Bowling Green couldn’t solve Atte Tolvanen for the second straight game.
The sophomore stopped 40 shots to lead Northern Michigan to a 2-0 victory Saturday and a sweep of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series in the Slater Family Ice Arena.
Tolvanen was outstanding, recording 11 saves in the first period, 16 in the second period and 13 in the third period. The 6-foot, 188-pounder also helped the Wildcats hold the BG power play scoreless on five attempts.
Tolvanen made 35 saves Friday in NMU’s 3-0 victory.
BG hasn’t scored a goal in three straight games for the first time in program history.
The Falcons have lost three straight games and five of their last seven to fall to 14-17-2 overall and 12-13-1-1 in the WCHA.
NMU improved to 9-17-4, 7-12-3-1, even though it had just 20 shots on goal.
“We had plenty of chances, plenty to give us an opportunity to score, to give us an opportunity to tie a game, win the game,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
Tolvanen made two saves against Kevin Dufour on a breakaway during the closing seconds of a scoreless first period. He also made a sprawling glove save on Brett D’Andrea from the right circle during a BG power play almost midway through the final period with NMU holding a 1-0 lead. The save on D’Andrea came on a back-door play.
The line of Tyler Spezia, Mitch McLain and Lukas Craggs combined for 14 of BG’s shots, including a team-high six by Spezia. Craggs and McLain each had four, as did forwards Dufour and D’Andrea.
The Falcon power play also had 11 shots in 7:01 with the extra man.
“The chances were there with our shots,” Craggs said. “We just need more people in front of the goalie to take his eyes away. We did a good job of getting shots to him. We just didn’t capitalize on them.”
Although the Falcons had more quality scoring chances than they had Friday, they still didn’t create enough traffic in front of Tolvanen. The Wildcats also didn’t allow many second and third shots at their goalie for the second straight night.
“The emphasis was on making it more difficult on the goalie which I, ultimately, don’t think we did,” Bergeron said. “We had more chances. We had more good chances tonight, but I don’t think we made his life as difficult as I would have liked.”
The Falcons have scored seven goals in their last six games, including two or fewer goals in five of those contests.
“We’re battling through it,” Craggs said. “It all starts in practice. We just have to bear down and, eventually, we’ll get one, and there will be many more to come. We have to go to the dirty areas and get a goal somehow. Once we get one, they’ll start coming.”
WCHA: BG will try to hold off Alaska (Fairbanks), Ferris State and Lake Superior for the fourth and final home-ice berth in the first round of the WCHA playoffs during the final three weekends of the regular season.
BG is fourth with 38 points, followed by Alaska with 30, and Ferris and Lake Superior with 29. But BG has just two league games remaining, four fewer than each of those teams.
Alaska wasted an opportunity Saturday to move within five points of BG, dropping a 4-1 decision at home to Alabama-Huntsville.
The Falcons finish league play Feb. 24-25 when they host UAH.
NMU, which is 5-0-2 in its last seven games with four straight wins, moved within two points of UAH for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Wildcats have two games in hand on UAH.
THE FINNISH WALL: Tolvanen stopped 75 shots to run his scoreless streak to 215:49 in three-plus games. The Finland native has stopped 177 of 180 shots in his last six games for a .983 save percentage.
Tolvanen, the goalie on the All-WCHA rookie team last season, has a 2.58 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in 26 games. He’s started 26 of NMU’s 30 games and played 86.8 percent of the team’s minutes.
The shutout was the third straight for Tolvanen, who had 34 saves in a 4-0 win at home over UAA Jan. 21. He allowed just one goal in each of his last three games before that.
TOO MANY MEN: BG was penalized for too many men on the ice with 1:26 left when it tried to pull goalie Chris Nell for the extra attacker while play was going on.
Bergeron took the blame for the penalty, saying he should have pulled Nell during the final media timeout with 2:35 remaining.
“I just felt like that was a little too much time,” Bergeron said. “We were creating enough chances 5-on-5 than to panic at that point. We should have pulled the goalie at that point and been organized, instead of trying to do it on the fly. I take full responsibility for that.”
Bergeron added assistant coach Barry Schutte told him to pull Nell, but he decided to wait. The Falcons weren’t able to get Nell off until 52.5 seconds remained.
SCORING: NMU’s goals came from Brock Maschmeyer at 11:18 of the first period and Dominik Shine into an empty with half a second remaining. Shine’s goal was a power-play goal, the result of BG being penalized for too many men.
Maschmeyer, a defenseman, scored a back-door goal from the left side of the slot. He tipped in Philip Beaulieu’s diagonal pass from the right point.
The Falcons had players in position to stop Maschmeyer, but failed to make the play.
“The goal they scored was a complete microcosm of our season,” Bergeron said of the goal by Maschmeyer. “We don’t even give Chris Nell a chance. We’ve got guys standing besides their guy.”
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Falcons were 0 of 8 on the power play in the series, while NMU was 2 of 7. The Wildcats were 1 of 4 Saturday.
GOALTENDING: Nell stopped 38 of 41 shots in the series to raise his goals-against to 2.45 and save percentage to .899. Empty-net goals aren’t included in a goalie’s goals-against.
NEXT: The Falcons host Mercyhurst in a non-league game next Saturday at 5:07 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the SFIA. BG is then off Feb. 17-18 before finishing the regular season against UAH.
“It’s going to make it hurt more because I’d like to get back playing,” Bergeron said when asked if liked playing a non-league game next weekend. “This team needs a rest. It needs a rest mentally and physically from each other.
“It’s been a very difficult season,” Bergeron added. “When you’re elbows deep in it, it’s hard to put a thumb on why, but there’s things that come to mind, and they start in late August, and it’s been a month of October and the month of November being totally opposites, and since then it’s been indifferent, so they need a rest.”
Mercyhurst is 11-14-4 overall and 10-10-4 in Atlantic Hockey.
“At this point, preparation matters, no doubt, but our preparation has been very similar to our games, one day good, the next day not so good,” Bergeron said.