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BG24 Newscast
September 29, 2023

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BG24 Newscast
September 29, 2023

Falcons keep Broncos in check, sweep weekend home-and-home

The Falcon hockey team got back on the horse, or rather bronco, this weekend as it swept Central Collegiate Hockey Association opponent Western Michigan for the second time this season.

Going into Friday’s game at the BGSU Ice Arena, the Falcons had been swept twice and settled for splits in their last four hockey weekends. They surrendered two losses to Michigan in December, a last place finish in the Badger Hockey Showdown after Christmas, and two splits with Miami and Lake Superior after break.

All of this left the Falcons (12-10-0, 9-7-0 CCHA) wanting more in the 10th weekend of the season, and while they had to battle for every inch in each victory, they got what they needed from WMU (6-17-1, 2-14-0 CCHA).

‘It’s another maturation step for our team,’ coach Scott Paluch said after Friday’s 4-1 win. ‘Earlier in the year we were able to put some wins together, but the last couple of weekends, we didn’t do that. It was a different circumstance over the last two weeks that led to those losses, but if you want to move up in this league, you have to put a streak together.’

On Friday, BG began what they hope is a streak similar to the one that started in the fall after a sweep of Western. After taking both of those games in overtime, Paluch’s squad nearly went on to collect three consecutive CCHA sweeps for the first time in 20 years.

While they were thwarted in their attempt at history back in November due to a loss to Northern Michigan, the Falcons did collect landmark victories this weekend.

The season sweep against a conference opponent is the Falcons’ first since 1994-95 when they did it against Ohio State.

Freshman goalie Nick Eno, who collected both victories this weekend, was not even born when BG last won all four regular season games against WMU in 1988-89. The soft-spoken Eno faced 55 total shots in the two wins, but didn’t have much to say about stopping the first 35 of those in Friday’s victory.

‘I thought I played good tonight,’ Eno said. ‘I’d say it was just like any other game I’ve played this season. Individually, it was probably one of the better games I’ve played.’

Though that may be true, BG’s youngest player knows that his winning percentage would not be where it is (third in the conference behind goalies from top dogs Michigan and Miami) without a little help from some very talented scorers.

‘Tri-captain Derek Whitmore’hellip;’

The name and phrase have been repeated over and over this season, and while ‘Whitty’ went through somewhat of a mid-season scoring drought, he has re-emerged in top offensive form the last two weekends.

With the exception of Friday’s 4-1 win, Whitmore has scored a goal in each of the past three games – two in the Soo, and one this past Saturday in Kalamazoo.

About Friday’s Game

The Falcons’ leading point producer opened the scoring at 10:28 of the first period when he popped the puck over goalie Jerry Kuhn’s shoulder into the top right part of the net. Three minutes into the third, Whitmore struck again when he gently pushed the puck across the goal line and behind a sprawling Kuhn.

If Eno’s 53 saves on the weekend seems impressive, compare that to the barrage that the Falcons subjected Kuhn to- 77 total with 31 of those coming in the two third periods alone.

Once Kuhn was taken out of the net in Friday’s game, BG put two more shots on goal.

Whitmore capped his third hat-trick of the season at 19:11 of the third, and Brandon Svendsen joined the empty net festivities 30 seconds later for the 4-1 win.

‘I was going through a skid there for a while, but you have to concentrate on the little things, control the things you can control,’ an astute Whitmore said Friday. ‘I just wanted to control how hard I worked. I knew sooner or later I was going to get myself out of that rut. This also wouldn’t be possible without the help of my linemates Todd McIlrath and Dan Sexton.’

Spoken like a true captain.

At least one of those linemates assisted Whitmore on three of his four weekend tallies, with the empty net goal being the exception. Because of this, both Whitmore and Sexton earned CCHA player of the week honors as the top forward and freshman, respectively.

Then there was Saturday.

If defenseman Kevin Schmidt could play all his games on Saturday nights against Western Michigan University he would probably lead the nation in scoring.

As it is, he now ranks fifth in the nation in points by a defenseman, partly due to his late game heroics.

On the first Saturday night in November against the Broncos, Schmidt took a pass from Todd McIlrath and fired it past Kuhn for the winning goal at 3:45 in the overtime period.

This time he did it much sooner, but in the same manner, at 1:20 into overtime on passes from Sexton and McIlrath.

‘For us to continue to make strides, we need to be able to close out a series like this,’ coach Paluch said. ‘Todd made a great play at the end there finding Schmidty backdoor for the goal. It was a tremendous play to win a hockey game.

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