For the second consecutive night, the Bowling Green Falcons put together a solid defensive effort and were able to score just enough, as they again slipped by the Northern Michigan Wildcats, 2-1, at the BG Ice Arena on Saturday night.
Junior Josh Boyd gave the Falcons a lead late in the second period and winger Dan Sexton tipped in a Brandon Svendsen shot late in the game to give the Falcons their first sweep over the Wildcats since January of 2003.
The win also helped the Falcons break a Saturday winless streak. Tonight’s victory was their first Saturday win of the season.
“When you start walking through the weekends where we’ve won on Friday, we’ve actually came back [on Saturday] and played well, we just haven’t finished it off,” said Falcons’ coach Scott Paluch. “It was great that we just had to mentally grind it out for 60 minutes, where we have a lead, then don’t have a lead, then we’re back in front.
“It was an important weekend for our team, to be able to put the back-to-back wins together. The whole game was a real good, physical game with tightly-contested battles both ways.”
“We’ve won a lot of Friday night games, and then on Saturday night, we tend to have something that just isn’t there, whether it’s a break or a bounce,” said Sexton. “For the most part, we’ve worked hard on Saturday, but we just don’t get it done. Tonight, the hard work kind of paid off. We were persistent. We really didn’t play the best game of our season, but we did enough to get by. That’s what good teams do. They find a way to win on those not-so-great nights.”
For a second consecutive night, strong goaltending was the story at both ends of the ice. BG’s senior goaltender Jimmy Spratt played solidly again, stopping 30 shots for his fifth victory of the year.
“I felt good; the team on both nights played well and let me see the puck,” said Spratt. “I didn’t give them too many second chances. Whenever you can do that, you’re set up for success.”
“He was really solid the entire weekend,” added Paluch. “That’s probably as good back-to-back that Jimmy’s played in a long time. He was an important piece of the whole weekend. He was strong. He didn’t give up a ton of rebounds. He was really good.”
“Jimmy did a great job,” said Sexton. “A lot of those shots he faced were all good scoring chances. We just try to clear the way and let him see the shot. He came up huge for us both nights.”
Brian Stewart was just as strong in NMU’s net all weekend. Though he suffered both losses, the talented junior turned aside 89 shots on the weekend, including 41 tonight.
“It certainly wasn’t easy,” said Paluch of beating the lanky goaltender. “He’s long. There’s a lot there. He moves well. He was in front in a lot of the pucks. We did a better job of planting ourselves in front of him, but we didn’t get to as many rebounds as I would’ve hoped to tonight. Heâ€™s really good for them.”
“Personally, I like to shoot it low,” said Sexton when explaining how he tried to solve Stewart. “He’s such a big guy that up top isn’t really open. I tried to go glove side a couple of times, but his glove just engulfs [the puck]. We were throwing it toward his pads just trying to get rebounds, and trying to take advantage of his lateral movement, which might not be up to par.”
NMU, though playing well for most of the weekend, could not get any puck luck during the series. The Wildcats have struggled recently, winless in their last seven contests.
Despite the losses, NMU coach Walt Kyle was upbeat about the weekend.
“I thought we played well. They did, too,” said Kyle. “It was a real close hockey game. They were able to get one late on us. I was really happy with our effort. I thought tonight, we played hard. We were competing. [BG] just played very well against us.”
After a scoreless first period, Bowling Green took the lead late in the second on a nifty play by Josh Boyd. The junior center picked off a pass in the neutral zone, then skated into the Wildcats’ zone with a defender draped on him. As he lost his edge and fell to the ice, he flipped a backhanded shot toward the net that surprised NMU netminder Brian Stewart. The puck floated over his shoulder and found an open space under the crossbar, giving Boyd his second goal of the year.
In the lone bright spot of the night for Northern Michigan, the Wildcats ended an 0-for-34 power play slump by scoring with the man-advantage at 10:10 of the third period. Gregor Hanson picked up his second goal of the weekend, as he swept a puck through the legs of Spratt from just outside the crease.
The Falcons netted the game winner at 17:46 of the period on a Brandon Svendsen shot that was tipped off a defender’s stick toward the net. Sexton was able to get enough of the puck to deflect it past a surprised Stewart for his fifth marker of the year.
The Falcons now head into a series with #9 Notre Dame next weekend.