Chris Nell was impressive Saturday night
The freshman stopped 27 shots — including a penalty shot — to help Bowling Green to a 3-2 win over arch-rival Ohio State at Value City.
Nell made 13 saves in both the first and third periods to improve to 3-0.
His work in the first period enabled the 19th-ranked Falcons to survive a slow start and move to 8-3-1 overall.
OSU had 14 shots in the first period, including three breakaways and a penalty shot, but the period ended in a 1-1 tie.
The start was Nell’s first since Oct. 25 at Clarkson where he made 30 saves in a 5-4 win. He also stopped 20 shots in a 5-0 win Oct. 17 at Alabama-Huntsville.
Nell had a tough finish at Clarkson, allowing three goals in the final 23 minutes.
“It’s always tough not playing,” said Nell, who has a 2.00 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. “The other guys are playing well. We all battle in practice. Our practices are game-like every day.
“It’s been easy to stay in game shape with the practices we’ve been having. Each of us wants to go, and we push each other as hard as we can, and we’ll ready to go.”
The Buckeyes’ Tanner Fritz had the penalty shot after he was tripped on a breakaway by Mark Friedman. OSU had the option of taking the penalty shot or a two-minute power play.
“That took all of the momentum away (from OSU). That kid is an absolute stud,” BG forward Brandon Hawkins said of his classmate.
Fritz tried to fake Nell, who didn’t bite.
“I came out and was trying not to overcommit,” Nell said. “He came down and made it pretty easy for me. He shot it kind of early, right at my pad and reacted to it.”
Both of OSU’s goals came on deflections around the net. Nell also survived a hard collision midway through the third period with OSU’s Anthony Greco. The OSU forward charged into Nell as he took the puck to the net from the left wing.
“To see him play the way we played tonight, it’s got to be a confidence boost for Chris,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
THE STARTER: Nell earned the start after Tommy Burke played well Friday with 21 saves in 3-2 loss to OSU in the Ice Arena.
Burke had started three straight games and has started six of BG’s 12 games. Nell’s start was his third, while Tommy Sholl also has started three games.
“He hadn’t played in a while,” Bergeron said. “We wanted to give Burke a break, and (Sholl) had started three games and (Nell) two.
“The play in practice has not really separated any of them from the mix,” Bergeron said. “We didn’t think Chris didn’t deserve to play. Chris deserved to play. That’s what we did.”
DEFENSE: The Buckeyes controlled the first period with excellent offensive play that was helped by BG’s shaky defense.
“Our first (period) wasn’t great,” Bergeron said. “A lot of those chances were big-time shots,” Bergeron said.
The Falcons improved defensively over the final 40 minutes, limiting the quality and quantity of OSU’s chances.
“We were trying together on the defensive end,” Hawkins said. “We take pride in our defensive play and once we got that covered, we played our game.”
BG has allowed two or fewer goals in eight of their 12 games.
“We were able to find our level of defending,” Bergeron said. “They had us baffled a bit. We were able to right the ship a little bit and defend the way we wanted the last two periods. We were able to close the door a little bit.
“We started to take away time and space, and make stronger plays with the puck and make them defend,” Bergeron added. “Ultimately, that’s the game we have to play. We can’t get into a track meet or anybody, that’s what the first period was.”
BG is 6-1 when leading after two periods this season, and 2-0-1 when tied after two periods. The Falcons also are 5-2 in one-goal games.
“We’ve had really good third periods this year,” Bergeron said. “We had a good period tonight. It’s nice to see us respond and rally that way.”
Hawkins scored to snap a 2-2 tie with just 2:40 remaining, only 47 seconds after OSU tied the game on deflection, the Falcons though was directed in with a high-stick. But the goal was allowed after video review.
“It’s a gutsy win,” Bergeron said.
“It’s a big win,” Hawkins said. “We stayed together as a group and got the win.”
INJURED: BG junior forward Ben Murphy left the game in the second period and did not return after getting hit in the leg with a shot.
“I think he’s fine. He’s been walking around OK,” Bergeron said, adding he didn’t think Murphy had undergone X-Rays. “Hopefully, there’s no fracture. Indications are it’s a bruise.”
FINALLY: The Falcons snapped a five-game drought on the power play when Sean Walker scored with a two-man advantage at 17:32 of the second period.
BG had failed to score on 18 straight power plays before Walker scored.
“Hopefully, it’s confidence builder,” Bergeron said. “It’s been executing OK, but the results haven’t been good.”
The Falcon power play was 1 of 7 Saturday and 1 of 8 in the series, BG’s only power play Friday lasted only 36 seconds.
PK: The Falcon penalty killing was 7 of 7 in the series, including 3 of 3 Saturday.
BG hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in its last 19 chances, dating back to the Oct. 25 game at Clarkson.
ROAD KILL: The Falcons are 6-1-1 on the road, including a 6-0-1 mark since a 3-2 loss at Miami Oct. 12 in their first road game of the season.
AT OSU: BG’s win was its first at OSU since Feb. 1, 2008.
The Falcons, however, did not play at OSU during the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
DISCIPLINE: Bergeron said Friedman won’t face any supplemental discipline from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, the result of a major penalty he received Friday night.
The freshman defenseman was given a major and a game-misconduct for contact to the head as the game ended.
Bergeron said the WCHA supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd reviewed the hit later Friday night and then talked with Bergeron Saturday morning.
“He said what he saw wasn’t worthy of a suspension,” Bergeron said.
NEXT: The Falcons host Bemidji State in a WCHA series next Friday and Saturday at the Ice Arena. Faceoff both nights is 7:07.
BG is 5-1-1 in the WCHA. Bemidji is 3-7, 2-4.