Despite holding a two-goal lead in the third period, No. 15 Bowling Green hockey saw the game and series slip away against third-ranked Minnesota State, falling 3-2 in overtime. The Falcons are now in a tough position to fight for home ice in the WCHA postseason after being swept.
Not only does the loss hurt Bowling Green in the standings, but from a team perspective, this is the first time they have been swept by the Mavericks since 2009--before they even joined the Mavericks in the WCHA.
“You can’t give them chances,” head coach Ty Eigner said after the game. “We put them on the power play and you can’t do that.”
Connor Ford put on a showcase of what a team needs to do to beat Minnesota State to open the scoring. He bowled into the Maverick puck carrier on his way out the MSU zone before keeping the puck in the zone from a prone position. He managed to keep possession, drove to the net and drew a penalty that set up his one-timer shot from the slot no more than five seconds into the man advantage.
Up 1-0 after the first frame, Bowling Green needed to weather the storm Mankato is known to bring as games move along. Coming into the game the Mavericks have scored 31 goals in the second period and 40 in the third, both ranking first in the conference.
Bowling Green had also totaled 31 second period goals this season and had built a lot of momentum from the middle frame in the past, until recently giving up a 3-1 lead to Northern Michigan in a 4-3 OT loss.
The Falcons connected on the power play again as Cameron Wright scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season in the second period.
“We had two power play goals and things were humming along until the third,” Eigner said. “Then we had a bunch of guys who were tired and not exactly at their best.”
After killing off six straight penalties, the Falcons’ penalty kill unit was due to give something up to the nation’s number one power play. What would wind up being the beginning of the end for the Falcons, Alec Rauhauser fell victim to his second penalty of the night and Parker Tuomie netted one from the blueline past Eric Dop to make the score 2-1.
“Discipline is a big thing for us. It’s something we key on every night,” Ford said. “But we do want to win the special teams battle. They gave us too many opportunities for how dangerous we are, and we gave them too many opportunities for how dangerous they are.”
Josh French tipped in an Andy Carroll shot with just about three minutes left in the game make things evened up at 2 after Dop couldn’t hold onto his stick.
Nathan Smith found a deflected puck right on the doorstep of Dop and buried a backhand to give Mankato a 3-2 win and a sweep of Bowling Green.
“We go to block a shot, which we’re supposed to do, and unfortunately we blocked and it went right on the guy’s tape at the back door,” Eigner said.
As it stands now, Bowling Green sits in fifth place in the WCHA standings and are going to have to compete for home-ice advantage in the conference playoff tournament. Their final few series against Bemidji State, Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Fairbanks, Ferris State and Alabama Huntsville will feature some must-win games and even must-sweep series in order to stay in the top half of the seeding.
“For us it’s about putting ourselves in a better position come playoffs,” Ford said. “It’s going to be virtually impossible to catch (Minnesota State), but we can put ourselves in second or third place which would really help.”
BGSU falls to 13-11-2 on the season after the sweep and could see unfamiliar territory not only in the standings but in the win column as well. Their streak of five consecutive seasons with 20 wins may be snapped with only 10 games left in the year. The team is hoping these important games leading up to the playoffs will bring a taste of what could be come postseason play.
“We’re in a push for home ice which is unfamiliar territory for us,” Eigner said. “At the end of the day, we want to play our best hockey. Playing hockey the way you saw us play for long stretches tonight, We know if we can do that we can be a tough one for anybody, but it is kind of like the playoffs right now for us.”