BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - The Bowling Green State University ice hockey team defeated Bemidji State University on Friday night (March 7), by a score of 5-3, clinching a spot in the 2014 Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. The Falcons received goals by Ryan Carpenter, Mark Cooper, Kevin Dufour, Ben Murphy and Sean Walker, while sophomore goaltender Tommy Burke (11-6-6) turned away 16-of-19 shots in the winning effort.
Entering the weekend needing only two points to clinch a spot in a tightly-bunch WCHA playoff race, the Falcons (15-14-6, 12-11-4) pushed their WCHA point total to 28 with a victory over the Beavers (10-18-7, 10-13-4). With the triumph, the Orange and Brown assured themselves no worse than a sixth seed for the first round of the playoffs - which are scheduled to be played next weekend.
The Falcons won the specials teams department for the fourth-straight game, going 1-for-2 with the on-ice man advantage. The power-play goal marked the fourth consecutive game the Orange and Brown have scored on the power play. Meanwhile, Bowling Green went a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill throughout the night. The Falcons are a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill over their last three games.
Bemidji scored the first goal of the contest, coming off the stick of Brendan Harms at the 4:50 mark into the opening period. Harms collected a rebound on the left side of the crease and netted the puck past Burke for the game's first tally.
Just two minutes later in the first period, the Falcons answered back, tying the tilt at 1-1 with an even-strength goal from Murphy. Freshman Pierre-Luc Mercier sent a pass that split a couple of Beaver defensemen and onto Murphy's stick in the slot. The Duxbury, Mass., native fired a wrist shot past BSU's starting goaltender Jesse Wilkins for his 12th goal of the season.
The Orange and Brown were able to grab their first lead of the game at the 11:08 mark, coming off the stick of Cooper at even-strength. Senior Bryce Williamson played a nice touch pass from Murphy into the slot for Cooper. The right-handed forward sent the puck into the back of the net, lighting the lamp for a team-leading 14th time this season.
The Falcons' 2-1 lead remained true for the rest of the first period despite being outshot 10-8 in the period.
Much like the first period, Bemidji scored the first goal in the middle frame, netting an even-strength goal at the 2:38 mark. The Beavers' John Parker sent a one-timer past Burke for the equalizer, knotting the game at 2-2.
However, the Falcons once again answered with a goal at just 1:12 after the Beavers netted their second goal of the game. With the puck in the Bowling Green's offensive zone, Walker corralled a pass near the point and fired a slap shot towards a screen in front of Wilkins. Dufour, however, redirected the shot and beat the netminder, giving the Orange and Brown a 3-2 lead.
Bowling Green then doubled their lead at the 8:34 mark in the second frame, coming off the stick of Walker on the power play. Working the puck around the Falcons' zone, Walker received a pass from junior defenseman Mike Sullivan along the half boards on the far side of the rink. The rookie defenseman quickly skated around a Bemidji defender and fired a slap shot past Wilkins, giving the Falcons a 4-2 lead.
Maintaining a two-goal lead, Bowling Green's co-captain gave the Orange and Brown their largest lead of the game with an even-strength goal at the 10:40 mark in the middle frame. Carpenter collected a rebound shot from Mercier and jammed it past Wilkins for his sixth goal of the season. The goal gave BGSU a 5-2 lead with 9:20 remaining in the period.
The three-goal outburst proved to be enough as the Falcons outshot the Beavers 19-9 for the remaining of the game to come out victorious. The Beavers scored once more to cut the deficit to 5-3 at the 17:32 mark in the second, but Burke turned away all six shots fired his way in the third period to hold of Bemidji.
The Falcons will be right back in action on Saturday night, marking the final regular-season game at the BGSU Ice Arena. Bowling Green will play host to the Beavers in the second game of the home series, and will honor eight seniors in what will be their final regular-season home game for their careers. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:07 p.m.