BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — The Bowling Green Falcons quickly erased the memory of a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Michigan on Friday, beating the Wolverines on the back end of a home-and-home by a 5-2 margin in Bowling Green on Saturday night.
The Falcons stung their Ann Arbor guests with three power-play goals, propelling the team to its first victory over the Wolverines since 2002.
“It was as bad as it could be yesterday,” said Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch of his team’s performance on the power play. “(Michigan’s penalty kill) was very dominant. We needed to make some adjustments, and I thought we did an excellent job of handling the penalty kill pressure tonight.”
The Bowling Green effort was quite a turnaround from the night before, when Michigan controlled the game through its entirety. Senior Brett Pilkington was a big reason Falcons were able to gain the weekend split. The Calgary, Alberta, native assisted on four of the Falcons’ five goals. Ironically, the big night came after getting moved down to the fourth line for tonight’s game.
“He was really rolling out there,” said Paluch. “When he gets something early, he really seems to build off that. His vision was outstanding. He did a nice job moving his feet on the power play to get some free space. He played a terrific game.”
“It was the support of the guys around me,” said Pilkington of his big night. “Getting me the puck and allowing me to do what I can with the puck,” was what allowed him to have a strong game performance.
BG netminder Jon Horrell returned to form as well, allowing just a pair of power-play goals on the night. He secured his 8th win of the season.
“The first period was one where he wasn’t put under a lot of duress early, until back-to-back penalties, and he responded real well,” said Paluch. “That really made him look extremely confident. He held it up for the entire game. He played extremely well.”
“It’s very satisfying,” said Horrell when asked about his first career victory over the Wolverines, “especially after they stole two (wins) from me last year with a couple of third period goals.
“It definitely feels kind of unbelievable, because you don’t really expect it at times. But then, with the way we played the game today, there was no doubt whatsoever.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson knew it would be difficult for his team to duplicate last night’s feat in BG’s barn.
“Bowling Green is very good in this building, and they showed it again tonight,” said Berenson. “Bowling Green got that first goal and they got the crowd going. Their power play was a lot stronger tonight. Their best players were their best players. We couldn’t score when we had to. We took some unnecessary penalties that we had to deal with, and it certainly cost us some momentum in the game. We had a lot of players play well, but I can’t tell you our team played well.”
Bowling Green jumped out to an early 1-0 lead at 3:51 of the opening period off a neutral zone turnover that turned into a two-on-one. Right winger James Unger took a well-timed pass from Don Morrison who was along the boards. Unger came across the front of the net and beat U of M netminder Noah Ruden on the stick side for his 11th goal of the season. Derek Whitmore also assisted on the play.
A critical five-on-three penalty kill by the Falcons late in the period kept Michigan from gaining any momentum at the time.
“Any time you kill a five-on-three, that’s a big shift of momentum for any hockey team,” said Pilkington.
The Falcons increased their lead to 2-0 at 3:20 of the second period. While in traffic down low, Brett Pilkington snaked a pass to sophomore defenseman Michael Hodgson at the point. He one-timed one past Ruden for his first goal of the year. Jon Erickson added an assist on the play.
The first power-play opportunity of the night afforded Bowling Green their next goal. Late in the power play, Derek Whitmore snapped a shot from down low and found space between the goalie and the post for his 10th tally of the season. The goal was assisted by Pilkington and Morrison and came at 7:29 of the period.
The Wolverines finally got on the board late in the second with a power-play marker of their own. A turnover at center ice allowed a three-on-one to form. Sophomore Kevin Porter faked a pass, then dropped the puck back to a waiting Chad Kolarik. He blasted a shot, beating Jon Horrell for his eighth goal of the season.
The Falcons iced the game early in the third period on a pair of power-play goals. Rich Meloche and Derek Whitmore scored their fifth and 11th goals of the season, respectively, with Pilkington assisting on both goals.
Billy Sauer replaced Ruden, who tweaked a groin muscle on the play, in the pipes for the remainder of the game.
Kevin Porter picked up his 12th goal of the year at 9:31 of the period on a power-play opportunity. T.J. Hensick and Kolarik assisted.
The Falcons outshot the Wolverines 49-33 on the night. BG finished 3 of 6 on the power play, while Michigan was 2 of 8.