|Cooper's OT goal lifts Falcons|
|Written by KEVIN GORDON/ Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor|
|Saturday, 23 November 2013 17:54|
Bowling Green's hockey team only played sporadically well Friday in the Ice Arena.
The Falcons overcame their shortcomings with grit, excellent penalty-killing, and Mark Cooper's hat trick.
The sophomore forward scored 4:28 into overtime to give the Falcons a 4-3 win over Minnesota State.
Cooper scored from just off the left edge of the crease with 31.5 seconds showing on the clock. He fell after controlling the puck, got up, spun around and fired a shot that bounced in after hitting the right shoulder of MSU goalie Cole Huggins.
"I was going to throw it back to the point, but Berkle (teammate Adam) told me not to do that, so I turned ... and (Berkle) opened up some room in front of the net," Cooper said, adding he didn't see the puck go in.
"I threw it at the net and fortunately it bounced in."
The goal capped a physical, hard-fought and close-checking game that saw the Falcons hold a 25-24 edge in shots.
The Mavericks - who played well in the first period en route to a 2-0 lead - forced the five-minute extra period when Zach Stepan scored on a bad-angle shot with 8:23 remaining in regulation.
He scored from the goal line between the net and the left-wing corner with a shot that caromed in off the back of Falcon goalie Tommy Burke, who had vacated the right post.
Stepan's goal came after Berkle's short-handed goal from the right circle gave BG a 3-2 lead with 14:44 left.
The win was BG's second in three games against MSU, the preseason pick to win the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship.
BG is 6-4-3 overall and 4-2-1 in the league. MSU is 4-7, 2-3. The Falcons go for a sweep tonight at 7:07.
Berkle had a goal and two assists for BG, 5-0-1 at home this season and 12-1-1 in their last 14 home games dating back to last season.
"Both teams hung in there, kept fighting," BG coach Chris Bergeron said. "I'm proud of our guys for that. It's about the process for us. At times, our process was good. At times, it wasn't very good. We'll take the result, but we'll go back to work tomorrow, knowing we have to elevate our game and believing our opponent will do the same."
Cooper's first goal, 16 seconds into the second period, came after BG's Ralfs Freibergs' shot from the right point hit the glass behind the net and ricocheted back in front. Cooper knocked in the puck from the right side, ending BG's 0-of-23 streak on the power play.
BG tied the game at 6:47 when Cooper skated across the front of the net and converted on Matt Pohlkamp's pass.
"We got off to a slow start, but I was proud of our guys for responding," Bergeron said, praising senior captain Cam Wojtala, and the team's juniors and seniors for their leadership between the first and second periods.
BG then killed off a seven-minute MSU power play when the Falcons' Sean Walker was called for hooking and a major for checking from behind at 11:05 of the second period.
Walker hooked an MSU player on a breakaway and then hit a Maverick from behind into the boards as the play ended. He received a game misconduct for the hit from behind.
BG allowed just two shots during that power play and generated two good scoring chances. The kill was even more impressive because Walker is one of BG's best defensemen.
The Falcons used nine forwards and all five of their defensemen during the kill.
"That was a really gritty penalty-kill," Bergeron said.
"That gave us some great confidence," Cooper said. "We got that kill and that gave us some momentum."
The Mavericks later came hard at BG in the third period after Stepan tied the game, but BG held on down the stretch before winning.
Cooper had gone seven games without a point before scoring against MSU.
"His first period was not his best," Bergeron said. "That goal got him going, it really did. It got him confidence. It got him skating. It got him wining puck battles He definitely got better as the game went on."
Cooper has five goals and three assists this season after totaling nine goals and seven assists as a freshman.
"The last few games, I've been getting chances, but I wasn't able to find the net," Cooper said. "(Scoring) is a relief. It gets you back to playing your game and not focusing on scoring. You get back to focusing on doing what you need to do."
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