Bowling Green’s resiliency was rewarded again Friday night in the Ice Arena.
The Falcons erased deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to earn a 4-3 win over Ferris State in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game.
Stephen Baylis’ power-play goal with only 2:47 remaining snapped a 3-3 tie for the Falcons, who tied the game on Kevin Dufour’s second goal of the game just 63 seconds into the final period.
Goals in the second period from Tyler Spezia at 3:31 and Dufour at 5:51 enabled the Falcons to wipe out the Bulldogs’ two-lead. Ferris then reclaimed the lead at 3-2 when Sean O’Rourke scored at 11:52 of the second period.
“I liked the fight in our group,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. “Our guys didn’t let that deter them and stop them. We told our guys we’re going to get chances, and they’re going to have to be ready to score. I didn’t think we were far away. Even at 2-0, I didn’t think we were far away.”
“The issue at 2-0 becomes where are we mentally? Like we’ve shown in the past, we were right there mentally. We still stayed in it and were engaged. The group just hung in there and kept playing.”
Ferris took its 2-0 lead on goals from Corey Mackin at 4:24 of the first period and Andrew Dorantes just 57 seconds into the second period, but the Falcons answered with their first goal from Spezia less than three minutes later.
“We did a real good job of staying even keel, never too high, never too low,” said Spezia, who has nine goals this season. “To score and provide a little bit of life was huge. If they would have scored a third goal, who knows? Maybe the wind goes out of our sails. The fact we were able to score right back and from there we took it to them.”
Dufour’s tying goal also was important, coming just 63 seconds into the final period.
“It’s definitely something we don’t want to get used to,” Spezia said of playing from behind. “We play so hard. When our whole team is going, we’re a really good bunch, and we’re a handful. That just shows the close-knit of our group. We’re all willing to play for each other and play hard for each other.”
OFFENSE: The Falcons had a solid night offensively, totaling four goals for the second straight game and 40 shots for the fourth time in 36 games.
BG had an effective forecheck from all four forward lines, resulting in turnovers that often led to quality scoring chances. The Bulldog defense is a veteran group with four seniors and one junior among its six blueliners who played Friday.
The forecheck also enabled the Falcons to generate sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
“A lot of guys played exceptionally well,” Spezia said. “We’re a fast team. We used our speed to get on their guys and cause turnovers. We got all over their (defensemen). Any team in this league is susceptible to turnovers. It was the result of hard work and commitment.”
Matt Pohlkamp and Mitch McLain each had six shots on goal, while Brandon Hawkins and Mark Cooper both had five, and Dufour had four. Spezia and Sean Walker each had three.
Spezia and McLain started the game together, and were later joined by Pohlkamp. Dufour and Pierre-Luc Mercier started the game together, and John Schilling joined the line later in the game.
Cooper, Baylis and Hawkins played well as a line, and as did the combination of Joe McKeown, Brett D’Andrea and Brent Tate.
In addition to Dufour’s two goals, Baylis had one goal and one assist, and McLain and Cooper each had two assists.
“I didn’t think anybody was that much better than anybody else up front,” Bergeron said. “Our guys kept playing. When we’re at our best, it’s four lines, 12 forwards contributing offensively, in the offensive zone, second and third effort. We had that.”
The game was entertaining, fast-paced and physical. BG held a 40-32 edge in shots as both teams looked to push the pace.
IN GOAL: Falcon goalie Chris Nell played well with 29 saves, 22 coming during the first two periods.
The first two Ferris goals came on bang-bang back-door plays, while the third came on a deflection with traffic in front of the net.
The sophomore ranks fourth nationally with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.
HONOREE: Nell was one of 26 nominees announced Friday for the Mike Richter Award. The award, in its third season, is presented to the outstanding goalie in college hockey.
The nominees were determined by nominations from all 60 NCAA Division I coaches.
A committee of coaches, pro scouts and media members will select the finalists. The five finalists will be announced March 16, with the winner being announced at the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida.
POWER PLAY: The Falcon power play was 1 of 5, scoring for the fourth time in the last five games and sixth time in the last nine contests. Dufour scored with a laser from the right circle into the top right corner of the net on the short side.
