Falcons give Spartans too many opportunities

Erik Bell and Erik Bell

The old saying goes if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.

That old saying certainly sums up the hockey game between Bowling Green and Michigan State on Saturday night. The Falcons gave Michigan State, a team that has been as hot as any in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, way too many opportunities to burn them.

The shots on goal told the story for the game. In the first and second periods combined, the Spartans took 28 shots on goal while the Falcons took only 17. After two periods, the Falcons trailed 5-1.

The Falcons made 11 shots on goal in the third period as opposed to eight for the Spartans. The Falcons outscored them 2-1 in that period, the lone goal for the Spartans of the empty-net variety at the end of the game for a final score of 6-3.

In all of those numbers lies this problem: the Falcons simply gave the Spartans too many opportunities to burn them.

“Playing against a team that’s playing as well as they are right now, you can’t give up those opportunities and get yourself behind like that,” head coach Scott Paluch said.

The Falcons did indeed get off to a poor start, falling behind 2-0 early in the first period. The first goal was a great play by Spartan forward Jim Slater. He cleanly stole the puck deep in the Falcons zone and put a shot inside the post and past goaltender Jordan Sigalet. The thing that makes the goal look even worse for the Falcons was that it was shorthanded.

“Everyone was a little nervous at the beginning with the game being on television and everything,” Sigalet said.

The Falcons seemingly had an opportunity to take control of the game after Roger Leonard scored a goal in the second period to cut the lead to 2-1. However, a penalty and a series of defensive miscues led to three Michigan State goals in a span of a little over two minutes in the second period.

The Spartans took advantage of a hooking penalty on Tyler Knight, his second of the period, and started the string of goals with a power play goal at 15:31 into the second period by forward Mike Lalonde.

Then a series of turnovers and giveaways gave the Spartans many opportunities to add onto their lead.

They did just that by adding on two more goals before the second period was over. Forwards Kevin Estrada and Brad Fast tallied those scores for the Spartans.

“As confident teams and good players will do, they took advantage of some breakdowns we had and turned a tight 2-1 game into a 5-1 lead,” Paluch said.

The Spartans came into the contest with the second best power play unit in the CCHA, fourth best in the entire country. Although the Spartans did score a power play goal, it was their penalty killing unit that really strangled the Falcons.

The Falcons went 0-4 on the power play and even gave up a shorthanded goal 1:41 into the game.

“We weren’t able to generate any momentum on any of our power plays,” Paluch said. “We tried to beat guys one-on-one and that’s not a good recipe for beating a good team.”

Paluch cited the pressure that the Spartans put on the Falcons’ power play unit as the reason they struggled so much.

“Any bit of momentum that we were able to gain from the penalties, Michigan State took it right back,” Paluch said.

“We knew they were vulnerable to pressure (on the power play) and we did a good job of that tonight,” Michigan State head coach Rick Comley said.