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It’s all on the line for Falcons

03/18/2017, 1:04am EDT
By By JOHN WAGNER BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BGSU can win league title, get NCAA berth


Bowling Green forward Mitch McLain, top right, controls the puck behind the net in a game against Michigan Tech in December. The Falcons lost both previous meetings this season. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

HOUGHTON, Mich. — The stage is set for one of the biggest games in Bowling Green State University’s recent hockey history.

The Falcons will face Michigan Tech in the one-game, winner-take-all Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship game at a sold-out MacInnes Ice Arena at 7:07 p.m. today.

What’s at stake? The Broadmoor Trophy, given to the WCHA’s playoff champion, as well as an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

“I don’t think it gets any better than this,” Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron said. “We’ve been lucky enough to earn the right [to play in this game], although the game isn’t at home.

“I told the boys, ‘Winning a playoff series at home is great. Winning a playoff series on the road? There’s nothing better.’ We did that last week [at Bemidji State]. Now we have a one-game playoff opportunity on the road.

“Let’s have fun with it, let’s not look back on it with regret. Let’s go play and see what happens.”

The contest pits the red-hot Falcons, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, against the second-seeded Huskies. Michigan Tech earned its berth in the championship game with a first-round sweep of Lake Superior State, then a 2-1 series win against Minnesota State last weekend.

When the two teams met at the Slater Family Ice Arena in December, the Huskies swept the series, 3-1 and 2-1.

“They were 1-1 games going into the third period,” Bergeron said. “And in both cases we found a way to lose, and they found a way to win.”

Michigan Tech has had good starts in its four playoff wins, including a five-goal, first-period explosion in the first game of its opening series against Lake Superior.

That’s why Bergeron said his team will need to have a sense of urgency from the start.

“If you’re not urgent, suddenly the game’s over and you’re thinking, ‘What just happened?’ ” he said. “In our three semifinal games [the last three seasons], I don’t think we’ve played poorly, but I don’t think we were urgent enough.

“The first five or 10 minutes Saturday will be crazy. The building will be sold out and loud, and we’re going to have to be in the minute, ready to go. We’ll have to have urgency right away.”

Bowling Green, which is playing in its first winner-take-all playoff contest since the 1988 team played in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association championship, knows that the program’s first berth in the NCAA tournament since 1990 hangs in the balance.

The Pairwise system used by the NCAA to fill its 16-team hockey bracket will prohibit BG from entering the tournament unless it beats Michigan Tech.

Luckily, the Falcons have played well out of the gate in most of their playoff games, especially the first-round opener against Ferris State in which BG led 5-1 after two periods.

The two playoff sweeps allow BG to carry a seven-game winning streak into the game.

“All of the credit — 100 percent of the credit — goes to the upperclassmen of this team,” Bergeron said. “When I went after people earlier in the season about the inconsistency of this group, I went after the upperclassmen, so I give them all the credit because they deserve it.

“They made sure we were going to be focused, and they put us in the best absolute spot. And we’ve taken advantage of some opportunities with them leading the way.”

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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