SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Bowling Green had a little of everything Friday night.
The Falcons parlayed solid offense, defense and goaltending into a 3-1 win over Lake Superior in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game.
The victory enabled the Falcons to move into a tie for first place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with Minnesota State, a 3-1 loser at home to Northern Michigan.
Mark Cooper, Brandon Hawkins and Tyler Spezia scored for the Falcons, who never trailed and were never tied after Cooper opened the scoring at 11:02 of the second period. BG held a 42-25 edge in shots, including a 33-17 margin over the final period.
The Falcons, ranked 16th nationally, also defended well, and Chris Nell stopped 24 shots.
“It was a good effort,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “ We played well tonight.”
BG totaled 40 or more shots for the second time this season, the other coming in a 1-1 tie at home against Lake Superior Nov. 6. The Falcons have had 32 or more shots in four straight games.
“We had some good stretches of 5 on 5 play where we did what we wanted to do in the offensive zone,” Bergeron said. “We did a good job, for the most part, of having some sustained zone time and looking like there was a little bit of a plan and executing that plan. It didn’t always lead to goals, but it lead to chances.”
Laker freshman goalie Nick Kossoff also played well, making 39 saves.
“Those shots were pretty high quality,” Cooper said. “When you get 42 shots, you spend a lot of time in the offensive zone and the other team can’t create momentum.”
WCHA: BG and Minnesota State share the league lead with 25 points, three ahead of Michigan Tech, which is playing non-league games this weekend.
The Falcons and MSU each have played two fewer games than Tech. MSU visits Michigan Tech next weekend.
SURGING: The Falcons have won three straight league games and are 8-0-2 in their last 10 league games, the last loss coming Nov. 13 at Michigan Tech by a 2-0 score.
BG is 13-5-5 overall and 9-2-4 in the WCHA, including a 9-2-2 record in its last 13 games overall.
Lake Superior is 7-12-4, 4-5-4. The Lakers have 12 points in the league to tie Alaska (Fairbanks) and Alaska-Anchorage for seventh place in the 10-team league.
Lake Superior and UAA each have four games in hand on Alaska (Fairbanks) and Bemidji State, which is sixth with 15 points.
The top eight teams make the WCHA playoffs, with the top four hosting first-round series.
SENIOR POWER: The Falcons were lead by the senior line of Cooper at center, Brent Tate on left wing Ben Murphy on right wing. The three combined for eight shots, including five by Murphy. The trio also played well early in the season before they were broken up.
Tate and Cooper are assistant captains.
“It’s awesome,” Cooper said of the all-senior line. “Hopefully, the guys look up to us to lead the way. We’ve been through all this. To play with good buddies, we can get after each other and it’s all coming from a good place.”
WELCOME BACK: Tate’s return from a thumb injury also helped the Falcons.
The 6-foot-2, 176-pounder missed six games after being injured Dec. 4. Tate is valuable because he adds a physical presence and a scoring touch. His physical presence enables him to easily get under the skin of opposing players.
“He give us leadership,” Nell said. “The way he plays, he battles really hard. He goes to the dirty areas. He’s going to be an energy guy and still put up some points. It was good to have that voice back in the lineup. It’s always nice to have older guys who have been through the ringer guide us and that’s what he does best.”
“He’s mucking it up and grinding,” Cooper said. “He definitely helps us in our offensive game and he’s a solid defensive player.”
PK: BG had to kill just two Lake Superior power plays, but it was effective on the penalty kill.
The Lakers had only one shot in four minutes with the extra man. BG didn’t allow the Lakers to spend much time in the offensive zone on the power play. And when the Lakers gained the zone, BG was regained control of the puck and cleared it down the ice.
“We didn’t let them get in the zone,” Nell said. “We were keeping them to the outside. Once they were in the zone, we were all over them.”
The Falcons have killed off 13 of their last 15 short-handed chances in the last six games, increasing the success rate on the penalty-kill unit to 81.9 percent.
PP: The only major negative for the Falcons was their power play, which was just 1 of 6 and had only nine shots in 9:11 with the extra man.
BG failed to score on its first five chances with the extra man until Hawkins’ insurance goal on the power play for a 2-0 lead, just 80 seconds into the third period. The Falcons failed to score on a two-man advantage of 1:05 in the first period with the game scoreless.
The Falcons’ first power play attempt in the game had good puck movement, but after that, they didn’t look very sharp.
BG has failed to score a power-play goal in seven of its last nine games, going just 4 of 36 in that span.
The Falcons are only 14 of 85 (16.5 percent) with the extra man this season, scoring eight of the goals in a four-game stretch in November.
LITTLE THINGS: Although Cooper gave BG a 1-0 lead, the team was building momentum well before that with a number of consecutive good shifts.
The first of those shifts came from the so-called fourth line of freshman left wing John Schilling, sophomore center Brett D’Andrea and sophomore right wing Hawkins. The three controlled the puck in the offensive zone for a sustained period, generating several good chances.
Spezia’s empty-net goal for a 3-1 with lead with 27 seconds remaining resulted from three good plays.
Mercier cleanly won a faceoff straight back in the circle to Nell’s left. Defenseman Sean Walker gained control and wrapped the puck around the boards behind the net to Pohlkamp on right wing. Pohlkamp then fed Spezia for the goal.
SHOTS: Defenseman Mark Friedman led BG with seven shots in the game, while Pohlkamp had six, and Spezia, Murphy and Hawkins each had five, and Walker had four.
FIRST TIME: BG freshman defenseman Jordan Ernst earned his first career point, an assist on Cooper’s goal. He threaded a perfect pass through the neutral zone to Cooper, who skated in alone from the Laker blueline.
Ernst originally thought he had his first point with a goal in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Clarkson, but the goal was disallowed because of a player in the crease call on video replay.
STATS: Cooper’s goal was his team-leading ninth of the season.
Murphy has a point in three straight games and seven of the last 10 contests. He has three goals and five assists in those 10 games.
Spezia has scored a goal in three straight games.
Hawkins, who led BG last season with 16 goals and 14 points, has two goals and two assists in the last three games. He has five goals and six assists in 22 games.
LINEUP: Ernst and Spezia played after suffering lower-body injuries during the Clarkson series.
Defenseman Jose Delgadillo and forward Jakob Reichert made the trip to Lake Superior, but didn’t play Friday.
YOUTH: The Lakers are a young team. Their lineup Friday included just two seniors and nine freshmen. Their six defensemen consisted of four sophomores and two freshmen.
REMATCH: The Falcons and Lakers play again tonight at 7:07.
The teams played two 1-1 ties at BG in November.