Chris Nell was perfect again Saturday night in the Slater Family Ice Arena.
The Bowling Green junior stopped 38 shots to lead the Falcons to a 2-0 victory over Alabama-Huntsville in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
The shutout win was the third straight for the Falcons, 17-17-2 overall and 14-13-1-1 in the WCHA. BG finished fourth in the league and hosts fifth-place Ferris State (13-17-5, 12-12-4-2) in a best-of-3 quarterfinal series next weekend.
Nell extended his scoreless streak to 207:31, shattering the school record of 154:43 set by Brian Stankiewicz during the 1977-78 season. Nell’s streak was 147:31 going into the game, and he broke the record during the first period.
The last goal allowed by Nell came Feb. 4 at home against Northern Michigan, which scored a 5-on-5 goal at 11:18 of the second period.
Nell also holds BG’s career record for goals-against average (2.08), save percentage (.922) and shutouts (11).
“There’s been a lot of good goalies who have come through this program. Just to see my name up there is very humbling,” Nell said. “Again, I couldn’t do it without the teams I’ve had in front of me.
Nell’s shutout was his fourth of the season, tying the BG record he set last season. All four shutouts have come in his last 11 games since he returned from the Christmas break.
The 6-foot-3, 184-pounder stopped 71 shots against UAH, including 33 in Friday’s 7-0 win. He also made 22 saves in a 3-0 win over visiting Mercyhurst Feb. 11.
“I like how I’m tracking the puck right now,” said Nell, who has a 1.49 goals-against and a .946 save percentage in 11 games during the second half. “I’m doing a good job of making sure I see pucks. I’m not getting myself in bad spots and not having to scramble as much as I was at the start of the year. I’ve simplified my game a lot, and that’s the main reason I like where my game is at right now.”
Nell has a 2.19 goals-against and a .922 save percentage in 29 games this season. He’s started 28 of BG’s 36 games.
NELL AGAINST UAH: Nell’s shutout of UAH was his fourth in nine games against the Chargers. He has a 1.66 goals-against and a .936 save percentage against UAH, allowing two or fewer goals in six of those nine games.
PK: Nell and the Falcons held UAH scoreless on all 12 of its power-play attempts in Saturday’s game. The Chargers had just 12 shots in 14:35 with the extra man, nine of the shots coming in the third period.
Nell made four rapid-fire saves from close in during one span in the third period.
“Ultimately, we found a way, and a huge part of that was Chris Nell, a couple of saves and a couple of bounces,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said of the penalty-killing.
The Falcons frequently made it hard for UAH to enter the offensive zone, and they blocked shots and cleared the puck when needed. BG also killed off two 5 on 3s, one of 24 seconds and one of 40 seconds.
“Everyone was doing their jobs,” BG defenseman Sean Walker said of the penalty-killing.
Nell played well from start to finish and made a breakaway save early in the second period to protect BG’s 2-0 lead. The Falcons received first-period goals from Tyler Spezia at 8:49 and Walker at 13:25.
PENALTIES: Twenty penalties, all minors, were called in the game. The Falcons had 12 of the penalties. The BG power play was 0 of 5.
“It’s difficult to wrap my arms around that. That’s what it was,” Bergeron said of UAH’s 12-5 advantage in power-play attempts.
“I don’t like to blame it on anything other than us,” Bergeron said when asked if BG’s penalties were the result of poor decisions by the players or poor decisions by the referees. “You guys watched the game like us. That was one team with seven more (power plays) than the other. You can decide on that. There’s a handful that come to mind that were just poor, poor decisions on our part.”
The Falcons had 11 shots in 7:13 on the power play. The teams combined for 21:48 of power-play time in the 60-minute game. There also was a significant amount of 4-on-4 play.
“It’s frustrating,” Walker said. “We know the refs were just trying to keep it under control. It slows the momentum a little bit, takes away from the game. We took too many penalties, and that took away from our momentum.”
The penalties also prevented BG from using all four of its forward lines and limited the ice time of some of its players who don’t kill penalties.
MORE PK: The Falcon penalty-killing was 18 of 18 in the series and is 90 of 99 in the last 21 games, including a 48-of-50 effort in the last nine games.
BG is at 83.1 percent overall this season, including 87.5 percent in league-games only.
START: The Falcons took their 2-0 lead in the first period, even though UAH had six power plays in the period. BG held a 14-11 edge in shots during the opening 20 minutes.
“I actually liked the first period,” Bergeron said.
ELIMINATED: UAH (9-22-3, 9-16-3-0) finished next-to-last in the 10-team league and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. The Chargers had 30 points, four behind NMU for the eighth and final playoff spot.
PP: The BG power play was 4 of 13 in the series.
SHUTOUTS: The losing team in BG’s last six games has been shut out.
PLAYOFF TICKETS: Tickets for the BG-Ferris series are on sale. Faceoff for each game is 7:07 p.m.
The cost of the tickets is the same as the regular season. Advance tickets are $15 for bench reserved and $13 for general admission. Tickets are $2 more on game day. Student tickets are $5.
Tickets are available online at www.bgsufalcons.com/buytickets, by phone at (419) 372-0000 during regular business hours or in person at the Stroh Center.
First-round tickets are included in season-ticket packages, and can be found in the complete package.