Bowling Green had to come from behind to win a game it was in full control of Saturday night in the Slater Family Ice Arena.
The Falcons scored three power-play goals in the final three minutes to earn a wild and thrilling 5-3 win over Ferris State.
The victory gave the Falcons a sweep of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association best-of-3 quarterfinal series following Friday’s 6-1 win.
The Falcons, who finished fourth in the WCHA, will visit top-seeded Bemidji State (21-13-3) or third-seeded Minnesota State (21-11-4) in a best-of-3 semifinal series next weekend.
BG, which has won five straight games, improved to 19-17-2 overall. Ferris finished 13-19-5 after being fifth in the league during the regular-season, two points behind the Falcons.
The Falcons’ Kevin Dufour tied the game 3-3 with 2:48 remaining, and Alec Rauhauser gave the Falcons the lead only 36 seconds later. Tyler Spezia added an empty-net goal for a 5-3 lead with 33.2 seconds left.
Ferris had scored three straight goals to erase a 2-0 deficit, including Trevor Recktenwald’s go-ahead goal with 7:36 left. The Bulldogs tied the game on goals by Mitch Maloney at 11:48 of the second period and Jason Tackett, just 64 seconds before Recktenwald scored.
“Crazy emotions,” Rauhauser said of the last nine minutes when five goals were scored. “We knew we weren’t going to be done. We just had to keep fighting. We were feeling a little down, but we kept pushing each other to keep going and good things happened.”
Recktenwald also was called for cross-checking with 2:04 left. The Bulldogs later pulled goalie Darren Smith for the extra attacker to get back to 5-on-5, but Spezia’s goal clinched the victory.
“Once we got on top, we just knew (Ferris wasn’t) going to give up,” Rauhauser said. “They’re a good team. They have a lot of seniors who didn’t want to give up on their seasons and careers. We just knew we had to stay poised and finish out the game. We knew they were going to come hard.”
BG rallied after Ferris’ Gerald Mayhew received a five-minute major and game-misconduct penalties for checking from behind with 6:40 remaining.
Dufour scored on a rebound from the top side of the crease, and Rauhauser scored from inside the left circle. The two power-play goals scored during the penalty to Mayhew came after BG generated few shots during the first 3½ minutes of the advantage, despite the Falcons having significant time in the offensive zone.
“The last minute and a half was pretty darn good,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said of the power play, which finished 4 of 8. “I liked the results, and I liked that, when needed, we took advantage of some opportunities and made some big-time plays.”
“The power play was the big turning point,” said Rauhauser, a freshman defenseman who plays the point on the power play. “We were just taking what the game gave us, just trying to get shots through to Mitch (McLain) because he’s pretty good in front of the net.”
BUILDING THE LEAD: The Falcons played well to earn their 2-0 lead.
The goals came from Joe McKeown at 3:39 of the first period and Mercier at 1:32 of the second period. BG held the lead going into third period, with the help of quality goaltending from Chis Nell.
The Bulldogs carried the play during the second period, but Nell limited them to just the one goal.
Ferris finished the game with a 30-29 edge in shots on goal. Saturday’s game was much more even than Friday when the Falcons dominated the first 40 minutes.
Nell finished Game 2 with 27 saves, including 10 in the first period and nine in the second period. He had four point-blank stops during the final six minutes of the first period, one coming on a breakaway.
REVIEW: Recktenwald’s goal that gave Ferris a 3-2 lead was allowed to stand after a video review of approximately seven minutes to determine if he tipped the puck in with a high stick.
The lengthy review neutralized Ferris’ momentum after the Bulldogs had scored twice in 64 seconds.
“The delay kind of helped because it slowed things down,” Rauhauser said.
“That stopped their momentum, and then we got a call (Mayhew’s penalty) to go in our direction, and we took advantage of it.,” Bergeron said. “The guys were doing a pretty good job of saying there’s plenty of time left. This wasn’t like we were under a minute left. We had 7½ minutes to go. I really thought our guys kept their focus.”
Dufour then tied the game only 4:48 after Ferris took the lead.
“It’s hard not to lose focus, knowing the momentum is all on our opponents side and not let your thoughts go to, ‘Oh man, we’ve got to play tomorrow,’” Bergeron said. “They’re young guys, You wouldn’t blame them for thinking in those terms. There was plenty of hockey to play, and our guys showed that.”
Mercier assisted on the goals by Dufour and Rauhauser, while McLain assisted on the Dufour goal and Sean Walker assisted on the Rauhauser goal. Matt Pohlkamp and Mark Friedman assisted on Spezia’s goal.
Mercier, Dufour, Pohlkamp and Walker are seniors, and McLain, Spezia and Friedman are juniors.
“You rely on your older guys to keep playing,” Bergeron said. “Whatever’s supposed to happen is going to happen. It was nice to see some guys make plays down the stretch.”
LOSING CONTROL: Although Ferris played well, the Falcons helped the Bulldogs rally. A BG turnover led to Ferris’ first goal, and the Falcons took three straight penalties in the first 11 minutes of the third period.
Ferris didn’t have a power-play attempt until the third period and finished the game 1 of 3 with the extra man. BG had all four of the game’s power plays during the first two periods.
“We were just holding on, and I really didn’t understand why,” Bergeron said. “We knew what to expect. (Ferris) was a team that was real proud. They’re down to their last period, down a goal. We took a couple of suspect penalties.”
Bergeron called Spezia’s high-sticking penalty “undisciplined” and Rauhauser’s hooking penalty “borderline.”
“You’re handing somebody who is more than capable, opportunities in a game we have in control,” Bergeron said. “Then all of a sudden you lose momentum. And, then, we’re down a goal.”
SUSPENDED: The Falcons played the game without Stephen Baylis. The sophomore forward was sitting out an automatic one-game NCAA suspension after he received his third game-misconduct penalty of the season during Friday’s game. Baylis is one of BG’s best forwards.
FINALLY: McKeown’s goal was his first of the season in 18 games and the third in 28 career games for the sophomore forward.
His first Falcon points, one goal and one assist, came Jan. 21 last season at home against Alaska-Anchorage. His other goal last season came Feb. 20 at Alaska (Fairbanks).
KEY LOSS: The game-misconduct penalty to Mayhew was especially painful for Ferris because he’s one of the team’s best penalty-killers and one of the leading candidates for WCHA player of the year.
The senior forward finished the season with 17 goals and 18 assists. His 35 points are second-most in the league.
BALANCED SCORING: Matt Pohlkamp finished the series with two goals and four assists, while Mercier and Walker both had a goal and three assists, and Spezia had a goal and two assists.
Thirteen Falcons had at least one point in the series, including nine different goal-scorers.
CONSISTENCY: The Falcons have won seven straight first-round playoff series —four in the WCHA and three in the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association series.