In a game that looked like Mercyhurst was going to run away with late, the Falcons found a way to make it interesting until the end, eventually falling 2-1 to the Lakers on Saturday afternoon.
With this result, the Falcons drop to 3-1-0 overall, with all four games being out of conference matches.
In a first period filled with action, the Falcons came out with a bang, nearly scoring within the first 10 seconds, as BGSU forward Cameron Wright was narrowly denied by Mercyhurst goalie Hank Johnson.
As both teams ramped up their physicality, BGSU took the first penalty. Forward Sam Kraggs was caught slashing, leading to Mercyhurst taking hold of the game’s first powerplay. They pressured Bowling Green goalie Zack Rose, who stopped multiple shots before the Lakers’ Justin Cmunt opened the scoring with a power play goal.
Down 1-0, the Falcons responded with a quick series of shots. Johnson successfully defended, but his team in front of him drew a penalty, sending BGSU to another man advantage. After killing that penalty, both teams spent the remainder of the period trading penalties and hits. The penalty kills were all successful and the game started to get a little chippy, though nothing could get too far out of hand before the buzzer sounded on the first period.
In the second period, there was an explosive performance by the Lakers’ goaltending as well as the Falcon’s offense.
As the remaining penalties ran out and reset the flow of the game, Wright came extremely close to tying the game, but was again denied by goaltender Hank Johnson. These clutch saves for Mercyhurst quickly became a theme in the period.
As the period was beginning to pick up, Kruse had a brief scare that required trainer’s attention, as he was sandwiched between two Lakers and the glass. Kruse recovered, however, and returned to the bench shortly after.
With more zone entry, two of the Falcons’ freshmen forwards, Seth Fyten and Ethan Scardina, both had their own close chances. They were then backed up by an extended period of man advantage, after a delayed penalty resulted in almost an entire minute of 6-on-5 advantage for Bowling Green, and then the subsequent powerplay. In the face of all of this adversity, Mercyhurst goalie Johnson continued to stand on his head, denying a total of 21 shots in the second period alone, and holding the Lakers’ 1-0 lead.
The Falcons’ luck kept turning worse in the third, as a 4-on-4 that started the period expired into a power play, and then became a 5-on-3 after defenseman Justin Wells was called for kneeing. With a two-man advantage, the Lakers’ defenseman Cade Townsend scored to make it 2-0 for Mercyhurst.
From that point in the period, Bowling Green’s offense was simply being stifled, and they failed to restart the momentum they needed until it was too late.
With 2:37 left in the game, BGSU goalie Rose was pulled for the extra attacker. Even as their penalty ended and the Lakers returned to 5-on-6, they couldn’t stop junior Evan Dougherty from scoring, pulling the Falcons within a goal with a minute and a half remaining.
Coming down to the wire, BGSU head coach Ty Eigner called a timeout, with Assistant Coach Maco Balkovec drawing up the play. Rose came out again, and the Falcons continued to pressure going into the final minute. With pressure mounting, the Lakers took yet another penalty, giving Bowling Green nine seconds of a two-man advantage with the empty net. They fired off some quick shots, but Johnson made a few final saves as the clock ran out on a game that turned out to be incredibly close.
While this was Bowling Green’s first loss and their fourth game of the season, it was Mercyhurst’s first game of the season. With the win they start off 1-0-0 overall.
The Falcons and Lakers will meet again for the second game of the home and home series tomorrow at Mercyhurst.