With an 8-5 record coming into the 14th game of the season, Bowling Green was hoping to ignite the offense by making a variety of changes to the forward group. The result was arguably the team’s strongest showing this year in a 5-2 win against fifth-ranked Notre Dame.
Four new forward lines were introduced prior to puck drop and at least one player on each line registered a point in the win.
“You’d like to think there’s a method to the madness,” head coach Ty Eigner said after the game in South Bend, Indiana. “We just want to score more goals and we thought if we mixed things up a bit maybe it might help.”
Connor Ford centered a Brandon Kruse and Alex Barber, Max Johnson split Taylor Schneider and Evan Dougherty, Freddy Letourneau was in the middle of Sam Craggs and Cameron Wright while Adam Pitters was inserted with Casey Linkenheld and Trevor St. Jean.
The Falcons were able to push the pace of the game in the opening frame despite not leading in shots, but a major factor in the win for Bowling Green was their disruption in the Notre Dame zone. The Fighting Irish had a very tough time setting up clean breakout plays due to the havoc from BGSU sticks and skates getting in the way of passing lanes.
“When we play to our identity, we’re a very good hockey team… we built this team on kids that can skate and can forecheck and are hard to play against. So that’s what we want to do. That’s a priority for us,” Eigner said.
Linkenheld opened the scoring when he found himself streaking for a breakaway. He tucked the puck under the five-hole of Cale Morris on the Falcons second shot of the game.
Eric Dop was forced to make some serious saves throughout the game, including a trio of stimied breakaways. By the end of the night, the junior netminder racked up 27 saves, with the Notre Dame’s first goal coming off of a Cam Morrison re-direct on the power play.
The second period opened up the ice for the Falcons and resulted in a flurry of chances and Bowling Green was able to retaliate with their own power play marker. Barber finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play with Kruse and Johnson to push ahead.
Kruse then scored one of his own to extend the lead. A tremendous one-man effort was finished off with a bar-down backhanded shot, coinciding with Kruse tumbling into the corner.
“It’s always good when the power play is going because it gives us more confidence to play with the puck,” Kruse said.
Then it was Alec Rauhauser finally sealing his 100th point as a Falcon on a wicked wrist shot. Former forward Mitch McLain was the last Falcon to reach the century mark (2018), but Rauhauser is the first defenseman to get the accolade since Kelly Perrault in 1997.
“You’re obviously thinking about it a little bit,” Rauhauser said. “At the end of the day, I just want to be the best leader that I can for this team… I knew it would come at some point this season.”
Rauhauser is now only one marker back of Wayne Wilson for the eighth-most points by a Bowling Green defenseman.
BGSU’s Freddy Letourneau and Notre Dame’s Jake Pivonka each punch in power play goals in the third period, but a late rally effort from the Irish falls short and the Falcons take game one of the weekend series 5-2.
The Falcons hope to answer Saturday night at Slater Family Ice Arena in the latter half of this series. Sweeping teams is something not done often in college hockey, but having one of the top teams in the nation on the ropes is a good place to be in.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where we gave ourselves a chance (to sweep) again, which is exactly where you want to be… we’re going to get an opponent that’s going to come back and play hard,” Eigner said.