Tommy Burke’s goaltending was one of Bowling Green’s major strengths last season.
He’s off to a strong start again this season.
The senior stopped 27 shots Friday to help the 16th-ranked Falcons to a 6-3 season-opening win over Ohio State at Value City Arena.
Burke’s two best saves came late in the first period and early in the second period to preserve the Falcons’ 2-1 lead.
The Falcons then pushed their lead to 4-1 later in the second period.
Ten of Burke’s saves came in the second period and 11 more during the final 20 minutes.
“Tommy was good tonight,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
Burke robbed OSU’s David Gust, who scored his team’s first goal 96 seconds earlier to cut BG’s lead to 2-1, with a blocker save on the right side of the crease. The save came after a 2 on 1 rush at 16:33 of the first period.
He then stopped Christian Lampasso from close in on the right side 2:53 into the second period. The Falcons increased the lead to 4-1 on goals from John Schilling at 11:44 and Ben Murphy at 16:02.
“All in all, it was OK,” Burke said of his performance. “It was good to come into a road game in your first game and get a win.”
Burke entered the game with a career goals-against average of 2.37, the best in Falcon history. His .908 save percentage is third-best in school history.
The 6-foot-1, 192-pounder finished last season as BG’s No. 1 goalie, posting a 2.18 goals-against and a .920 save percentage in 23 games.
“You know what you’re going to get from Tommy Burke. You’re going to get a good solid effort,” Bergeron said.
OVERALL: The Falcons played well during most of the game, although they had some defensive lapses late in the first period and during the third period. But the Falcons dominated much of the second period.
The Falcons held a 35-30 edge in shots.
“It was a good team effort,” Burke said. “Just like last year, we were a team that did it by committee, and it looks like we’re on our way to doing that again and that’s good.”
The only major negative was BG had too many defensive zone breakdowns. As a result, Burke was left to fend for himself.
“We played pretty well,” Bergeron said. “There’s always little things to tighten up and get better at this early in the year. We need to defend better.”
The Buckeyes, picked to finish next-to-last in the six-team Big Ten Conference coaches poll, also were playing their opener.
“They played very well,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said of BG. “They had a game plan and executed very well.”
OFFENSE: Twelve Falcons had at least one point in the game, including Murphy, Matt Pohlkamp and Schilling, who each had one goal and one assist.
Kevin Dufour, Jakob Reichert and Mark Cooper had the other BG goals.
“We worked hard which is what we do, and we scored six goals,” Bergeron said. “I don’t care two of them were empty-net goals. Six goals is six goals. If we score that many goals a lot of games this year, we should be OK.”
During the first two periods, the Falcons were effective by controlling the puck in the offensive zone.
“At times, we did exactly what we wanted to do, and we felt that was the game plan,” Bergeron said. “I’d us to be more consistent with it, but the times we were good at, we were really good at it.”
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Falcon power play was 0 of 2 and had three shots in four minutes with the extra man.
OSU was 1 of 3 with four shots in 4:41.
Just five penalties, all minors, were called in the game.
CLOSE CALL: After controlling the first 12 minutes of the first period and most of the second period, the Falcons let OSU back in the game in the third period with the help of two penalties.
OSU closed within 4-2 on Nick Schilkey’s power-play goal with 17:52 to play, empty-net goals from Pohlkamp at 17:15 and Cooper at 18:28 clinch the win.
The Buckeyes had another power play just two minutes after Schilkey scored, but were unable to close within one goal.
“We found a way to win the game,” Bergeron said. “Going into the third period with a three-goal lead, you don’t want to lose the game.”
“To have a situation like that early and hang in there and … and not change the way we were playing, knowing that they were going to come hard and getting through that, I liked that.”
LINEUP: Murphy returned to the BG lineup. The senior forward sat out last Saturday’s exhibition against the University of Toronto because a lower-body injury.
Stephen Baylis didn’t play, serving the first of his six-game NCAA suspension for having Canadian Major A experience.
The freshman forward was the media’s pick to win the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s Newcomer of the Year Award.
DEBUTS: Four Falcon freshmen were in the lineup — defensemen Connor McDonald and Chris Pohlkamp, and forwards Schilling and Bednard.
Schilling and Bednard played well on a line with Reichert, a junior. The line had a hand in two goals.
IN GOAL: Chris Nell was the backup to Burke in the Falcon net.
Tomas Sholl didn’t dress for the game.
HOMECOMING: McDonald had a homecoming. He’s from the Columbus suburb of Westerville.
REMATCH: The teams play Saturday night in the Ice Arena at 7:37.