BOWLING GREEN — It makes no sense to say that, even though the Bowling Green State University hockey team held a one-goal lead over Western Michigan on Friday night, things looked grim for the Falcons.
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Yet that lead certainly seemed shaky as BG suddenly found itself killing off back-to-back major penalties against the Broncos, the nation’s 10th-ranked team and the squad with the best power play in Central Collegiate Hockey Association action.
“Four months ago we may have panicked and had some self doubt [in that situation],” BG defenseman Mike Sullivan said. “But our confidence is at an all-time high.
“Our coaches were behind us on the bench, and our fans were incredible.”
Bowling Green held the Broncos off the scoreboard despite playing shorthanded for five minutes, including three minutes of 5-on-3 play, to preserve a 3-2 victory in front of 2,782 fans at the BGSU Ice Arena.
The Broncos took nine shots on goal during the long power play, but BG goalie Andrew Hammond only needed to make four saves as two shots were off target and Falcon defenders blocked three others.
“You’re just trying to do anything you can to keep the puck out of the net,” Hammond said. “The longer you go, the more momentum you build.
“Our guys ‘ate’ [blocked] a lot of shots, and they made it easy for me to see pucks. … And when pucks got through they were in lanes were I could see them. I didn’t think they had any ‘Grade A’ chances or rebounds because guys cleared them out.”
Midway through the period BG coach Chris Bergeron said he contemplated calling a timeout, but his players talked him out of it.
“We knew there was some panic in them,” Sullivan said. “We were calm. We were changing every 25 seconds, and we were fresh.
“And we didn’t want to ruin the momentum that we had.”
The victory over the Broncos adds to Bowling Green’s recent momentum, which includes four straight wins to improve to 8-10-5 overall and 5-7-3-1 in the CCHA.
Western Michigan fell to 13-6-4 and 9-4-2-1.
The Broncos scored the only goal of the opening period, and the Falcons bounced back with a pair in the second. Mark Cooper scored a power-play goal at 12:15 of that period and Ryan Carpenter netted his ninth goal of the year at 15:18.
“Given our recent results, that has raised our confidence and built our belief in ourselves,” Hammond said. “We knew we could respond from a period that wasn’t our best effort.
“In our first few games, if we had a bad period it would turn into two bad periods. Now we have the ability to bounce back no matter how it’s going.”
Western Michigan got a power-play goal from Kenny Morrison with 16 seconds left in the second period to tie the game.
“After that goal, everyone is going to get down on themselves,” Sullivan said. “But after we got to the room, we said, ‘Everybody, stay positive. We dominated that period. We’re fine.’ "
Bowling Green got the game-winner when Sullivan’s shot from the left point bounced off a WMU player’s skate to Dajon Mingo, who banged home his fifth goal of the year.
“That was a scrambly play,” Bergeron said. “You win a couple of battles, the puck goes on net, and suddenly there’s a rebound.
“I think Dajon got rewarded. … When you go to the net, some times the puck finds you.”
The Falcons carry a six-game unbeaten string into today’s rematch of these two teams in Kalamazoo, Mich.
“I think our beliefs and expectations are changing,” Bergeron said. “Not that we didn’t believe, or didn’t expect to win, early in the season. But I don’t think we were sure. Now we seem to be finding ways [to win]. You can’t make kids [believe], but I think our belief is developing, along with the expectation that we’re going to do well every time we step on the ice.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.