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Opening weekend results in split for Falcon hockey

The BG hockey team split its season-opening road trip last week, competing well in both of its Empire State games against Niagara and Rochester Institute of Technology.

BG coach Scott Paluch knew before the trip that his team would face challenges against relatively unknown opponents outside the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

“Going into the first couple games of the year, especially with Niagara, because we haven’t played them in a couple years, there’s not a lot of familiarity,” Paluch said early last week. “So I think dealing with the unknowns and being on the road for the first time are the biggest challenges of this weekend.”

Those unknowns proved fatal on Thursday night when the Falcons lost 2-0 to Niagara University in front of a rowdy NU crowd.

Although BG out-shot Niagara in each period and led in overall shots 32-20, it was unable to find the back of the net like the Purple Eagles did.

Goalie Jimmy Spratt allowed Niagara power play goals in the second and third periods and stopped 18-of-20 total shots.

The loss didn’t just fall on Spratt’s shoulders. The BG offense failed to capitalize on five different power plays throughout the game, including a 5-on-3 second period advantage that carried into the third.

“Well for our team [special teams] is not exactly the recipe for us right now,” Paluch said. “When we get caught in a special teams game, we’re playing too many guys more than we want to play them.”

The Falcons found a balanced recipe for success on Friday in Rochester when they topped the Tigers 5-3. The victory brought BG’s record to 1-1 and dropped RIT to 0-2.

Co-captain Derek Whitmore gave Bowling Green its first goal of the regular season six minutes into the game and then added another halfway through the second period.

RIT struck back five minutes into the second period when sophomore Matt Crowell scored on the power play to make the score 1-1.

Highly touted freshman Jake Cepis scored his first collegiate goal less than a minute later on a breakaway against RIT goalie Louis Menard. After Whitmore’s second goal, Ricky Walton and Al Mazur would score for the Tigers to even the game at 3-3. Then, another nationally recognized Falcon forward, Kai Kantola, broke the tie with one second remaining in the second period and put BG ahead for good.

“For [RIT] to come back and make it 3-3 with all the momentum in their favor, and for us to make some key plays on that play, it was huge,” Paluch said. “It was a great play by Patrick Tiesling down low and Kai Kantola was ‘Johnny on the spot’ for us.”

Freshman Nick Eno earned his first win as a Falcon by making 29 saves, including 10 under heavy pressure in the third period. James Perkin finally scored with less than two minutes left to make it 5-3, sealing the BG victory.

Notre Dame visits the BGSU Ice Arena Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. for the first CCHA match of the season.

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