult first half for the Falcons, who have survived three major injuries, a difficult schedule, five long road trips and ineffective play from some key veterans.
"If you would have said to me on Sept. 1 that we would be .500 with all of those things, and those are things all teams have to deal with, I probably would have taken it," BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
BG is 8-8-4 overall and 6-6-2 in the WCHA, good for a tie with Bemidji State for third place in the 10-team league.
The Falcons and Bemidji State each have 14 points to trail Ferris State with 22 points and Minnesota State with 18. Ferris and MSU each have played two fewer games.
BG, fourth in the WCHA coaches poll, has played well for at least 40 minutes in many of its games. But key mistakes - especially defensively - prevented better results.
The Falcons began the season with hopes of contending for the league title.
BG was 3-6-1 during one stretch late in the first half, with five of the losses and the one tie coming when it held the lead late in the second period or the third period.
"(The first half) is not good, knowing the standards and the expectations we had going into the year, but that's probably the hockey we've played," Bergeron said "We've played .500 hockey. It's all part of the learning process."
The top eight teams in the WCHA make the playoffs, with the top four teams hosting first-round series.
"We control our own playoff situation," Bergeron said. "That's a good spot to be in."
CARP: Bergeron said BG's series at Alabama-Huntsville Jan. 3-4 could mark the return of forward Ryan Carpenter, one of the league's best players.
He hasn't played this season because of a broken finger and a broken foot.
"He's still non-weight bearing, but the foot is healing," Bergeron said. "The Huntsville weekend is realistic."
Carpenter will accompany the team to Pittsburgh for the Three Rivers Classic Dec. 27-28. Although Carpenter won't play in either game, he's expected to skate with the team in practice each day.
BERKLE: BG forward Adam Berkle is expected to return for the Pittsburgh tournament after missing the last five games with a hip pointer.
Bergeron said Berkle, who is emerging as one of the league's best players, could play this weekend if the Falcons were in the playoffs. But with BG being off this weekend, he'll have an extra 10 days to heal.
The 6-foot-3, 193-pounder has been one of BG's most consistent players. He has two goals and six assists, and provides the team with a nice mix of physical play and skill.
MOHLER: BG's hoping for a big second half from senior forward Brett Mohler, who has no points in eight games.
After being one of BG's best players late last season, he's been slowed, in part, by a foot injury and illness.
"I kind of aired some things out with him after the Huntsville series (Dec. 6-7)," Bergeron said. "We want the second half of his senior year to be a positive one where he's contributing, just like he did at the end of last season and he's capable."
DEFENSE: BG's major concern for the second half is improving its team defense 5-on-5.
The Falcons are fifth in the league in goals allowed (2.65 per game) and have given up three or more goals in nine of their last 12 games.
"We felt like at the very least we were going to be able to defend because that's something you can teach and coach," Bergeron said. "We just have not been very good defensively 5-on-5 over the course of 20 games."
OFFENSE: The Falcons are third in the league in scoring (3.05 goals per game), compared to just 2.4 last season.
"We've turned a little bit of a corner offensively," Bergeron said. "We think we're a team that can score. We can score late, but we haven't proven we can score with the lead in terms of running away from teams."
BREAK: The Falcons are taking final exams this week before heading home for Christmas.
They're due back in BG Christmas night. The team will hold a morning practice Dec. 26 and then leave for Pittsburgh around noon.
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