“Both units looked pretty good,” Dufour said.
PENALTY-KILL: The BG penalty-kill was 3 of 3. The Falcons are 12 of 12 in the last three games and have killed off 16 straight chances overall.
Two of the kills came in the third period, the first coming just after Dufour tied the and the other coming with the game tied 3-3 and with 12:29 remaining.
“We’ve handled the penalty kill pretty well over the last six, eight attempts,” Bergeron said. “We were on top of it. They’re a good power play. They’re going to get chances.”
Ferris is the league’s second-highest scoring team at 2.69 goals per game. The Bulldogs had just five shots and only a few quality chances in 5:53 with the extra man. And when Ferris did get a good scoring chance with the extra man, Nell was sharp.
“Enough guys are willing to buy into our system,” said Spezia, one of BG’s regulars on the penalty-killing unit. “When we hop over the boards, guys know we have to get a job done.”
CONFIDENCE: Dufour has 11 goals this season, second-most on the team. But he had gone four games without a point and was a healthy scratch Feb. 6 at Minnesota State.
“It feels good,” Dufour said of the two goals. “Even though I don’t score, I’m trying to have a positive impact, have some chances.”
Dufour has 11 goals and six assists in 33 games this season, but his play is often inconsistent. The junior forward has 33 goals and 19 assists in 106 career games.
“Confidence,” Bergeron said when asked what the difference is in Dufour when he’s playing well and not playing well. “Sometimes, when something bad happens with Kevin, it kind of sends him to a place where he’s not quite as confident. We’ve seen this over the course of his three years, when he scores, that gets him confidence. You don’t score a goal like that (the power-play goal in the third period) when you’re not confident.
“When he’s skating, it’s all based on confidence,” Bergeron said. “When he’s skating, he’s getting more chances around the net. When he’s not (confident), he’s not as engaged mentally. Tonight, he was engaged, for sure.”
LINEUP: BG senior defenseman Jose Delgadillo saw his first action since Dec. 5 against Minnesota State. He took the place of freshman defenseman Jordan Ernst, who missed last weekend’s series at Alaska (Fairbanks) because he was sick.
Bergeron said Ernst “wasn’t 100 percent until probably Wednesday’s practice and that’s not enough.”
Delgadillo was a +2 in the game and blocked one shot.
“He did fine with his opportunity,” Bergeron said.
FINAL TOUCH: The Falcons didn’t let Ferris pull goalie Darren Smith for the sixth attacker in the final two minutes. BG generally controlled the puck and kept the play in its offensive zone for most of that time. When Ferris was able to get the puck in the BG end, the Falcons cleared it right back out.
“I really like the way we finished it off,” Bergeron said.
DELAY: The game was delayed for about 25 minutes with 3:44 remaining in the first period when a pane of glass appeared to shatter on its own in the northwest corner of the arena. Video showed no players or pucks in the area when the glass shattered following a whistle.
But some fans sitting in the area said a Ferris player hit the glass with his stick, perhaps even breaking the stick. After all of the players skated away, one fan sitting nearby said the glass made a loud pop and immediately fell apart.
The teams were sent to their locker rooms while the glass was repaired. When the repairs were completed, the ice was resurfaced. The teams then returned to finish the first period. After a one-minute break, the teams stayed on the ice to play the second period.
THREE-DOT DATA: The Falcons are 14-0-1 when scoring three or more goals in a game, including a 10-0-1 record with four or more … BG is 7-1-5 at home in league games … The Falcons are 8-4-3 on both Friday and Saturdays … Nell’s win was the 20th of his career. He’s 20-12-8 in 43 games … Walker has a point in four straight games, totaling a goal and four assists … Spezia has a point in three straight games, totaling two goals and one assist … Baylis has a point in back to back games for the first game … the Falcons won for the first time this season when trailing after the first period and after the second period. BG is 1-5-3 when trailing after one period and 1-9-3 when trailing after two periods.
NEXT: Saturday’s game is BG’s final regular-season home appearance of the season. The team’s five seniors — Tommy Burke, Cooper, Delgadillo, Ben Murphy and Tate — will be honored before the game