DETROIT — It’s safe to say that nearly everybody who wasn’t rooting for Michigan in these CCHA playoffs was pulling for Bowling Green, the last-place team that played its way through two best-of-three road series to face the Wolverines in tonight’s second semifinal game, and when Bowling Green led 2-0 late into the second period, it looked like the Falcons were on their way to rewriting the typical CCHA narrative.
Then the Wolverines scored with 10 seconds to go in the second.
Then they scored again with less than three to go in the third.
Then after playing the first overtime, the Falcons finally ran out of gas at 1:04 in the second OT when A.J. Treais set up Luke Moffatt’s game-winning goal on a scramble in front of the BGSU net – the Wolverines’ 58th shot of the game.
“I think going into the game we would’ve taken a one-goal lead going into the third,” said BG junior goaltender Andrew Hammond, who made 55 saves in just over 81 minutes of play. “We just made one too many mistakes, I think.”
That last mistake felt inevitable from the start of the second overtime. The Falcons – who played two overtime games last weekend en route to eliminating top-seed Ferris State in Big Rapids, Mich. – were a step behind from the drop of the puck in the second OT. The winning goal was the kind of fluky thing that happens in long playoff contests like this.
Hammond, who’d been excellent all night, was out of position and his defense was gassed and scrambling in front of him. Treais fished the puck out of traffic to the right of the Falcons’ net and shot it toward the crease and Moffatt finished it by one-timing it in from point-blank range.
“It was a good game and we’re fortunate we won, but our guys left it all on the ice,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “No question.”
The Falcons led 2-0 through nearly the first 40 minutes of play on goals by freshman Ryan Carpenter and junior Marc Rodriguez. Carpenter tucked the puck between UM senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick and the right post for the 1-0 lead at 9:53 in the first and Rodriguez made it 2-0 at 5:58 in the second when he popped it over Hunwick’s far shoulder from the left circle.
Two late-period mistakes cost the Falcons, though, said coach Chris Bergeron. First, Jon Merrill scored for Michigan at 19:50 in the second to make it 2-1, and David Wohlberg knotted the game with 2:45 left in regulation when he beat a sprawling Hammond from near the crease.
“I thought we’d dodged a few turnovers or bad plays to that point [in the second period],” said Bergeron. “We were just stressing [that] we have to take better care of the puck. Once again, we weren’t able to do that. We had the puck right on their stick a couple of feet inside our blue line, and you know, those plays are very difficult to come back from.”
The Wolverines advance to play Western Michigan for the CCHA championship Saturday night at 8:05 p.m., and Berenson said he was a little concerned about length of tonight’s game.
“Our team will be warmed up from tonight,” said Berenson. “I think our team played at a better pace the last half of the game. We should be ready. We’ll see how the game goes tomorrow, but it’s 11:30 and we’re just walking out of the rink, so.”
The Falcons will take on Miami in the third-place game Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Bergeron said that as disappointed and tired as his team is, they’ll be ready to play.
“I don’t think we know anything else other than to come and show up,” said Bergeron. “I think the way the first game went tonight, Miami could be a little bit upset and we may get the brunt of that early because we’re a tired bunch, but we’re going to show up at 3:30 and we’re going to fight as hard as we can.”
Video: Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron:
Video: Bowling Green’s Andrew Hammond: