Updated: Three-goal third period lifts Falcons past Alaska

By January 9, 2015Game Recaps

Bowling Green increased its unbeaten streak to eight games Friday night.

Adam Berkle and Brent Tate each had one goal and one assist, and Chris Nell made 31 saves to lead the Falcons to a 3-0 win over the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) in the Ice Arena.

The Falcons, ranked 11th nationally, scored all of their goals in the third period.

Berkle opened the scoring just 12 seconds into the period, Matt Pohlkamp made it 2-0 with 5:12 left and Berkle closed the out scoring with 1:07 remaining.

BG is 13-3-3 overall and 9-1-1 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The Falcons are 6-0-2 in their last eight games overall and 8-0-1 in their last nine league games.

UA, which saw its four-game winning streak ended, is 12-9, 7-8.

The Falcons played well defensively from start to finish, but didn’t generate much sustained offense until the third period.

In addition to scoring the three goals, the Falcons dominated the third period with a 19-8 edge in shots on goal. During the first two periods, the Falcons had 15 shots to Alaska’s 10.

“We weren’t creating enough towards their net,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said of the first two periods. “Fifteen shots isn’t enough through two periods. We’ve got to get more.

“The third period, we put more pucks and more people towards their net, and we got rewarded for it. That was the main difference between the first two periods, and the third period.”

The Falcons played solid team defense to help Nell to his third shutout of the season, tying the school record.

“The way we defended was great,” Bergeron said. “We defended hard all night, which is taking away time and space, and good stick positioning. We did a good job with that.”

The Falcons opened the scoring on Tate’s goal from between the circles after he took Berkle’s centering pass.

Alaska goalie Davis Jones and a Nanook defenseman miscommunicated behind the net, allowing Berkle to skate in from the right side to steal the puck. The Nanooks had control of the puck before the miscue.

Berkle circled out in front to feed Tate, who beat Jones between the pads.

Jones finished with 31 saves.

“It was huge,” Berkle said of scoring so quickly in the third period. “The team that strikes first has the momentum there. The crowd we had, the building erupted after we scored. It was a good momentum push for us. It carried us through for the rest of the third period.”

The goal also brought a crowd of 3,579 into the game.

“When we’ve got 3,500, 4,000 in the building waiting for the home team to score, and they’re waiting and waiting, and you get one right away, it sets the tone and gets some momentum in the place, and some jump on our bench,” Bergeron said.

The Falcons controlled the third period with an effective forecheck, allowing them to create turnovers and scoring chances.

It also forced Alaska to defend for most of the period and the Falcons appeared to tire the Nanooks out with the relentless pressure.

BG finally added its insurance goals from Pohlkamp and Berkle.

Pohlkamp scored off Pierre-Luc Mercier’s between the legs pass from deep on the left side. Pohlkamp drove to the net down the middle and the puck on Mercier’s pass went in off his skate. The goal was allowed to stand after video review.

Berkle made it 3-0 when he scored on a backhander as he was falling down in front of the net.

“Once we got that goal, the roof came off (the building) and it seemed like the rest of the third period, even the smaller plays that we were making during the first and second periods, were acknowledged by the crowd,” Berkle said of the first goal.

The Falcons still were pleased with their play during the first two periods, although the game was scoreless.

“There’s a little frustration there, coming up empty the first two periods,” Berkle said. “But we knew we had to come out and finish the game off the right way. We came out and put them away. Everyone was excited going out there.”

Nell remained unbeaten with a 6-0-1 record to go along with a 1.41 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage.

The freshman became the fourth Falcon goalie to post three shutouts in a season — Tyler Masters (2000-01), Jimmy Spratt (08-09) and Tommy Burke last season when he was a sophomore.

Spratt is BG’s director of hockey operations this season.

BG’s career record for shutouts is seven.

“Chris Nell was good when he needed to be, but I don’t think he needed to win the game for us,” Bergeron said. “He needed to be solid like we expect form our goaltender.”

The Falcon penalty-killing was 5 of 5 to take over the national lead at 93.4 percent. Vermont, which was idle Friday, was No. 1 entering the night at 93.2 percent.

BG allowed just four shots in the 8:53 it was short-handed.

“We’re executing at a high level,” Bergeron said of the penalty-killing. “Special teams make the difference in these games.”

Bergeron said the Falcons took a couple of “poor penalties … plays we took one step too far. Five opportunities is probably a couple too many for me in a game like this because they were letting us play. There were hits going on.”

The BG power play had another tough night, going 0 of 4 with three shots in 6:53.

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Kevin Gordon

About Kevin Gordon

Kevin joined BGSUHockey.com after wrapping up a 27-year run as the Falcon hockey beat writer for the Sentinel-Tribune. He now provides his features, notebooks, and insights with BGSUHockey.com to continue providing Falcon hockey fans with the in-depth coverage they've loved for nearly three decades. He can be reached by e-mail at Kevin@bgsuhockey.com and on Twitter at @KGordonBG.

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