Excellent penalty-killing enabled eighth-ranked Bowling Green to complete a sweep of Ferris State.
Ferris had just five shots in 9:46 with the extra man, three coming during the major for charging to Pierre-Luc Mercier at 1:41 of the second period. The score was tied 1-1 at the time.
The Falcons had the three best scoring chances on the major, one set up by a nice effort by Adam Berkle. Mercier is a regular on BG’s penalty-killing unit, which ranks first nationally at 93.1 percent.
“We’ve had a great kill all year, pretty consistent,” BG junior forward Ben Murphy said of killing off the major. “It’s unbelievable, how the guys stuck in there. It was awesome. It was character, just showed what we’re made of.”
BG also had to kill off a double minor to defenseman Sean Walker, who was called for hooking at 10:05 of the second period. Walker argued the call and received an additional penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Walker penalties came with the game still tied at 1-1.
BG killed off the first 2:46 of the Walker penalties before Ferris’ Ryan Lowney was called for hooking. Walker is one of BG’s best blueliners.
The Falcons didn’t allow any quality scoring chances when they were short-handed in the game. BG’s penalty-killing was 11 of 12 in the series.
Ferris’ power-play goal in Friday’s 2-1 BG victory was just the second allowed at home by the Falcons this season. The Bulldog power play is next-to-last in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association at 10.2 percent.
“We were on the same page. We executed at a high level,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “We just stuck with it, that’s what our penalty-kill has done all year.”
COMEBACK: The Falcons rallied for two third-period goals to erase a 2-1 deficit.
Murphy’s rebound goal from the right side of the crease tied the game at 5:49 and Mercier added another rebound goal from in front to give BG the lead just 80 seconds later.
BG was just 2-3-2 in its last seven games going into the weekend.
“It was a collective effort,” said Murphy, whose goal was his 10th of the season. “We stuck together all week. We just worked on not letting the moment take hold of us.
“We just put an arm around each other, and just battle and stay in it, and play for the guy next to you.”
The two Ferris goals resulted from BG defensive mistakes and turnovers.
The Bulldogs’ Tyler Dorantes opened the scoring with a nice backhander off a 3-on-2 rush. He roofed the puck past BG goalie Tommy Burke as the Falcons’ Jakob Reichert was hooking Dorantes.
Ferris took its 2-1 lead on Andrew Dorantes’ goal from the left circle off a 2 on 1 rush at 14:03 of the second period. The goal came after BG turned the puck over in the offensive end.
“There was a lot of belief on our bench tonight, Guys stuck with each other,” Murphy said. “There was a level of confidence in us. We knew what we had to do. We stuck to it. We didn’t waver and we stayed true to who we are.”
“It comes from practice. It comes from our upperclassmen. It starts right there on down to the freshmen. If they believe they’re going to win, they’re going to have confidence. We have depth and we have a lot of guys who know how to win, and we’re still understanding how to win at a high level.”
BIG FINISH: The Falcons played a strong third period, highlighted by their puck possession and forechecking in the offensive zone. BG had nine of its 19 shots on goal in the third period. Ferris had 23 shots, 11 in the second period.
“The third period felt like the team we wanted to be,” Bergeron said. “There just seemed to be a calm focus. We had people contributing. There was no panic. Nobody was doing their own thing. Everybody stuck to the game plan, and believed in it and believed in each other. That’s the team we want to be.
“The last couple weekends and yesterday, I could give examples of us coming apart at the seams versus just staying together and pushing. The process will get us to where we want to be and we did that.”
BG had fewer turnovers in the third period and stayed poised, despite what it thought was questionable officiating. In addition to Walker’s unsportsmanlike conduct Saturday, Mark Friedman received a 10-minute misconduct Friday.
“The work ethic was there,” Bergeron said of Saturday’s game. “Similar to (Friday), we shot ourselves in the foot a few times, whether it was a poor decision talking to the referee or a poor decision with the puck.
“We had to be resilient. I felt if we stuck to the game plan and kept pushing, we would be fine. We were much better with our decisions and our actions in the third period.”
IN GOAL: Burke started for the second straight game and for the fourth time in the last five games. He played well and stopped 35 of 38 shots in the series, with 21 of the saves coming Saturday.
BG started the same goalie in a series for the first time since Burke played both games at Alaska (Fairbanks) Nov. 7-8. But Burke also started back to back games against Lake Superior Jan. 24 and Bemidji State Jan. 30.
And freshman Chris Nell had back-to-back starts Dec. 6 against Northern Michigan and Jan. 3 against Robert Morris.
Burke is 8-3-3 in 14 games, posting a 2.15 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
PP: The BG power play was 0 of 9 in the series, including a 0 of 3 effort Saturday.
MOTTE: Ferris senior C.J. Motte, one of the best goalies in the league, stopped 33 of 38 shots in the series.
BG’s last two goals came on rebounds, created by heavy traffic in front of the net.
Murphy scored into an empty net after Brandon Hawkins’ second shot from the left side of the crease. The play started with Motte stopping Connor Kucera’s shot from the left point.
Mercier fired the puck in after Matt Pohlkamp threw the puck at the net from an impossible angle deep in the right corner. But Motte put the puck right on Mercier’s stick in front.
“A goalie like C.J. Motte, if you don’t camp in front of the net, you’re not going to score goals,” Bergeron said. “We need to get pucks and people to the net. We did a much better job of creating offense in the third period.”
QUICK RESPONSE: Dan DeSalvo’s goal tied the game 1-1 at 13:41 of the first period, just 1:13 after Ferris opened the scoring.
CROWD: An enthusiastic crowd of 3,198 helped the Falcons, 8-3-2 at home this season. The Falcons have won three straight at home and are 6-1-1 in their last eight games in the Ice Arena.
“Our fan support has been absolutely outstanding,” Bergeron said. “When people from other teams are talking about the vibe in this building, I don’t want to say Bowling Green hockey is back, but you tell me a better atmosphere than this place, I don’t care how many people were in the building.
“What a great place to play,” Bergeron added. “Our guys rewarded them with a good third period. I know they love playing in this building. The students are huge part of it. They were great. The crowd was great … just a huge home ice advantage.”
RECORDS: The Falcons improved to 17-6-5 overall and 13-4-3 in the WCHA. Ferris fell to 11-17-1, 8-12.
BG is third in the league with 29 points, six behind Michigan Tech with two games in hand.
Ferris and Bemidji are tied for sixth in the league with 16 points.
The Bulldogs have lost six straight games and 10 of their last 12. The first four of the six straight losses were to top-ranked and WCHA leader Minnesota State.
PAIRWISE: The Falcons are eighth in the Pairwise Rankings, which mirror the criteria used to select the teams for the NCAA playoffs.
The No. 8 spot in the Pairwise would earn BG a No. 2 seed in an NCAA regional, should the Falcons advance to the national playoffs.
20: The Falcons need just three victories to reach the 20-win mark for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
NEXT: BG and Ferris play again next weekend in Big Rapids, Mich.