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February 22, 2024

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Notes: BG hockey struggling to get out to early leads

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Ben Murphy, BG forward, chips the puck around Western Michigan forward Trevor Elias during the Falcons 2-2 tie with the Broncos earlier this season.

The BG hockey team has struggled to get ahead early this season.

Through 11 games, the team has only had a lead after one period only three times. However, when the Falcons do get out to the early lead, they have had good success.

In those three occurrences, BG is 2-0-1. That tie came on Oct. 27 against Ohio State, a game BG eventually won in a shootout.

Conversely, in the eight occurrences BG has trailed or been tied after one period, it is 0-6-2.

One of those ties came this past Saturday against Western Michigan. Even though BG trailed after a period, it outshot the Broncos 11-5 in the first period and played with great intensity.

The challenge is getting the team to consistently repeat that energy; something that coach Chris Bergeron said he doesn’t have a cut-and-dry answer to.

“I don’t know how much control I have over that,” he said. “You give them the, ‘let’s go get them’ type thing in the pregame, but it comes down to the 20 guys who are in the lineup that night deciding how they’re going to start. For that I look at the older guys.

”I have some control of the attitude of the team throughout the day, but when it comes down to 7 o’clock and that first shift,” Bergeron said. “I think it’s up to the guys that are out there to make sure we come out and play the game we want to.”

BG has often been able to match the intensity of it opponents in opening period. Through 11 games, BG has put up 93 first period shots, while giving up 94.

The issue comes with converting those chances. The Falcons have been outscored 12-5 in the first period so far this season.

Bergeron said he believes the team is getting to where it needs to be on the physical side of things, but is still developing on the mental side.

“From the mental standpoint, we’re still trying to figure out … what buttons to push and when to push them,” he said. “So those adverse situations in games throw us in a loop for six minutes where all of the sudden they’ve tied the game, or taken us out of the game. It’s something we’ve struggled with.”

Increased confidence

Sophomore defenseman Rusty Hafner has shown steady improvement so far this season.

After playing only 19 games as a freshman, the Toledo native has suited up for eight of BG’s 11 contests this season, already equaling his point total from 2011-12.

He scored his first collegiate goal on Oct. 27 against Ohio State when he jumped up to join an offensive rush, something he didn’t do a lot last season.

“Last year I maybe just tiptoed around being a freshman, just tying to feel my way though,” Hafner said. “At the end of the year, we had our meetings and coach told me [offense] was probably the worst part of my game. Kind of took that to heart and worked on that over the summer.

“I try to be simple and just get the puck to the forwards,” Hafner said. “If I have an opportunity to jump into the play I do it.”

Hafner said a big reason for his improved play has been because he is more confident out on the ice.

“I got a couple good games under my belt,” he said. “Kept working hard and just kept building off that.”

Home not sweet

The Falcons have struggled playing at home, not just this season but during Bergeron’s two-plus seasons at the helm of the program.

Since the 2010-11 season, BG is 9-24-7 at home, including an 0-4-2 mark this season. It is a stat that has the coach miffed.

“I wish I knew,” Bergeron said. “Because the crowd deserves better. We’ve had good crowds, had people hang with us and come to our games. It’s not about effort; I know our guys are trying the best they can at home. If I knew I’d have fixed it by now.”

In that same timeframe, BG is 17-34-5 in games played away from the BGSU Ice Arena.

“It’s frustrating,” Hafner said. “Obviously you want to get some wins at home and make the fans happy. It’s just one of those things that we’ll get together soon enough.”

Rematch

This weekend will be the first time BG and Ferris State have met since this past March, when the Falcons eliminated the top-seeded Bulldogs from the second round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.

Despite that postseason success, the Falcons fared poorly against the Bulldogs this past season, losing five of the seven games the two teams played.

“They’re a team we know very well,” Bergeron said. “They make it extremely difficult to score five-on-five. We had a couple guys get hot in the playoffs last year and that helped us score goals against them. They had some turnover on the back end and in goal, but they’re still defending extremely well because that’s their brand.”

Part of the turnover was the graduation of first team All American goalie Taylor Nelson.

He finished the season with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .924 save percent, guiding the Bulldogs to the National Championship game, where they lost to Boston College.

Picking up where Nelson left off has been C.J. Motte. As a freshman this past season, he played in 12 games, going 5-5-2 with a 1.98 GAA and a .925 save percent.

In 10 games this season, he has a 2.24 GAA and a .926 save percent.

Leading the team in points this season is forward Corey Kane, who has three goals and five assists in 10 games. He tallied only 11 points in 38 games this past season.

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