Bowling Green played well and dominated Friday night en route to a 7-2 win over Alabama-Huntsville in the Ice Arena.
The Falcons didn’t play quite as well Saturday, but still posted a 2-1 victory to finish a sweep of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series.
Mitch McLain scored with 1:04 remaining in the first period to snap a 1-1 tie and Tommy Burke stopped 16 shots for the Falcons, who finished the regular season 21-10-5 overall and 17-8-3 in the WCHA.
The Falcons, who were locked into third place in the league entering the series, will host Northern Michigan in a best-of-3 quarterfinal series next weekend. Faceoff on March 13-14-15 is 7:07.
NMU finished 14-16-6, 11-13-4 for seventh place in the 10-team league. The Wildcats were seeded sixth for the playoffs because fourth-place Alaska (Fairbanks) is ineligible for all post-season play, the result of NCAA rules violations.
Mike Sullivan had the other Falcon goal. BG finished with a 28-17 edge in shots.
“We won the game. The concern would have come had we not found a way to win tonight’s game,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
“The bottom line is we found a way to win the game. It’s a good feeling we can still win games like this, close, tight-checking games. I always want us to play better, but we found a way to win and that’s a good thing. You’re not going to win 7-2 both nights. Teams are too good at the college level.”
CLOSE CALLS: Although the Falcons had the better scoring chances, UAH kept the game close. The Chargers were much improved Saturday and goalie Matt Larose stopped 26 shots.
BG helped the Chargers with sloppy play in the defensive zone, especially in the second period.
“There were times I thought we were hanging on which I don’t like, that was more the second period,” Bergeron said. “The third period was fine. We executed fine at that time.”
“It did feel one like one of those nights a bounce was going to happen and they were going to find a way to tie the game. Credit to our guys — they didn’t let that happen.”
The Falcons recently had lost third-period leads in 3-2 (overtime), 4-3 losses at home to NMU Feb. 20-21.
“It’s huge for our guys,” BG senior captain Dan DeSalvo said. “We’ve been struggling at times in the third period. We haven’t been able to finish games off.
“We’ve been talking about playing a full 60-minute game,” DeSalvo added. “It was the same approach, play our game hard for the entire 60 minutes.
The Falcons are 11-6 in one-goal games this season and 19-4-4 when leading or tied after two periods.
GOALS: Sullivan opened the scoring from the right point at 5:13 of the first period.
The goal originally was credited to Mark Cooper on a tip, but was changed to Sullivan after the game.
Cooper and Ted Pletsch were in front of the net to screen Larose on the goal.
UAH tied the game on Brandon Carlson’s shot from the right circle at 7:54. The goal came after BG turned the puck in its defensive zone.
BG regained the lead for good on McLain’s shot from the top of the circles at 7:54. The puck caromed in off Larose’s blocker.
PAIRWISE: The Falcons improved from 14th to 11th in the Pairwise Rankings, which mirror selection criteria for the NCAA playoffs.
The NCAA playoffs consist of the six league champions and 10 at-large berths.
Upsets in the league playoffs can mean the top 16 teams don’t all quality for the NCAAs. But by moving up to 11th, the Falcons are in much better shape to advance to the NCAAs, if they don’t win the WCHA playoffs.
The Falcons last played in the NCAAs in 1990.
CENTURY CLUB: DeSalvo, a center, earned his 100th career point with an assist on McLain’s goal. He has 29 goals and 71 assists in 150 games.
PENALTIES: The Falcons took just one penalty Saturday after taking nine penalties Friday.
The penalty came when Sullivan was called for hooking with 6:24 left in the second period.
“The discipline was good. I expect that from our team,” Bergeron said. “We’re a disciplined bunch when we’re right.”
The Falcons are averaging just 13 penalty minutes per game.
Bergeron received a bench minor Friday when he argued what was a questionable five-minute major on Adam Berkle. The penalty came with BG leading 7-0 in the third period.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Falcons won the special teams Saturday, going 1 of 3 on the power play and killing off UAH’s only chances with the extra man.
“We found a way to win the special teams that and that’s what it’s going to take,” Bergeron said.
The BG power play was 3 of 8 in the series and is 6 of 18 in the last five games.
“It’s good to see our power play heating up,” Bergeron said.
The Falcons ended a streak of six straight games in which they allowed a power-play goal.
BG regained its standing as the top-penalty-killing team in the nation at 89.3 percent. Cornell is second at 89.2
The Falcons were first entering the weekend, but fell to second after UAH went 2 of 9 Friday.
NOT AGAIN: The line of DeSalvo, Berkle on right wing and Cooper on left wing had another strong game. They created scoring chances and controlled the puck on most of their shifts.
The three also played well Friday, when Cooper scored twice and DeSalvo had one goal and one assist.
“We just find a way to click,” DeSalvo said. “It just seemed natural out there. We found each other without thinking too hard. We just went out there and played. You just player your game and things take over.”
SENIORS: The Falcons dressed all five of their seniors for the game and all five were in the starting lineup.
The seniors are forwards Berkle, DeSalvo and Pletsch, and defensemen Sullivan and Connor Kucera.
Pletsch played in a game for the first time this season. Because of BG’s increased talent and depth, his playing time has decreased since his freshman season when he was a regular. He played in just four games last season.
LINEUP: Among BG’s healthy scratches were forward Kevin Dufour and Brett D’Andrea, and defenseman Braden Pears and Jose Delgadillo.