BOWLING GREEN — It was startling news to anyone who wasn’t extremely close to the Bowling Green hockey team. On Saturday, the Falcons’ star goalie, Jordan Sigalet, announced to the public that he was suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Ice Hockey
Michigan and New Hampshire may play each other in the GLI over the holidays. (Ryan Weiner/Daily)
Ice Hockey
Sophomore T.J. Hensick had three goals and two assists during the weekend series. (Ryan Weiner/Daily)

The night that started with this somber announcement ended with one of the most exciting finishes of the season.

No. 4 Michigan hockey team was leading Bowling Green 5-4 with 1:33 left in the game when a stoppage of play forced a faceoff in the right circle of the Michigan zone. Bowling Green won the draw and controlled the puck at the top of the circle. The slapshot went far side and careened off the pipe. Minutes later, the game ended, and Michigan came away with its second consecutive weekend sweep.

“We were lucky,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “The puck hit the crossbar or the post, so you have to say you were lucky. But I thought we did a lot of good things.”

The win at Bowling Green came one day after Michigan’s 8-3 victory at Yost Ice Arena, which propelled the Wolverines past Ohio State and into first place in the CCHA. On both nights, the Wolverines (11-1-0 CCHA, 13-4-1 overall) fell behind early. On Friday, Michigan trailed the Falcons (5-5-2, 8-6-2) 3-0 after the first period despite leading in shots, 14-9.

It was just two minutes into Saturday’s game when Bowling Green struck for the first time. Junior forward Mike Falk gathered the puck in the left circle and skated into the slot. With the Michigan defense all around him, Falk spun and fired at Montoya, sliding the puck along the ice between Montoya’s legs.

After giving up eight straight goals to lose on Friday even with their star netminder behind them, the Falcons knew that a one-goal lead wouldn’t be enough. But they probably didn’t guess that defenseman Jason Dest — who had yet to score a goal this season — would be the Wolverine to tie it up. With just one minute remaining in the first period, senior captain Eric Nystrom skated through the right circle with the puck. Dest trailed in the slot, slapping his stick violently against the ice while yelling for the puck. He one-timed the pass from his captain and buried the shot. The goal was the second of Dest’s career.

“I get excited,” Dest said. “I don’t score too many goals. So when I get a chance … I saw the opening, so I just started banging my stick. And I wasn’t even thinking. I just wanted the puck.”

Michigan added its second goal of the night just five seconds later. Skating in the left circle, Tambellini faked a shot before throwing a pass behind his back across the crease. Senior David Moss waited in the right slot and forced the puck under the left pad of Falcons goalie Jon Horrell, who started on Saturday in place of Sigalet.

“I didn’t have to do anything,” Moss said. “I just put my stick on the ice, and he shot it off my stick, and it went in.”

In the second period, the puck took some strange bounces. Just 15 seconds into the period, the puck ricocheted off the boards and Montoya found himself out of position behind the net. He dove back in front of the net and made a sprawling save. But exactly one minute later, the Wolverines wouldn’t be so lucky. Falcons freshman forward Derek Whitmore dumped the puck into the Michigan zone along the right boards. Montoya left the net to play the puck and had no chance when the puck mysteriously changed direction and slid into the open net.

“It was a crazy game,” Berenson said. “I don’t know whether it’s the pucks they use or we just bring out the worst or the best in that rink. But ever since I’ve been here, every time we come to Bowling Green, it’s crazy. We had a bounce off the boards, and I don’t know if it’s ever bounced off the boards like that into the net.”

The bounces weren’t the only odd occurrences in Saturday’s game. Despite scoring nine combined goals, neither team ever held a two-goal lead. Entering the third period, the score was 3-3, but Bowling Green came out firing. Two minutes in, Falcons forward Brett Pilkington fed freshman Ben Geelan in the high slot. Geelan’s one-timer beat Montoya high and gloveside and gave the Falcons a 4-3 lead. On Friday night, Michigan scored five goals in the third period, so both teams were pushing for the first goal out of the break.

“We knew that this was not going to be that kind of a game, and we really didn’t want to give up a goal that early — I mean, we didn’t want to give up a goal at all,” Berenson said. “For them to get back in the game and take the lead again, it put a lot of pressure on our team.”

As has happened so many times this season, sophomore T.J. Hensick was the first Wolverine to respond to the pressure. At 3:43, he got the puck from defenseman Matt Hunwick at the bottom of the left circle and skated around a defender into the slot. His wrist shot went to the far side and beat Horrell to even up the score.

“It felt good, actually,” Hensick said. “Especially because I wanted to shut up those noise sticks or whatever they’re called. They’re so loud on the ice. It’s a great atmosphere, but it’s tough to play when you can’t hear on the ice.”

On a power play just minutes later, Hunwick collected a feed from senior Nick Martens. He fired a wrist shot at the goal and Moss managed to get his stick on it. The deflection fooled Horrell, and Michigan went up 5-4. The Falcons had numerous chances to tie it up at the end of the game, but Michigan was able to hold on.

“It’s the reason you play the game: games like this,” Dest said. “Blowouts are fun, but games like this, down to the last minute, getting out on the ice — it’s just the best feeling ever.”

 

UP NEXT:

Great Lakes Invitational

 

Michigan (11-1-0 CCHA, 13-4-1 overall) faces one of its biggest challenges of the season when it squares off against Michigan Tech (1-13-0 WCHA, 1-14-1) and either New Hampshire (6-1-1 Hockey East, 11-3-2) or Michigan State (5-7-0, 8-9-1) without five of its top players. Forwards Mike Brown, T.J. Hensick and Kevin Porter will travel to Grand Forks, N.D., to play for the 2005 United States Junior Team along with defenseman Matt Hunwick and goalie Al Montoya. Junior goalie Noah Ruden will be called upon to shut down opposing offenses for these two holiday games at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

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