BGSU hockey head coach Ty Eigner has spread the message several times this year that it is tough for teams to capture weekend sweeps in the NCAA. Either way, failing to win back-to-back against a team you’re heavily favored against serves as a blow to team confidence and cuts deep in the standings, as Saturday night’s 2-2 tie against Alabama-Huntsville proves.
After sweeping Notre Dame – ranked fifth in the nation at the time – a week ago, the Falcons saw a one-sided goal total to the weekend. Friday night came with nine goals in a dominant win, but Saturday the team could only find the back of the net three times, including in 3-on-3 overtime in order to clinch an extra point in the WCHA standings.
“I don’t know what it was. You get teams like that, that are not capable of beating you, but just every year we play to their level,” junior forward Max Johnson said following a two-goal performance in Saturday’s tie.
Johnson popped the puck past Mark Sinclair to give Bowling Green a 1-0 lead, getting out on the right foot compared to the previous night, where the Falcons gave up three goals before storming back for a 9-3 win.
A turnover in the Falcons’ end would lead to Jack Jeffers scoring his fourth of the year. Huntsville would add on in the second period. Christian Rajic took advantage of a rattled Zack Rose after a puck hit him in the mask and play eventually found its way to the slot, where Rajic did not miss.
“I didn’t have a feeling that would happen,” Eigner said. “I thought we would have a better response tonight. I thought we would come out and understand it’s not an exhibition game and they’re here to play.”
After a trio of chances on the man advantage, the Falcons would finally cash in on their fourth power play opportunity. Connor Ford saw an open lane to the net and scored his eighth of the year with authority. Forty-three shots were not enough to reach a conclusion in regulation, though.
Now the Falcons will take a dive in the pairwise standings, which divvy out standing points by the strength of a win, tie or loss.
“I try not to sound cliche, but there’s a lot of parity in college hockey,” Eigner said. “If I had the answer on how you get 18 to 23-year-old kids to be on point all the time I would tell them.”
While it is frustrating, the reality is a series sweep against UAH is arguably just as important as being able to knock off the fifth-ranked team in the nation.
“It matters so much to us. In the last two years I’ve been here we have tough games against (Huntsville) and Anchorage when they weren’t at their best and we tie them or lose to them and it comes back to bite us in the butt at the end of the season,” Johnson said. “I think they’re 60th in the nation – whatever, that doesn’t matter. It’s just games that we’re favored to win by a big portion and we just couldn’t get it done, which will hurt us in the long run.”
Next week BGSU hockey will travel to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to face off against the Lake Superior State Lakers, another team the Falcons fell to despite there being a considerable margin between them in the standings.
“I’m more nervous inside about these games,” Eigner said. “We don’t have a real big margin for error in terms of some of our regular season games. That’s the reality.”
The mood in the locker room was one of disappointment, but motivated. Eigner said more than one player came into the locker room after the final buzzer with the mindset that the 3-2 double-overtime “victory” was not a win, just like it will be seen in the standings.
As for the pairwise standings, BG sits in seventh, but that can all change when March rolls around and the Chargers continue what could be their season-long skid.
The puck drops next week for Bowling Green at 7:07 p.m., Dec. 13 and 14 in Michigan.