Bowling Green’s resiliency paid off again Friday night.
The 18th-ranked Falcons rallied from deficits of 2-0 and 4-2 to earn a 4-4 tie against No. 17 Michigan Tech in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game at the Ice Arena.
They erased Tech’s 4-2 lead on goals from Brandon Hawkins with 7:23 remaining and Brent Tate, just 14 seconds later.
Hawkins’ goal came just 1:51 after Dylan Steman’s second goal of the game gave Tech its 4-2 lead.
“We hung in there,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. “Our group has proven over time that we hang in there, and we don’t stop playing. It was nice to see that again. We haven’t necessarily had that situation in a little while.
“(Tech is) a great team. We prepared our team to play a great team. We know them very well in terms of their lineup. The guys you think are going to do damage did. But our group hung in there, and we’re proud of them for that. I’m proud of our group for not quitting.”
The Falcons and Tech traded scoring chances during the first five minutes, but Tech dominated the remainder of the period. The Huskies scored two goals and finished with a 17-5 edge in shots on goal during the opening 20 minutes.
“If tonight was a fight, we got punched in the face first,” said Tate, a senior assistant captain. “It’s not really acceptable. We came out flat. They were winning races. They were more physical than us.”
BG cut Tech’s lead to 2-1 and 3-2, but the Huskies scored the next goal each time. But BG later scored the game’s final two goals for the tie.
“That starts with the guys in the locker room,” Tate said of the resiliency. “We have a good group of guys, and we have good character. We’ve got a lot of heart. Whether we’re down two goals with a minute left or we’re down four goals or whatever the result is, we’re going to keep pushing.”
The Falcons rebounded to play well during much of the final two periods, building a 20-12 edge in shots during those 40 minutes.
“After the first period, we said that period’s over,” Tate said. “We’ve got 40 minutes to go out there and do something about it, let (the first period) go, that wasn’t our best period of hockey. We can’t control what happened. What we can control is the next period, the next five minutes, the next shift.
“We looked around the room and said, ‘If he wins his shift, if he wins his shift and if he blocks a shot and we do it together, we’re going to get the results.’ One goal at a time. We’ve got to get one goal to get two. Just keep chipping away.”
BLOCK PARTY: Tech blocked 17 of BG’s 61 attempted shots in the game. The Falcons actually held a 23-21 in total attempted shots during the first period, but 12 were blocked.
The blocks helped start a number of odd-man rushes for the Huskies and BG had too many turnovers at the offensive blueline.
“We just kept harping on poise. We’ve got to have poise at the offensive blueline,” Bergeron said. “I’ve never seen a team block shots like Michigan Tech. You get away from playing them and then you get back to playing them.
“All we said was try to shoot it where they’re not. We used the orange plate on the end wall (the bottom of the boards) if you have to. You can’t bury your head and shoot it. They do a great job (blocking shots). We have to find a way to get pucks through. Ultimately, I don’t think we did. We have to look at tape and see what’s open and try to take advantage of that.”
The Falcons eventually raised their level of play during the final two periods. They were at their best when they controlled the puck in the offensive zone and created scoring chances off the cycle. They also used the boards behind the net to generate offense.
“I tip my hat to them,” Tate said. “We knew coming into the weekend they block a lot of shots. We have to get more pucks through.
“We kind of have the same game plan every week. We want to get pucks and bodies to the net, and we want to get the puck through. To create second and third chances, we don’t want to be a one and done team. We don’t want to shoot pucks into shin pads and make it easy for them.”
Tech leads the WCHA in scoring, averaging 2.96 goals per game.
“They push the pace north as well as anybody we play,” Bergeron said.
Tech finished the game with a 30-26 edge in shots.
WCHA: The Falcons moved within two points of No. 19 Minnesota State for the WCHA lead. BG can tie for the league lead by beating Tech tonight at 7:07 in the series finale.
MSU leads the league with 29 points, followed by BG with 27, Tech with 23 and Ferris State with 22.
BG and Tech both have played one fewer game than MSU and Ferris. MSU is playing nonleague games this weekend, while Ferris is idle.
The Falcons are 15-7-6 overall and 11-3-5 in the WCHA. Tech is 13-7-5, 10-6-3.
HEATING UP: The Falcons have scored four or more goals in three straight games.
Four different players scored BG’s four goals and 11 Falcons had at least one point in the game. Hawkins was the only multiple-point player for BG with one goal and one assist.
Stephen Baylis and Mitch McLain scored the other goals.
HAWK: Hawkins took over the team scoring lead with 18 points. He has nine goals and nine assists in 27 games, including four goals and three assists in the last seven games.
DEFENSE: BG allowed more than three goals in a game for just the third time this season, breaking a streak of 21 straight games of allowing three or fewer goals. The Falcons are sixth nationally in the fewest goals allowed, 1.93 goals allowed.
GOALTENDING: BG’s Chris Nell stopped 22 of 26 shots, but the sophomore fell out of the national lead in save percentage. He’s tied for second with Boston College’s Thatcher Demko at .939, behind
Nell’s 1.57 goals-against average is second-best nationally.
North Dakota’s Cam Johnson leads the nation with a 1.33 goals-against and a .946 save percentage.
PENALTIES/SPECIAL TEAMS: The game featured just six penalties, all minors.
The Falcons had only two penalties.
The BG power play was 1 of 3, while Tech was 1 of 1.
FINALLY: McLain’s goal was his first since BG’s series opener at Bemidji State Dec. 11, a span of nine games.
Baylis scored for the second time in the last three games, while Tate scored for the second straight game.
CROWD: A lively crowd of 3,168, BG’s third straight crowd of 3,000 or more, helped the Falcons. The crowd exploded frequently during the third period, especially after the goals by Hawkins and Tate to tie the game.
HOME ICE: The Falcons are 8-1-5 in the Ice Arena this season, including a 6-0-5 in league play.
Tech is 7-2-3 on the road, including a 6-2-2 record in league play.
REMATCH: The Falcons and Tech are 1-1-1 in head-to-head meetings this season. They split a November series in Houghton, Mich.