|Falcons, NMU face important WCHA series|
|Written by KEVIN GORDON, Assistant Sports Editor|
|Friday, 28 February 2014 10:05|
Bowling Green visits Northern Michigan in an important Western Collegiate Hockey Association series tonight and Saturday.
The Falcons and NMU are two of the seven teams vying for home-ice and playoff berths in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
BG is in a three-way tie for fifth, and NMU is next-to-last.
The third- through ninth-place teams in the 10-team league are separated by only seven points with just two weeks left in the regular season.
The top eight teams make the playoffs, with the top four hosting quarterfinals.
The Falcons are 1-4-2 in their last seven games and didn't play well last Friday in a 6-1 exhibition loss to the United States national U-18 team.
"I like our compete level and the fact we're executing while we're competing. That has been our challenge all year long," BG coach Chris Bergeron said of his team's practices this week.
Only three spots in the WCHA have been clinched - Ferris State and Minnesota State will be the top two teams, and Alabama-Huntsville will be last.
SERIES: The Falcons and NMU haven't played this season after splitting in BG last season.
This weekend's series marks the 13th and 14th games between the teams in the last four seasons.
The Falcons are 5-3 in their last eight games at NMU, winning first-round Central Collegiate Hockey Association series in 2011 and 2012.
NMU: Despite records of 12-18-2 overall and 10-13-1 in the league, the Wildcats almost always play hard.
"You always know what you're going to get from a Walt Kyle team, and that's an honest effort, a hard team to play against," Bergeron said of the NMU coach who is in his 12th season. "This weekend will be no different."
The Wildcats are 7-6-1 at home this season, while BG is 5-7-4 on the road.
"The reality is you have to take it one at a time. You can't look ahead," Kyle told The (Marquette) Mining Journal. "You can't look at what you have to do. We play Friday night. The fat lady has not sung. You have to go about your business and keep a real good attitude about it and the guys have been great about it. This is it. The last oxygen is in the tank. We just have to take care of it."
SCENARIOS: According to the WCHA and Tim Danehy of www.collegehockeystats.net, there are still 387,420,489 playoff scenarios in the league remaining - even though only 14 of the 140 league games are left to be played.
LEADERS: Senior forward Stephen Vigier leads NMU in scoring with 26 points. He has 14 goals and 12 assists.
Also for the Wildcats, junior forward Reed Seckel has 10 goals and nine assists, and senior forward Erik Higby has 10 goals and six assists.
Junior defenseman Mitch Jones has three goals and 17 assists, while freshman Mathias Dahlstrom has a 2.69 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 30 games.
The Wildcats have used 31 players this season.
PP/PK: The Falcons are sixth in the WCHA in power-play conversions at 16.4 percent, while NMU's penalty-killing is next-to-last at 77.6 percent.
The BG penalty-killing is tied for fourth at 83.5 percent, compared to NMU's power play which is third at 19.6 percent.
PENALTIES: NMU is the third-most penalized team in the league at 15.8 minutes per game, while BG is fourth at 13.7.
FINISHERS: NMU is 9-3 when scoring first and 12-0 when leading after two periods.
NOT AGAIN: The series marks NMU's final home games of the regular season.
BG already has been a senior weekend opponent once this season, that coming Feb. 14-15 when it tied and lost at Alaska-Anchorage.
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