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February 29, 2024

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BG hockey splits final home series with Northern Michigan


Ben Murphy fights off a Norther Michigan defender. The Falcons split the series for the last home series of the season.

The BG hockey team desperately needed a senior-night victory, and one of its senior leaders stepped up to make sure it happened.

Bobby Shea scored a funky shorthanded goal with 4:20 remaining in the third period to give BG a 4-3 lead against Northern Michigan. An empty-net goal from Brett Mohler with one second left cemented a 5-3 win for the Falcons.

Following a disappointing 5-2 loss Friday night, winning Saturday became much more important if BG wanted to stay alive in the race for home ice in the first round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.

“This is one of the most important games we’ve had,” Shea said. “We didn’t play great on Friday, so you come out Saturday to make amends and we played well.”

The Falcons played one of their best first periods of the season, despite early adversity. Forward Bryce Williamson was ejected from the game just 22 seconds into the game and given a five-minute major for hitting from behind.

The Wildcats scored once on the ensuing power play.

“I thought our guys hung in there and showed that it wasn’t going to deter us from playing properly and making amends for what happened [Friday],” said coach Chris Bergeron. “I thought, for the most part, we stayed pretty focused.”

The Falcons went ahead late in the first period with two goals in a span of 1:20. Andrew Wallace tied the game by deflecting a point shot from Connor Kucera, and Ben Murphy scored a power play goal after solid passing between Wallace and Ralfs Freibergs.

In his first game of the season, Freibergs had one assist, two blocked shots and was a strong influence on the power play and penalty kill.

“I think it was a good start,” Bergeron said. “He’s just a young guy trying to figure it out. He was nervous like anyone would be; I think he has a maturity to his game, and he’s only going to get better.”

Bergeron called Northern Michigan “one of the most physical teams” BG has played this season. That physicality was on display throughout the game.

There were multiple scrums after whistles, most notably late in the first period when Shea and Northern Michigan’s Kory Kaunisto got into a wrestling match behind the Wildcats’ net. Both players were given coincidental roughing double minors and 10-minute continuation misconducts.

Tommy Burke made 17 saves on 20 shots for BG. He was snakebitten by several bad bounces, including a slap shot from the point that rebounded off the glass and went into the net off his back.

“I didn’t love the bounces that he got,” Bergeron said. “I thought he made the saves he was supposed to make.”

Northern Michigan scored late in the second period, and tied the game midway through the third period.

That set up Shea’s goal, the first shorthanded goal BG scored this season. Similar to a goal Northern Michigan scored earlier in the game, his shot went off the glass, bounced off Northern Michigan goalie Jared Coreau’s skate and went into the net.

“It’s a bounce I think we deserved,” Shea said. “It was a funny goal, and you’re happy to get them.”

Bergeron had a similar take.

“Maybe karma worked in our favor tonight,” Bergeron said.

The Falcons are now seventh in the CCHA standings. They are two points ahead of eighth-placed Lake Superior, three points ahead of ninth-placed Michigan and five points ahead of 10th-placed Northern Michigan.

BG plays Notre Dame on the road this weekend. If the Falcons pick up any points this weekend, they will clinch a first-round home playoff series. Michigan and Northern Michigan would need to sweep their respective series’ and for BG to lose both games to jump the Falcons.

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