BOWLING GREEN — Two of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s better teams didn’t play their best game at the BG Ice Arena Friday night.
The best scoring night of Mark Cooper’s career helped lift Bowling Green State University to a 4-3 overtime win over Minnesota State.
The sophomore’s first college hat trick included the game-winning goal with 31.5 seconds left in OT to help the Falcons (6-4-3 overall, 4-2-1 WCHA) snap a three-game winless streak.
“I don’t think either team had their best night,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “But both teams kind of hung in there, kept fighting and kept pushing. …
“We’ll take the result. But we’ll come back [today] thinking we can elevate our game, and believing that our opponent will do the same.”
Cooper’s game-winner came when he collected the puck in the corner to the right of Mavericks netminder Cole Huggins. Cooper moved toward the net, then took a high shot that seemed to bounce off Huggins’ shoulder into the goal.
“I got the puck in the corner and was looking to move it to the point, but [Adam] Berkle told me not to do that,” Cooper said. “Then I fell, but me falling opened up some space to the net, so I threw it on net and fortunately it bounced in.”
Cooper’s game-winner put a pretty bow on a game that had an ugly start. The Mavericks scored twice in the first period and controlled much of the period.
Fans who thought Bergeron gave his team a first-intermission tongue-lashing would be wrong.
“I can honestly tell you I didn’t say one word,” Bergeron said. “[Cam] Wojtala said, ‘I’ve got it,’ and that’s what you expect from your senior captain.
“It wasn’t his voice only. Our upperclassmen made sure everyone knew that wasn’t acceptable, and that we could all go up a level.”
The Falcons got back into the contest 16 seconds into the second when Ralfs Freibergs took a shot that caromed off the boards behind the Minnesota State goal to Cooper, who swatted it into the net.
Bowling Green tied the game at 6:47 on Cooper’s second goal, then took the lead with a short-handed goal by Berkle at the 5:16 mark of the third.
Minnesota State (4-7-0, 2-3-0) managed to tie the game with 8:23 left when Zach Stepan took the puck by the boards in the right corner and managed to squeeze the puck past BG goalie Tommy Burke, who finished with 21 saves.
The Mavericks controlled the rest of the third period, but Bowling Green managed to keep the game tied before Cooper’s game-winner.
“I think it shows a lot about our team’s character that we stuck with it,” he said.