MARQUETTE, Michigan — Bowling Green finally earned its first sweep of the season Saturday night.
The Falcons — on a night they battled hard, but struggled with the play at times — found a way to record a 5-3 victory over Northern Michigan and complete a sweep of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at the Berry Events Center.
John Schilling’s goal snapped a 3-3 tie with 10:27 remaining and Matt Pohlkamp’s power-play goal into an empty net with 69 seconds left clinched the win.
Pohlkamp scored just 1:08 after the Falcons killed off a hooking penalty to Connor McDonald with 4:17 remaining.
NMU held a 30-21 edge in shots on goal, but the Falcons scored twice during the final period after the Wildcats tied the game 3-3 on Brock Maschmeyer’s power-play goal with 1:26 to play in the second period.
The Falcons were bidding for a sweep following a 5-1 win Friday.
“Championship teams figure out a way to win that second night when you’re fighting it early in the first, and find a way in the second and period to get that win,” Schilling said. “Maybe we were trying to do a little too much and figured out we had to stick to what kind of team we are and get back to our playing style. We played hard and did all of the little things to get the win.”
“We had a good third period,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. “We were kind of fighting it the whole night, trying to find it. It was a hard-fought, gutty win against a good team in a tough place to play.”
The win was the fourth in the last five games for the Falcons, who reached the .500 mark in the WCHA. BG is 4-7-1 overall and 3-3 in the league after starting the season 0-6-1, 0-2. NMU fell to 3-8-1, 1-6-1. The Falcons were the coaches pick to win the WCHA championship.
“It’s huge,” Schilling said of the sweep. “We kind of went through our rough patch, and we’re coming out strong, better than ever. It’s good for everyone’s confidence, and it’s good for the team.”
THE WINNER: Schilling’s goal came moments after BG goalie Chris Nell robbed NMU twice on point-blank shots. The Falcons’ Mitch McLain finally controlled the puck and sent Schilling on his way.
Schilling’s third goal of the season came from the right hashmark, the puck going through the pads of NMU goalie Atte Tolvanen.
“I had a lot of lot of speed, a lot of ice,” Schilling said. “It was a 1-on-1 play that I just tried to get a puck on the net.”
OFFENSE: The Falcons scored five goals for the second straight game and at least four goals for the fourth time in the last five games.
BG had five different goal-scorers in each game at NMU. On Saturday, nine BG players had at least one point. But Schilling, with one goal and one assist, was the only Falcon with multiple points.
“It’s the only way we can we do it, especially with the way this year’s roster has shaken out since September,” Bergeron said.
The Falcons lost high-scoring forward Brandon Hawkins, who left the team just prior to the start of the season. Hawkins was expected to be one of BG’s top scorers after totaling 29 goals and 29 assists before transferring to Northeastern.
BG scored two or fewer goals in five of its first seven games.
“We have to do it by committee. For us to put up five goals back-to-back is a pretty good thing,” Bergeron said. “The only way we’re going to do that is as a group.”
The Falcons are at they’re best when they’re rolling four lines and playing a puck-possession game in the offensive zone.
“All four lines can score,” Schilling said. “When we control the puck and play our puck-possession game, there’s not a lot of defense corps in the league that can handle our depth. It’s something cool to see.”
PK: The Falcons allowed just one shot on goal when NMU had its late power play in the third period. NMU had the puck in the BG zone most of the time, but the Falcons blocked several shots and kept the Wildcats away from the net.
“It was a gutsy penalty-kill,” Bergeron said. “We found a way to kill at a huge moment in the game.”
The Falcon penalty-killers were 2-of-3 in the game, the only goal coming after BG fought off a 5-on-3. The goal came with NMU on a 5-on-4, but BG’s Sean Walker wasn’t able to return to the play in time after leaving the penalty box. Maschmeyer scored from the top of the circles on a “puck we should have blocked,” Bergeron said.
“All in all, the penalty-kill was good,” Bergeron added.
BG’s penalty-killers were 5-of-6 in the series and are 30-of-35 in the last seven games.
POWER PLAY: The Falcon power play wasn’t sharp and finished 1-of-4, the only goal being Pohlkamp’s into an empty net.
“I didn’t think our power play was great tonight,” Bergeron said “We had zone time. It wasn’t like we were chasing it around. But we were trying to force things at times and go through seams, rather than take what’s there, and that’s not our strength.”
The Falcons earned their late power play after Walker won a 1-on-1 battle for the puck along the boards in the defensive zone. He was tripped after taking possession of the puck.
FIRST AGAIN: BG’s Kevin Dufour scored his first goal of the season for the second straight game. The senior forward thought he had scored his first goal in Friday’s win, but the goal was changed to Frederic Letourneau Saturday morning.
But Saturday night, Dufour finally scored his first goal at 5:16 of the second period on a wraparound to give the Falcons a 3-2 lead.
Dufour was expected to be one of BG’s leading scorers this season, but had just six assists entering Saturday. He still received an assist on Letourneau’s goal. Dufour has 38 goals and 26 assists in 125 games with the Falcons.
FIRST GOAL: Sophomore forward Matt Meier scored his first BG goal, opening the scoring just 2:40 into the game from between the circles.
The goal was the third of his college career. He had two goals and two assists in 15 games at Air Force during the first half of the 2014-15 season. He finished that season with Omaha in the United States (Junior) Hockey League where he also played last season before coming to BG.
900 CLUB: The win was the 900th in the history of the BG program, which is in its 49th season. The Falcons are 900-814-132 (.523 winning percentage), including 106 victories in six-plus seasons under Bergeron, and assistant coaches Ty Eigner and Barry Schutte.
“Lots of people have been a part of 900 wins,” Bergeron said. “We’re just proud to be part of the last 110 (wins) or whatever it is. It’s a storied program. It’s a program that’s relevant again in college hockey which is great. To celebrate 900 is a big-time accomplishment for a big-time program.”
LINEUP: BG went with the same lineup as it did Friday, meaning forwards Shane Bednard and Casey Linkenheld were healthy scratches.