BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — The sport of hockey is a game of inches, and sometimes, a strange bounce can make all the difference. That was true of Thursday night’s game at the BG Ice Arena, as the Miami RedHawks put their victory squarely on the shoulders — or, to be exact, the shoulder — of sophomore winger Ryan Jones.
A power play shot that deflected off his shoulder in the second period was the difference in the game as his RedHawks beat the Bowling Green Falcons, 2-1, at the BG Ice Arena on senior night.
Miami snapped a two-game losing streak with the win. Bowling Green is now winless in its last seven CCHA contests, dating back to January 27.
The goal was a timely one for Miami, which had come close on the power play numerous times. But until Jones shouldered the puck past a surprised BG goaltender Jon Horrell and into the net, the RedHawks had been shut out on the night with the man-advantage.
“That’s a strange goal to go in,” said BG coach Scott Paluch, “but they get the puck to the net and [Ryan] Jones is there. He’s a terrific player and he’s extremely comfortable in front of the net. You throw pucks to the net and good things will happen.”
“I didn’t even see it,” said Horrell. “What I had heard about it was it hit his shoulder and kind of went on the opposite direction of which way he was leaning.
“I wish we would have had a little bit of luck with that one.”
The goal was Jones’ second of the night. He earned Perani Cup first-star honors.
While the goal was the difference on the scoresheet, it was Miami’s stingy defense and goaltending that helped to garner the win.
Miami was particularly strong in its own zone. The defensive unit and penalty-kill were solid all night, allowing few quality shots to get to sophomore goaltender Charlie Effinger, who earned his 10th win of the season.
“When you come on the road and you’re playing against a team that’s as offensive as Bowling Green is, you really have to limit their scoring chances,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi. “I thought we did that. Taking away passing lanes, taking away shooting lanes; that’s the way we’ve been working all year.”
Bowling Green put together solid stretches of hockey, keeping the game within reach all night. The Falcons had a solid penalty kill, giving up just one goal in eight power-play chances.
Despite the loss and recent lack of success in the win column, Paluch likes the way his team has played. He feels the team’s recent performances will improve its chances come playoff time.
“It’s another hard loss, no question about it,” said Paluch. “As difficult as it’s been down the stretch here, I believe that we’ve taken some steps here of becoming a pretty good playoff team. I know that might sound a little crazy, but I think we’ve made some strides in the last couple of games.
Despite the loss, Horrell put together a solid effort in net for the Falcons, stopping 28 of 30 RedHawk shots.
“I thought he battled extremely hard,” said Paluch. “He kept the game right where you have a chance.”
“What a great game he played,” said Blasi of BG’s Horrell. “It’s senior night, it’s the way you’re supposed to go out, just playing a great game. I thought he was fantastic.”
The RedHawks scored their first goal of the night at 8:23 of the opening period. Jones, fresh out of the penalty box, skated up the left side of the ice, took a pass from senior center Matt Davis, and wristed a shot past Horrell for the 1-0 lead. Stephen Dennis added an assist on the play.
Jones netted the game winner in the second period. Geoff Smith fired a wrist shot toward the BG net that bounced off the shoulder of Jones, and over the left shoulder of the startled BG goaltender for a 2-0 RedHawk lead. Jones was credited with the goal, his second of the night and 18th of the season. Mitch Ganzak added an assist.
The Falcons got on the board at 5:08 of the third period, thanks to a well-designed play off a five-on-three power play. Senior Mike Falk scored his 13th goal of the year after taking a pass through traffic from Jonathan Matsumoto. He banked the puck off the post and into the net for the goal. Alex Foster picked up a helper on the play.
The Falcons pulled Horrell late in the third period for the extra attacker, but despite a flurry of quality chances, Effinger stood tall to gain the victory.
The two teams will conclude the regular season on Saturday night at Goggin Arena in Oxford. The contest will be the final regular-season game ever at the arena. Opening faceoff is set for 7:35 p.m.