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Hockey forces split with Ferris State

Sometimes in sports, two teams will be so evenly matched that neither really deserves to be the clear-cut winner in a game or series.

That was the case this weekend at the BGSU Ice Arena where the Falcon hockey team (16-16-0, 13-13-0 CCHA) worked for a split with Ferris State (14-13-5, 11-11-4) in an entertaining Central Collegiate Hockey Association match-up.

The two teams each gained a 2-1 victory on the weekend, with Ferris winning Friday and BG on Saturday.

In other words, the teams fought to a 2-2 series stalemate in what was perhaps the most evenly-played weekend that the Falcons have been involved in this season.

Saturday’s result, coupled with other scores from around the league, put BG into an incredible four-way tie for fifth place with Ferris, Nebraska-Omaha, and Northern Michigan.

‘BG had a little bit more of an edge in play tonight, although that game could have gone either way,’ said Bulldog coach Bob Daniels after his team lost 2-1 Saturday. ‘Maybe the fair result of the weekend is a split. I don’t think there’s much difference between the two teams, so maybe that’s just the right outcome.’

Daniels was certainly more pleased with Friday’s outcome though, when his team took sole possession over the Falcons for sixth place in the CCHA.

Justin Menke opened the series scoring halfway through the first period on Friday with a shot past diving goalie Nick Eno to give Ferris a 1-0 lead.

Todd McIlrath answered back with less than a minute to go in the period with his first goal of the season. Derek Whitmore and Dan Sexton both assisted their humble linemate on the play that tied the game at one.

‘Every good hockey player likes to deflect attention from himself, but I’m kind of taking that to an extreme this season,’ said McIlrath who failed to score in the season’s first 30 games before cleaning up a rebound off of Pat Nagle’s pads Friday. ‘It’s a big sigh of relief and I’ve been waiting a long time for it. It’s nice to take care of that, but I mean it kind of comes bittersweet. I would have liked to get two tonight.’

The reason for that came five minutes into the second period when Justin Lewandowski claimed the puck from teammate Adam Miller’s wrap around attempt and put the puck by Eno for a 2-1 Ferris lead.

That’s the way the score remained for the final 35 minutes, as Ferris fired off 41 total shots to BG’s 26.

‘BG’s got such a good transition game,’ said Daniels. ‘We didn’t want to turn over pucks in the neutral zone or get caught deep in the forecheck because we respect the speed that they have on that team.

‘I was pleased that we buckled down and played a boring third period.’

Falcon coach Scott Paluch was not quite as pleased with the tempo of the game on Friday, though he did dish out a fair amount of praise for the two guys in net.

‘It’s a difficult loss, and we have to rebound tomorrow,’ Paluch said simply. ‘I thought both goalies played very well tonight. Obviously Nick [Eno] was called upon to make a lot more saves and he was excellent at keeping the game close all the way down to the end.’

‘Nicky’s been having a great year,’ said McIlrath. ‘He’s clearly not playing like a freshman. He’s starting to stack up some wins and if we could have played a little better today he probably could have gotten another one.’

Eno did get another win, his 11th of the season, on Saturday night by making 22 saves. He earned the second star in both games, and looked extremely comfortable doing so.

However, the other Falcons, as Paluch said, needed to play better Saturday in front of Eno. They eventually did, though it didn’t appear that way early on in the series capper.

BG allowed its 6th shorthanded goal of the season to Mike Fillinger at 7:09 of the first period during one of 12 failed weekend power plays.

Yet again, the scoreboard did not change for another 35 minutes; while the second period featured plenty of up-and-down action, neither team scored a goal. Near the end of that period, however, Patrick Tiesling crunched a Ferris player into his own bench boards and received a five minute hitting from behind major, as well as a game misconduct.

Because of this incident, the physical play really started to pick up when the third period puck dropped.

For Todd McIlrath, the play almost became too physical seven minutes into the third when he took a cross-check to the throat from Bulldog leading scorer Cody Chupp. McIlrath, hunched over and clutching his neck, had to be escorted off the ice by two teammates, but would later return or a few solid shifts near the end of the third.

‘The importance of Todd coming back got magnified because we’d already lost Ties[ling] and we had two more guys in the box after that,’ said Paluch. ‘We were getting down in numbers pretty good there on the bench, so when he came out, it got us back to three even lines which I thought was really important.’

In addition, the emotional boost that McIlrath gave to his team by returning for the game’s final minutes may have been a deciding factor in the final score.

‘I think the stick got up [on McIlrath] and hit him in the neck,’ said tri-captain John Mazzei. ‘It might have hurt him for a bit, but he persevered and came back and played a good third period.’

With three minutes to play in that third frame, Mazzei fired a slap shot from between the two face off circles that got past Ferris goalie Mitch O’Keefe. It was the captain’s second goal of the period, but just the seventh of his senior season.

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