BG looks for answers to recent struggles before end of season

Chayse Held and Chayse Held

A BGSU hockey squad looking to gain some much needed confidence heading into the final stretch of the season travels to Marquette, Mich., to battle the Wildcats of Northern Michigan in a pair of CCHA games this weekend.

The Falcons (5-19-1, 3-14-0) will be looking to finish their current five-game road trip, one that has seen stops in Ann Arbor, Omaha and now the Upper Peninsula, on a winning note against a Northern Michigan (9-14-2, 6-11-1) team that sits two spots ahead of BG in 10th place in the CCHA.

The two teams split a weekend series last year at the BG Ice Arena.

“Our primary objective now is to become a confident team as we head down the stretch,” said coach Scott Paluch. “We need to get a streak going, there’s no question about that. We want to know that we can go any place, play well and win a game.”

Much of the confidence BG is lacking is due to the team’s offensive struggles this season. The Falcons are averaging 1.9 goals per game while surrendering an average of 4.1 goals to opponents. The power play has also plagued BG throughout the season, with the Falcons converting on 15 of 172 chances with the man-advantage for a .087 mark. BG’s opponents have scored goals on 30 of 148 power plays for a .203 conversion percentage.

According to Paluch, producing on the offensive end and improved special teams play have been points of emphasis for the team in practice as they look to gain some ground going into the CCHA playoffs next month.

“Our focus right now rests on our team,” Paluch said. “We’ve got to get more confident scoring goals. We’re going through a difficult time from an offensive standpoint, so the offensive side and special teams are what we have been focusing on.”

Points will not come easy for BG as this weekend they face a UNM team that, despite its lackluster record, has recorded wins over top teams Wisconsin, Michigan and Miami this season.

The Wildcats’ offense is led by the CCHA’s top goal-scorer this year, Mike Santorelli, who has 20 goals so far this season. The defense is anchored by goaltender Bill Zaniboni, who has played well in net, with a 2.59 goals against average.

BG will also have to overcome its struggles on the road this season, a 2-11 record, and try to break its current stretch in which the team has lost 15 of its last 17 games.

If the team hopes to make something out of this season, the team knows the time is now to make a run and string some points together.

“It’s time to make a statement here,” said forward Kai Kantola. “Northern Michigan is right above Ferris State, who is above us, so this is a weekend where we can put up some points and get it started.”

The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. both tonight and Saturday in Marquette, Mich.