Huskies down to their last chance

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Bowling Green’s hockey team is playing well again.

And the Falcons couldn’t have picked a better time.

They parlayed solid offense and defense into a 2-1 win over Michigan Tech in Game 1 of their Western Collegiate Hockey Association quarterfinal series in the Ice Arena.

Bryce Williamson and Ryan Carpenter scored for the Falcons, and Tommy Burke stopped 24 shots.

BG played well defensively, although it was out-shot by a 25-24 margin.

Carpenter’s goal with 8:08 remaining in the first period snapped a 1-1 tie and neither team scored again.

The Falcons – who have won four straight games after an 0-4-1 stretch late in the regular season – can close out the best-of-3 series with a win tonight.

But a Tech victory in Game 2 sends the series to a deciding game Sunday night.

“I was pleased with the effort, for sure,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “The execution was pretty good.”

The Falcons have been sharp in each of their last three games after Burke’s 37-save performance enabled BG to steal a 3-2 win at Northern Michigan March 1 to start the winning streak.

BG – which tied for third in the WCHA during the regular season – improved to 17-14-6 overall. Tech, which finished fifth, is 14-18-7.

Although Burke was sharp, the Falcon defense corps of Connor Kucera, Sean Walker, Marcus Perrier, Ralfs Freibergs, Mike Sullivan and Jake Sloat played well.

The Falcons didn’t allow many rebound shots after Burke made the initial save. Burke also had good rebound control and smothered the puck when needed to stop the play.

“Their defense did a real good job of not letting us get to the net for second opportunities,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “I’m not disappointed in our effort. We competed and showed our effort. We need to improve our puck management. We have to finish better.”

Burke said BG’s team defense was its best since early January when it allowed just two goals in a four-game stretch against Alabama-Huntsville and Alaska (Fairbanks).

BG has allowed just eight goals in its last four games.

“When we were rolling right after the first of the year, that’s probably the best we’ve played defensively. Tonight, it was the same level,” Burke said. “Our forwards and defense played really well defensively.”

The Huskies entered the game having scored 16 goals in four previous meetings against BG this season, including 10 in a 5-2, 5-4 sweep in the Ice Arena Jan. 31-Feb. 1.

For the most part, BG limited its turnovers when breaking the puck out of its own end.

“Our defense played well,” Bergeron said. “They kept the game simple. They broke the puck out the way they were supposed to, by taking what the game gave us.”

Offensively, the Falcons generated most of their offense off a good forecheck and by controlling the puck in the offensive zone.

Carpenter crashed the net to score on a rebound from the top of the crease after Tech’s Pheonix Copley stopped Matt Pohlkamp’s shot from the right circle.

Carpenter came down the middle of the ice, fighting off a Tech defender in the process, to score the goal.

BG took a 1-0 lead on Williamson’s power-play goal from the right circle at 5:55 of the first period. Tech’s David Johnstone tied the game with a power-play goal at 10:12. Johnstone scored on a laser from the left circle, scoring over Burke’s right shoulder into the top left-corner of the net.

The Falcons also had a clutch penalty-kill after Freibergs was called for hooking on a partial breakaway, just 2:48 into the third period. The hook prevented Tech from getting a shot on the rush. BG then didn’t allow a shot on goal to Tech during its man advantage.

“That was big momentum for us,” said Carpenter, who kills penalties. “It gave us energy and it helped our confidence after they scored on the first one.”