BOWLING GREEN – A bad break had the Bowling Green hockey team on the ropes Saturday night.
So it was only fair that a lucky break evened things out – and helped the Falcons claim a 5-3 victory over Northern Michigan in front of 3,872 fans at the BG Ice Arena.
Northern Michigan had scored a goal earlier in the contest on a fluky rebound off the boards, but BG’s game-winner came on a shot that bounced crazily off the boards behind the Wildcats’ goal late in third period.
“I didn’t think we deserved the bounce we got on their second goal, so maybe karma worked in our favor,” Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron said.
The wild game-winner came with the Falcons scrambling to kill off a Northern Michigan power play late in the third period of a 3-3 contest. BG’s Bobby Shea shot the puck wide of the NMU net, but it glanced off the boards behind the net, then ricocheted off Wildcats goalie Jared Coreau into the net.
“I saw the puck come to me, and it was jumping,” Shea explained. “I figured I would just get it on net.
“I saw Danny DeSalvo by the side of the net, so I just threw it there. It was still jumping, and I guess we got a lucky bounce.”
The goal, Shea’s fourth of the season, was the Falcons’ first short-handed goal of the season.
“It’s a bounce that I thought we deserved,” Shea said. “It was a funny goal, and you’re just happy when you get them.”
That goal – and an empty-net goal by Brett Mohler with one second to play – capped an exciting contest that had a playoff feel to it. After a poor effort in a 5-2 loss to the Wildcats Friday, BG seemed determined to make amends.
“The vibe earlier today wasn’t us against them – it was all about us,” Bergeron said. “Yeah we played hard [Friday] and the shot were 39-21, but there wasn’t much purpose to what we did.
“I thought we played with more purpose [Saturday].”
But the Falcons found themselves scrambling early as Bryce Williamson was whistled for a five-minute checking from behind penalty just 22 seconds in. Northern Michigan got a power-play goal from Erik Higby on a nifty deflection on a shot from the point at 3:55 of the period.
“It hurt, because the crowd was going and it took away momentum,” Shea said of that first goal. “Since it was Senior Night, you want to go out there and get to work and get the first goal.
“And then [the goal] hits you. But we were still positive and stayed confident on the bench.”
But the Falcons responded with two goals 80 seconds apart late in the first to regain control. Andrew Wallace tied the game at 17:13 when he redirected a shot from the point by Connor Kucera past Coreau, and soon after Ben Murphy notched a power-play goal thanks to a nice feed from Andrew Wallace.
“Those goals were huge,” Shea said. “When we scored, the crowd got into it. And then we fed off that.”
Bowling Green made it 3-1 when Adam Berkle’s strong play stripped a NMU defender of the puck. Berkle passed it to a wide-open Ryan Carpenter, who slammed home his 15th goal of the season at 11:06.
Northern Michigan caught its break on a power play when C.J. Ludwig lifted a shot over the Falcons net. The puck hit the glass behind the boards, then took a strange bounce over the net, off BG goalie Tommy Burke’s back and into the net at 18:43.
Then the Wildcats managed to tie the game on a goal by Brian Nugent at 12:41 of the third period. NMU’s Ryan Daugherty managed to grab the puck and find Nugent open in front of the net to tie the contest at 3-3.
That set the stage for Shea’s goal, which didn’t clinch the contest. Those honors when to Mohler during the game’s final scrambled minute as Northern Michigan emptied its goal for a sixth attacker.
Mohler stepped in front of a pass in BG’s defensive zone, skated in past the NMU blueline and scored into the empty net with one second left.
That goal secured the three points that vaulted Bowling Green into seventh place in the CCHA standings.
“When we step back and look at the standings, these three points are huge,” Bergeron said. “We have a huge weekend at Notre Dame coming up.
“There’s still lots of hockey to play. But we took advantage of the opportunity to play, and we were rewarded for it.”
Bowling Green’s 34 points place them two in front of eighth-place Lake Superior State, three ahead of Michigan in ninth and five clear of Northern Michigan, which fell to 10th. The sixth, seventh and eighth seeds will play on home ice in the first round of the CCHA playoffs in two weeks.
“We didn’t play our best game Friday night, but we bounced back,” said Shea, who was one of four seniors honored before the Falcons’ last regular-season home game. “We knew we had to, because if they had beaten us they would have passed us in the standings.
“We came out on Saturday and made amends for Friday. … I thought we would win the game, and this wouldn’t be my last [game] here.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.