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September 21, 2023

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Hockey faces off in home-and-home with Western

If it can sweep Western Michigan University this weekend, the BG hockey team can go above .500 for the first time in its young season.

The Falcons will need to address several different issues to make this possibility a reality for themselves and spoil WMU’s first games within the Central Collegiate Hockey Association this year.

The first factor will be either avoiding or improving upon their inadequate special teams play. Through three games, the Falcons (1-2) have the second highest penalty minutes per game in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, and are down -5 in special teams situations. Also, they are one of two teams in the CCHA who do not carry a positive plus/minus rating on the power play.

During even strength play, BG boasts a +18 rating. Clearly a key to success this weekend will be playing as many minutes as possible with five orange sweaters on the ice.

Another important item will be BG’s offensive production. Senior tri-captain Derek Whitmore has lived up to expectations thus far, as he is tied for second in the CCHA in points per game. He is also the Falcons’ current leading scorer against WMU with two goals and three assists in six games against the Broncos in his career.

While Whitmore has already established himself as the offensive leader this season, more players will need to produce in order for the Falcons to come out on top.

This is especially true with the absence of Kai Kantola for both games. The sophomore forward will serve half of his four-game suspension this weekend due to an incident during last Tuesday’s game against Notre Dame.

The home-and-home series will be the first for both teams this season. Today’s game will begin at 7:35 p.m. in Kalamazoo, while the puck drops tomorrow at 7:05 p.m. from the BGSU Ice Arena. Coach Scott Paluch expressed the benefits of the home-and-home series setup, and also didn’t note any distinct disadvantage to playing on the road first.

“It’s good for a lot of teams in that you’re asking the home crowd to be there for one night instead of two, and you can really go after it,” Paluch said. “On Friday you don’t really put a lot of thought into what might happen [Saturday] and where the next game is. We’ve got two important points to win Friday night.”

There are several interesting statistics surrounding the weekend series. As mentioned, the Falcons have taken the second most penalty minutes per game in the CCHA this season, but the Broncos (2-2) have taken the third lowest in four games.

There are also similarities between the teams, however, as each recently lost on the road in Niagara. Each game between BG and WMU could be a high scoring affair, because, with the exception of three out of 118 total meetings, neither team has scored less than three goals in games against one another.

Finally, BG leads the all-time series between the teams with a record of 67-47-4, and has dominated with a 41-19 record at the BGSU Ice Arena against the Broncos.

“We’re in a crucial stretch here,” Paluch said. “There’s no question that these next six games are going to be extremely important at the end of the year. We’re approaching it that way and we understand that it starts Friday night.”

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