|Time running out for Falcon icers (2-26-14)|
|Written by KEVIN GORDON, Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor|
|Wednesday, 26 February 2014 09:33|
Bowling Green's running out of time.
The Falcons have just four regular-season games remaining to solidify a spot in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
They're also in contention to host a first-round playoff series.
BG is in a three-way tie for fifth in the league with 24 points. It's only four points out of third place, but just three points ahead of ninth.
The Falcons visit Northern Michigan, the ninth-place team, Friday and Saturday and then host eighth-place Bemidji State March 7-8.
The top eight teams in the 10-team league make the playoffs with the top four hosting quarterfinal series.
"We need to play better," BG coach Chris Bergeron said of the standings. "None of that stuff matters until we start playing better or unless we start playing better."
The Falcons are 1-4-2 in their last seven games and didn't play well in a 6-1 exhibition loss Friday to the United States U-18 Team.
"We've spent most of our time focusing on why we're not playing well and that we need to play better. The last couple days, the preparation has been good, it's been focused. The execution has been good.
The Falcon coaches and players have been holding meetings over the last three weeks in an effort to solve BG's inconsistency, and its inability to hold leads in the third period.
BG was 12-9-5 overall and 9-6-3 in the league before its recent slump.
"We don't think we're far away," Bergeron said. "We're mentally in a tough spot. Physically, we're the same people that people were talking about at times earlier this year in a positive way."
HE'S BACK: Defenseman Ralfs Freibergs returns to the BG lineup at NMU after missing the exhibition and a series at Alaska-Anchorage to play for Latvia in the Sochi Olympics.
The sophomore returned to BG late Sunday afternoon and practiced with the team the last two days.
"His body is still trying to get better in terms of the time line, the time of day, the jet lag and so on," Bergeron said.
Sochi is nine hours ahead of the eastern time zone.
"We thought getting back from Alaska and getting all of that out of our system was difficult," Bergeron said. "Sochi is a whole another deal, never mind the 14 days that he had, the emotions, the energy and the excitement that he had during those 14 days."
Freibergs' return adds an offensive threat to the blueline and should help the BG power play.
"We need him to jump right into that desperation mode, and get into the playoff battle and mind-set," Bergeron said.
MAYBE: Bergeron said it is "75-25" that senior forward and Cam Wojtala will play at NMU after suffering a lower-body injury during the exhibition.
He skated but didn't practice Monday and was involved in a portion of Tuesday's practice, Bergeron said. Wojtala was scheduled to go through a full practice this morning.
The Falcons leave for NMU tonight at 11. NMU plays on an Olympic-sized ice surface which measures 200 feet long by 100 free longer. Most North American rinks are 200 by 85.
"If he's not close to 100 percent, he doesn't get on the bus," Bergeron said. "When you're talking about a big sheet of ice and a lower body injury, he's going to have to be able to get around the ice or he can't play. We've got healthy bodies."
KEY LOSS: NMU senior captain CJ Ludwig, who was one of the league's best defensemen, is out for the season after suffering a knee injury Nov. 29.
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