BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — The Bowling Green Falcons (1-4-1; 1-2-1 CCHA) received big contributions from a trio of veterans – and a lot of help from a rookie goalie – as they upended the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, 7-3, for their first win of the season.
Senior winger Mike Falk and sophomores Jonathan Matsumoto and Alex Foster accounted for 14 of BG’s 20 points on the night. Matsumoto and Foster each scored a goal, while Falk netted two markers, in the Falcons’ biggest offensive
outpouring of the young season.
However, it was rookie goaltender Jimmy Spratt, starting in place of an injured Jon Horrell, who made one of the biggest impressions on the night. He stopped 25 of 28 shots in his second career start, earning the victory. It was Spratt’s first start since October 15, a 9-6 loss against #4 Boston College.
Spratt was ready for this night, especially when his team staked him to a 2-0 lead.
“I just cleared my head and I had a pretty solid week in practice,” said Spratt. “It built my confidence up. I think [the team] getting that first goal was huge.”
Brandon Svendsen notched his first collegiate goal, banking a shot of the goalie pads of Gregg Barrett and into the net for a 1-0 lead. The goal came at 1:19 of the period and was assisted by Jonathan Matsumoto.
The Falcons scored again ten minutes later. Taking advantage of a 5 on 3 power play, Matsumoto cleaned up a rebound in front of the crease off a Mike Falk shot to give the Falcons a two-goal edge. Alex Foster added an assist on the goal.
The quick 2-0 lead gave the Falcons all the confidence they needed.
“The first period was extremely important,” said BG coach Scott Paluch. “Our feet were moving, we were able to shoot a lot of pucks and generate a lot of chances off the shots, which was really key for us. It was really important to see a couple of goals go in early for us. We got a lift from that.”
Mavericks head coach Mike Kemp felt the early BG lead threw his team off-kilter.
“They really did a great job of coming out and putting us on our heels. They took it to us for the entire first period, and we never really got up off our heels.”
Alex Foster led way for BG both offensively and defensively. He picked up a career-high five points, scoring a goal and adding four helpers on the night. The performance was good enough to make him the #1 star of the game.
“Alex had as strong a game at both ends of the ice as I think you’ll see,” said Paluch. “He gets rewarded with the five points, but he was terrific on the penalty kill and with the four on four.”
While Kemp was impressed with BG’s play, he said the adjustment of playing the season’s first road game in an unfamiliar setting may have been a factor in his team’s play, as well.
“It’s such a different building for us to play in, compared to where we play, from the standpoint of how lively the boards are, how egg-shaped the rink is, and how fast things happen here. Things are happening like a pinball machine out there. Things are bouncing around. Pucks don’t lay real flat. They’re bouncing all over the place, coming off those lively boards.”
“It’s a tremendous adjustment for us, the first time on the road. It’s such a different environment for us, from the standpoint of the ice surface and the way it reacts, it took some adjusting.”
The Falcons were also able to keep UNO’s leading scorer, Scott Parse, in check for most of the game. The nation’s fourth-leading points-per-game producer was able to net just one goal, that coming in the middle of the final period.
Paluch credited his Matsumoto, among others, for limiting Parse’s chances.
“One of the important parts to keeping players like that in check, is you try to have a line that has the puck a lot,” explained Paluch. “Their first shift of the game was one where Matsumoto was able to keep the puck for the entire shift and then score a goal. That’s an important part against playing against good players. A lot of times, you think it’s just trying to play defense
against them, but a lot of it is that if you can have that line that can protect the puck and have the puck a lot, it will limit what those excellent players can do.”
After the pair of Falcon goals, Nebraska-Omaha got on the board at 15:06 of the opening period. While controlling the zone, junior winger Mike Betts drove a shot off of Spratt, picked up his own rebound, and stuffed it home for his first goal of the year. Bryan Marshall assisted on the play.
The Falcons lit the lamp one more time in the period to regain their two-goal edge. Junior James Unger sent a shot in on Barrett, picked up the rebound and scored his second goal of the year at 19:29 of the period. Foster and John Mazzei added the assists.
The Falcons played a solid first period, outshooting the Mavericks, 16-7 in the opening stanza.
Bowling Green continued their strong play in the second period. Though being outshot 13-7 in the period, the Falcons put three more markers on the scoreboard in the period.
Mazzei scored his first goal of the season at the 8:29 mark of the period, finding a loose puck in front of Barrett. He found an opening in the net, giving the Falcons a 4-1 lead at that point. Unger and Foster assisted.
Mike Falk stretched the lead to four goals at 14:10 of the period. Matsumoto fed him a pass through traffic from the right corner. Falk deked the goalie and backhanded a shot into the net for his 4th marker of the year. Foster added an assist.
The Mavericks cut into the lead just over two minutes later while killing off a penalty. Bryan Marshall forced a giveaway at neutral ice and skated in on Spratt, beating him between the pads and left post. The shorthanded goal was Marshall’s first goal of the season.
BG’s Alex Foster closed out the scoring in the period, picking up his first goal of the night to go with his four assists, as he found an opening between the post and goalie from the bottom of the faceoff circle for his second goal of the season. The goal came at 19:13 and was assisted by Matsumoto and Don Morrison.
Barrett was pulled from the game at the start of the third period in favor of Jerad Kauffmann.
“He’s going to have to fight through those kinds of nights,” explained Kemp of his starting goaltender. “He gave up a couple of bad-angle goals. Those are ones that I’m sure he’d really like to have back.”
UNO’s leading scorer Scott Parse notched the Mavericks’ third goal of the night at 10:40 of the third period. Parse took a pass in front of the net from Juha Uotila and found the five hole of the Falcon goaltender for his second
goal and ninth point of the season.
Bowling Green closed out the scoring at 13:44 of the final stanza. Falk picked up his second goal of the night, shoveling a shot between the legs of goaltender Kauffman. Brett Pilkington and Ben Geelan assisted.
The Falcons closed the night 2 for 8 on the power play. UNO was 0 for 10 with the man advantage.
Both teams will square off again tomorrow night. Game time is 7:00 p.m.