MARQUETTE, Michigan — Bowling Green’s fast start paid off Friday night.
The Falcons scored three times in the first 18 minutes en route to a 5-1 win over Northern Michigan in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game at the Berry Events Center.
Goals from Sean Walker, Kevin Dufour and Matt Pohlkamp provided the Falcons with a 3-0 lead, and they never looked back. Brett D’Andrea and Mitch McLain scored the other BG goals, and Chris Nell was in goal for the victory.
The Falcons held a 30-25 edge in shots on goal and played well overall, although NMU held the edge in play during the second period when it scored its only goal.
“We had a good start, which on the road, is key,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
The Falcons controlled the first and third periods with good puck possession in the offensive zone.
“We played our game for most of the game,” D’Andrea said. “We were outbattling them in their zone, and we were getting pucks to the net.”
STINGY: The Falcons played well overall again defensively, allowing just the one goal and 25 shots on goal. BG has allowed three or fewer goals and 25 or fewer shots in five straight games, including four games of two or fewer goals.
“We’re bearing down,” D’Andrea said of BG’s team defense. One key, he said, is the Falcons are doing a better job of having their sticks in position to break up plays by the opponents. “We’re shutting their chances down, and the defense helps us get good chances.”
The Falcons defended well in the first and third periods, but weren’t quite as good during the second period when NMU scored its only goal to cut BG’s lead to 3-1.
“We defended really well early,” Bergeron said. “We found a way to control time and space, for the most part.”
POWER PLAY: The Falcon power play was sharp in the first period with Walker giving BG a 1-0 lead just 4:44 into the game. BG finished 1-of-5 with the extra man and failed to score on three straight power plays overlapping the final nine minutes of the second period and the start of the period.
“We started off hot, and then we seemed to get a little complacent. We weren’t playing our game,” said D’Andrea, who skates on the power play. “We were creating a lot of open spaces. When we were struggling, we weren’t really around, creating those spaces. When we were moving, getting shots through, making plays, that’s when our power play is successful.”
PK: The Falcon penalty-killers didn’t allow a goal in three attempts, including a 5-on-3 for 1:20 in the first period when BG held a 1-0 lead.
NMU helped the BG penalty-killers by taking a penalty for too many men on the ice with 34 seconds remaining in the two-man advantage. The Wildcats had just five shots on the power play.
“I liked our penalty-kill. It was solid,” Bergeron said. “The 5-on-3 kill in the first period was a huge kill for us.”
The Falcons have killed off 28 of their last 32 short-handed situations during the last six games.
IN GOAL: Nell made 24 saves, 13 coming in the final period. The junior has stopped 91 of 99 shots in the last five games, posting a 1.61 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.
CHANGES: Two scoring changes on BG’s goals were made Saturday morning.
Kevin Dufour’s goal in the first period was changed to Frederic Letourneau. The goal had been the first of the season of Dufour, who was expected to be one of BG’s leading scorers this season, but had just five assists entering Friday. He still received an assist on the goal. Dufour has 36 goals and 27 assists in 124 games with the Falcons.
On Mitch McLain’s third-period goal, an assist was added to Stephen Baylis.
BALANCE: The Falcons had a balanced offense. Ten players had at least one point in the game, including five different goal-scorers.
No player had more than two points. D’Andrea and Matt Pohlkamp each had one goal and one assist, while Baylis and Pierre-Luc Mercier had two assists.
SWEEP: The Falcons have a chance to earn their first sweep of the season by beating NMU again Saturday night at 7:07.
BG, the coaches preseason favorite to win the WCHA, is 3-7-1 overall and 2-3-0 in the league. NMU is 3-7-1, 1-5-1. The Falcons still are trying to dig themselves out of a hole that saw them start 0-6-1 overall and 0-2-0 in the WCHA.
“We need this (a sweep),” D’Andrea said. “It would be huge momentum going into next weekend, just for the overall mood in the locker room. It’ll bring the mood way up and get the boys going.”
LINEUP: BG’s healthy scratches were forwards Shane Bednard and Casey Linkenheld.
WCHA rules limit teams to a 22-player travel roster. Among those who didn’t make the trip included forwards Joe McKeown and Jakob Reichert, and goalie Tomas Sholl.
The backup goalie this weekend is Ryan Bednard.