Bowling Green’s defense corps held up well under difficult conditions Friday night.
The Falcons played almost all of their 3-2 overtime victory against Northern Michigan with just five defensemen.
BG lost standout defender Sean Walker just 3:13 into the game after the sophomore received a five-minute and game-misconduct penalty for contact to the head.
The hit was on NMU sophomore forward Gerard Hanson, who did not return. Hanson has five goals and 14 assists in 33 games.
That left senior Connor Kucera, redshirt junior Dajon Mingo, junior Jose Delgadillo, and freshmen Nolan Valleau and Mark Friedman to play on the blueline for the final 76:19.
BG senior defenseman Mike Sullivan was a healthy scratch.
The defensemen had to stay on the ice for back-to-back shifts at times during the game.
“They were good. It was a gutsy effort by them,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “We had a couple back there who struggled, but they found a way. They found a way. They stuck with it. They defended just enough.”
Walker’s penalty came after Kucera already was in the penalty box for tripping, giving NMU a 5 on 3 for 60 seconds.
The Wildcats, however, failed to score.
“It was definitely a gutsy effort. Guys are definitely tired,” Kucera said of the Falcon defense.
“The best part of our game was the defense,” said BG goalie Tommy Burke, who made 38 saves on a night the Falcons held a 52-40 edge in shots.
The Falcons only had to kill one penalty after that, that coming to Delgadillo at 19:05 of the second period.
Kucera said the conditions were similar to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association semifinals against Michigan March 16, 2012 at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
Kucera was a freshman that night when the Falcons lost a 3-2 double overtime decision to Michigan. He was one of BG’s best defenders that season and often found himself matched against the opponent’s best forwards.
“That game, it was extremely hot, guys were throwing down a lot of liquids, and it was the same scenario tonight,” Kucera said.
Walker’s hit was penalized, although it appeared to be a clean one.
“That’s the call he made,” Bergeron said after shrugging his shoulders when asked about the call.
But as soon the officials raised their arm for the delayed penalty following Walker’s hit, Bergeron and the BG bench started yelling at the officials about their decision.
Walker leads BG with 27 penalties and 79 penalty minutes.
“Sean plays the game with contact and hard, and we don’t want to take that away from him,” Bergeron said. “It was disappointing to lose him.”