Bowling Green already had enough trouble with the major mistakes it was making Friday night in the Ice Arena.
The Falcons added to their problems by not competing hard.
Bemidji State, on the other hand, worked hard all night long and played well most of the game for a 3-1 win in Game 1 of their Western Collegiate Hockey Association quarterfinal series.
The Beavers, 17-14-6 overall, can close out the best of 3 series by winning Saturday, but a BG victory forces a deciding game Sunday. Faceoff both nights is at 7:07.
All three Bemidji goals resulted from unforced turnovers by the Falcons (20-13-6).
The Beavers built a 1-0 lead on John Parker’s breakaway goal at 6:51 of the first period.
Bemidji scored two second-period goals for a 3-0 lead. Cory Ward scored from the deep slot on the power play just 47 seconds into the period and Kyle Bauman capitalized on a short-handed breakaway at 11:53.
BG spoiled Bemidji’s shutout bid on Stephen Baylis’ power-play goal at 14:30 of the second period.
The Falcons held a 25-24 advantage in shots on goal.
“I don’t think we were consistently out-competed all year long like we were tonight,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “That was as poor of an effort as we’ve had in a while.”
“They were out-competing us every battle, every race to a puck, they were getting there,” BG junior captain Sean Walker said. “At the end of a day, that’s going to kill you in a game.”
BG’s best stretch of play came during the final 10 minutes of the first period. The Falcons had 10 shots on goal during that time and held Bemidji to none, but Beaver goalie Michael Bitzer played well. He made 12 of his 24 saves in the first period.
“Our process has to be way better,” Bergeron said. “Our level of intensity and compete has to be way better. That’s what our program is based on, the process. But at the very least, we want to fight, scratch and claw for every inch out there. Tonight, we just didn’t do that, and that’s unacceptable.
“I’m hoping the message (for Saturday’s game) doesn’t have to come from me, that it’ll come from each other because that was embarrassing. We all should be embarrassed for that.”
REVERSAL: The Beavers played well after being swept at home by BG Dec. 11-12. The Falcons turned in a solid effort both nights, posting 4-1 and 2-0 wins. The Beavers didn’t play well in that series.
“I’m really proud of our guys. We played a team game,” Bemidji coach Tom Serratore said. “We were very responsible (defensively), and our puck management was good.”
Bemidji finished sixth in the WCHA during the regular season, but is 12-5-3 overall since losing twice to BG. The Falcons finished third in the league. The series matches two of the top four teams in the WCHA preseason coaches poll — BG was second and Bemidji was fourth.
“Full marks to Bemidji for their game plan and their execution, and their compete level,” Bergeron said. “They were really good. Exactly what we told our guys they would do — they took advantage of everything we gave them, and then they created on their own. Their level of compete was just so much better than ours. It made it difficult. We were chasing it around the whole time.”
WHAT’S NEXT: The Falcons have won three playoff series after losing Game 1 under Bergeron, and all three were on the road. BG won at Northern Michigan in 2011 and 2012, and Lake Superior in 2013.
“We just have to reset and forget about today, and play the way we did against them earlier in the year,” Walker said. “We’ll be a little more desperate. It’s do or die now. Everybody is going to be out there a little more desperate. We just have to go out there and play the way we can play. Hopefully, we’ll get the results we want.
“We have to come out intense, but we’re not going to be out of control and make mistakes,” Walker added. “We’re just going to go out and play our game.”
STREAK SNAPPER?: The Beavers haven’t won a first-round playoff series since 2011 when they won at Nebraska-Omaha in the old WCHA. They’ve lost to Ferris State the last two seasons, at home last season and at Ferris in 2014.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Bemidji won the special teams with the short-handed goal. The Beavers were 1 of 2 on the power play, while BG was 1 of 5.
Bemidji’s penalty-killing leads the WCHA and ranks fourth nationally at 88.8 percent. BG has allowed seven short-handed goals this season.
“The short-handed goal was big,” Serratore said. “When you win the special teams battle, it sure helps. When you win the special teams battle with a short-handed goal, that just energizes your bench that much more.”
ROAD WARRIORS: The Beavers are 10-5-2 on the road this season. They were coming off a 1-0 win at WCHA co-champion and 16th-ranked Minnesota State last Saturday.
“Who knows,” Serratore said when asked why the Beavers have won consistently on the road. “But when you have success on the road, you build confidence and a belief that you can win.”
Bemidji was the only road team to win Friday. Top-seeded Michigan Tech, second-seeded Minnesota State and fourth-seeded Ferris all won at home.
GOALTENDING: Bitzer helped Bemidji escape the first period with a 1-0 lead by playing well during those final 10 minutes. BG had back-to-back power plays in the final seven minutes of the period.
“Getting through that period was big,” Serratore said. “BG really came at us hard.”
Bitzer’s best save of the game probably game in the closing minutes when he robbed Kevin Dufour on a backdoor stop. The save came on the right side of the crease as Bitzer held the post to stop Dufour on his forehand from the right side of the crease.
“He played well,” Serratore said of Bitzer, who has a 2.03 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in 32 games.
BG’s Chris Nell stopped 21 shots, including four 2 on 1 rushes with the Falcons trailing 2-0 in the second period.
STILL HOT: Baylis’ goal gave him a point in six straight games, and a goal in four of the last five games. The freshman left wing has five goals and six assists in those six games.
Baylis was in front of the net to tip in Walker’s shot from the center point.
Walker has a point in seven of the last eight games, totaling three goals and seven assists in that span.
FASHION FAUX PAS: The Falcons changed from their cream colored jerseys to their brown jerseys after the pre-game warmup. The change was made to provide more of a contrast with the jerseys of Bemidji, which came out in white.
The WCHA mandated for the second half of the season that home teams wear their dark jerseys at home.
ATTENDANCE: With BGSU students on spring break, the game drew just 1,789 fans. BG’s average this season entering the game was 2,670. Classes resume Monday.
LINEUP: BG made one lineup change from last Saturday’s 5-0 win at Alabama-Huntsville. Freshman Adam Smith replaced classmate Jordan Ernst on defense.