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September 21, 2023

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Tough break for BG hockey

This past weekend the Central Collegiate Hockey Association suspended BG forward Kai Kantola for four games for an incident during last week’s game against Notre Dame. The action means that Kantola will be out of action until mid-November.

The suspension came as a result of Kantola’s hit on Notre Dame defenseman Luke Lucyk at 16:13 of the first period. While chasing a loose puck, Lucyk skated hard along boards in the Fighting Irish end, and Kantola followed him closely. When Lucyk put his head down, Kantola’s physical instincts took over and he finished his check.

“I don’t know if he was blowing a wheel, or anything like that, but I followed through with the check,” Kantola said. “It just happened to be a couple feet away from the boards and it was a bad turnout; his head just went right into the boards.”

Lucyk had to be helped off the ice and Kantola instantly received five minute major and game disqualification penalties. The play effectively changed the momentum of the game in Notre Dame’s favor.

The score was tied 1-1 when Kantola sent Lucyk off the ice, but after the incident Notre Dame won the scoring contest the rest of the way and finished off the game by scoring three goals to Bowling Green’s one.

The three-game disciplinary action can be seen as a result of a national crackdown on checking from behind in recent years in college hockey. The number of checking from behind penalties greatly increased beginning in 2005-06 as a result of tighter restrictions on this type of play.

While Coach Paluch understands the necessity to increase player safety, the suspension certainly comes at a tough time for Kantola and the Falcons. Thus far, Kantola was tied for second on the team in point production with a goal and two assists through three games. BG now plays seven straight CCHA matches, four of which Kantola will miss.

“He’s a physical player with a bigger body, but he also brings a lot of skill which we’re going to miss,” Paluch said. “You have to move forward, and it’s an opportunity for somebody to step in and make some plays to be a big part of our team.”

Originally, the game disqualification penalty meant that the Falcons’ second tallest forward would only have to sit out this Friday’s game against Western Michigan. With the additional CCHA action, however, he won’t be able to dress for either of the WMU games, and will sit out next weekend’s Ferris State series as well.

Kai Kantola, a Raleigh, N.C. native, has been a part of plays involving checks from behind before in his hockey career, but never to this extent. While he has not had a chance to speak with Lucyk, Kantola immediately felt remorse when he saw Lucyk collapse.

“I knew it was a bad hit as soon as it happened,” Kantola said. “I saw the replay and I hoped he was alright. I wasn’t even thinking about a penalty or suspension, I was just hoping he would be okay.”

Even though Kantola was visibly disturbed by the incident, he knows he can’t let it affect his future play on the ice. He will return November 16th when the Falcons host Northern Michigan for a weekend series.

“Thankfully he’s alright and everything, but I’m going to keep moving my body aggressively,” Kantola said. “As a hockey player, you usually have to play through adversity. I’m just going to fight through it and come back in shape like it’s a new season. I’ll look at it as a new start.”

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