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Falcon Hockey splits weekend against Spartans

Falcon Hockey splits weekend against Spartans
Falcon Hockey splits weekend against Spartans

Over the weekend, Falcon Hockey traveled north to East Lansing on Friday, October 7th to take on the Michigan State Spartans in game one of their home and home series. Expectations were high for the Falcons after they took on the Northern Michigan Wildcats last weekend, splitting the weekend series.

As the first period started, The orange and brown came out similar to what fans had seen in seasons prior, with the Falcons starting out slower than the Spartans and trying to play catch-up with a fast and aggressive Spartan offense. 

Led by forward Daniel Russel, who continued to create fast break opportunities off of the wings throughout the entire game, the Spartans continued to dominate their attacking third throughout the first period. 

The saving grace for the Falcons throughout the game and the first period was the defense, more specifically Zack Rose, who was playing in his second game since getting injured last season. Rose kept the Falcons offense moving in an aggressive and fluid way throughout the game, providing quick opportunities on turnovers that would become important for the Falcons as they headed into the second period. 

Heading into the second period, the Falcons needed to make adjustments and came out with renewed energy. 86 seconds into the second period, the Falcons found an opportunity off a block from Rose, giving senior Nathan Burke a fast break opportunity. Under heavy pressure, Burke would get sent into the left corner boards and kick the puck back behind him over to Eric Parker on the blue line. Parker would then take the puck over to Austin Swankler under heavy pressure in front of the crease and draw goaltender Dylan St. Cyr to the left side, leaving the right open for an Alex Barber goal to put the Falcons up 1-0 early. 

The rest of the second period saw Bowling Green dominate the rink and lead with power and aggression. Michigan State would try to respond with fast-break opportunities and transition plays, but the communication would go silent on the ice. Instead, it became a game where the Spartans did not have any manpower on their attacks and instead just had to shoot from anywhere on the ice including from center ice. 

On the other side of the rink, the Falcons would continue their aggression on the defensive end, but could not complete on attacks and lost turnovers in the attacking third. This again was saved by the defensive zone for the Falcons and Rose. 

The Falcons continued with the same consistency and aggression throughout the entirety of the second period, keeping them out in front heading into the second intermission.

The third period started the same as the first for the Falcons, as they came out slow once again. This seemed to cost them a bit as 20 seconds in, the Spartans tied up the game with a shot from Russel off the left side getting past Rose. 

With the game tied at one, the Falcons have to move fast; they regroup and a minute later Ryan O’Hara gets a steal at center ice and beats St. Cyr for an unassisted goal to bring the Falcons back ahead two to one over the Spartans. 

The rest of the third period saw the orange and brown playing in their defensive zone and running mostly clear outs to keep the Spartans from chasing them down on the ice. Then in the last two minutes of the game, the Spartans pulled St. Cyr to get an extra skater on the ice, but a forward pass intercepted once again by O’Hara would send it the other way with an unassisted goal to give the Falcons the insurance goal they were looking for. 

The Falcons would take game one 3-1 over the Spartans. 

SATURDAY:

One of the things that were concerning for the Falcons heading into game two was that first period and if they would end up starting off slow once again.

The Falcons seemed to realize this though and instead came out with intense speed and aggression to try and combat the Spartans. The problem though was something that Falcon fans saw all of last year; it seems hard for them to maintain that aggression. Instead, it came more in waves.  

The first period saw the Falcons trying to play on the back foot of the Spartans, but the defensive side with Christian Stoever in goal kept anything from getting past. The Falcons were able to get a break though as the Spartans got caught with a too many men on the ice penalty. That would allow the Falcons a power play attempt. The Spartans were able to kill off most of the power play, but with 30 seconds remaining, Parker sent in the one-timer from the blue line with a redirection from O’Hara for his third goal of the weekend, putting the Falcons ahead 1-0.

The Falcons looked to get out of the period without any goals when an attempt for the shot from the Spartans saw Stoever lose his stick and glove as the boot of Erik Middendorf came down on the goaltender’s unprotected hand. Stoever would have to skate off into the locker and bring Rose in to close out the first period.

At the start of the second period, it looked to be Rose’s game to finish with Stoever still back in the locker room. Early in the second period, Michigan State’s Tanner Kelly would have the puck down on the backboards and be able to bring it around to Tiernan Shoudy in the crease. Under heavy traffic, Rose lost track of the puck as Shoudy broke through the defense, putting the back in the back of the net and tying the game at one apiece. 

Two minutes later, The fans would go crazy as Stoever would re-enter the rink and take his spot back out in the crease.

The remainder of the period saw the Falcons once again not be able to see the attacking third of the ice. Instead, they had to rely mainly on Stoever and their defenders, which would be successful as the period would end at 1-1.  

The third period would continue to showcase the Falcons’ communication errors and heads-up errors on the ice as they dropped passes and did not know where their opponents were throughout the period.  

As the Falcons got more aggressive towards the end of the period, they also got more undisciplined in the aggression as a couple of hits came in late in the game that could have been called for multiple penalties. But with five minutes remaining in the period and neither team scoring, Hunter Lellig would get caught out back as he would send a Spartan skater into the boards head-first on a hit from behind. This would be called a major penalty and the Falcons would be down a man until the last 25 seconds of the period.  

During this power play, the Spartans would find an opening in the Falcon defense as they would pull Adam Pitter out of position to the right side, giving an opening down the right side as Nash Nienhuis would send the puck from the top into the hands of Nicholas Muller who gets a redirection from Daniel Russel, putting the Spartans ahead 2-1.

The Falcons would be able to kill off the rest of the penalty, but with only 25 seconds left, it would prove to be too much, ending the game with the 2-1 loss. 

The Falcons showed a lot of signs of major improvements, working the new system on the ice compared to last year. But the problems with consistency on the ice and the frustration that appears in late games cost them the second game against the Spartans.

The series did have three players shine bright. Ryan O’Hara, would provide three goals for the Falcons on the weekend, including the game-winning goal in game one and the only goal for the Falcons in game two. Zack Rose would only allow one goal in game one, while Christian Stover would save 39 shots on goal and only allowing one to break through. 

Following the second game, Head Coach Ty Eigner had this to say about the Falcon offense. 

“We [the offense] weren’t able to because what Michigan State was doing was, they were winning races to pucks, they were stronger on pucks and we were trying to make more hope plays than hard plays…and you can’t expect to win games when the shots are as lopsided as they were,” Eigner said. 

In game two, the Falcons only had 17 shots on goal compared to 42 shots on goal for the Spartans. 

The Falcons are on the road taking on Western Michigan Broncos on Thursday, October 14th for game one of their home-and-home series. You can catch all the action on 88.1 WBGU-FM. 

For more information about the series, visit bgsufalcons.com

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