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Falcon hockey looks to upset Northern Michigan

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bryce williamson BG forward, battles for puck posession with Ohio State forward Cory Schneider during BG’s shootout victory against the Buckeyes earlier this season. Williamson scored the game winning goal for BG in the second overtime of game three of its playoff series against Northern Michigan last season.

For the second year in row, the BG hockey team takes on the Northern Michigan Wildcats in the first round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs this weekend.

The best-of-three series begins Friday at Northern Michigan, with all games beginning at 7:35 p.m.

Last year’s playoff series made some history. The Falcons lost the first game, but then racked off two straight wins to advance in the CCHA playoffs. This was the only time in CCHA playoff history that the bottom-seeded team advanced past the first round. Last year, including the playoffs, BG had a winning record of 3-2 at Northern Michigan’s Berry Events Center.

Coach Chris Bergeron said he thinks his team’s confidence will be high heading into the matchup this weekend because some of the guys played at Northern Michigan last year.

“I think both teams have improved since last year,” Bergeron said. “We are a bigger group and more confident this year. We do get exposed by team’s depth and scoring, but I think our rivalry is growing with Northern.”

BG (10-21-5, 5-19-4-3 CCHA) is coming off an impressive weekend. The Falcons defeated No. 3 Michigan Friday, 4-3. The four goals were the most goals the Falcons scored since a 4-4 tie with Miami on Nov. 19. They also played Michigan tight for two periods in Saturday’s game when the Wolverines pulled away in the third period, winning the game 3-0.

Northern Michigan (16-12-6, 11-11-6-3 CCHA) is also coming off a stellar weekend as it swept Lake Superior State. The Wildcats had plenty of offense, scoring 11 goals in the two games. The Wildcats crept back in the national polls this week at No. 17.

The last time these teams played, Northern Michigan swept the Falcons at BGSU Ice Arena. The Wildcats won the first game 4-2 and then shut out the Falcons 2-0 on Saturday.

The Wildcats are led by senior Tyler Gron, who has recorded 36 points this season. Right behind him is fellow senior Justin Florek with 33 points. They rank third and fourth in points scored in the CCHA, respectively. Back in the BG and Northern Michigan series this season, Florek recorded four points in the series.

Sophomore Jared Coreau has an 11-6-2 record between the pipes. He has earned a 2.13 goals-against-average with a .931 save percentage. Coreau went 2-0 against the Falcons this season, including the one shutout.

The Wildcats rank fourth in the CCHA in scoring, averaging 2.88 goals-per-game, but they are vulnerable on defense. They rank ninth in goals-allowed-per-game (2.67). The one advantage Northern Michigan usually has is with the special teams play. They rank in the top three in the CCHA in both the power-play and penalty kill this season.

“Our discipline needs to be a lot better,” Bergeron said. “We also need to execute on both sides of special teams. Faceoffs are going to be huge and will make a difference in this series. This series could come down to little plays.”

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