Game Notes (2/28): Bowling Green vs. Northern Michigan
BOWLING GREEN vs. NORTHERN MICHIGAN:
A game that had a lot at stake for both teams, started out rather slow but the pace quickly picked up.
The game featured two NHL-prospects netminders who not only garner a lot of ice time but they also face a lot of rubber on most nights. Bowling Green junior and Boston Bruins prospect, Jordan Sigalet was vying against NMU senior and Carolina Hurricanes prospect Craig Kowalski. Kowalski holds the distinction of being one of, if not the only goaltender in the NCAA who is his teamís captain.
Between the chippiness that flared up from time to time, the opening period featured some good end-to-end action by both teams. Neither team particularly excels at man-on-man coverage or keeping shots from getting through on net, this was evidenced early by how many shots each netminder faced. BGSU does show throughout the game that theyíre a pretty good shot-blocking team. Of the two netminders, Kowalski was not only the busier of the two, but he also had to face more difficult shots. Sigalet did have some tough ones of his own to stop as well. In the opening period, the Falcons were getting more of the quality variety of shots on Kowalski. The first penalty of the game came at the 11:37 mark when Wildcats sophomore Patrick Murphy (EDM) drew call for tripping, putting BGSU on the power play. While the Falcons were excellent in pressuring the Wildcats defense on the power play, Kowalski was forced to come up with some big stops to keep the game scoreless.
The second saw the pace of the game continue to be about the same as it was when the first period ended. NMU lost junior forward Alan Swanson to a mild concussion at the end of the first period. Both teams managed some quality shots but neither could seem to put together a consistent offensive attack nor dominate for any length of time either territorially or with puck possession. At the 14:50 mark, NMU would draw first blood on a delayed call on BGSU freshman defenseman Jeremy Bronson. The play begins along the left boards near the blueline of the BGSU zone, where NMU freshman defenseman Matt Maunu picks up the loose puck and proceeds to skate into the BGSU zone with it. He spots fellow freshman Pat Bateman over on the right side of the BGSU. Maunu gets a step on BGSU senior defenseman Kevin Bieksa (VAN) and slides a cross-ice pass to Bateman. The pass looks to be out of Batemanís reach but Bateman outstretches his body and his stick just enough to tip the pass by Sigalet just inside the stick-side post for the score. Maunu would be credited with the lone assist on Batemanís goal. About a minute later, things start getting chippy again as four players (two from each team) are assessed roughing minors Bateman and sophomore defenseman Jamie Milam for NMU and Senior forward Mark Wires and freshman forward Rich Meloche for BGSU. All the penalties came at the 15:17 mark. The penalties yield no scoring for either team, but things didnít quiet down much either. Things would flare up again, this time between BGSU freshman defenseman Jonathan Sigalet and NMU sophomore forward Matt Ciancio. Both would be sent off for matching roughing minors at the 17:43. Just moments after the matching minor penalties had expired, there was a delayed call NMU sophomore defenseman Nathan Oystrick (ATL). At the 19:51 mark, the Falcons would tie up the game on the delayed call. It began with a play by freshman forward James Unger on his belly along the left boards slides the puck back to Bieksa.Bieksa then gains possession and wheels around with it at the NMU blueline to get into a better shooting position. Bieksa then one times a shot at the NMU net. Kowalski does a nice job of kicking it out for the save. Unger, on a terrific individual effort, somehow gets his stick blade in front of NMU senior Justin Kinnunenís stick and slide the puck just enough that it goes five-hole on Kowalski and into the netÖall the while being hauled down by Kinnunen. Kinnunen in the process of hauling Unger down, looked to have partially screened his netminder. Bieksa and junior forward Ryan Minnabarrie would draw the assists on Ungerís tying goal. As the buzzer sounded to end the period, things started to get nasty as players came together behind the BGSU net. The chaos began when NMU junior forward David Bonk checked Bieksa head first into the boards. Bonk would be assessed a 5-minute major and would get an early shower as a result.
