BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green hockey team certainly didn’t put together its finest performance of the season Saturday against Lake Superior State.
But the Falcons found a way to rise to the occasion at key moments to claim a 7-3 victory over the Lakers in front of 3,018 fans at the BGSU Ice Arena.
“That’s how you sum it up,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “I don’t think we had our best game. I thought our effort was there. … We struggled to execute.
“But we hung in there, and that was a big step in the right direction for our program.”
It was a big step in that Saturday’s victory completed a weekend sweep of Lake Superior, BG’s first weekend sweep of a CCHA series since taking a pair from Northern Michigan on Nov. 14-15, 2008.
What’s more, the Falcons improved to 10-13-5 overall and 7-10-3-1 in the CCHA. BG’s 25 points tie them with Michigan for eighth in the standings, one point behind the Lakers. Bowling Green holds an advantage over both teams in that it has played two fewer league games.
That's important because the eighth-place team in the CCHA hosts a first-round playoff series; BG has not hosted since 2007-08.
Lake Superior is now 13-16-1 and 8-13-1-1 after its fourth straight loss.
Bowling Green’s mettle was tested early when the Lakers’ Daniel Vernace scored just 4:08 into the contest. But the Falcons answered just 41 seconds later when Brent Tate took a nifty pass from Dan DeSalvo and scored his second goal of the year.
Then Mark Cooper gave BG a lead when he tipped a shot from the point by Bobby Shea past Lake Superior goalie Kevin Murdock at the nine-minute mark for Cooper’s eighth goal of the season.
“There were times when we’ve been through a lot and you question why,” Bergeron said. “I think a night like this showed why: We were resilient.
“Twice their goals didn’t change the momentum for five or six minutes. … Our resiliency has built up in the last five or six months, and it showed itself.”
Lake Superior tied the game just 1:25 into the second period on Vernace’s second goal of the night. And while the Lakers seemed to control much of the play in the period, the Falcons used Mike Sullivan’s power-play goal at the 13:25 mark to lead 3-2 after two periods.
Sullivan smoked a shot from the left point off the crossbar and into the net for his first goal of the year.
To start the third period Bowling Green successfully fought off the final 11 seconds of a Lake Superior power play, only to see the Lakers’ Chris Ciotti score just six seconds later to retie the game.
“You hear the old cliché: ‘Forget about that shift or that goal,’ but that’s easier said than done, especially with a young group,” Bergeron said. “Our guys have found a way to do that.”
They did that thanks to Cooper’s second goal of the game – which came just 33 seconds after Ciotti’s goal.
“Marcus [Perrier] made a good chip off the boards, and Cam [Wojtala] made a great play to avoid their [defenseman],” Cooper said. “I just found the soft area, and Cam made a great pass across the ice to let me put it in an empty net.”
While Lake Superior kept competing, the goal seemed to take the wind out of the Lakers’ sails.
“It takes away whatever momentum they get from their goal – and gives it right back to us,” Cooper said of his third-period goal. “It was a great feeling on the bench. It was positive, very positive.”
While Lake Superior had several good scoring chances in the final period, Bowling Green goalie Andrew Hammond made of several fine saves to finish with 27 on the night, the same total as Murdock.
Meanwhile BG expanded its advantage with a power-play marker by Ryan Carpenter at the 14:32 mark of the period, then added empty-net goals by Bryce Williamson and Dajon Mingo in the final two minutes to give the Falcons seven goals on the night.
That’s the most BG has scored since a 9-2 win at Connecticut on Dec. 30, 2005, and the most in a CCHA contest since an 8-4 victory over Northern Michigan on Nov. 19, 2005.
While Bergeron was excited by the outburst, he also knows his team can’t rest on its laurels.
“Our biggest challenge is to put this aside and get back to work,” he said. “There are eight games remaining, and there’s a lot of work still to do.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.