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BG’s playoff run continues

Playing in March is the goal of any college hockey team, though certainly no one expected it from a team that was picked to finish last in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association this season.

But the Falcons said from the beginning that they did not care about such expectations.

‘People need to be coming to see us,’ said BG freshman Jake Cepis back in September. ‘We have a great team, a great bunch of guys and we’re going to have a hell of a season this year.’

BG has lived up to those words thus far.

They went 18-19-0 to finish around the middle of the pack in the CCHA, and recently clinched a thrilling first round playoff victory over Lake Superior thanks to an overtime goal by Cepis himself.

If BG has consistently had one problem finding success this season, however, it has been against the four top dogs in the conference – Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, and Notre Dame. The Falcons won only one game all season against these teams in 10 different tries.

Fortunately for BG, the loser of that one game will be hosting round two of the CCHA Playoffs this weekend in Oxford, OH.

‘You’re looking at a team that’s leading the country in both goals scored and goals against,’ said BG coach Scott Paluch of the Miami Redhawks. ‘Yet we certainly realize that we’ve seen what we have to do to be successful against them like we did two months ago.’

Paluch, of course, referred to BG’s 4-2 victory over Miami on Jan. 4 that gave his team a huge confidence boost at the beginning of the regular season’s second half.

Recent history is on the Falcons’ side this weekend.

The last time they made it to the CCHA Semifinals at Joe Louis Arena, they had to get by Miami in 2000-01. They swept the Redhawks in current BG assistant coach Doug Schueller’s senior season, winning both games 4-3.

Should the Falcons manage to score four goals in a game again this weekend, their chances of heading to Detroit look extremely promising. BG has yet to lose a game this season when they score four or more goals, sporting a 12-0-0 record including the playoffs.

‘The most important thing is that we’re still playing,’ Paluch said. ‘To go down and play Bowling Green’s first playoff series in the new Steve Cady Arena will be exciting.’

The atmosphere in the two-year-old arena in Oxford could be somewhat lessened due to the fact that Miami students are on spring break starting this weekend.

This was also the case last weekend for BG against Lake Superior, as the BGSU Ice Arena saw an average of just 980 fans for the three-game set.

Justin Mercier, Miami’s second leading scorer this season, said he’s still looking forward to the home-ice atmosphere in an arena where fans have been known to literally camp out the night before a game to get tickets.

‘I expect it to be pretty rowdy and crazy, and I’m not sure how many students we’ll draw, but the community around here has been great for us,’ Mercier said. ‘They really support us and come out strong, and although we may lack the students that we’ve had all year long, I think we’ll still have a pretty good turnout.’

The fans that do show up should expect to witness plenty of NHL-caliber talent on both sides.

Miami features six NHL draft picks to BG’s two, but one pick from each team will be particularly interesting to watch. Jimmy Spratt (Calgary Flames ’04) and Jeff Zatkoff (Los Angeles Kings ’06) were teammates in juniors and are sure to be in opposite creases for at least one of the games this weekend.

The top two goal scorers in the CCHA this season will also be skating against each other. Derek Whitmore and Ryan Jones each have 23 goals in 28 conference games as the captains of their respective teams.

‘That’s a side story to it all,’ Paluch said. ‘[Whitmore and Jones] are two very good players who have had outstanding years, but clearly, the match up will be a lot more than that. It’s safe to say that both teams will need their best players to play well, but there’s going to be a lot of very good players on the ice this weekend.’

Those players will face off on the ice in Oxford at 7:35 p.m. tonight, 7:05 p.m. tomorrow, and also 7:05 p.m. on Sunday, if necessary.

To read and see more on the series, including a video preview, check the BG News Sports Blog at http://bgnewssports.blogspot.com. Live game updates will be provided all weekend as well.

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