OMAHA, Neb. — Bowling Green interim head coach Dennis Williams never could have expected his first win behind the bench of his alma mater to come as it did on Friday night.
There was high drama to be had in much of the Falcons’ shootout win over Nebraska-Omaha in front of 7,152 fans at Qwest Center Omaha, after a 3-3 stalemate through 65 minutes of play.
Confusion surrounded the resulting tie-breaker, though, as it appeared that an ineligible player scored BGSU’s winning goal.
Freshman winger Jordan Samuels-Thomas, who had scored his first career goal 1:40 into the third period to tie the game at 2-2, scored on BGSU’s second shootout attempt, thus appearing to win the game for the Falcons, as UNO’s Rich Purslow then hit the left post on the Mavericks’ third and final attempt.
Samuels-Thomas went into the penalty box 4:44 into the five-minute overtime period, though, which, as per CCHA rules, should have made him ineligible to take part in the shootout.
“They had a player in the penalty box that had shot (the game-winner in the shootout), and that’s not legal,” UNO coach Dean Blais said after the game, once the confusion surrounding the tie-breaker had died down. “The league’s got to decide what it’s going to do, whether that’s starting out tomorrow’s game with that shootout and finishing it off or to keep going and start a new game, but a player can’t come out of the penalty box and take that shot.
“Still, Bowling Green worked hard and showed a lot of character coming in here. They hadn’t won a game yet this season, but they battled tonight, and I didn’t think we battled as hard as they did.”
No officials had discovered the mistake in the shootout until after the game though, and at press time, the Falcons (0-4-1 overall, 1-0-0-1 CCHA) were celebrating having come out on top in what was very much a back-and-forth game from the start of Friday’s second period onward.
UNO had held the run of play for large parts of the first period, and the Mavericks eventually outshot their guests 46-20, but three goals in the second period and another three in the third forced overtime and then the shootout.
“That was fun, and you’ve got to give a lot of credit to our guys,” Williams said. “We came into the third period down 2-1 against a team that doesn’t give up many goals in the third period of games, but our guys battled hard. It’s a great win, and it’s a great boost for our guys.”
Williams’ counterpart was happy with the way that his team had forced Falcon freshman goaltender Andrew Hammond into making 43 saves, but Blais wished the Mavericks had come up with better scoring opportunities than what they actually produced on Friday.
“You have to give them credit for playing a hard-fought game, but we had a lot of chances,” Blais said. “There just weren’t a lot of grade ‘A’ ones. We certainly had our chances to win, but (Bowling Green) probably feels the same way (about its performance).”
At the time of writing, it is uncertain how Friday’s controversy will be resolved, but apart from the uproar over the shootout, the Falcons deserved at least the point they earned by reaching the night’s tiebreaker, and Williams was overjoyed to see his team come out on top after losing its first four games of the season.
“It’s pretty neat” Williams said about his first win while in charge of his alma mater. “But I’m so much happier for the guys. They’ve put so much effort into it from August on, and to see them sing the song in (the dressing room) and smiling and cheering, that’s what it’s all about.”
The weekend series between the two teams will conclude on Saturday night at Qwest Center Omaha.