Falcons snap skid, sweep OSU

By Kevin Shields

It’s been since the 1994-95 season since the BGSU hockey team has been able to say they were in the midst of a six-game winning streak.

But on Saturday night, that changed as the Falcons finished off a two-game sweep of 16th-ranked Ohio State, 2-0, for the first time since the 1999 season to earn their sixth win in a row and seventh win in their last eight games.

The win completed a streak that dated back to a Dec. 10 win over St. Lawrence as the Falcons won two games in capturing the Toyota Uconn Classic over the break before downing 11th ranked Colgate and earning a 3-2 win over OSU on Friday.

Jon Horrell stopped all 23 shots he faced in the game as the senior netminder has started to solidify himself as the number one goaltender in the last month after starting all six games during the streak, allowing only 1.50 goals a game. He and freshman goalie Jimmy Spratt had been splitting time for most of the season.

It was Horrell’s second shutout of his career as he recorded his first earlier in the week against Colgate. He received help from the defensive corps that were stellar in front of him, eliminating OSU’s opportunities in front of the net and keeping their shots more geared toward the blue line.

“They were great, much like last night,” Horrell said of the defensemen. “[Ohio State] didn’t get a lot of opportunities in front of the net and the ones they did get, the rebounds were controlled. They either cleared them away or got them out of the zone.”

The Falcon penalty-kill limited OSU to just six shots on the power-play as they held OSU to 0-7 on the night. The Falcons finished 1-8 with the extra-man.

It was BG’s lone power-play goal of the night by Brett Pilkington that made the difference as Mike Falk found him in front on the right side of the net as BG enjoyed a 5-on-3 advantage just 3:46 into the game.

Buckeye goaltender Dave Caruso made it difficult for the Falcons to add insurance points as he stopped 19 of 20 Falcon shots. BG had to hold off the Buckeyes for a majority of the third period as OSU kept the play in the Falcon end as BG had a hard time clearing the puck.

However, the defense held blocking numerous shots and limiting the second chances.

“They were blocking a lot of shots,'” OSU coach John Markell said. “I thought we got to them a little bit. There were some cough-ups, and our guys did a good job of getting to the loose pucks, but their goalie was there to stop them.”

BG coach Scott Paluch said he was proud of the way his team held up for six periods against the Buckeyes and credited his team’s effort defensively in the hard fought battle.

“You talk about the little things in a hockey game,” he said. “I thought we did a great job of winning enough puck battles getting our sticks in the right areas, and sacrificing the body to make plays, to block shots.”

“Our guys battled extremely hard and everyone responded,” he continued. “It was hard to imagine one goal was going to hold up there for that long, but it’s a credit to our all our guys’ hard work.”

Derek Whitmore would finally add that insurance with an empty-net goal with 22 seconds left, moving BG into a fifth place tie in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association after starting the weekend at the bottom of the CCHA in 12th.

What made the sweep of OSU even more impressive is that the Falcons were without their second-leading scorer, Jonathan Matsumoto, who was suspended for violating team rules.

The length of his suspension length is unknown as the matter is being kept between Matsumoto and the team.

“Without him, everyone had to step up a whole nother level and bring out the character,” Pilkington said of the situation. “This weekend really showed how much character this team has and how far we can go down the stretch here if we just believe in each other.”

Paluch said the experience, “says a lot about the leadership and his team in general”.

“We do have a resilient group,” he said. “We preach a lot about the positives in the program, and things will move forward. The program is always the most important part of what we’re about here.”