SAULT STE. MARIE, Michigan — Bowling Green responded with an impressive third period Saturday.
The Falcons scored three times during the final 20 minutes to pull away from a 2-2 tie and post a 5-2 victory over Lake Superior.
The victory enabled BG to earn a split of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series after Lake Superior recorded a 4-2 win Friday.
BG had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 during the first two periods, thanks to two goals from Mitch McLain, but Lake Superior tied the game each time. The last tie came on Gage Torrel’s goal with 7:37 remaining in the second period.
The Falcons then played well in the period, scoring three times. Lukas Craggs snapped the tie with a short-handed goal at 5:44, while Kevin Dufour increased the lead to 4-2 at 11:56 and McLain’s hat-trick goal clinched the win with 23 seconds left.
“There were times we had to stick with it. There were times we weren’t great,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “We turned the puck over too much in the first period. We were engaged physically. Guys were into it on the bench mentally.
“We had more guys going overall last night that tonight. Tonight in the third period, we had everybody going when it needed it the most. That’s a positive sign.”
BG finished well Saturday after allowing four goals in the third period Friday. The Falcons played well and held a 1-0 lead after two periods, but weren’t sharp defensively in the third period and scored on just two of 37 shots in the game.
The Falcons built a 31-30 edge in shots on goal Saturday, including a 15-9 margin in the third period.
“We learned from last night a little bit,” McLain said. “We really wanted to get the three points, and we beared down and did whatever it took. It was nice to come out with those results.”
PK: Craggs’ short-handed goal was part of a quality night of penalty-killing for the Falcons, who didn’t allow a power-play goal in five attempts. The Lakers had two shots in 6:03 with the extra man, both shots coming on their first attempt.
Three of the kills came in the third period. The first two came with the scored tied, and third came in the final minute to give the Lakers a 6-on-4 advantage after they pulled goalie Gordon Defiel for the extra skater.
Ironically, Craggs scored 31 seconds into McLain’s penalty for goalie interference. McLain is one of BG’s best penalty-killers. John Schilling, who forced a turnover in the Laker zone and fed Craggs in front, set up the goal.
“We killed penalties the right way, and that gave us momentum,” McLain said. “We were patient in (our defensive) zone. They did a good job moving the puck around, but we were patient and didn’t run around a whole lot.
“We cleared pucks when he needed to and your best penalty-killer has to be your goalie. Mr. Bednard (BG’s Ryan) definitely was our best penalty-killer tonight.”
Schilling, a sophomore, and Craggs, a freshman, are regulars on BG’s penalty-killing it.
“That was huge and it’s nice to see (Schilling and Craggs involved),” Bergeron said. “They’re guys who can kill penalties for us. They’re guys we expect to make things like that happen. It was a huge play for us.”
The Falcon penalty-killers were 7 of 7 in the series and are 18 of 18 in the last four games. BG is 32 of 36 in the last eight games.
IN GOAL: Bednard stopped 28 shots. The freshman started a game for the second straight series. He was coming off an 11-save shutout Nov. 26 at home against Alaska-Anchorage.
“I had a pretty good game,” Bednard said. “The team played well in front of me and kept the shots outside and made it pretty easy.”
Bednard was tested a number of times, but the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder wasn’t under constant pressure. He’s stopped 39 of 41 shots in his last two games, improving his goals-against to 2.55 and save percentage to .880.
“Ryan was good,” Bergeron said. “There’s a calmness to Ryan. He’s such a big guy, but his personality is he’s such a calm kid. The confidence he’s playing with, he’s earned. His game has really been strong as of late. Good for him. He got an advantage, and he took advantage of it.”
OFFENSE: The Falcons finally broke through against Defiel, who entered the series with a 1.16 goals-against and a .994 save percentage in six games against BG. The junior then made 35 saves in the series opener.
On Saturday, the Falcons had more traffic around the net to make the game harder for Defiel.
“We got bounces, too, which we earned.,” Bergeron said. “Tonight, we did a good job around their net. He’s a guy if he sees the puck he’s doing to stop it like most goalies that we face. Our focus today was that we need to make it difficult on him and keep him in his net, not only take his eyes away, make sure he stays in the blue paint, and we did that.”
POWER PLAY: The Falcon power play was 1 of 6, with McLain’s second goal coming with the man advantage. BG had 11 shots in 8:16 with the extra man.
“It’s a reward for three or four good games on the power play in terms of zone time and not really getting much to show for it,” Bergeron said of McLain’s goal. “That’s something we’ve earned over time.”
RARE: McLain’s hat trick was his second of the season, marking the first time since the 2011-12 a WCHA player scored hat tricks in the same season.
LEAGUE: The victory kept BG within two points of Michigan Tech for second place in the WCHA. Bemidji State leads the league with 38 points, followed by Tech with 27, BG with 23 and Minnesota State with 20.
The Falcons host Tech this weekend. Tech earned a split of its home series with Bemidji, posting a 2-1 win Saturday.
Bemidji and Tech each have played 14 games in the league, two more than BG and Minnesota State.
Three of the Falcons’ next four WCHA series are against Tech and Bemidji and at home, and at Minnesota State. The other is at Alaska (Fairbanks).