The Bowling Green State University ice hockey team held off a furious attack in the third period by Northern Michigan University on Saturday night, helping the Falcons defeat the Wildcats by a score of 3-2 in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association battle. Playing in front of 1,746 fans at the Berry Events Center, the Falcons got goals from Ryan Carpenter, Ralfs Freibergs and Mike Sullivan, while sophomore goaltender Tommy Burke (10-6-6) turned away 37-of-39 shots in the winning effort.
The Orange and Brown jumped out to a 3-0 lead and held off an all-out Wildcat offensive attack with solid netminding from Burke to solidify their hold on fourth place in the tightly-bunched WCHA standings. The Falcons (14-14-6, 11-11-4) pushed their WCHA point total to 26 points – two behind third place Michigan Tech. The Wildcats (13-19-2, 11-14-1) dropped down to ninth place with 23 points after Bemidji State University defeated Alabama-Huntsville, 4-1, on Saturday evening.
Unlike last night, the Falcons came out aggressive offensively, outshooting the Wildcats 10-3 throughout the first 10:00 of the game. Forcing shots towards NMU's starting goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom at a rapid pace, Bowling Green capitalized at the 13:07 mark, coming off the stick of Freibergs at even-strength.
The Falcons won 13 faceoffs in the opening act, which eventually paid dividends for Bowling Green's first tally. Freshman Pierre-Luc Mercier won a draw in Bowling Green's offensive zone at the right circle and sent the puck back towards Freibergs at the point. The sophomore defenseman corralled the puck and quickly fired a slap shot past Dalhstrom for his third goal of the season, giving the Orange and Brown an early 1-0 lead.
Dominating the shot department halfway through the opening period, the Falcons withstood a frantic attack by the Wildcats to keep the game at 1-0. The 'Cats outshot the Falcons 13-7 over the final nine minutes of the opening frame, but Burke stopped all 16 shots fired his way.
Bowling Green turned defense into offense and doubled their lead at the 17:00 mark in the first, coming off the stick of Carpenter at even-strength.
On the offensive attack, freshman forward Kevin Dufour fired a wrist shot towards Dalhstrom. The puck hit off the chest of the netminder and bounced straight in the air. Carpenter acted quickly, redirecting the puck into the back of the net to hand the Falcons a 2-0 lead entering the middle frame.
The Orange and Brown carried the momentum with them to begin the second period, lighting the lamp at 1:33 into the middle frame on the power play. Working the puck around the blue line in the Wildcats' zone, freshman Sean Walker sent a pass towards Sullivan at the right point. The junior defenseman sent a one-timer past Dalhstrom's glove and just inside the right post for his second goal of the season.
The Falcon power-play goal marked the third-straight game the Orange and Brown have scored with the on-ice man advantage.
Northern Michigan, however, lit-the-lamp twice in a :15 second time span to cut the Falcon deficit to 3-2. The Wildcats got goals from John Siemer (3:21) and Erik Higby (3:36) both at even-strength to pull within one goal with just over 16 minutes remaining in the second.
The Falcons' 3-2 lead stood for the remainder of the period, as NMU outshot BGSU by a slim 8-6 margin in the period.
Trailing by one goal with one period remaining, the Wildcats attacked the Falcon defense every chance they had, outshooting the Orange and Brown in dominate fashion by a 15-3 margin.
However, the 'Cats hit a determined Falcon defense that swarmed to the puck in a gutsy effort to hold off a ferocious offensive attack by NMU. Bowling Green accounted for 19 blocked shots in the game, and Burke turned away all 15 shots thrown his way in the final frame to help propel the Falcons to their first win in over a month.
The Orange and Brown won the special teams category for the second consecutive night, going 1-for-2 with the on-ice man advantage. BGSU held the Wildcats scoreless on the power play, killing both NMU opportunities.
The Falcons will be right back in action next week, taking on Bemidji State University at the BGSU Ice Arena (March 7-8). The Orange and Brown will take on the Beavers in what will mark the only regular-season showdown between the two clubs, and will also mark the final home stand for the Falcons in the final weekend of the 2013-14 season.