Connor Ford WCHA Playoffs vs. NMU 3-12-2021

BGSU's Connor Ford and Northern Michigan's Jospeh Nardi face-off in Bowling Green's 4-3 loss in the WCHA Playoffs at Slater Family Ice Arena on Friday, March 12, 2021.

Looking to bounce back from their loss on Friday, BGSU hockey did just that in a decisive 5-0 win over Northern Michigan Saturday night.

In their victory, the Falcons recorded 50 shots on goal, had four different players score and two tallies on the powerplay. Senior goaltender Eric Dop was also credited with a shutout, stopping all 23 shots put up by the Wildcats.

Both teams jumped right into the swing of things in the first period of play, with both the Falcons and Wildcats going end-to-end, and aiming to break up plays in the neutral zone.

Bowling Green got the early pressure on Northern Michigan goaltender Rico DiMatteo, putting up 16 shots in the first period alone. Despite the shot volume, DiMatteo made good saves early and forced faceoffs to reset play.

Cameron Wright would get his chance after a failed breakaway attempt, as just minutes later he would score the opening goal from Max Johnson and Brandon Kruse. A cheeky puck dump by Kruse, and a pass by Johnson, gave Wright the scoring opportunity from up close. He tucked it home to put BG up 1-0.  

Following that, NMU Junior Griffin Loughran was found guilty of a cross-check, sending the Falcons to their first of three power plays in the first period. While this first one was successfully killed, Sam Craggs drew a slash from Wildcat Adam Frye to continue BG’s man advantage.

They would finally capitalize on that second chance, with Ethan Scardina tallying his first goal as a Falcon on the powerplay.

Throughout the game, the Falcons seemed to have changed their power play style to be more methodical and focused on creating chances in front of the net. After the game, Head Coach Ty Eigner had this to say of the adaptation.

“Well last night we didn’t win the special teams battle, and if you’re able to do that then you’re gonna give yourself a pretty good chance there,” he said. “Our powerplay was able to score two goals, and I thought our penalty kill did a great job, too.”

The second goal went to review, and was ultimately upheld to affirm the 2-0 lead. Normally, the Wildcats would be subject to a delay-of-game penalty. However, during the review of the play, referees spotted NMU’s Ryan Van Unen attempting to remove the faceguard of a BGSU player. For this infraction, Van Unen was given a game misconduct, and his team served a five minute major penalty.

With that said, the Wildcats managed to pull off an impressive penalty kill, playing a man down for 4:33 of the second period.

The second was dominated by spurts of momentum from both teams.

Northern Michigan found most of their success when they were able to enter the Falcons’ zone and outskate them, playing faster and crossing up BG’s defense.

Conversely, Bowling Green were able to find extended periods of stifling offense, keeping pressure on the NMU net for minutes at a time. Thanks to this, they were able to crank up their shot total in the second period, ending 40 minutes of play with 36 shots in total.

Unfortunately, Scardina seemed injured mid-play, and keeled over. A whistle was called for him, and he went down the tunnel for the remainder of the game. Coach Eigner shared an update on the freshman’s health after the game.

“Ethan unfortunately got hit in the head. He had a head-neck injury earlier this year so we’re exercising as much caution as we can. He’s awake, he’s conscious, he’s talking, he feels fine but we just have to be very careful,” he said.

To end the period, NMU would get their turn on the powerplay, with BG senior Kruse taking a tripping penalty. Thankfully, Eric “The Stop” Dop was able to hold it down for the Falcons, despite being very much under-worked to that point.

Coming off of a drought in the second period, the Falcons’ offense exploded in the third.

Evan Dougherty scored a remarkable pair of goals within the first few minutes of the period, and both of them came on wrap-around plays behind the Wildcats’ net.  It was after this goal that Northern Michigan put in their backup goalie, John Hawthorne.

The goaltending change didn’t have the desired result, however. As Alex Barber scored to put the Falcons up 5-0 on the powerplay.

A few penalties came the way of either team, and the clock ran out on Game two with the Falcons securing their victory.

Coach Eigner discussed the weight of being in the playoffs, and the determination that the team has to continue their journey together.

“For the first time all year we are not guaranteed another game tomorrow,” he said. “The only way to guarantee another game is to win. Our sole focus is to win the game, to guarantee ourselves another game.”

Game three between the Wildcats and Falcons will take place tomorrow night, with the winner of this series moving on to face Lake Superior State.

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