ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Bowling Green’s (1-1) co-captain Derek Whitmore returned in grand fashion to his hometown of Rochester, NY, tallying two deflection goals to lead the Falcons to a 5-3 victory over the RIT Tigers (0-2).
Whitmore got Bowling Green going with a 5-on-3 power play goal early in the first period, and then tallied his second goal even strength midway through the second period to tie the game 3-3.
“It was a real good college hockey game,” said Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch. “Our guys held up after playing a tough Niagara game last night.”
Both teams came out a little tentative for the first three minutes of the game, but a slew of penalties starting at the 3:19 mark sparked action at both ends of the ice. More Tigers went to the penalty box than Falcons, and Bowling Green gained a 5-on-3 advantage lasting for more than a minute.
“We got flustered,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “It was all our own doing. We got unraveled there.”
The Falcons poured the pressure on the RIT net during the advantage and finally converted at 6:38 when Rochester, NY native Derek Whitmore scored from the top of the crease. After cycling the puck around the horn, Kevin Schmidt ripped a slapshot from the right point that Whitmore deflected over RIT goaltender Louis Menard’s right shoulder to give Bowling Green a 1-0 lead.
The parade to the penalty box continued through the middle portion of the first period and two successive calls against the Falcons gave RIT four minutes of man-up advantage. The Tigers managed to get several good shots from the perimeter, but Bowling Green prevented any sustained pressure from down low and kept RIT off the board.
A spectacular toe save late in the period by Menard kept the RIT deficit to only one goal, and Bowling Green held a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period. The Falcons outshot RIT 12-5 in the period.
The fireworks came early and often in the second period. RIT got two early power plays in the period and were able to mount much stronger pressure in the Bowling Green zone.
The effort paid off at 5:36 when Jesse Newman dug the puck out of the corner and fed it to Matt Crowell standing alone in the slot. Crowell one timed the puck past Falcon netminder Nick Eno to tie the game 1-1.
Bowling Green answered back quickly with a pair of even strength goals, the first even strength goals by either team in the game. The Falcons first goal of the second period was scored by Jacob Cepis at 6:45, who out waited the goaltender and flung the puck over Menard as he sprawled on the ice.
Less than three minutes later, Whitmore tallied his second goal of the game to give the Falcons a 3-1 lead. Just one second after a Bowling Green power play ended, Whitmore tipped a slapshot from the point by Brandon Svendsen for the score.
Play settled down slightly after that, although RIT started to carry play again around mid-period, eventually outshooting the Falcons 17-10 in the period. The Tigers got a quick scoring burst of their own, scoring a pair of goals just 1:20 apart, starting at 14:27.
The first tally was a singular effort by Ricky Walton, who carried the puck around the back of the Falcons net and was able to slide the puck through Eno’s five-hole to score despite being hauled down by a Bowling Green defender.
RIT’s third goal of the game, to tie it at 3-3, came on the power play when Matt Smith blasted a shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Eno clean at 15:47.
“For our team, special teams is not exactly the best recipe right now,” said Paluch. “We get caught in that special teams game, we end up playing a few guys more than we want to play. I like the way our team held up.”
After a wild second period, it looked like the teams would skate to the locker rooms tied for the second intermission, but an RIT defensive breakdown allowed Kai Kantola to score for the Falcons with only 1.1 seconds remaining on the clock. Kantola corralled the puck at the left corner of the net and flipped it in for the late period goal to re-establish the Falcons one goal lead that they had started the second period with.
“The big thing about it, when you are on the road you have to handle a lot of ups and downs, and the team has to be a resilient group,” said Paluch. “With all the momentum in RIT’s favor, Kantola was Johnny on the spot.”
“We had a really, really poor last thirty seconds in the second period,” said Wilson. “There is no excuse for that.”
Five minutes into the third period, Bowling Green goaltender Eno was called on to make another great save when Simon Lambert broke in all alone. Lambert dipsy-doo’d and tried to go high glove side but Eno got enough of the puck to deflect it over the crossbar to safety.
It was Bowling Green with the majority of the chances in the first half of the third period as they outshot RIT 11-2 during that span. But Tiger goaltender Menard came up with several good saves and his defensemen cleaned up the few that eluded him to keep the score only 4-3 Falcons.
“Louis [Menard] had a strong game,” said Wilson. “They put the pucks on the net and we just didn’t defend well at times.”
RIT turned on the pressure during the second half of the period, pulling the shots on goal to within three with two minutes remaining.
But the pressure backfired on the Tigers as Bowling Green spring free on a three-on-one breakaway with 1:35 remaining in the game. James Perkins finished the play giving the Falcons a more comfortable 5-3 lead.