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Falcons lose WCHA final in double OT to Mich. Tech

03/19/2017, 12:55am EDT

BGSU battles back from 2-0 deficit, but falls short of NCAA bid

Bowling Green defenseman Adam Smith tries to skate away from Michigan Tech forward Reid Sturos in the first period on Saturday. BGSUHOCKEY.COM/TODD PAVLACK

HOUGHTON, Mich. — It was a dagger that broke the hearts of the Bowling Green State University hockey team Saturday.

Technically, it was a goal by Michigan Tech’s Shane Hanna at 6:35 of the second overtime that resulted in the Falcons’ 3-2 double-overtime loss in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship before a sellout crowd of 4,466 at MacInnes Ice Arena.

But it was a mortal blow that wiped out an amazing revival by the Falcons, who trailed 2-0 entering the third period. 

Somehow BG found a way to dominate the final period, outshooting the Huskies 11-2 and scoring two goals 24 seconds apart that tied the game and forced the extra hockey.

Hanna’s goal dashed the Falcons’ chance to win their first league championship since 1988, when BG won the Central Collegiate Hockey Association title.

VIDEO: John Wagner on WCHA Championship format

It also ruined Bowling Green’s chances to earn the school’s first berth in the NCAA tournament since 1990.

“I’m extremely proud of our guys,” Falcons coach Chris Bergeron said. “To go down 2-0 in this building, and find a way to come back. ...

“That resiliency didn’t show itself enough this season, but in this game it did.”

BG (21-18-2), the fourth seed in the WCHA tournament, is left to rue what might have been while the Huskies (23-14-7) advance to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons.

The Huskies had the better of play in the first overtime, including a shot by Alex Smith that beat BG goalie Chris Nell but glanced off the post. The Falcons’ Lukas Craggs took a shot from short range that scooted past Michigan Tech goalie Angus Redmond but hit the post and squirted away late in the first extra period.

But there were no such dramatics in the second. With the two teams skating 4-on-4, the Huskies Matt Roy lined a pass from deep in his zone that found Hanna just in front of BG’s blue line.

Hanna skated in with the puck, then beat Nell high to the glove side for the game-winner at the 6:35 mark.

It was a heartbreaker for Bowling Green, which had been left for dead after trailing 2-0 through two periods.

But the Falcons dominated the third and were rewarded with a goal after controlling the puck for an extended time in the Huskies’ zone.

“We knew the game wasn’t over,” Bergeron said. “We didn’t have to plead for them to keep going.

“The guys did that. And I didn’t expect anything less from our group.”

The comeback began when BG’s Joe McKeown whipped a shot past Redmond for his second goal of the year at 6:36.

Less than 30 seconds later, Redmond and a Michigan Tech defenseman were playing with the puck behind the goal when Matt Pohlkamp suddenly intercepted it and smacked it into the goal to tie it with 13 minutes left in regulation.

The two goals were the highlights in a dominating 20 minutes in which the Falcons outshot the Huskies 11-2.

“We knew it could potentially be our final game,” said BG defenseman Sean Walker of his team’s third-period renaissance. “We knew if we stuck to the game plan, we would have a chance to score goals.”

That was unlike the second period, during which Michigan Tech scored twice and had the better of play.

Both teams had several scoring chances in the first, which was scoreless. But the Falcons made several mistakes in the second, and both times Michigan Tech made them pay.

Early in the period, Bowling Green struggled to clear the puck out of its zone. Instead, the Huskies’ Alex Gillies found the puck on his stick, then found Joel L’Esperance in front of Nell.

L’Esperance slid the puck in between Nell’s legs for his 11th goal of the season at 4:53.

Midway through the period an unfortunate collision helped put the Falcons into a 2-0 hole.

With the two teams skating 4-on-4, Stephen Baylis and Mark Friedman collided and the puck sat unattended in the BG end.

Michigan Tech’s Jake Jackson scooped the puck up and skated to the right of Nell, who was caught too far away from the pipes.

Jackson whistled the puck past Nell for his 10th of the season.

NOTE: Former Bowling Green standout Gary Kruzich is the director of athletic partnerships and ticket sales at Michigan Tech and was at the game. Kruzich was the freshman goalie who backstopped the Falcons to the 1984 NCAA title.

Contact John Wagner at:, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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Bowling Green forward Shane Bernard, left, keeps the puck away from Michigan Tech forward Chris Leibinger in the second period of Saturday’s championship game. BGSUHOCKEY.COM/TODD PAVLACK

Bowling Green goaltender Chris Nell prepares to make a save against Michigan Tech defenseman Mark Auk in the first period of Saturday’s WCHA Championship game. BGSUHOCKEY.COM/TODD PAVLACK

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