BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — When Derek Whitmore scores, good thing usually happen for his Bowling Green Falcons. Tonight was no different, as the senior captain scored a hat trick, his second of the season and third overall, in leading his team to a 4-1 victory over the Western Michigan Broncos at the BGSU Ice Arena.
The Rochester, New York native has scored 15 of his 18 goals in Falcons’ wins this year, while amassing just three goals in their 10 losses.
Whitmore scored midway through the opening period, giving his team a lead they would not relinquish. He then added a second goal early in the middle stanza, the eventual game winner, before recording an empty-netter late in the game.
“I was going through a skid there for a while,” said Whitmore. “But, you have to concentrate on the little things, control the things you can control. I just wanted to control how hard I worked. I knew sooner or later I was going to get myself out of that rut. Three hat tricks is pretty exciting, but I’m just glad our team is winning games.”
“He’s a big part of our success,” explained Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch. “We went through a stretch where Derek wasn’t scoring, and we didn’t have the same results we had when he was scoring. He tried to do a little too much, and he wasn’t as effective when he was out there. But, he’s really been an outstanding leader for our team. What he means to our team, he’s been extremely valuable.”
“I give Derek a lot of credit, said Western coach Jim Culhane. “The way he’s played and the way he’s led his team, he should be real proud of the way he’s handled himself. From the outside looking in, I think he deserves a lot of credit.”
The win gave the Falcons their first season series victory against WMU since the 2004-2005 season. Bowling Green captured a pair of games earlier this season against the Broncos, both of the victories coming in overtime.
“There’s been no difference in any of the games [against Western],” said Paluch. “They had seven one-goal losses coming into tonight. We’ve been able to make the plays. We had the two overtime games earlier against them. This was no different than overtime tonight. You’ve got to earn wins in this league, and I’m glad we were able to do that tonight.”
The Broncos’ loss was a continuation of the struggles that have plagued their team throughout the season. Western Michigan is now winless in their last seven games; their last win came against a struggling Wayne State team on December 8th.
Western also extended their league winless streak to 7. Their last win in CCHA action came against Ohio State on November 23rd.
One bright spot for the Broncos was the penalty kill. Western’s PK was up to the task of stopping a good Bowling Green power play. The Broncos shut BG out in nine attempts with the man advantage.
“We needed to be good [on the penalty kill],” said Culhane. “We worked hard on it all week in practice. We knew we needed to be prepared. They’re 24 percent on the power play, and we were able to kill off the five minutes of Ansell for checking from behind. We did a lot of things well. We had 30-plus shots on net. We shut them down on the power play.”
“We had some chances, but didn’t score,” said Paluch. “We didn’t enter the zone well throughout the second period and early in the third. We weren’t quite in synch all the way through.”
The Falcons opened the scoring at 10:28 of the first period. Whitmore notched his 16th goal of the season as he flicked a wrister from the right circle under the crossbar.
Whitmore added to the Falcons’ lead at 3:33 of the 2nd period. Freshman Dan Sexton gained the zone with a pair of defenders draped on him in the circle. He attempted to dump the puck toward the right corner, but the puck was pokechecked by the Broncos’ defender. Kevin Schmidt found the puck on his stick at the
point and fired a shot on Jerry Kuhn, who lost the rebound to his right. Whitmore was on the doorstep and banged it in for his second goal of the night.
The Broncos responded at 10:34 with a power-play goal. Junior Dave Krisky found the puck on his stick in front of the crease after a Falcons’ giveaway. He eluded two defenders while skating to his right, then wristed a shot over the shoulder of Nick Eno for his 7th of the season.
Western Michigan nearly tied the game in the waning minutes of the middle period on a shorthanded breakaway by Matt Clackson, but Eno made the save on the slap shot from between the circles to keep the Falcons in front.
Whitmore and Brandon Svendsen added empty netters in the final minute of play to ice the game for the Falcons.
Both teams will be with out the services of a number of their players tomorrow night after a melee broke out near the end of the game.
With 12 seconds left in the game, frustration apparently boiled over after an alleged slash by BG’s Ben Geelan on Patrick Galivan. Immediately, all 10 skaters involved themselves in a brawl that took referee Tim Kotyra and his assistants several minutes to break apart.
When the dust settled, all 10 skaters on the ice were penalized with fighting majors and game disqualifications. After the game, the on-ice officials spent the better part of half an hour looking at video of the fight before making their final decision.
Prior to the final decision on game DQs, Paluch said he certainly did not feel all of the players on the ice deserved suspensions.
“Ten guys would not be fair. I’m watching our guys and I know we had at least one player who did not throw a punch. He should not be punished by association.
The final tally on combined penalties for the two teams in the game totaled 207 minutes.
The two teams will square off again tomorrow night, this time at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo.