BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — It was Senior Night at the BG Ice Arena on Saturday, but it was a corps of freshman for both teams who came up big as Bowling Green (10-16-9; 8-13-6 CCHA) and Northern Michigan (16-14-4; 11-13-2 CCHA) skated to a 2-2 tie.
“It’s interesting that on senior night, two freshman get the goals for us,” said Bowling Green head coach Scott Paluch.
Freshman accounted for all four goals on the night for the two teams. Four first-year players also picked up assists in the game, bringing the frosh point total on the night to eight.
Bowling Green got goals by James Unger and Jonathan Sigalet, while Pat Bateman and Rob Lehtinen scored for the Wildcats.
“The freshmen have been great all year,” said NMU senior goaltender Craig Kowalski. “They’ve been carrying our team. We’re playing four freshmen deep on defense every night.”
NMU coach Walt Kyle agreed. “One of the issues we’ve faced this year is all of the young guys. Our freshmen and sophomores have really been the strength of our hockey team.”
Not to be overlooked were the accomplishments of the two goalies, Kowalski and BG junior Jordan Sigalet. Kowalski stopped 43 shots on the night, while Sigalet halted 24. Both goalies came up big in a physical game that at times also resembled a track meet.
“We had two good goalies in this series, and both games were indicative of that,” said Kyle.
Both teams came out strong in a high-flying, fast-paced first period. Both Kowalski and Sigalet were strong in net, making save after save to keep the game knotted at zero.
The Cats had the best opportunity to score in the opening period. Matt Hunter weaved his way through traffic and let a quick wrist shot fly only to find the crossbar behind Sigalet. The scoring chance came halfway through the stanza.
Northern Michigan solved the goaltending puzzle first. Bateman scored his fifth goal of the season at the 14:50 mark of the second period as he skated in front of the crease and found the five-hole of Sigalet for the 1-0 lead. Matt Maunu assisted on the goal.
The Falcons answered with just nine seconds left in the period. Left winger Ryan Minnabarriet blistered a shot toward the net from the top of the circles. James Unger picked up the errant rebound and wristed it past Kowalski for the 1-1 tie. Kevin Bieksa had the other assist for the Falcons.
Another freshman gave the lead back to Northern in the third period. Rob Lehtinen scored his seventh goal of the season at 11:26 of the third period, picking up a well-placed pass by Matt Ciancio, beating Sigalet on the short side. Dusty Collins also assisted on the play.
BG tied the game with 3:59 left in regulation. After a scramble in front of Kowalski, the puck came out to the point where Sigalet was waiting. He fired a shot through traffic that somehow found the back of the NMU net. For Sigalet, it was his third goal of the season. Bryan Dobek and Rich Meloche assisted.
“The shot went off the glass and took a funny bounce to the point,” explained Kowalski. “Everybody on the ice was in front of me, and I didn’t see [the puck] until after it went in.”
For Paluch, this senior class will be a memorable one.
“These guys have really been instrumental in our team’s improvement. We owe a lot to these five guys. This group as juniors really jumped up for us. It’s a great group.”
Both teams were blanked on the power play; Northern in two tries, and BG in five.
The Falcons will end the regular season on Thursday night when they travel to Kalamazoo for a single game against Western Michigan. NMU will close out the regular season next weekend at home against Ferris State.