For the second straight weekend, the BG hockey team will take on a Central Collegiate Hockey Association foe in a home-and-home series.
After splitting with Michigan State this past weekend, the Falcons take on No. 10 Western Michigan this weekend. Friday’s game will be played in Kalamazoo, Mich., while Saturday’s game will be at the BGSU Ice Arena. Both games are slated for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop.
Western Michigan is the reigning CCHA Tournament champions, defeating Michigan 3-2 in the championship game. The Broncos finished tied for second in the league during the 2011-12 regular season.
Despite sitting last in the current standings, Western (4-2-0, 1-1-0 CCHA) has only played one conference series, splitting with Notre Dame.
Western is led by one of the top defenseman in the country in Dan DeKeyser. He was named a second team All-American this past season.
“He’s a big guy who gets around the ice real well; his presence out there is really good,” said BG Coach Chris Bergeron. “From an opposing coach’s perspective, he’s a guy who is underrated defensively. He moves the puck well; he’s just an all-around really good hockey player.”
However, he is listed as questionable for the series after leaving last Friday’s game with what Broncos Coach Andy Murray called a “lower-body injury.”
Regardless of whether DeKeyser is able to play, the Broncos still boast one of the top defensive units in the nation, one that is allowing only 2.16 goals against per game.
A big reason for that success is sophomore goalie Frank Slubowski. Although he was pulled in Western’s previous game against Notre Dame, he has a 2.21 goals-against average and a .906 save percent for the season.
The Broncos also have a good balance at forward, led by Chase Balisy, Shane Berschbach and Dane Walters, the team’s three leadings scorers this past season.
Added to that mix this year is Mike Cichy, a transfer from North Dakota, who leads the team with six points this season.
“Their depth up front is really good,” Bergeron said. “I would have to believe that their belief is really strong. This is the core of guys who won in the playoffs last year. They’re a talented group playing with a purpose.”
For the Falcons to have success, they will need increased offensive production. BG has scored only five goals in four conference games this season.
Additionally, the Falcons power play has struggled. BG has not scored on the power play in its last 24 opportunities, spanning six games.
“I feel like we’re doing a better job getting the puck into the zone, but once we get in, I feel like we need to swarm the puck more, get the puck on our sticks better and get the puck up to the point,” said BG forward Adam Berkle in regards to the team’s power play struggles. “That will open up the power play more, but I feel like we’re having a difficult time doing that and retrieving pucks once we get into the zone.”