Bowling Green failed to move closer to second place Michigan Tech in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Friday night.
The Falcons dropped a 3-1 decision to Tech in the Slater Family Ice rena.
BG struck first on Stephen Baylis’ goal at 6:50 of the second period, but Tech tied the game later in the period and scored twice in the third period to move 10 points ahead of BG in the WCHA standings.
After being picked to win the WCHA championship by league coaches, the Falcons fell to 8-9-2 overall and 7-5-1-1 in the league. They have 23 points, just three ahead of Ferris State, Minnesota State and Alabama-Huntsville.
Bemidji State leads the league with 40 points, seven ahead of Tech (11-7-3, 10-3-2-1). Bemidji and Tech have played more games, than BG, Ferris, MSU and UAH.
Tech was second in the coaches poll. The Huskies shared the league championship last season with Minnesota State, finishing just two points ahead of the third-place Falcons.
“The emotion is disappointment, frustration,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “We’ve talked all week about this, you tell your team, ‘If we want to be who we say we want to be, we’re going to have to go through Michigan Tech to get there,’ that performance out there is not an example of a team, a program that wants to go through that team or is ready to go through that team. (Michigan Tech) showed why they’re champions.”
The Falcons entered the series 8-2-1 in their last 11 games overall and 6-1-1 in their last eight WCHA games, but all of the league games were against teams below them in the standings.
BG has a chance to earn a series split Saturday night at 7:07.
“I know we’re capable, but if you’re not engaged mentally and physically, it’s not going to happen,” Bergeron said. “Being capable and actually doing it are two different things, if you’re checked out mentally.
“There’s just a lot of mistakes out there on our end they ultimately cost us,” Baylis said. “We’re going to come back with some push after the performance we had tonight. We know we have to play better.”
The Huskies finished the tight-checking and physical game with a 36-26 edge in shots, including a 28-14 margin over the final two periods.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Tech’s power-play and penalty-killing units were dominant.
The Huskies were 2 of 5 on the power play, and killed off all six of BG’s power plays. They also scored a short-handed goal for a 2-1 lead in the third period. One of the kills was a 40-second 5 on 3.
“A big part of the reason was Michigan Tech,” Bergeron said when asked about the special teams. “They’re the biggest part.”
Tech ranks second in the WCHA in both categories, scoring at 19.2 percent on the power play and killing off 86.2 of its opponents’ power plays.
BG POWER PLAY: The Falcons had just six shots in 11:20 with the extra man. One of the Huskies’ strengths on the penalty-kill is blocking shots and taking away shooting lanes. Tech had 18 blocked shots in the game, six coming against the BG power play.
“We’re moving the puck around a lot,” Baylis said of the power play. “We’re getting some sustained pressure. They block shots really well. They take away (shooting lanes). They have good sticks. Finding that shot lane is kind of tough, but we still have to find a way to get more shots on net.”
The Falcons had their two-man advantage late in the second period, holding a 1-0 lead. Seventy-four seconds after the Tech penalties ended, the Huskies tied the game on Matt Roy’s power-play goal at 17:19.
“The one power-play goal they scored is a wrist shot from the point we don’t want to get in front of,” Bergeron said of a missed shot block by the Falcons.
The Huskies took a 2-1 lead on Jake Lucchini’s short-handed goal with just 5:04 remaining in the game. Tyler Heinonen’s power-play goal with only 1:18 to play gave Tech a two-goal lead.
“Very frustrating. Very frustrating,” Bergeron said. “All you can do is put people in opportunities. What they do with the opportunities is on them. We showed not being engaged. When you do that against a championship-level team like Michigan Tech you get exactly what we just got.”
BG has scored just two power-play goals in the last five games, a span of 26 chances.
DISCIPLINE: The Falcons played the final 30 minutes without Mitch McLain.
The junior forward was penalized for goalie interference and received a 10-minute misconduct for “abuse of officials.” When McLain left the penalty box, Bergeron sent him to the locker room for the rest of the game.
“We were immature tonight,” Bergeron said. “Then you’ve got players who shouldn’t be out there, out there because we have to send McLain off the ice because he takes a 10-minute misconduct for running his mouth.
“Anyone that’s seen me here for seven years knows that you take a 10-minute misconduct for running your mouth, you serve your penalty and then you skate off.
You’re going to put yourself in front of the team, you can watch the team play.”
McLain, who is one of the league’s best players, leads BG with 10 goals and 20 points. He also plays on the power-play and penalty-killing units, and provides the team with leadership and a physical presence.
BG dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen, and McLain’s absence meant they were down to 10 forwards. Tech used 12 forwards and six defensemen.
“That was tough, but there’s no excuse,” Baylis said. “There’s more ice time for other guys. We have to take advantage of that, whether we’re tired or not. We’ve still got to get the job done.”
IN GOAL: Falcon goalie Chris Nell was outstanding with 33 saves. Two of the three Tech goals came on the power play, and the short-handed goal was the result of a bad turnover behind the BG net. Nell was screened on the first goal.
“He played well. He made some great saves,” Bergeron said.
Nell, a first-team All-WCHA pick last season, improved his goals-against average to 2.66 and save percentage to .887.
“No,” Bergeron said when asked if that was Nell’s best game of the season. “His best game is a win, and he would be the first to tell you that. I don’t think you categorize a loss as his best game, but he played well. He gave us a chance to win that game, for sure.”
FINALLY: Baylis’ goal was his first since BG’s season-opener at Bemidji Oct. 7. He had a goal and two assists in the first three games, but had totaled just three assists until he scored against Tech — that assist coming last Friday at Lake Superior.
“That was good to get the monkey off my back. It’s been a while,” Bergeron said. “I haven’t been generating enough offense lately. When you get those chances, you have to bear down. Lately, I haven’t been. Tonight, I got lucky.”
Baylis scored on a nice rush down the right side, scoring with a shot just inside the far post from the circle.
OFFENSE: Although the Falcons had just 26 shots, they still had pressure on Tech goalie Angus Redmond. But the freshman played well in starting for the 13th straight game.
Redmond leads the nation with a 1.43 goals-against and is sixth with a .935 save percentage. But their goaltending has been complemented by a deep, talented and experienced defense corps.
Tech is allowing just 2.19 goals per game, second-fewest in the league.