Thirty years later, the chills and pride are as fresh as ever.
Thank you to Grant Cummings (’93) for the video
March 24, 1984
The following is an article that Tony Gaver (’96) posted on his website (BGSUSports.com) chronicling the Falcons improbable run to the NCAA Division 1 National Championship in 1984.
It probably isn’t too much of a stretch to call Bowling Green the “Ice Capital of the World” for the first half of 1984. While native son Scott Hamilton was winning gold at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, the BGSU hockey team was putting together quite a season itself. A season that would be capped with a title on the same sheet of ice that witnessed the United States’ greatest hockey victory ever.
Bowling Green’s status in the CCHA and the college hockey world had been well-established by the time the puck dropped on the 1983-84 season. The Falcons were two-time defending CCHA regular season champions, and George McPhee’s Hobey Baker-winning season two years earlier further showed that they deserved mention with some of the best in the college game. While McPhee had been gone for two years, and three-time leading scorer and defending player of the year Brian Hills had graduated the previous spring, the team still boasted five future NHL players, and plenty of leadership and offensive firepower to keep the Falcons competitive.
There was a major defensive question to be answered, as sophomore Wayne Collins was the only goaltender on the roster with any experience, having split time his freshman year with departed senior Mike David. Collins and three other goalies would see game action during the season, freshman Gary Kruzich emphatically answered any questions about the position on his way to becoming one of the great goalies in CCHA history.
The Falcons won their first three contests in October, with a weekend home sweep of Clarkson and a Friday night win over Lake Superior before falling to the Lakers, 2-1, in the Saturday night game at the Ice Arena. That would be the last time BG would lose until a week into the new year.
The streak ran to 17 straight wins with an 8-2 win over Michigan in Ann Arbor. Bowling Green entered the second half of that weekend series with the Wolverines with an astonishing 20-1-0 record, and didn’t give up their streak easily, falling 6-5 in overtime on Saturday night. By the time the Falcons lost again, their record stood at 25-2- 2, following road ties at Ferris State the week after the Michigan loss, and at Illinois-Chicago on February 4.
The next weekend saw the Falcons on the road again, suffering their third loss of the year, 8-3 to Western Michigan, on February 10. After earning the split in Kalamazoo on Saturday night, the Falcons went on an offensive tear, beating Michigan-Dearborn 11-3 and 10-2 in a weekend series at the Ice Arena, then taking Miami(OH) 11-4 in Oxford the next Friday night. The Redskins would exact a bit of revenge the next night, winning 6-4 in the regular season finale. The Falcons finished the regular season with a 30-4-2 record, their best record since 1978-79, when they finished with a 33-5-2 mark.
The postseason started off a bit rocky for the brown and orange, after taking a 7-3 win in the first game of a two- game, total goals series with Lake Superior in the CCHA quarterfinals, the Falcons lost the second game, 7-6, but still won the series 13 goals to 10.
The semifinals matched BG with one of the teams that had handed them a loss earlier in the season, the Western Michigan Broncos, at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The teams were tied at 3 after regulation and an overtime period before the Broncos got the game-winner to advance to the championship game. Bowling Green was relegated to the consolation game to face Ohio State. Once again, extra time was needed, and once again the Falcons came out on the short end, losing 3-2 in overtime.
Despite the three game losing streak, the Falcons’ outstanding regular season earned them a trip to the NCAA Tournament, but they had to go on the road to face traditional power Boston University on their home ice. The woes continued for BG in the first game of another two-game, total goals series, losing 6-3 to the Terriers. With their backs against the wall the next night, the Falcons responded. A 4-1 decision in regulation tied the total goals for the series at seven apiece, forcing an overtime period. Bowling Green would win it in the first overtime period, advancing to the NCAA Semifinals at Lake Placid, New York.
At this point, the ice rink at Lake Placid was still most well known as being the site of the “Miracle on Ice”, the United States’ hockey team’s thrilling 4-3 win over the Soviet Union on February 22, 1980, and subsequent gold medal-clinching win over Finland. Their regular season success would make a win here anything but a “miracle”, but it would give Bowling Green it’s first national championship in any sport in 25 years.
The semifinal game matched BG with CCHA rival Michigan State, and while the Spartans would hold the high-octane Falcon offense to two goals (the only time it scored less than two goals all season was the first loss of the year against Lake Superior), the green and white could only get past Gary Kruzich once, and the Falcons advanced to the championship game with a 2-1 victory.
Bowling Green’s opponent for the title game was the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the top-ranked team in the country. The Falcons were ranked fourth, despite a better record by eight points over the Bulldogs. BG jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but by the end of two periods, trailed by the score of 3-1. Less than a minute into the final period, UMD had scored again, and kept the three-goal lead through the first 12 minutes of the period, until Bowling Green pulled within 4-2.
The Falcons came alive shortly after that goal, scoring again at the 6:18 mark to pull within one, then used a little help from the “hockey gods” to pull even.
With just about two minutes left to play, Bowling Green defenseman Wayne Wilson dumped the puck around the boards, some believe the play was offsides, others more vehemently argue that icing should have been called. As UMD goalie Rick Kosti skated behind his net to play the puck, it hit a screw or a crack, or something in the boards and popped out in front of the net. Senior center John Samanski tapped it in for his 25th goal of the year, tying the score at four with 1:47 to play.
Tied after regulation, the teams played a 10 minute overtime period, then another, and another. The Bulldogs dominated play, but Kruzich came up big time and time again to keep the Falcons’ title hopes alive. Finally, with just under three minutes left in the fourth overtime, after 97 minutes and 11 seconds of hockey, senior Dan Kane fed a perfect pass to sophomore Gino Cavallini, who’s backhand shot beat Kosti and brought the national championship to Bowling Green.
(Parts of this article researched from USCHO.com.)