COLUMBUS, Ohio — Minnesota-Duluth and Bowling Green exchanged goals several times but the lead only once, as the Bulldogs prevailed, 4-3, in the consolation game of the third annual Ohio Hockey Classic in Nationwide Arena.
The Falcons dominated for most of the first period, but two late Duluth goals gave UMD the lead and the momentum after one.
“I thought we played an extremely good first 17 minutes of hockey,” said BGSU head coach Scott Paluch. “We were doing a lot things necessary to be successful. The we had a really tough finish to the first period. The last few minutes we got away from what we were doing and I think that carried over to the second period.”
The Falcons scored first at 2:03, when Tommy Dee broke in alone on UMD netminder Alex Stalock, fed by Jon Erickson and Kyle Page, but the Bulldogs netted two even-strength goals within the last two minutes of the first period to take make it 2-1 after one. Jeff McFarland converted Matt Greer’s wide shot from a tough angle right of the net to even the score at 18:26, and Nick Kemp scored long from the left circle at 19:16, finishing a play he began when he stole the puck near center ice.
When Matt Niskanen made it 3-1 UMD on the power play at 5:56 in the second on his shot from high in the slot that hit the top shelf, the Bulldogs looked like they might roll to an easy win, but they were hampered by penalties throughout the second and third.
“I thought we had a good start to the second period…but again penalties just kind of killed that,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. “We took a couple of dumb penalties. Specialty teams can be such a momentum giver and a momentum taker.”
With less than a minute left in the second, the Falcons finally capitalized on a power-play opportunity, but the play was more an individual effort than a team play. Todd McIlrath flew in alone on the right wing and put the puck the only place it could have gone, in the eight-inch square gap between Stalock’s left shoulder and head, and the right pipe and crossbar at 19:12. The period ended with UMD leading 3-2.
The Falcons were unable to carry that momentum into the third, in spite of Bulldog Ryan Geris’ minor penalty at 1:32 in the stanza. UMD stretched the lead to two again at 4:45 when Matt McKnight scored from left of the crease, but — again — any energy that the Bulldogs might have had from that goal was quashed when MacGregor Sharp earned a major penalty for checking from behind at 6:11.
Even though the Falcons failed to capitalize on that five-minute opportunity, they did manage to pull within one again at 11:24, when Kai Kantola popped the puck up and over a sprawling Stalock to make the game 4-3.
Spratt left the net for the final 45 seconds of the game, but UMD couldn’t find the empty net.
“Tough pill to swallow,” said Paluch, whose Falcons have won just one game in their last 12. “It was a great start to the game. Coming off of last night, we wanted to start well and we did, but we just didn’t finish off the [first] period well.
“Our ability to draw some penalties certainly gave us some opportunities, but their penalty kill was better than our power play tonight.”
Sandelin thought that the Bulldogs played a “much different game” from their 4-1 loss to Ohio State Friday night. “A couple of penalties we took, took away some of the momentum we had, especially in the third period with all the penalty kills. Alex did a good job, was there when we needed him.”
Stalock earned his fourth win of the season with 21 saves on 24 shots. In his ninth loss of the year, Spratt blocked 24 of 28 shots. BGSU was 1-for-9 on the power play, UMD 1-for-3.
The win was good preparation, said Sandelin, for UMD’s return to WCHA play next weekend. The Bulldogs (5-13-3, 2-10-2 WCHA) will host Michigan Tech Jan. 5-6.
Bowling Green (4-15-1, 2-10-0 CCHA) also returns to league play Jan. 5-6, and is also home, hosting Western Michigan.