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Bowling Green’s weekend series against Alabama Huntsville conjures up the Disneyland classic, “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” In Friday’s opening period, the Falcons found themselves down three goals. They responded with NINE consecutive tallies in a 23-minute span, scorching the Chargers 9-3 in game one.
In Saturday’s finale, Max Johnson put the 10th consecutive goal past beleaguered UAH goalie Mark Sinclair to open the scoring, yet somehow Bowling Green failed to put the game away, settling for a tie. Johnson ultimately helped BGSU claim the extra point in double OT, but BGSU’s sporadic play perplexed coach Ty Eigner.
“We’ve got to do a better job,” Eigner said after Saturday’s 2-2 tie. “Some of the things we just gave them, plays that ended up in the back of our net, were 100 percent controllable on our end. That can’t happen.”
This is reminiscent of Bowling Green’s “Splitsville” theme from a year ago, when eight weeks of splitting WCHA series nearly scotched their at-large NCAA bid. The nadir of Splitsville was on March 1, 2019, when Bowling Green lost to these same Chargers 4-2 on George McPhee Bobble-Head night, a loss that cost BGSU home ice in the WCHA semis. Even the most ardent Brown and Orange fans left Slater Arena on Black Friday with their postseason dreams tattered.
There are indicators that this year could be different, however, especially in light of BGSU’s Thanksgiving weekend sweep of then fifth-ranked Notre Dame. The reality is that Eigner’s Falcons collected five of six points in the standings this past weekend versus Huntsville, as opposed to the three points they surrendered last March.
Eigner calmly expressed his frustration from the podium Saturday, summing it up in a simple truth: “If I had the answers on why or how you get 18- to 23-year-olds to be on point, I would tell ‘em, that’s for sure.”
No One Knocks Out the Nanooks
They are the Rocky Balboa of the WCHA. They have taken a landslide of body blows, both on the ice and off, yet the Nanooks remain on their feet, slugging away and wrestling critical points from league rivals in every series they’ve played. Saturday night in Bemidji was a dramatic example of their gutty resilience.
If you are like most college hockey fans, you frequently scan out-of-town scores throughout the weekend. Many noticed Alaska trailing Bemidji 2-1 halfway through Saturday’s finale, 30 minutes from being swept by the Beavers and their stingy goalie Zach Driscoll. Hopefully you checked again before going to bed Saturday. The Nanooks offense exploded for four goals in the second half of the finale, slamming the door on the Beavers and snatching three vital points in the WCHA standings.
There was no shortage of heroes on the visiting bench, like sophomore goalie Gustavs Grigals who out-dueled Driscoll in net, and Nanooks senior Colton Leiter, the Alberta native who sniped a pair of clutch goals on either side of the second intermission.
“We managed to battle back and produce a lot of offense,” said Leiter, who was awarded the game’s first star.
But the second star of the night — junior Steven Jandric — had a career-high four points (1G, 3A) to keep a remarkable personal scoring streak alive. His priority, however, was about team points, not individual.
“A big three points allowed us to stay in the hunt for home ice come playoffs,” Jandric said. “It was big to get them against a team right in front of us in the standings, nice to get those points before Christmas.”
Jandric has inked up the scoresheet in seven of his last eight games to spark the Nanooks offense, going 4-6-10 in the hottest stretch of his career. His club is playing .600 ball on the road and will never concede a game until they are counted out. The iron-willed Nanooks might consider a new slogan: “Yo, Adrian!”
Goalies on the Score Sheet
For those who enjoy perusing hockey scoresheets on weekend mornings, there was an entry from Friday’s Alaska-Bemidji tilt that might have caused a coffee spill. The Beavers’ Charlie Combs’ goal early in the second period cited one assist, awarded to a familiar name — goalie Zach Driscoll!
Cue the double-take: right name, wrong place. It takes less than a minute to sync up video of the scoring play from the FloHockey archives, and there it is: a long rebound steered expertly to the corner by Driscoll. Combs corrals it, sails down the ice and then snipes a 25-foot wrister. The assist contained neither drama nor offensive prowess, but kudos to the officials for crediting the right guy with the helper, the first of Driscoll’s career. All he was missing was a minor penalty in order to score the “Ron Hextall Hat Trick”: a win, a penalty, and a point on the scoresheet.
Driscoll joins the four other WCHA goalies who have racked up rare assists this season: Nolan Kent (NMU), Matt Jurusik (MTU), Eric Dop (BGSU), and the much-decorated Dryden McKay (MSU) [Credit: Todd Bell, WCHA].
A better example of a goaltender generating offense was executed by Bowling Green’s Zack Rose on Saturday, a stirring 130-foot tape-to-tape connection with Max Johnson in double overtime.
What can't he do? ?♂️@BGFalconHockey goalie Zack Rose fires a long pass to Max Johnson for the double OT extra-point goal in this thriller against @uahhockey— FloHockey (@FloHockey) December 9, 2019
Rewatch all the massive action from the weekend on #FloHockey pic.twitter.com/Qk0rXqVf67
Sadly for fans of Falcon hockey and the “union” that advocates for goalies everywhere, the Rose assist (and the Johnson goal for that matter) will disappear into the ether of three-on-three overtime. In spite of the stirring call by BGSU’s Ryan Vallon, these stats will never be found on a scoresheet, but they won’t soon forgotten.
Tim Rappleye is the author of Jack Parker's Wiseguys: The National Champion BU Terriers, the Blizzard of '78, and the Road to the Miracle on Ice. He can be reached on Twitter @TeeRaps.