Hockey faces Alabama-Huntsville

By Zane Miller and By Zane Miller

The Falcons hockey team will play in their final home series of the regular season against the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers on Friday and Saturday nights.

“We have to play well,” Falcons head coach Chris Bergeron said. “Alabama-Huntsville is a program that’s still trying to build itself back up. I know they’re fighting for a playoff spot this year, and they’re going to come in here hungry. They were off last week, so they’re rested and we just cannot afford not to play like there’s something on the line.”

The team goes into the series in a tie with the Ferris State Bulldogs for the no. 4 standing in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs, the final seed that would grant the team home ice advantage.

“We’ve known for the last couple weeks that we control what happens in terms of home ice in that first round,” Bergeron said. “We really haven’t been focused on it a whole lot. We’ve been resting; we’ve been trying to get our game sharp and get our game right, and obviously having discussions on how we need to put our best foot forward over the next three or four weeks.”

The team played Alabama-Huntsville on the road earlier in the season, a series which the Falcons swept, winning the two games 4-1 and 8-3.

“The scores are misleading about our series in Huntsville,” Bergeron said. “They were highly contested games until the third period both nights and things kind of got away from them in the third period. What I think is going to be different is now, you’re always playing for playoff positioning and playoff implications. You’re always doing that, but now it’s real.”

Alabama-Huntsville will also be in a playoff battle of their own. They are only one point off the final playoff spot, which the Falcons feel will make them hungrier going into the final regular season series.

“I think (Alabama-Huntsville) has played extremely hard because they’ve got playoffs in mind, and they know they have to earn their way into a playoff spot,” Bergeron said. “They’re definitely a team that plays with more purpose. They’re more skilled, but that’s all under the umbrella of playing hard; they play hard all the time. They’ve got good goaltending, they’re capable of defending, and they’ve got good special teams.”

The team also feels that playing at home for the final regular season series will be important for getting the home ice in the playoffs.

“It’s huge, but the problem is we haven’t taken advantage of home ice. We just haven’t played as well as we would have liked at home and we think going into the season we created a really strong home ice by the way we played, by our record at home,” Bergeron said. “Unfortunately, this year that’s not been the case, and the second half of the year, from Dec. 1 on, losing a couple to Michigan Tech and then losing a couple to Northern Michigan (is) just not acceptable. It’s still our home rink, and I know our guys love playing here; love playing in front of the student section; love playing in front of our crowd, so I think it’s going to be huge.”