Findlay shutout Bowling Green, 3-0, in both season’s final regular season hockey game at Bowling Green State University’s Slater Family Arena Saturday.
That sets up the next meeting in a BG-Findlay rivalry that dates back decades, and it is less than a week away.
The Trojans and Bobcats will clash again in the tournament Friday at Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania for the right to advance to the regional final four. Faceoff is slated for 8 p.m.
That does not mean either team was holding back in Saturday’s game.
“I think with this game everybody is coming out to play their hardest,” BG coach Connor Rogowski said. “Nobody wants to lose no matter what is coming down the road.”
The reason is both schools consider the other to be their chief rival in the Northwest Hockey Conference, and that was evident by the raucous student sections at Slater Arena Saturday, which may have helped stir the action on the ice even more.
“We came at them. All I’ve got to say is the rivalry is alive and kicking,” Findlay coach Ben Patey said.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for their coaching staff and players. At the end of the day, we’re all one big hockey community but it’s going to be a battle next Friday. That is guaranteed.”
Both coaches admit there may be adjustments made in the tournament game based on how Saturday’s game went.
Findlay closed the regular season 17-12-1 overall and 5-6-1 in the Northwest Hockey Conference Red Division, while BG finished 14-16-4 and 3-9.
Findlay won the first league meeting, 3-1, at the Cube, but the third matchup next week could be a completely different story, Rogowski said. You can throw past results out the window.
“We’re battling injuries and we’ve got a couple that hopefully we can have back,” Rogowski said.
“We know that we are going to get the opportunities again and we’re not going to roll over on the power play, and we’re going to get them past their goalie, so you never know.
“We’re going to get the bounces, we are going to keep working hard, and we’ll be ready to go on Friday.”
At Slater Arena Saturday, BG outshot Findlay, 31-25, and the Bobcats had 19 power play minutes to take advantage of while the Trojans had just eight.
However, Findlay scored all three of its goals during a span of less than two minutes in the second period, two of them on power plays.
“We outshot them and I think we out-chanced them,” Rogowski said. “At the end of the day we had about the same opportunities. Both teams — it was even. We just didn’t capitalize.”
The biggest reason was the play of Findlay 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior goaltender Seth Russell, who had 31 saves in preserving the shutout.
“Their goalie, even when he made the rebounds, he protected the house and they were right there with him, and they have good protection up front,” Rogowski said.
“We just couldn’t get past him today. The bounces weren’t going our way. It was his night and it’s going to go like that sometimes. We didn’t play bad any means.
“We got ourselves in the hole on some penalty kills and they capitalized on their chances and we didn’t,” Rogowski continued.
Patey says Russell has been coming on strong in recent games.
“Seth has been what we say ‘in a zone’ for the last couple weeks now,” Patey said. “Tonight, he really put on a nice display by actually goaltending.
“He was in position all night and really didn’t have to make any reflex saves, so I’m proud of him.”
Senior forward Ethan Lammers scored Findlay’s first goal on the power play, assisted by senior forward Kellen Wetz just one minute and 16 seconds into the second period.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Findlay senior forward Mason Greenawalt scored unassisted just 16 seconds later.
Ninety-five seconds after Greenawalt’s score, Findlay took advantage of a five-on-three power play as junior defenseman Kaleb Haubert fired a 30-foot slapshot into the net, assisted by Greenawalt.
Other than those two minutes, BG junior goalie Cade Contris had a clean slate the other 43 minutes, including the entire first and third periods, making 22 saves.