HOUGHTON, Mich. — Bowling Green quickly redeemed itself Saturday night.
The Falcons played well overall en route to a 3-2 victory over Michigan Tech to earn a split of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series.
BG didn’t play well Friday in a deceptively close 2-0 loss.
Friday’s game came after the Falcons earned just two 1-1 ties at home against Lake Superior the previous weekend.
BG also won without one of its best offensive players — sophomore forward Brandon Hawkins, who was sidelined with a lower body injury.
“The effort was much better,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “We do have a proud group, especially the leadership group. They’re proud guys. All we’re asking is to be who we say we want to be every day. That’s all we’re asking.”
“It was huge especially after a poor effort last night,” said BG senior Mark Cooper, who scored with 15:51 remaining in the game to break a 2-2 tie. “We were kind of down in the dumps today, so it was good to get a better start.”
The Falcons played well in the first and third periods, and survived a strong push by Tech during the middle 20 minutes.
Bergeron praised captain Sean Walker, assistant captains Cooper and Brent Tate, and the team’s five defensemen for their efforts.
Joining Walker on defense were Mark Friedman, Chris Pohlkamp, Connor McDonald and Jose Delgadillo. Cooper and Tate are forwards.
“You start with those guys. We responded,” Bergeron said. “The challenge we have, as a staff and as a program, is to stop having to respond to a bad effort on one night and then to have to make up for all of that the next night.
“We’re a work in progress, but it is a group that has been through a lot and we need to start acting that way.”
INJURED: Bergeron said the Falcons will learn more about Hawkins’ status Monday after he is further evaluated upon the team’s return to BG.
“I’m hoping it’s day to day, but I don’t know,” Bergeron said.
Hawkins led the Falcons with 16 goals and 30 points as a freshman last season, but he’s off to a tough start this season with no goals and two assists.
RECAP: The Falcons, ranked 15th nationally, came from behind to improve to 5-3-3 overall and 2-2-2 in the WCHA.
No. 20 Tech (6-4, 6-4) took a 1-0 lead on a fluke goal at 7:41 of the first period.
The Huskies dumped the puck into the BG zone, but the puck hit one of the referees and caromed in front to Tyler Heinonen, who was in front to slide the puck into an empty net for a power-play goal.
BG goalie Tommy Burke was caught out of position behind the net because the puck hit the referee.
But the Falcons came back to take a 2-1 lead on power-play goals 53 seconds apart by Tyler Spezia at 10:48 and Matt Pohlkamp. The power-play goals came during a major penalty to Tech’s Shane Hanna, a third-team All-WCHA pick last season.
Hanna was penalized for slashing Tate in his personal area from behind.
“That five-minute power play really got us into the game,” Cooper said.
Tech tied the game on Malcolm Gould’s goal at 5:32 of the second period, but Cooper gave the Falcons the win. He scored from the left side of the crease after taking a cross-ice pass from Kevin Dufour on a 2-on-1 rush.
NO GOAL: Tech thought Heinonen had tied the game at 3-3 with 5:02 remaining in regulation, but the goal was disallowed by video review which ruled the Huskies were offside on the play.
As soon as the goal was scored, the Falcon players on the ice claimed the goal was offside.
Bergeron then asked the officials to the review the play after assistant coach Barry Schutte told him the goal was offside. Schutte was on the bench and was standing on Tech’s offensive blueline — giving him a clear look at the play.
Tech carried the play into the BG zone on left wing, and the offending player unsuccessfully tried to drag his back leg to remain onside.
WELCOME BACK: Burke made his first start since the series opener at Alaska-Anchorage Oct. 31. The senior made 30 saves to improve his goals-against average to 3.00 and save percentage to .894. Half of his saves came in the second period.
Sophomore Chris Nell had started the last four games in goal, but was under heavy pressure Friday. He stopped 39 shots.
“Just because it would have been (five) starts in a row,” Bergeron said of why Burke started instead of Nell. “(Nell) was overworked last night. He’s still a young guy. We didn’t want to necessarily want to anoint (Nell) the No. 1 guy just yet.
“But he’s arguably been our best player to this point in the season. When you think about it, you play Sean Walker every night. Why wouldn’t you play Nell every night? There’s some truth to that.”
Nell ranks third nationally in both goals-against (1.20) and save percentage (.958).
STREAK ENDED: Cooper’s goal was his first since Oct. 17. He scored a goal in four of BG’s first five games, but hadn’t scored in the last five games.
SCRATCHED: BG red-shirt defenseman Dajon Mingo was a healthy scratch after he didn’t play well Friday.
With Mingo out, the Falcons went with 13 forwards and five defensemen, instead of the usual 12 forwards and six defensemen.
Sophomore forwards Jakob Reichert and Brett D’Andrea replaced Hawkins and Mingo in the lineup.
ACCOUNTABILITY: Senior Ben Murphy and junior forward Pierre-Luc Mercier saw their ice time reduced Saturday.
Murphy was one of BG’s best players Friday, but was used sparingly during the third period Saturday. Mercier was BG’s 13th forward Saturday and received little ice time during the game.
“We have to practice what we preach, and that is you have to get the job done to earn the ice time,” Bergeron said. “If you don’t, someone else will take the ice time. We have to live that.
“Everyone has had ample opportunity on a daily basis to earn ice time 5 on 5, special teams. Now, we have to start playing guys who are playing to their potential.”
Murphy and Mercier, both forwards, played on BG’s most consistent lines earlier this season.
“You have to earn your ice time to be in the program we want to be,” Bergeron said. “The internal competition brings out the best in people and exposes people for not playing well or not playing to their potential.
“These aren’t expectations I’ve set for these kids. These are expectations they’ve set for themselves. All we expect is that they bring it on a daily basis. When guys struggle with that, the only thing I know to do is take ice time away. That’s what we have to do.”