Chris Nell’s excellent goaltending wasn’t enough for Bowling Green.
The sophomore made 31 saves Saturday night, but Lake Superior still posted a 1-0 overtime win in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game.
The Lakers held the edge in play, but needed Diego Cuglietta’s goal 1:23 into the extra period to record the win. Lake Superior controlled much of the game and finished with a 32-25 edge in shots, including a 14-6 margin in the first period.
Nell made a number of big-time saves to keep the Falcons in the game.
The Lakers’ Gordon Defiel also played well in goal, although he was infrequently tested. The Falcons also hit the post three times and had a goal disallowed by video review.
“The game didn’t go very well. That’s 100 percent on Lake Superior,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “They came out hard and were able to sustain it. We started poorly and played poorly throughout the game. If it wasn’t for (Nell), that game wouldn’t have gone to overtime.”
The loss, coupled with Minnesota State’s 3-1 win over Northern Michigan, knocked the 16th-ranked Falcons out of a tie for the league lead. Minnesota State leads the league with 24 points, two ahead of BG and five ahead of Michigan Tech.
BG had played well Friday in a 3-1 win over the Lakers, who didn’t play well in the series opener.
“I don’t know. I wish I had the answer,” Bergeron said when asked about his team’s inconsistency. “They’re 18- to 22-year-old kids. Last night, we came out hard with a focus. Tonight, we came out with no focus.
“We told our guys there was going to be an answer from Lake Superior. All the credit goes to them for having that answer. They got what they deserved and so did we.”
LATELY: The Falcons have lost three of their last five games, including disappointing performances in two of their last three contests. BG also wasn’t happy with its play Jan. 3 during a 3-2 loss at home to Clarkson.
“We have to come out and trust each other,” Nell said. “Right now, we’re all trying to do it ourselves. We’re not relying on the systems as much as we should. We’re just going out there and trying to do a little bit too much from an individual standpoint.”
“We just have to buckle down and get back to the way we can play,” Nell added. “At times, they had nothing. We weren’t doing that enough this weekend.”
The Falcons are 13-6-5 overall and 9-3-4 in the league. The loss ended BG’s 10-game unbeaten streak (8-0-2) in WCHA, the Falcons’ last loss coming Nov. 13 at Michigan Tech.
Lake Superior (8-9-3, 5-5-4) is seventh in the league with 12 points, but just four points behind fifth-place Ferris State and Northern Michigan.
MOVING UP: Nell moved up to second nationally in goals-against average (1.37) and save percentage (.947) after stopping 55 of 57 shots against the Lakers.
He returned to the net after missing BG’s series against Clarkson the previous weekend because of a head injury suffered Dec. 30 against Western Michigan. He’s 9-3-5 in 19 games. Nell has started 18 games this season, including 14 of the last 17 contests.
“Any time you come back from an injury or a break, you want to string a couple of games together,” Nell said. “This weekend, maybe a slow start tonight and last night, losing some rebounds I should have had.
“Overall, I was tracking the puck well and I was ahead of the puck. It was the weekend I was hoping for coming back from that injury and I’ll build on that.”
North Dakota sophomore Cam Johnson leads the country with a 1.07 goals-against and a .957 save percentage. He’s 9-0-1 in 12 games, including four shutouts.
GAME-WINNER: Nell claimed Cuglietta’s goal was tipped in with a high stick. Cuglietta was in front to tip in Matt McArdle’s shot from the right circle. The goal was allowed after video review.
Nell said McArdle’s shot hit his blocker pad, which the BG goalie said was above the cross bar. Cuglietta then extended his stick to tip the puck past Nell, but the referees ruled Cuglietta’s stick was below the crossbar.
“It’s tough,” Nell said. “That’s the night it was going to be, one of those weird ones and we came out on the wrong end of it. It hurts, but we have to bounce back.”
NOT AGAIN: The Falcons thought they had taken a 1-0 lead on Adam Smith’s rocket from the left circle at 4:55 of the second period, but the referees disallowed the goal after video review.
It was the third time in the last four games the Falcons had a goal disallowed by video review. All three were disallowed because of goalie interference or a Falcon being in the goal crease.
PK: The Falcon penalty-killing was 6 of 6 in the series, including a 4 of 4 effort Saturday.
BG hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in five of the last seven games, going 18 of 20 in that span to raise its season success rate to 82.8 percent.
PP: The Falcon power play had another tough night, going 0 of 4 and totaling just six shots in 7:48 with the extra man.
“Our power play was just a symptom of what our team was, not very good,” Bergeron said.
BG was 0 of 10 against Lake Superior.
CHANGE: BG forward Kevin Dufour was a healthy scratch for the game and replaced by Jakob Reichert.
Dufour, who played in every one of BG’s first 23 games, is second on the team with nine goals and tied for fourth with 12 points. The junior forward has an on-ice rating of +6.
The addition of Reichert was the only change in BG’s lineup.
DEFIEL STRIKES AGAIN: Defiel continued his strong play against BG. The sophomore stopped 95 of 97 shots in three games against BG this season. He made 70 saves in the Ice Arena in November, helping the Lakers to two 1-1 ties.
In five career games against BG, Defiel is 2-1-2 with a 1.16 goals-against and a .964 save percentage.
Defiel, who is splitting time in goal with freshman Nick Kossoff, has a 2.48 goals-against and a .924 save percentage in 16 games this season.
NEXT: BG has just a single nonleague game this weekend, playing at Miami on Saturday. The RedHawks are 6-11-3 overall and 2-8-2 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
The game will be televised by Time Warner Cable Sports Channel, channel 1311.