SAULT STE. MARIE, Michigan — Bowling Green was unable to finish what could have been a winning effort Friday night.
The Falcons played well during the first two periods, but Lake Superior scored three straight goals in the third period and eventually held on for a 4-2 win in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game.
Lake Superior capitalized on three defensive-zone breakdowns by the Falcons in the first 16 minutes of the third period to erase a 1-0 deficit. The Falcons had taken the lead on Sean Walker’s goal with just 1:07 remaining in the first period.
The Lakers clinched the victory on Diego Cuglietta’s empty-net goal with only 46 seconds remaining, the goal coming just 90 seconds after Frederic Letourneau scored to bring the Falcons with 3-2.
The first three Laker goals were the result of defensive-zone breakdowns by BG, which held a 37-26 edge in shots on goal.
“We were loose in our end, and they capitalized when we were loose,” BG forward Mitch McLain said. “When we had chances, we didn’t capitalize.”
The loss snapped a six-game unbeaten streak in league play for the Falcons, who were 5-0-1 in that span. BG fell to 7-8-2 overall and 6-4-1-1 in the WCHA. Lake Superior improved to 8-7, 5-6.
“We played a good game through two periods for sure, and, at times, during the third period, we were good,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
OFFENSE: The Falcons had 37 shots, but solved Laker goalie Gordon Defiel only once. Lake Superior usually defends well, making it hard for opponents to find room around the net. The Lakers are allowing just 28.9 shots per game.
“I’ll take 37 shots against that team,” Bergeron said. “But it has to be more than two goals. It just does.”
The Falcons had scored three or more goals in six straight games and eight of their last nine contests.
Even though the Falcons had 37 shots, a good number of those shots came from the outside. Walker, a defenseman, led BG with nine shots and fellow blueliner Mark Friedman added five and forward Tyler Spezia had four.
“I’d like to see a little more chaos around their net,” Bergeron said.
In seven games against BG, Defiel is 3-1-3 with a 1.28 goals-against average and a .961 save percentage. The 6-foot, 193-pound junior from Stillwater. Minnesota had 12 saves in the first period, 10 saves in the second period and 13 in the third period.
Defiel has a 2.45 goals-against and a .915 save percentage in 14 games this season, including 13 starts.
JUST ONE: The Falcons had ample chances to increase their lead to 2-0, but never did so.
“When you’re playing good teams, it comes back to haunt you, and it did again tonight,” Bergeron said.
BG also was 0-of-3 on the power play, including back-to-back chances just past the midway point of the second period. The Falcons’ other power play came with Lake Superior holding a 2-1 lead in the third period. BG’s power play had three shots.
“We had zone time, and we had decent looks, but we weren’t able to get the result on the power play,” Bergeron said.
NOT AGAIN: The Falcons failed to win a Friday game for the fourth time when they held a lead in the third period. They’ve lost to Lake Superior and Ohio State, and tied at Western Michigan and Alaska-Anchorage.
PK: The Falcon penalty-killing was 2-of-2 against Lake Superior and is 14-of-14 in the last three games. BG also is 21-of-24 in the last seven games.
IN GOAL: Chris Nell made 22 saves in goal for the Falcons, including 11 in the first period.
“He has fine. By no means was (the loss) his fault,” Bergeron said.
HE’S BACK: BG’s Alec Rauhauser returned to the lineup after suffering an upper-body injury during the first period Nov. 25 against Alaska-Anchorage. The freshman defenseman didn’t return in that game and then sat out the series finale.
Rauhauser, who had been one of BG’s best players, assisted on Walker’s goal with a nice back-hand pass across the blueline.
CAREER HIGH: Walker’s goal was his sixth of the season and a career high, bettering the five he had in each of the last two seasons. BG’s senior captain has six goals and five assists this season.
ANOTHER CHANCE: BG forward Casey Linkenheld was in the lineup for the second straight game. The freshman played well in his debut in the series finale against UAA and scored his first goal in the game.
SPLIT?: The Falcons can earn a split of the series with a Saturday night. BG was 7-1-1 overall in its last nine games going into the Lake Superior series.
“We’ve been on a pretty good roll lately,” McLain said. “We can’t let this spiral us back to the way we started the year. We executed the game plan for the most part for the first two periods. We just have to come out and do it for all three periods tomorrow night, and have a good push and come out with a good attitude.”
QUICK: The game had just seven penalties, all minors. Lake Superior had four of the penalties. The teams played a fast-paced, physical game that took just two hours and 13 minutes to complete.
LINEUP: The Falcons used 11 forwards and six defensemen Friday.
Forwards Joe McKeown and Matt Meier were healthy scratches for BG, while forward Shane Bednard was sick and didn’t make the trip. Ryan Bednard is the other goalie on the trip for the Falcons.
WCHA rules limit teams to a 22-player roster for road trips.
WCHA: The Falcons remained seven points behind second-place Michigan Tech in the WCHA. Bemidji State leads the league with 38 points, while Tech is second with 27, followed by BG with 20 and Minnesota State with 19.
Bemidjj was a 3-1 winner at Tech Friday, and Minnesota State posted a 7-4 win at home over Alaska (Fairbanks) both series conclude tonight. The Falcons host Tech next weekend.
SUCCESSFUL MONTH: The Falcons’ .812 winning percentage in November tied for the third-best nationally behind Penn State (1.000, 6-0) and Minnesota-Duluth (.833, 5-1). BG and Tech both were 6-1-1.