BIG RAPIDS, Michigan — Bowling Green struggled to score during regulation Friday night, even though it had plenty of quality chances.
One harmless backhand shot then turned the Falcons into overtime winners.
Mark Friedman’s desperation spinaround shot from the slot bounced in off the skate of Ferris State’s Gerald Mayhew to give the Falcons a 3-2 victory in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game.
Friedman’s goal, 34 seconds into overtime, capped a come-from-behind win for the Falcons. They forced the extra period on Kevin Dufour’s power-play goal with 9:43 left in regulation.
“For sure, a nice win,” said Friedman, a junior defenseman, who scored his seventh goal of the season. The seven goals are a career high for Friedman, who had six goals last season. He also has 13 assists this season.
The puck slid over the goal line into the left side of the net as goalie Justin Kappelmaster had no chance to make the save.
“I just turned around and shot, a greasy goal,” Friedman said. “I didn’t see it go in. I turned around and the saw red light go on. I didn’t see any of our guys in front, so I assumed it was me.”
OVERALL: Friedman’s goal capped a gritty performance by the Falcons on a night that saw both teams experience ups and downs. The game was fast-paced and physical, and the teams swapped scoring chances.
BG held a 35-23 edge in shots on goal, but Friedman’s goal gave the Falcons their only lead of the game.
Tyler Spezia had BG’s other goal, and Chris Nell made 21 saves. The Falcons hurt themselves with turnovers and by having to kill six penalties, including four penalties in the second period
“That was a good road win,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “We stuck with it.”
The Falcons played well most of the second period, but still finished the period with a 2-1 deficit.
Spezia tied the game from the right circle, but Ferris regained the lead on Mayhew’s goal from the right side of the crease at 15:47.
“That was disappointing,” Bergeron said of trailing after two periods, even though BG held the advantage in play during the middle period Ferris opened the scoring on Tyler Andrew’s goal at 7:02 of the first period.
WCHA: The victory kept the Falcons in third place in the WCHA, one point ahead of Minnesota State. BG also moved nine points ahead of fifth-place Lake Superior.
The top four teams in the league host first-round playoff series. MSU posted a 4-2 win at home over Lake Superior. The Mavericks and Lake Superior both have two games in hand on BG. Both series conclude Saturday.
The Falcons are 14-14-2 overall and 12-10-1-1 in the WCHA. Ferris is 8-16-4, 7-11-3-2. The Bulldogs are seventh in the league, two points behind Lake Superior and one point behind sixth-place Alaska (Fairbanks).
DEFENSE: The Falcons defended well overall, allowing just the two goals and the 23 shots on goal. Ten of Ferris’ shots came from its top line of Mayhew, Corey Mackin and Jared VanVormer.
“We did a nice job of handling their speed,” Friedman said of Ferris. “They had some chances, but all in all, it was a pretty good game tonight.”
DEFENSE II: Friedman and senior defenseman Sean Walker seemingly never left the ice, especially during the third period. Their ice time was increased with the absence of Connor McDonald, who didn’t play because of an upper-body injury.
Friedman and Walker also skate on the power-play and penalty-killing units, and often are matched the other team’s best players. Friedman had seven shots in the game, while Walker had four and assisted on Dufour’s goal.
“The amount of minutes those kids eat, and the hard minutes they play, those are two pretty good pieces for us, for sure,” Bergeron said. “Tonight was another good example of that.”
McDonald is on the trip, but no decision has been made if he’ll play Saturday.
“We brought him here with the potential he could play Saturday,” Bergeron said. “But the way he felt today (Friday) … does 24 hours make it better? I don’t know. We’ll have to see.”
Joining Friedman and Walker on defense were Chris Pohlkamp, Jacob Dalton, Alec Rauhauser and Niko Coffman.
DEBUT: Coffman made his BG debut Friday. The freshman from Chelsea, Michigan was in the lineup because of the injuries to McDonald and sophomore defenseman Adam Smith. Coffman had one shot and was on the ice for Spezia’s goal.
“He did fine,” Bergeron said. “He was excited to play. I’m happy for him.”
DOUBLE DIGITS: Dufour’s goal was his 10th of the season, second-most of the team. The senior left wing has a goal in three of the last five games, totaling four goals and one assist in the span. Dufour also had five shots.
PENALTY-KILL: The BG penalty-killing unit had another excellent game, holding Ferris on all six of its attempts.
The Falcons killed off a 5 on 3 for 1:30 late in the second period and early in the third period with Ferris holding a 2-1 lead. BG also held Ferris scoreless on a power play with less than four minutes remaining in regulation.
“Our kill was good,” Bergeron said. “We looked in control. They weren’t generating many chances. Our guys did a nice job, for the most part, of being where they were supposed to be and doing what they were supposed to. The results were great. For the most part, our process was pretty good.”
The Falcon penalty-killing is 57 of 62 during the last eight games, including 15 of 15 in the last three games.
“We were all on the same page,” Friedman said. “We’re getting better game by game.”
POWER PLAY: The Falcon power play didn’t generate many chances in its 1-of-5 effort, but did tie the game on Dufour’s goal during a major penalty for checking from behind to Ferris’ Craig Pelfrey. He also received a game misconduct.
“I didn’t love the power play tonight,” Bergeron said. “I don’t know why we don’t want to shoot the puck from the top. Once we started to do that, it created more chaos in front of their net. I just would like to see us create more chaos on the power play in front of the other nets and that starts with shooting. I didn’t think we did enough of that.”
The Falcons have scored a power-play goal in seven of their last eight games.
SPEZIA: The Falcons lost Spezia, one of their best players, for about seven minutes late in the third period.
The junior center injured his left leg during a scramble in front of the net. He had to be helped off the ice by trainer Dan Fischer, but later returned to the game.
THE VIEW FROM FERRIS: The Bulldogs played a strong first period, but never led by more than one goal during the game. Kappelmaster made 32 saves for Ferris. The freshman is third nationally with a .939 save percentage and 16th with a 2.15 goals-against average.
“Overall, the guys did what they had to do to get points, and it just didn’t happen,” Ferris assistant coach Mark Kaufman said. “The effort was there. The determination was there. We just have to capitalize on some chances.”
Bulldog head coach Bob Daniels was not at the game because of a family emergency. Kaufman and assistant coach Drew Famulak coached the team.
BOUNCES: In addition to Friedman’s goal, the Falcons received a favorable bounce on Dufour’s goal. Walker’s shot from the point deflected off a Ferris player and went right to Dufour, who scored from the right side of the crease.
The Falcons have scored just seven goals in their last three games, even though they’ve had 96 shots and a many quality chances.
“The second and third goals just found their way in the net,” Bergeron said. “We don’t put a crazy amount of goals up. For two pucks to find their way in, we’ll take it.”
OT: The Falcons’ last three victories have come in overtime where they are 3-1-2 this season.
SWEEP?: BG last swept a series Nov. 18-19 at Alabama-Huntsville, although it won and tied (earning five points) against Alaska-Anchorage Nov. 25-26.
The Falcons’ last six series have resulted in splits against Lake Superior, Alaska (twice), 20th-ranked Bemidji State and Minnesota State, and two losses to Michigan Tech.
WINNING: After a three-game losing streak in early December, the Falcons are 6-3 in their last nine games overall, including a 5-3 record in league play.