BOWLING GREEN — Earlier this season the Bowling Green State University hockey team struggled to hold leads.
So when visiting Michigan Tech scored a goal 29 seconds into the third period of Saturday’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff game at the BG Ice Arena, it could have been an “uh oh” moment.
The Falcons turned “uh oh” into “here we go” with a goal less than two minutes later and cruised to a 5-2 victory over the Huskies.
The win gave Bowling Green (18-14-6) a sweep of its best-of-three first-round playoff series with the Huskies (14-19-7) and clinched a berth in the WCHA’s Final Five next weekend.
“We have been questioned most of the year — and deservedly so — in terms of playing with a lead, because we weren’t very good at it,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “You don’t get good at something until it’s a habit, until it’s something you do all of the time.
“This was the first year we played with the lead a bunch. And this week we played with a lead just fine.”
The Falcons jumped in front with first-period goals from Matt Pohlkamp at 14:35 and Adam Berkle with 59 seconds left in the period. Bergeron said jumping out to an early two-goal lead was a huge advantage for his team.
“To come out of the first period that was 50-50 at best — and probably was tilted in their favor — with a two-goal lead was important,” he said.
Marcus Perrier gave BG a 3-0 lead with his goal at 13:30 of the second, but the Falcons took a penalty 13 seconds into the final period and gave up a power-play tally 16 seconds after that. Berkle said Bowling Green has learned to be aggressive in this situation.
“We haven’t been too careful with the puck [when we lead]; we’ve been making plays instead of being tentative with the puck,” he said. “We always want to come out after we’ve been scored on and take it up a notch. …
“We want to get out there, take a lot of shots, put a lot of pressure on them and get the momentum back.”
At 2:11 of the period Ryan Carpenter took a rebound off a shot by Bryce Williamson and slammed it past MTU goalie Pheonix Copley.
“Getting [the goal] back quickly was good because it took the life out of them again,” Perrier said. “Allowing them to score in the first minute of the period gives them some momentum to possibly get back into the game.”
The Huskies seemed to have one breath left when BG’s Mike Sullivan scored an own-goal at 8:42 of the third, but Berkle scored an empty-netter with just 1:34 left to seal the win.
The Falcons opponent in the WCHA semifinals, and the game time on Friday at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich., has not been determined.
"We feel we’re playing pretty good hockey right now," Bergeron said. "Whoever we play against, we know ... these are teams we’ve played well against."
NOTE: This marks the fourth straight season BG has swept a first-round playoff series against an opponent from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Falcons won Central Collegiate Hockey Association series at Northern Michigan in 2011 and 2012, and at Lake Superior State last season.