DETROIT - Bowling Green State University's improbable magic carpet ride through the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs is over.
Sean Patchell, Ryan Miller and their Michigan State University teammates pulled the rug from underneath the Falcons last night in the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena.
Left wing Patchell scored twice and goaltender Miller stopped all but one Falcons' shot in a 2-1 Spartans' victory.
MSU, the No. 1 team in the nation, will meet Michigan in the CCHA championship game tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
“They took us to the wall, there's no question about it,” MSU coach Ron Mason said.
The Falcons went to the wall just to make it to the CCHA final four.
Bowling Green earned the right to play Michigan State by sweeping Miami last week in Oxford and then winning the league play-in game Tuesday at Northern Michigan. The Falcons, who finished regular-season play in ninth place and qualified for the playoffs by winning three of their past four, were the lowest seed to advance to the final four in the 30-year history of the tournament.
“Our guys, even though they had a lot of things go against them in these games, they never gave up, they never hung their heads and quit on the season,” BGSU coach Buddy Powers said. “I truly believe their resiliency was one of the things that kept us alive that last week so we could make some things happen for ourselves.
“They hung around and hung around and it finally happened for us.”
After winning all three post-season games by one goal, it looked as though it might happen again versus MSU.
The Falcons grabbed a 1-0 lead at 16:36 of the opening period when defenseman Kevin Bieksa slapped home a Spartan turnover from the slot.
But the lead lasted less than three minutes. Patchell one-timed a John-Michael Liles shot that bounced wide off the boards past BG goalie Tyler Masters.
It remained tied until Patchell scored again at 15:56 of the second, kicking a feed from Troy Ferguson from his skate to his stick. He then popped a shot over Masters' right shoulder for the game winner.
Not that BG didn't have its chances. Masters was masterful in the second period, keeping it close with 17 saves and several more in the early part of the third.
He wasn't the only hot goalie, though.
“I think you saw in the last five minutes why Ryan Miller is probably the best goalie in the country,” Powers said.
Bowling Green peppered the First Team CCHA player with 16 shots in the final 20 minutes. Miller stopped them all including quality last minute chances by Ryan Murphy and Greg Day.
“It was a good experience,” Masters said. “Bowling Green's got a strong history and we're looking to bring that back to the organization. It's a great step, yeah, but it's still disappointing because we're not happy just being at the Joe. A week down the road, or two weeks down the road, we'll realize we made a good run in the playoffs.”
The Falcons finish the season 16-20-5 overall, 8-16-5 in league play.
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