MARQUETTE, Mich. —- Bowling Green jumped out to a three-goal lead at Northern Michigan on Saturday, then rode the coattails of sophomore goaltender Tommy Burke and his 37 saves the rest of the way to pull out a 3-2 WCHA victory at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
The win greatly increases the Falcons’ chances of making the WCHA playoffs, and keeps them in the hunt for a first-round, home-ice playoff series with Bemidji State coming to town next weekend.
As for Northern, it is on the outside looking in in ninth place, but can still sneak in with a sweep at Alabama-Huntsville next week.
“We’ve had the lead a bunch this year and haven’t been able to close out games,” BGSU coach Chris Bergeron said. “Tonight we were able to do that. We needed some positive momentum going into our last home series next weekend, and hopefully tonight was that.”
The Falcons took a 3-0 lead on a power-play goal by defenseman Mike Sullivan at 1:33 of the second period, but just over two minutes after Sullivan’s second goal of the year, NMU was back within one.
The Wildcats scored twice in 15 seconds —- John Siemer from Gerard Hanson and Mitch Jones at 3:21 and Erik Higby from Ryan Daugherty and Stephan Vigier at 3:36 —- to pull within one, but failed to ever get the equalizer past Burke, despite outshooting BGSU 23-9 over the final two periods.
“Tommy played a heck of a game,” Bergeron said. “We’ve challenged our goaltending to play better and good for Tommy Burke. He deserves the win. We look at our number being three goals and he shut the door at two so I’m happy for him. Good for him.”
Playing in his second game back from the Olympics and a day after media in his home country of Latvia accused him of failing a drug test in Sochi, Falcons defenseman Ralfs Freibergs scored off a faceoff 13:07 into the game with an assist from Pierre-Luc Mercier.
Ryan Carpenter, with an assist from Kevin Dufour, then made it a 2-0 at 17:00 of the first by trickling a puck past NMU goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom and a last-gasp save attempt by NMU defenseman Austin Handley.
Reed Seckel was called for boarding at the end of the first period, and that led to Sullivan’s second-period score that was assisted by Sean Walker and Carpenter to put NMU down 3-0.
“I wouldn’t tell you we played badly in the first; I would tell you we just didn’t play with the same energy,” NMU coach Walt Kyle said. “Sometimes —- and I’ve said this before about this team —- we’re a team that when good things happen, we can roll. But we wait sometimes for good things to happen and once we got that first goal, you could sense it.”