Bowling Green had a chance to tie for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association lead Saturday night in the Ice Arena.
The Falcons sure didn’t play like a team contending for first place.
Michigan Tech took control late in the first period and never looked back en route to a 4-1 victory. The Huskies moved within two points of the Falcons for second place in the league.
Minnesota State leads the league with 29 points, followed by BG with 27, Tech with 25 and Ferris State with 22. All four teams have played 20 of their 28 league games, with the Falcons heading to Minnesota State next weekend.
BG and Tech played a 4-4 tie Friday.
Two key plays doomed the Falcons in the series finale against Tech, which scored the final four goals after BG’s Kevin Dufour opened the scoring just 45 seconds into the game.
The first of the game-changing plays came with only eight seconds left in the first period when Tech tied the score on Brent Baltus’ goal. The Huskies went ahead for good on a rare 3 on 5 short-handed goal from Reid Sturos with 6:38 remaining in the second period.
“That rattled us more than normal because we never got it back,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said of the tying goal. “The mistakes we made tonight were costly. But I was disappointed with the effort. We let that momentum hurt us.
“That killed us,” Bergeron added about the 3 on 5 goal. “I kind of left it up to the bench to take care of itself versus (the players looking at) me. That’s a fine line from a coaching perspective. I don’t know if I’m the one who can try to get the momentum back. But I was disappointed with the way we reacted to those two plays in particular.”
The Falcons and Tech played on fairly even terms during the first two thirds of the first period, but Tech eventually took over. The Huskies finished the game with a 28-18 margin in shots on goal, including a 15-8 margin in the first period.
Tech’s first goal resulted after BG freshman Shane Bednard turned the puck over in the neutral zone, creating a 2 on 1 break. Bednard was one of three BG freshmen (joining forward John Schilling and defenseman Connor McDonald) on the ice for the goal.
“I wasn’t disappointed with the first period,” Bergeron said. “We give up a goal with under a minute to go. The responsibility is mine on that. We had the wrong people on in that situation on the ice, and that’s my fault. It’s completely and utterly inexcusable to be giving up goals with under a minute to go in periods like we’ve been doing.”
The short-handed goal came after BG freshman Jordan Ernst had his shot blocked at the right point by Sturos. Ernst eventually fell, attempting to regain control of the puck. Sturos then gained control of the puck in the neutral zone and led a 2 on 1 rush down left wing.
Tech’s final two goals came from Alex Petan on the power play at 16:56 of the second period and Dylan Steman into an empty net at 19:12 of the third period.
“Whenever a team scores in the last minute, it gives them momentum for the next period,” BG senior Mark Cooper said. “We had the momentum and then they got the (late) goal, and it turned their way.
“Maybe at times we struggled with getting too low and high and not staying even keeled on the bench,” Cooper added.
POWER PLAY: Sturos’ goal came during BG’s 5 on 3 advantage that lasted 1:40 with the score tied 1-1. He scored with 12 seconds left in the Falcons’ two-man advantage.
“We get a break and get a two-man advantage; we’ve got young people in situations, freshmen making freshmen-type mistakes,” Bergeron said. “Tonight, those mistakes ended up in our net. That 5 on 3 goal rattled us, and it was only 2-1. The game wasn’t over, but we almost acted like it was.”
The Falcon power play finished 0 of 5 and had just two shots in 8:20 with the extra man.
BLOCKED SHOTS: Tech was effective blocking shots for the second straight game. It blocked 11 of BG’s 45 total attempted shots in the game Saturday.
“A sign of desperation and intensity is blocking shots,” Bergeron said. “(Sturos) wanted to block it, and he got rewarded for it by going down and scoring.”
Of the Falcons’ 106 shots in the series, 59 never made to Tech goalie Jamie Phillips. The Huskies blocked 28 shots and 31 BG shots missed the net. The Falcons had few quality scoring chances Saturday and the Huskies did a good job of limiting second and third chances.
TECH PP: The Tech power play was 1 of 2.
PENALTIES: The teams combined for just seven penalties in the game, all minors. BG had had just four penalties, all minors, in the series.
PRAISE: Tech played well to improve to 14-7-5 overall and 11-6-3 in the WCHA. BG is 15-8-6, 11-4-5.
“Full marks to our opponent,” Bergeron said. “They were good tonight. They were the better team, especially the second and third (periods), but I’m disappointed with our effort. There’s always somebody who has something to say in series like this. It’s just not us playing poorly. They played well. They executed. They took advantage of chances. “
FIRST TIME: The Falcons lost in the Ice Arena for the first time in league play this season.
BG is 8-2-5 in the Ice Arena this season, including a 6-1-5 record in league games.
ATTENDANCE: The game drew 3,317, BG’s fourth straight crowd of at least 3,000 fans. Friday’s game had a crowd of 3,168