|Fourth line helping Falcons (11-22-13)|
|Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor|
|Friday, 22 November 2013 09:45|
Chad Sumsion, Andrew Wallace, Kevin Dufour and Pierre-Luc Mercier skate on Bowling Green's fourth line.
But the four are providing the Falcon hockey team with more than the typical fourth line.
They're contributing offensively and defensive for BG, which hosts Minnesota State this weekend.
They've combined for six goals and seven assists, and haven't been on the ice for a goal against in the last five games. They have a combined on-ice rating of plus-9 and have taken just five penalties (all minors).
"Their play has been good," said BG coach Chris Bergeron, who doesn't label his lines as first, second, third and fourth.
"The expectations are high for everybody. It's nice to see those guys who don't play as much sometimes contribute and be rewarded for their hard work. I want them contributing and taking advantage of the opportunity they have."
Skating on the fourth line isn't easy because the line's ice time usually is reduced in a penalty-filled game. It also might receive less ice time in a close game. And media timeouts can reduce its ice time because they give the top lines more chances to rest and be double shifted.
Some games, the line plays regularly. On other nights, it might only be on the ice for two or three shifts a period.
A good fourth-line shift can create energy and turn the momentum of a game. BG's fourth line has a good physical presence.
Solid defense is a must on the fourth line and scoring is considered a bonus.
Mercier and Wallace already have scored game-winning goals for BG, 5-4-3 overall and 3-2-1 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
"You have to be ready because you never know when your next opportunity to is going to come," Sumsion said. "You want to build momentum for your next shift and the team, whether it's by rapping a puck out of the defensive zone or by burying the puck in the net."
Wallace and Sumsion committed to BG when the Falcon of the program was still in doubt and Dennis Williams was the team's interim head coach.
"They're contributing and you would expect that out of seniors," Bergeron said. "They haven't disappointed. They're two guys we're very proud of and we've been through a lot together. It's nice to see them contributing because they want to contribute and because they've worked hard. It's nice to see the seniors helping those two young guys out."
Dufour and Mercier figure to fill bigger roles in the future.
"They have a chance to be two really good college players," Bergeron said.
MSU: The Mavericks (4-6, 2-2) are led in scoring by senior forward Johnny McInnis, who has three goals and three assists.
MSU also is strong at center with sophomore forward and Pittsburgh Penguins' draft pick Teddy Blueger, junior forward Jean-Paul Lafontaine and junior forward Matt Leitner.
Leitner was the league's preseason player of the year.
Junior Zach Palmquist leads the defnese.
Sophomore and New York Islanders' draft pick Stephon Williams was expected to be one of the league's top goalies, but he's struggled with a 3.40 goals-against average and an .867 save percentage.
Freshman Cole Huggins has started the last three games in goal, posting a 1.93 goals-against and a .939 save percentage in five games overall.
He stopped all 42 shots against BG earlier this month, including 33 saves in a 1-0 win in Game 2 of the series.
PK: The BG penalty-killing has been good overall during its last nine games, killing off 37 of its 40 chances.
But BG was a bit sloppy during the last 90 seconds of a major penalty against Ferris Saturday, allowing the Bulldogs to tie the game.
"We have to be sharper and executing better," Bergeron said. "We need to tighten up and get back to being sharper."
MSU has struggled on the power play, despite having excellent players.
The Mavericks are tied for next-to-last in the WCHA at 8.7 percent (4-of-46).
HOME ICE: The Falcons, playing at home for the first time since Nov. 2, are 4-0-1 at home this season and 11-1-1 in their last 13 home games dating back to last season.
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