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Late goal lifts BGSU hockey over Bemidji State

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Bowling Green's Brandon Kruse, shown in a game against Miami University, scored a goal for the Falcons Friday in a 3-1 win over Bemidji State.

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BOWLING GREEN — If you wish to analyze the Bowling Green State University hockey team’s win Friday against Bemidji State, make sure you include some perspective.

The Falcons’ 3-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association victory at the Slater Family Ice Arena was neither poetic nor perfect. But when you consider BG had been outscored 12-3 in losing its previous two Friday night contests, well, a win of any sort feels pretty good.

“Any time you can get a conference win, at the end of the year it counts,” said Nico Coffman, who scored what proved to be the game-winner with just 1:12 left in regulation. “I was fortunate enough to get a shot through – not sure if it hit anything or went straight through.

“But that doesn’t matter. We got the win, and that’s huge at the end of the day.”

VIDEO: BGSU-Bemidji State

Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron was happy to claim the victory, which improved the team’s record to 7-5-4 overall and 6-2-3-2 in WCHA play. But that was in part because the Falcons had suffered through those recent Friday losses.

“From an overall perspective, I thought we were just OK,” he said. “It was better, but in comparison to bad, it was better. ...

“I don’t think we executed very well. … There were some good things to get behind, but in comparison to the previous Fridays, this was better.”

The game was scoreless until midway through the second period, when Brandon Kruse collected the puck in the Beavers’ zone, skated into the face-off circle to the right of BSU goalie Michael Bitzer, and squeezed the puck into the net from a difficult angle at the 10 minute, 41 second mark.

But the Falcons never were in control of the game, and a mistake behind the net early in the third period allowed Bemidji State (5-6-2, 2-4-1-1) to tie the contest. BG lost possession behind its own left when goalie Eric Dop collided with a teammate. The Beavers scooped up the puck, and Mike Soucier scored at 6:19.

“The puck was bouncing the entire game,” Coffman said. “We need to clean it up in the D-zone and neutral zone especially.”

But Coffman, a sophomore defenseman playing in just his 11th career game, fired the puck past Bitzer at 18:48 for his first college goal.

“I saw Connor Ford with the puck, but he was getting closed out,” Coffman said. “I called for it, he saw me, and I just took a half slap-shot to try and put it on net.

“There was traffic out front, and it went it.”

Bowling Green added an empty-net goal by Mitch McLain with just 28.5 seconds left to secure the win for Dop, who had been pulled early the previous two Fridays.

“You could tell he’s been different the past couple of weeks. He’s been quiet,” Bergeron said of Dop, who finished with 24 saves. “Part of that was his play, and part of that was watching Ryan [Bednard] play well — and knowing there’s a competition in net.

“I thought he played well.”

When Bergeron was asked if this effort was good enough long-term, he replied, “No.”

But then he added, “It was good enough tonight, and that’s all we are concerned about. … That may be the coach in me saying I thought we could be better. I’m not upset; it was better.”

Contact John Wagner at jwagner@theblade.com419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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