Freshman goaltender Eric Dop made his first start of the Great Lakes Invitational in Tuesday’s championship game at Little Caesars Arena, making 29 saves and leading Bowling Green to a 4-1 victory over Michigan Tech for its first GLI championship in school history.
But hey, they were just happy to be here. It was Bowling Green’s first time at the GLI since 1984, and the Falcons picked up their first win in the tournament just a day before.
“You start to piece it together that, ‘Oh wait, this is the first year in the new building,' and then all of the energy and excitement that comes with that,” Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron said. “It’s a pretty special thing. I don’t know how many of our guys realize that now Bowling Green will be up in the rafters on the GLI banner for the next 12 months.”
BOX SCORE: Bowling Green 4, Michigan Tech 1
“Special” is the perfect way to describe how Bowling Green got there, too.
Not only was Dop playing in his first game after the holiday break, but he was also facing a Michigan Tech offensive unit that menaced Michigan State with five goals a night before.
The Huskies bullied the Falcons early on, limiting them to just two shots in the first ten minutes.
“After the first period I had a lot of confidence,” Dop said. “We all enjoyed the moment a lot.”
The chances that Bowling Green was getting seemed to occur spontaneously. Then, they caught a break. Well, three breaks.
The first two came in the form of coincidental minors to Tech’s Seamus Donohue and Bowling Green’s Cameron Wright, and the third was a slashing penalty assessed to the Huskies’ Dylan Steman that gave the Falcons a 4-on-3 opportunity.
Brett D’Andrea banked one in off Robbie Beydoun’s left pad and in from the left circle to put Bowling Green up 1-0 at 18:17. Max Johnson and Alec Rauhauser assisted.
After one period, Tech and Bowling Green both entered the locker room in a familiar situation: Tech had given up a power-play goal late in the first, and Bowling Green was feeling confident after flipping its offensive fortune.
Only this time, Tech’s tenacity never earned it a lead. The defensive unit in front of Dop made life more difficult for the Huskies as the game went on, and their chances were dwindling with the clock.
“I think the key to that game tonight was the way we defended up until the third period, Bergeron said. "I thought we defended really strong and took away time and space for the most part.
“Maybe after the first ten minutes.”
More:Bowling Green fends off Michigan, heads to GLI final
Jake Lucchini’s toothless grin graced the Little Caesars Arena Jumbotron after he beat Dop's glove side to tie it 1-1 for his second of the tournament, but that was all the Huskies would muster.
John Schilling took a breakout pass off the left boards from Lukas Craggs, who had two assists and was named tournament MVP, that led to a 2-on-1 with Connor Ford. Beydoun got a piece of an initial poor-angle shot, but didn’t get enough of it to keep it from landing directly inside the blue paint behind him. Ford was waiting all by his lonesome to make it 2-1.
Craggs playmaking ability was detrimental to the Falcons' success. He also picked up two goals and Bowling Green’s semifinal win over Michigan.
“We really wanted to just keep it simple, and it worked out these past two days,” Craggs said. “North and south, getting pucks in deep, low and high.”
The game’s second period was much more competitively balanced, despite Bowling Green’s power play being heavily tested. The Falcons took four penalties in 20 minutes and escaped the second act with shots even at 9-9.
Bowling Green’s penalty kill was 5-for-6, no kill more important than a Craggs penalty that carried over into the third period and stifled hopes of grabbing an early, momentum-building goal.
“We did exactly what we didn’t want to do on zone entry,” Michigan Tech coach Joe Shawhan said. “They were able to just go back, pick it up and rim it out, and we weren’t able to get any offensive zone presence.”
Late in the second, the Huskies appeared to have given Bowling Green a taste of its own medicine with a late power-play goal. After review, it was determined that Greyson Reitmeier’s stick came in contact with the puck above the crossbar and was disallowed — and ended up giving momentum to the Falcons.
“I didn’t agree with that,” Shawhan said. “I think if you ask a lot of people, I think more would say it’s good than it wasn’t.”
Michigan Tech landed just three shots on net in the third period. The Huskies played tired, unable to handle the puck in transition and finding it difficult to get open space in the offensive zone.
The Falcons made them pay on the scoreboard, as goals from Schilling and Tyler Spezia sealed the championship win with two third-period goals to make it 4-1.
“As the third period wore on, we slowed a bit,” Shawhan said. “We got a lot of separation between our forwards and our defense, and it turned into the Bowling Green game that they like to play, where it was just: Up the wall, go get it.”
“Tonight, I think Bowling Green had a way of just breaking our will.”
Michigan 6, Michigan State 4: Cooper Marody’s hat trick lifted Michigan to a victory over rival Michigan State.
Like its loss to Bowling Green Monday, Michigan went into the locker room down 2-0 after the first period. This time, however, the Wolverines responded early in the second, getting an unassisted goal from James Sanchez, at 3:12 to get right back in it.
Goals from Michael Pastujov and Marody sent the game into the third period 3-3. Patrick Khodorenko added the third goal for Michigan State.
Tony Calderone racked up three assists for Michigan, all on Marody goals.
Khodorenko finished with two goals, giving him nine goals on the season, and Cody Milan assisted on three Spartan goals. Taro Hirose had one goal and one assist.
Michigan and Michigan State will meet at Little Caesars Arena again on Feb. 10 for the ‘Duel in the D.’
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer