BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Chris Bergeron and Enrico Blasi met at center ice, shook hands and hugged; a friendly reunion after a not so friendly battle on the ice.
In their first meeting as head coaches—Bergeron served as Blasi’s assistant coach for the past seven seasons before taking over the Falcons this season—it was sixth ranked Miami who came away with the 4-3 victory in a physical game that featured a quite a bit of shoving and late hits after the whistle.
Prior to the players animosity on the ice—this was the first meeting since the teams combined for 186 penalty minutes in a 10-2 Miami win last season—the two coaches were able to have a much calmer evening Thursday night.
“I had a chance to spend time with him last night away from hockey, and that was special,” Bergeron said. “Tonight it was just, hey congratulations, they got what they deserved and I feel we got what we deserved.”
Teammates at Miami, Bergeron and Blasi helped the RedHawks to their first ever CCHA Regular season title during the 1992-93 season, seven years later they were reunited behind the bench.
Under the guidance of the former teammates Miami slowly turned into one of the top programs of the country, earning trips to the Frozen Four in 2008 and 2010, including a heartbreaking national title game loss to Boston University on their first ever trip to college hockey’s biggest stage.
However, past history didn’t matter Friday night as Blasi took a 1-0 series lead in their budding rivalry.
“Once the game started it was about the players, I’m proud of what he’s [Bergeron] doing and I know he’s going to move the program forward,” Blasi said.
“It was kind of nervous at first, but once it started it was a regular game … my expectations aren’t to lose a game 4-3 to whoever,” Bergeron said.
Despite some back-and-forth play early on it was Blasi’s team that struck first, on a seeing-eye shot by Joe Hartman that banked off the post and into the net.
Brett Mohler tied the game at one on a shorthanded breakaway at 16:22 of the first period; Mohler intercepted a RedHawk pass at the blueline, skated in and beat Miami goalie Cody Reichard glove side just before a Miami defender dragged him down and he crashed into the net.
The collision with the net was apparently harder then it appeared, as Mohler couldn’t remember what happened on the goal after the game.
Miami regained its lead just 28 second into the second period, when Will Weber’s rising shot from the point beat Bowling Green goalie Nick Eno; who was screened on the play by former Falcon Patrick Tiesling who transferred to Miami following the 2008-09 season.
Reilly Smith doubled the RedHawk lead at 13:34 of the period, when his shot from right below the face-off dot somehow slipped either through or under the legs of Eno.
Sandwiched in between the Miami goals, Bowling Green had a great opportunity to even the score after Matt Tomassoni was called for checking from behind, receiving a game misconduct and giving the Falcons a five-minute power play.
Other than a 90 second stretch—in which Jake Sloat made two impressive plays to keep the puck in the offensive zone—Bowling Green struggled to set up and spent too much time attempting to elude Miami forecheckers in their own zone.
“It sure seemed to go by pretty quickly … we’ve been struggling with the power play,” Bergeron said. “We didn’t make enough plays on the power play … and I felt we didn’t make enough plays all over … but we’ve got to find a way to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Not capitalizing on the man advantage was even more detrimental to the Falcons when Miami capitalized on the power play with 2:09 left in the period. Pat Cannone was the recipient of a pretty pass from Smith, and easily beat a diving Eno blocker side.
“We’ve been working on that all week, spreading them out, we knew they were going to pressure … I made the pass to the backdoor and it was pretty easy,” Smith said.
Bowling Green gave the home fans some life 7:12 into the third period, as Mohler once again found the back of the net, this time on slamming home a rebound before getting ran into the net by a Miami defender.
The Falcons did add a third goal with two seconds remaining, but it was too little too late.
The teams conclude the weekend series tomorrow night from the BGSU Ice Arena, opening faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m.