BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — After getting blitzed by No. 5 Notre Dame in a pair of contests last week, the Bowling Green Falcons righted the ship tonight against No. 10 Minnesota State, battling the Mavericks to a 2-2 tie at the BG Ice Arena Friday night.
Trailing 2-0 in the second period, the Falcons fought back to tie the game thanks to a pair of goals by fourth-line winger Kai Kantola. The junior was in the right place at the right time for both goals, redirecting shots by Nick Bailen and Jacob Cepis to end the Falcons’ two-game losing streak.
“I liked the way our team played for all three periods,” said BG coach Scott Paluch. “It was an important bounce-back game for us. I thought we were pretty quick tonight against a very good team. That’s as good a team in transition that we’ve seen. If you turn something over, they get back at you pretty quick. It was a good 65-minute complete game from a lot of guys.
“To play well against a proven top 10 team, their body of work is pretty good. They’ve won a lot of games and beat some pretty good teams, and I can see why. We did a nice job doing what we had to do. We won some puck battles. I thought we were effective.”
“I’m impressed with Bowling Green,” said Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting. “They’re a good hockey team. They played very well. They moved the puck well.”
“We played really well,” said Kantola. “We were moving our feet. We were winning the battles down low. We just tried to get a lot of shots on net and a lot of scoring chances. We came out with a purpose. We were a little shy of our goal tonight. Of course, we’d like to win, but we’re pretty happy with what happened tonight.”
Jutting was pleased with the way his team’s play progressed throughout the game.
“We played a little better as the game went along. I thought in the first period, they really took it to us. We were very fortunate to be ahead 1-0 at the end of the first period.”
Both goalies played a strong game. MSU’s Mike Zacharias stopped 38 of the 40 shots he faced, while his counterpart, BG’s Jimmy Spratt, turned aside 21 of 23 shots, including three consecutive scoring chances on the doorstep in overtime..
“Our D played well,” said Kantola. “Spratt helped us out tremendously. He had a great game.”
“Our goaltender played very well, but in terms of shots on net, they don’t count shots on net, they count goals,” said Jutting.
Minnesota State opened the scoring at 10:25 of the first period with a power-play goal by Mick Berge. The senior winger took a pass from Mike Louwerse between the circles, and wristed a shot past Spratt for his third goal of the year.
The Mavericks added to their lead at 6:58 of the second period. Junior Geoff Irwin, anchored down near the post, picked up a loose puck in front of the net. He then stuffed it inside the post for his fourth tally of the season.
“I thought we were fortunate to be up 2-0 at that time,” said Jutting. “We’re on the road against a good hockey team that’s playing hard. I thought we could have played better, but part of that is because Bowling Green played well.”
Bowling Green cut the Maverick lead in half at 14:42 when they beat Zacharias on a two-on-one. Nick Bailen sent a pass across to Kantola, who redirected the puck into the back of the net for his fifth marker of the year.
“I was getting near the blue line, and I hear somebody calling for the puck,” explained Kantola. “It was Bailen. I gave him a pass going to the net. He shot it toward the net, and I just tipped it through the five-hole. I guess the hockey gods were shining on us there. I was hoping for a rebound, but I’ll take that any day.”
“Right before [Kai] scores that goal, that line had a terrific back check,” said Paluch. “Then, the very next shift, Kai goes to the net hard and gets rewarded. It was a big play in the game. We’re down 2-0 at that point, and if they score on their rush, they go up three. We were able to get the great back check and then the goal the other way on the next shift.”
Kantola used the power play to strike again with 23 seconds left in the period, knotting the score. Point man Jacob Cepis misfired on a slap shot from the blue line, but the puck had enough velocity to find the stick of Kantola off to the left side of the net. He tipped the puck past an out-of position Zacharias for his second goal of the night.
The two teams square off again tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m.