BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Even without a full complement of defensemen, the Lake Superior State Lakers were able to create a defensive bottleneck in between the circles, as they upended the Bowling Green Falcons, 3-1, at the BG Ice Arena on Friday night.
LSSU dressed only five defensemen, moving one forward back to the blue line to get through the game. The defensive change resulted in a one-goal, 33-shot effort that did not allow an opposing power play goal. Behind the strong play of the blue-liners, the Lakers skated to their fifth win of the season against just two losses.
“Two of my regular defensemen didn’t play,” said LSSU boss Jim Roque. “[Steven] Kaunisto and [Ryan] Baird] got sick on the bus, so our number three [defenseman] drove from school today so he could get here at 4:30. I only had five [defenseman] and I played 13 forwards.
“They kept everything simple, tried to battle away, nothing over-complicated. Those five D were the difference in the game. They never got tired. They battled, they fought hard.”
The Lakers defensive corps was able to hold down the Falcons offense just enough, allowing 35 shots, 10 of them coming on the power play.
Laker goaltender Jeff Jakaitis played a big role in holding down the BG offense.
“He did a good job,” said Roque of his senior netminder. “He’s a good goalie. He’s not going to give up any bad ones. I don’t think he had to make a rebound save the whole game. Jeff just has to make that first save, and the rest of the team has to try and take care of the rest.”
Despite the final score, BG coach Scott Paluch saw some things he liked out of his Falcon squad.
“I thought that in a lot of stretches, we were finishing checks and got some pressure down there,” said Paluch. “We created some chances and got to some rebounds, but we need to be a little bit more creative in how we put that rebound back up on a goalie as good as Jakaitis.”
“They do a good job of cheating down in the neutral zone,” said Paluch of the Laker defense, “just forcing us to put more pucks in safe areas along the wall, to get to loose pucks. There were times where we were successful with that.”
Along with the defensive effort, The Lakers were able to get a trio of goals past a solid freshman goalie in BG’s Eddie Neville. Two of the markers came on the power play, the first off the stick of Nathan Perkovich at 7:33 of the opening period. He took a nifty pass in the left circle from Matt Martello and one-timed it home for a 1-0 Laker lead.
“Martello made a great pass to Perkovich, and Perkovich puts it up under the bar. That’s not coaching there, that’s talent. That’s letting good players play.”
The Falcons tied the game just under three minutes later. Brandon Svendsen notched his first goal of the season, finding the puck in front of the net off a rebound. He slid it through the left side of Jakaitis to knot the game at 10:18 of the period. Kai Kantola and James Perkin assisted.
The Lakers regained the lead in the second period after forcing a turnover in BG’s defensive zone. Freshman Simon Gysbers created the turnover at the top of the circle and fed a pass to center Jeff Rainville, who buried a shot over the top of Neville’s glove, finding the corner of the net. The goal came at 11:11 of the period and was Rainville’s first marker of the year.
Lake State iced the game in the third period, scoring their second power play goal of the night. The goal came courtesy of Barnabas Birkeland, as he went top shelf from the blue line through a screen.
“Birkeland has that knack from the point on the power play,” said Roque. “He finds more ways to get it through traffic. He just has that ability. He got it to the net and under the bar.”
The Lakers finished 2 of 6 on the power play, while Bowling Green was shut out in three chances.
BG’s Eddie Neville made 29 saves on the night, while his counterpart snuffed out 34 of 35 shots.
The two teams will square off again tomorrow night at the BG Ice Arena.