The Falcons took a big step toward proving it, claiming a 4-2 win over No. 5 Notre Dame in front of 2,692 fans Tuesday night at the BG Ice Arena.
Bowling Green scored twice in each of the final two periods to claim the win, improving to 7-10-5 overall and 4-7-3-1 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The Falcons’ victory over the CCHA’s first-place team extended their unbeaten streak to five straight games.
“Our guys are deciding that it wasn’t good enough [just to play well] — we worked too hard not to get good results,” said BG coach Chris Bergeron, whose team had just three wins in its first 14 games. “We needed to expect more in practice and demand results in games.
“We know internally we are a better team than our record indicates. But until the results say so, people will question that.”
Notre Dame, which suffered its third loss in four games, is 15-7 overall and 11-3 in the CCHA.
The first period was choppy because of penalties, including a five-minute major for checking from behind on BG’s Connor Kucera. The only goal came from Notre Dame’s Bryan Rust, who converted on an odd-man rush for his sixth goal of the season at 16 minutes, 44 seconds.
But the Fighting Irish did not score on two power plays that period and were just 1 for 4 with the extra man for the game.
“Their power play was what killed us the first time we played, because of the two power-play goals they got,” Bergeron said. “But I thought our [penalty kill] did a good job.
“Our forwards didn’t skate themselves out of position, and our defense did a good job of containing at the tops of the circles and making it hard on them.”
Bowling Green controlled play for much of the second period but did not tie it until the 13:03 mark when Ryan Carpenter found Ryan Peltoma wide open at the left point, and Peltoma’s one-timer got past Notre Dame goalie Mike Johnson.
“We wanted to come out in the second period and get to our game plan — and push the pace a little bit,” said the senior, whose goal was his first this season and just the fourth of his career. “It took a little bit, but about halfway through the period, we started to get things rolling.”
It took BG just 1:20 to take the lead thanks to a gritty play by freshman Ben Murphy, who collected a loose puck in the corner and, despite being pushed to his knees, found Dan DeSalvo wide open in front of the Irish net for an easy goal, DeSalvo’s second this season.
“To see him make a play like that out of effort makes me really, really happy for Ben,” Bergeron said. “He is a guy who will contribute offensively, and plays like that show promise.”
Notre Dame came out hard to start the third period, but neither team scored until Carpenter crashed the net and poked a rebound past Johnson to make it 3-1 with 7:41 left.
“They were coming after us, but we tried to not take our foot off the gas,” Carpenter said. “We got the puck on [net], and the rebound came to me — so I just threw it on net, and it trickled in.”
Notre Dame made it a one-goal game on T.J. Tynan’s power-play goal with 2:59 to play off BG goalie Andrew Hammond, who faced several spectacular shots among his 20 saves. Bryce Williamson got that goal back just 35 seconds later to seal the win.
“There wasn’t any panic on the bench [after Tynan’s goal],” Bergeron said. “There were guys on the bench saying, ‘We are fine.’
“And we were. We were up 3-2 at home against a team like that — what more do you want?”
The win lifts Bowling Green out of the CCHA basement and into an eighth-place tie with Michigan State and Michigan, though the Falcons have played two fewer games than both.
“We’ve always expected to play at this level,” Carpenter said. “But it’s nice when the results are going your way."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.