BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — The Bowling Green Falcons received solid goaltending from senior goaltender Jordan Sigalet as they upended the Michigan State Spartans, 2-1, at the BG Ice Arena on Friday night.
The win gave the Falcons a three-game winning streak, and more importantly, secured home ice for the team in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. It is the first time since 1996 the Falcons have hosted a playoff series.
The struggling Spartans, meanwhile, have just won one game in their last eight contests, going 1-4-3 in that span. Michigan State remains four points away from a home-ice spot, a position they haven’t been in since the 1990-91 season.
For the first time in their history with the CCHA, the Spartans will finish with a losing record.
“We’re horribly frustrated,” said Michigan State coach Rick Comley. “I thought we played an outstanding road game. We worked our tails off. It’s very disappointing.”
One aspect of the game that frustrated the Spartans was the play of Sigalet. He stopped 33 shots en route to garnering first-star accolades.
“He again just looked in control of every situation,” said BG coach Scott Paluch. “Even some of those scrambles. He had himself in terrific position the entire night. When they did get the second and third chances, he was just in real good position.”
Sigalet felt his strong showing was a team effort.
“I felt really comfortable,” said the Falcon netminder. “After you make a couple of saves early, it gets you into the game. The way the guys played in front of me, clearing rebounds, and letting me see the puck, it makes my job a lot easier. That’s how it was for the most part tonight.
“One-goal games are always intense. I like those situations. It’s a lot of fun out there.”
The win clinched home ice for the Falcons during the first round of the CCHA playoffs, a position in which they haven’t been in a while.
“It’s a significant goal for us, said Paluch of home ice advantage. “It’s been a long time. It’s been too long. It’s been something that we wanted to get. And now with three games left, we want to finish as high as we can. Home ice is something that we shot for, and it feels good.”
“Clinching home ice has been our goal since day one here,” said Sigalet. “We’ve reached the first part of our goal and that’s phenomenal. Now, the next part is to get to Joe Louis Arena.”
Sigalet knows the road to the playoffs did not end with tonight’s victory, however.
“It’s exciting, but we definitely can’t stop playing hard. We have to go in to the playoffs on a roll. Tonight was a real playoff-atmosphere game. If we keep having games like that, it’s going to get us ready for the playoffs.”
The Falcons took hold of the reins at the onset, jumping out to a 1-0 lead just 24 seconds into the opening period. Freshman center John Mazzei picked up his third goal of the year, stuffing the puck through the legs of MSU goalie Dominic Vicari. A giveaway deep in the corner led to the goal. Steve Brudzewski assisted on the play.
The Spartans responded at 6:04. Skating with an extra man on a delayed penalty, MSU’s Jim McKenzie tied the game with his seventh tally of the year. A scrum in front resulted in Sigalet getting backed into the net, and enough ice was left unprotected beyond the goal line to allow McKenzie’s shot to trickle past the line for the 1-1 tie. Colton Fretter and Jim Slater assisted on the goal.
Bowling Green scored the game winner late in the second period off a deflection. James Unger notched his 13th goal of the season, a deflection from in front of the net that found its way past Vicari. Brett Pilkington and Mike Nesdill assisted.
Despite taking the lead in the second period, it was the Falcons who were on their heels for most of the stanza.
“They outplayed us in the second period and for us to come out of that 2-1 was big for us, said Paluch.
“[The Spartans] were getting to a lot of loose pucks, cycling pucks, and controlled a lot of pucks down low. For a good 8-10 minutes, they were first to a lot of pucks and that gave them of control and a chance to start the second period in their favor.”
Comley was encouraged that his team does not seem to have any quit in it.
“They haven’t quit playing. They continue to pick themselves up,” said the Spartan boss. “Our play is so much better than our record. But I guess [the record] is what matters in the end.”
Vicari stopped 24 of 26 Falcon shots on goal, while Sigalet made 33 of 34 stops. Both teams were scoreless on the power play in three chances.
The teams will face off again Saturday night at Munn Arena in East Lansing.