By Frank Gargano
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio– Homecoming weekend on the campus of Bowling Green brought the rekindling of an old CCHA rivalry with the Michigan State Spartans coming to the newly named Slater Family Ice Arena. Michigan State looked to start the regular season off on the right foot, but the Falcons took advantage of an early momentum swing in the first period and stood on the shoulders of freshman goaltender Eric Dop to come away with a 4-1 win.
Dop had seen action in two exhibition games, giving up only one goal between the two contests. But putting in a freshman goaltender in the home opener is a gutsy move. Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron said “We asked ourselves was this going to be too big of a moment for a young guy? Homecoming Friday, we knew it was going to be a good crowd, should we just play him tomorrow on the road? He wrapped his arms around the goal and took advantage of an opportunity and good for him.”
Dop went on to make 26 saves in his regular season debut, surrendering only one a power-play goal in the second period.
The Falcons drew first blood after Spartan forward Gianluca Esteves went to the box for tripping. Alec Rauhauser rifled a shot from the blue line, generating a rebound for Stephen Baylis that he buried home for his first goal of the season. Unfortunately for the Spartans and goaltender Ed Minney, the bleeding didn’t stop there.
A minute and twenty-nine seconds later, Baylis continued his big night after coming around the net and centering the pass for Frederic Letourneau. Letourneau sniped the one-timer past Minney, raising the deficit to 2. The Falcons scored just 12 seconds later with a messy wrap-around goal coming from Cameron Wright, his second of the year. Immediately following the third goal in a span of 1:41, Spartan coach Danton Cole made a change in net, replacing Minney with John Lethemon.
Despite all the scoring, Bergeron was not happy with his team’s overall performance. “We scored four goals, we had a good stretch there in the first few minutes but I thought we played better on Tuesday for more of the time. I was hoping we’d score more. That’s full marks to Michigan State; that wasn’t just us going back, that was them pushing and playing the game harder.”
“If it wasn’t for Eric Dop, the game gets a lot closer and we start to squeeze our sticks and press and get tight. I saw confidence, I saw urgency…just a kid that was on it tonight.”
After the first period being all BG, Michigan State finally had an answer. A power-play goal from the Spartan’s returning lead point scorer, Taro Hirose, cut the Falcons’ lead back to two. The Falcons would go on to capitalize on a 5-minute major being assessed to Spartan defenseman Zach Osburn. Connor Ford would score the fifth and final goal of the game to close out the Spartans.