BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — In a match-up of sixth place teams, Ferris State and Bowling Green found themselves locked up in a goaltending battle, with the Bulldogs besting the Falcons by a 2-1 margin at the BG Ice Arena on Friday.
The Bulldogs win, coupled with a Nebraska-Omaha loss, moves Ferris State into a fifth place tie with the Mavericks.
A potential finish this high in the standings for the Bulldogs would have been unthinkable just 21 days ago. On February 1, Ferris was mired in a 1-4-2 slump that saw them fighting to keep their season afloat.
Since that date, the Bulldogs are now riding a six game unbeaten streak, including a sweep of No. 2 Miami, and a three point weekend against Notre Dame. They have locked up home ice, and still have a mathematical — although unlikely — chance of finishing 4th.
Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said while his team got away from winning for a period of time, the group stayed positive.
It was looking fairly bleak for a while there for us in terms of the standings and our points. Even during that time period, I thought we were playing pretty good hockey. What I appreciate most is that the guys never gave up. We went through a 1-4-2 streak, and it was always losing by a goal or tying. It was just a case of bad results. The hockey was good, and Im glad the guys
stuck with it.
Tonights recipe for victory combined a strong goaltending performance from freshman Pat Nagle, a dash of physical play from the defense, and a lot of preparation for a speedy BG hockey team.
I thought we played very well defensively tonight, said Daniels. I was also very happy with the goaltending of Pat Nagle. It appeared that we outshot them, but the scoring chances were even, and Pat played very well. Both goalies played well. That game could have been 4-3, rather than 2-1. The goaltenders were the story tonight for both teams.
BGs got a good transition game, continued Daniels. We didnt want to turn pucks over in the neutral zone. We didnt want to get caught deep in the forecheck because we respect the speed that they have on the team and the firepower they have up front. I was real pleased that we buckled down and played a real boring third period.
Nagle squared off against fellow freshman Nick Eno in the pipes. Nagles 25 saves were enough to secure his seventh victory of the year.
A lot of their chances were pretty good quality, said Daniels, talking about BGs offense. There were a lot of attempts off of screens on shots. It seemed like five or six times, the puck was tipped right in front of [Nagle]. He did a good job of making saves off of deflections. Those were tough saves to make.
Eno played strong as well, stopping the Bulldogs on 39 of 41 tries. He kept his Falcons within striking distance, twice stopping a pair of Third period breakaway chances that could have put the game out of reach.
Both goalies were very, very good, said Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch. Nick was called upon to make a lot more saves and he was excellent at keeping us in the game all the way to the end. Pat Nagle did a nice job as well. We didnt have a lot of great second chances. He made all the first saves.
While the Falcons stayed close on the scoreboard, quality chances were hard to come by. The speed and transition game BG has relied on for much of the year was nullified by the Ferris defense.
They mixed up an aggressive forecheck with a trap, explained Paluch. They sat back quite a bit, and we didnt do a good enough job of chipping the puck behind them. We turned too many pucks over and consequently couldnt get any offensive zone play. Its something well certainly have to adjust for tomorrow.
Ferris State took a 1-0 lead at 11:36 of the opening period. Sophomore winger Cody Chupp fired a shot from in front of the crease that deflected off of teammate Blair Riley and onto the stick of Justin Menke. He was able to wrist a shot past Eno on the glove side for his sixth goal of the season.
The Falcons tied the game with under a minute to play in the period. Derek Whitmore drove a shot that bounced off the goaltenders paddle and into the crease. Todd McIlrath was able to clean up for his 1st goal of the season. Dan Sexton added an assist on the goal.
Justin Lewandowski scored the game winner at 5:33 of the middle period, getting the puck out front on an Adam Miller wraparound attempt. He chipped the shot in for his 8th of the season.
The two teams will face off again tomorrow night. Game time is set for 7:05 p.m.