Bloodied and beaten

Bowling Green pounds NMU? in playoff series opener, 6-1

NMU’s Grant Loven is pictured on offense with Bowling Green’s Stephen Baylis in action during the WCHA playoffs at the Berry Events Center Friday evening, March 15, 2019. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — Sometimes in hockey, a team has a bad night where it’s pushed around, makes careless mistakes and is just beaten in all facets of the game.

That describes the Northern Michigan University hockey team’s performance Friday night as the Wildcats looked off all game and were pummeled by Bowling Green State through the final two periods.

The Falcons won Game 1 of the best-of-three WCHA playoff semifinal series by a score of 6-1.

The second period has doomed NMU on multiple occasions this season, but even though the Wildcats gave up two goals in the period and committed two costly penalties that led to goals in the third, Northern head coach Grant Potulny said much more was involved than just one bad stretch.

“Tonight, it was more than the second period,” he said. “Sometimes in hockey, as much as there’s different ways to play the game and different styles, a lot of it has been the same for a long time. It’s lining up against the guy next to you and beating him.

“I thought from every position out, we were beaten tonight and that’s the part that’s disappointing. We just didn’t even give ourselves a chance in the game to even work our way into it. We did things that we hadn’t done in a long time.”

The second period started off terribly for the Wildcats and it remained that way for the rest of the period. A little over a minute in, Falcons center Max Johnson picked off an NMU pass and fired a shot past Wildcats goalie Atte Tolvanen’s glove to get BGSU on the scoreboard.

Four minutes later, Adam Smith padded the Falcons’ lead when he roofed a shot under the crossbar. BGSU almost got a third goal three minutes after that on the same type of shot, but Taylor Schneider’s attempt rang off the crossbar.

Northern struggled to generate offense, with the best chance coming on a power play midway through the period when Denver Pierce tried to deflect a shot past Falcons goalie Ryan Bednard, but couldn’t get enough lift behind his attempt.

The Wildcats were also dealt two tough blows to end the second as Joseph Nardi was whistled for interference with significant contact, which resulted in a five-minute major penalty. With NMU trying to kill that penalty, forward Troy Loggins was called for tripping Bednard by the BGSU net, leaving the Wildcats to kill two penalties to start the third.

They couldn’t do it. Just 30 seconds into the final period, Falcons winger Brandon Kruse one-timed a shot past Tolvanen’s glove. One minute later, BGSU went up by four as Connor Ford deflected an Alec Rauhauser shot past Tolvanen.

Northern got one back at 8:55 when Loggins sent a cross-ice pass to Griffin Loughran in the Falcons defensive zone and sent a one-timer past Bednard’s blocker.

But whatever hopes there were for a Wildcats rally disappeared quickly as Johnson tallied his second goal of the night at 11:12 and with six seconds left, BGSU capped off its win with a tally by Cameron Wright.

The first period was the only one without much offense as both teams spent the majority of it killing penalties.

NMU’s two best scoring chances came on the power play, though. With BGSU’s Tim Theocharidis in the box for interference, Darien Craighead weaved into the slot, but Bednard made the save before Craighead could get it through his five-hole.

Shortly after that, there was a loose puck in the crease that Ty Readman had a chance at, but Bednard scrambled to cover it in time.

The Falcons’ best opportunity also came on a power play as forward Stephen Baylis’ shot was originally blocked by a Wildcats defenseman in the slot, but he got off a rebound attempt that Tolvanen dove and saved.

“I was disappointed in our lack of discipline,” Potulny said. “The first period was the funny part of the game where there was 12 minutes of special teams played and it affects you both ways.

“If you’re a power-play guy, we really struggled tonight. When you struggle on the power play, your top guys struggle. Then it kind of bleeds into the rest of their game. Our lack of discipline was very poor tonight.”

When asked what his team needs to do to bounce back tonight and force a deciding third game, Potulny said it comes down to basics and just giving that extra effort.

“We have to give ourselves a chance (tonight),” he said. “The game plan we have is not going to change. We might try some different matchups, but it doesn’t change. It’s about having the mentality that no matter where the puck is, I’m going to win the race. No matter if it’s a 50-50 battle and the odds are 70-30 in their favor that they should win the puck, you have to win it.

“If we can find a way to win the game (tonight), now we’re in the exact same place we were a year ago going into Sunday. And there’s a reason you fought for home ice.

“It obviously had no bearing tonight. I thought the crowd was excellent and we didn’t give them much to cheer about.

“There’s three areas for me where we have to be better. Your top guys can’t be beaten the way they were beaten, your special teams have to be better and we have to find a way to out-goaltend them.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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