The 3rd period started with four-on-four play as a result of Bonkís major and game-misconduct penalty along with BGSU sophomore forward Brett Pilkingtonís roughing minor that all took place at the 20-minute mark of the 2nd period. Pilkingtonís minor was up, the Falcons would go on a three minute power play. The Wildcats did an excellent job of aggressively pursuing the BGSU puck carriers. The Falcons had difficulty getting the power play set up and at one point, when NMU got a clear, almost got caught with too many men on the ice. Having killed off the three minute power play, the Wildcats looked more rejunvenated and had more sense of urgency in their play. BGSU also picked up the intensity in their game as the period progressed. While both teams were able to gain puck possession and get quality scoring chances, both teams had trouble finishing playsÖ.an area that plagued both teams much of the night. At the 11:26 mark, the Wildcats would reclaim the lead. It begins with a bad defensive play by BGSU sophomore defenseman Jon Sitko, who fails to intercept a pass that NMU freshman forward Dusty Collins was making to freshman defenseman Rob Lehtinen. Lehtinen gains puck possession then from the slot area fires a high wrister that beats Sigalet just above his glove and into the net for the score. Collins and sophomore forward Matt Ciancio would be credited with the assists on Lehtinenís goal. A little later in the period, the nastiness picks up again as NMU freshman defenseman Zach Tarkir (NJ) decides to mix things up with Pilkington, delivering a sucker punch that earns him a trip to the penalty box and gives BGSU a power play chance to tie up the game once again. One glaring problem that the Falcons had on the ensuing power play was their inability to move the puck quickly. The puck carriers would hold on to the puck too long or wait too long to take a shot. NMU would take advantage of BGSUís extended puck possession woes and successfully kill of Tarkirís penalty. At the 16:01 mark, Jonathan Sigalet would get the equalizer for the Falcons. It began with Kowalskiís failure to clear the puck out of the NMU zone. The puck ends up bouncing to an NMU player who fails to corral it. From there a mad scramble ensues just in front of Kowalski. After pinballing around the playersí skates for awhile, Jonathan Sigalet makes a great heads up play to jump up into the play, take possession and launches a one-timer that somehow makes it through the myriad of bodies between him and Kowalski and going top-shelf into the net (glove-side) for the score. Meloche and sophomore Bryan Dobek would be credited with the assists on Sigaletís goal. From there until the end of regulation, the pace of the game reaches furious proportions as both teams try to notch the game-winner before the final buzzer. Instead it ends 2-2 at the end of regulation.
Overtime would start with NMU on the attack and the Falcons doing a nice job of defending their zone. About 3 Minutes into OT, BGSU senior DíArcy McConvey has a chance to end it with a great scoring chance that came as a result of Unger outmuscling an NMU defender to not only get nearer to the NMU net but also get a pass off to McConvey. After McConvey takes a shot that Kowalski saves, Bateman takes a run at Jonathan Sigalet, which would not only earn Bateman a trip to the penalty box, but the referee an earful of not-so-kind words by a livid Walt Kyle (NMU head coach). The Falcons have a glorious chance to put the game away but fail to do. The game would end 2-2. Jordan Sigalet stopped 24 of 26 shots, while his counterpart Craig Kowalski stopped 41 of 43 shots to preserve the tie for their respective teams.
This was an entertaining game, but two teams arenít exactly powerhouses. Both teams showcased good goaltenders who stop a lot of shots and can be clutch when needed. Kowalski was one of several notable players for NMU in this game who was outstanding. Another standout player for NMU was the great two-way play of sophomore defenseman and Atlanta Thrashers prospect, Nathan Oystrick. Oystrickís transition and playmaking abilities were outstanding and itís not hard to see why the Thrashers think so highly of him.
For BGSU, while Jordan Sigalet didnít see not nearly as much work as his NMU counterpart, he did make some excellent saves. His younger brother Jonathan really shined in this game. Jonathan Sigalet is usually paired with the senior dman Kevin Bieksa, who also played quite well tonight. The younger Sigalet, who is NHL draft-eligible this summer has some skills and potential, but perhaps the most impressive aspect about him is his hockey smarts and sense of reading plays. This was evident on the game-tying goal he scored. He jumped in not only at the most opportune moment but did so when he saw/felt that he wasnít in any imminent danger of allowing a breakaway out the NMU zone.
The Bowling Green Falcons will conclude their 2003-04 Regular Season on Thursday when they travel to Lawson Ice Arena to take on host Western Michigan. The Northern Michigan Wildcats will return home and conclude their 2003-04 Regular Season beginning on Friday at the Berry Center with a weekend series versus visiting Ferris State.