Bobcats one win away from state frozen 4


SYLVANIA — Bowling Green forward Hayden Joseph scored two first period goals and the Bobcats never trailed, defeating Findlay, 4-3, in a district semifinal hockey game at Tam-O-Shanter Saturday.

The seventh-ranked Bobcats (27-8-2) now advance to play fourth-ranked Toledo St. Francis (23-12-2) at 6 p.m. next Friday at Tam-O-Shanter with the winner advancing to the state frozen four at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

It took Joseph only two minutes and 22 seconds to get BG on the board with assists coming from defenseman Braden Loomis and forward Rhett Winger.

It was huge for BG to get on the board first because in their last game against Findlay, the Trojans shut them out, 5-0, behind Northwest Hockey Conference Red Division Goaltender of the Year Seth Russell.

“I think it settled everyone down a little bit,” Joseph said. “It was exciting that we took the lead and that calmed everyone down because last time we played them we couldn’t score at all.”

Joseph scored his second goal with 4:14 remaining in the first period on a shot from the left point, assisted by Rhett Winger and defenseman Casey Moore. The 2-0 lead struck a blow to the Trojans, even through they were only outshot 9-8 in the first period.

“We knew we needed to come out fast, especially against Russell,” BG coach Connor Rogowski said. “He’s the best goalie in the state probably.

“We really put the pucks on him early and tried to get one on him early and get him off his game, and I think we’ve had great starts in our last three or four games.

“It’s whenever we come out and we set the tone, set what we want to do, and that’s what we wanted to do tonight.

“We came out with two quick goals in the first period and they started setting that tone a little bit that we are going to dictate how the game is going to go. It was huge for us get those two goals and get an early lead,” Rogowski continued.

Findlay coach Ben Patey, the NHC Red Coach of the Year, thought his team didn’t bring enough fight in the early going. The eighth-ranked Trojans saw their season end at 21-10-5.

“I thought we were maybe a little timid or nervous at first, and they brought it,” Patey said.

Findlay did not go away, however, as Noah Schramm scored on a long rebound and 15 foot shot straight in, assisted by Draven Wilson, to make it a one-goal game, 2-1, just three minutes and 15 seconds after the second period faceoff.

Bring on BG forward Nolan Winger, younger brother of forward Rhett Winger, the NHC Red Player of the Year. Nolan got a steal deep in the Trojans’ zone and immediately scored, putting BG back up by two, 3-1, within three minutes of Schramm’s goal.

It was only BG’s second shot on goal in the second period after six minutes had passed. The Trojans took an early 10-1 lead in shots, but the Bobcats owned the second half of the period, outshooting the Trojans 12-5.

Findlay still did not go away. Colin Somerville went right, then shot to his left and scored, assisted by A.J. Savage, to bring the Trojans back to within one goal again with 6:13 remaining.

However, BG forward Tanner Amos scored what proved to be the game-winner on a steal and takeaway in the Trojans’ zone, similar to Nolan Winger’s goal, with 24 seconds left in the middle period.

“It was a great feeling, just picking that up and seeing it go into the back of the net and then the crowd. It’s a crazy atmosphere and a great win,” Amos said.

The third period saw the Trojans stike one more time as Conner Steams scored on a breakaway, assisted by Kaleb Haubert, whose long pass was on target, leading Steams in full stride before his shot. With 9:49 remaining, Findlay was down by just one again.

However, BG goaltender Matthew Brinkman was a brick wall down the stretch, finishing with 24 saves as the Bobcats outshot the Trojans, 35-27.

“It’s always nice to beat Findlay, especially ending their season,” Rhett Winger said. “We came in and we outplayed them pretty much the whole game. They got back a couple times but Brinkman stood on his head the whole game.”

Rogowski said Brinkman may be playing his best right now. In BG’s final Red Division game, his shutout helped the Bobcats defeat St. Francis, 2-0, and he led the Bobcats to a 7-1 win over Toledo St. John’s in the district semifinal.

“He’s been great,” Rogowski said. “The last couple weeks he played in the St. Francis game, St. John’s game, and he’s been a backbone for us.

“Like I’ve said, it takes all phases to be on the same point — offense, defense and goaltending, and he has held up his end of the expectations.”

The biggest question coming into the game was how was BG going to match up after their 5-0 loss to Findlay, which helped Findlay win the NHC Red championship with 21 points, one more than BG and St. Francis, who were tied for second with 20.

“We knew last time we played them that wasn’t our team,” Amos said. “We knew we had to step up and we knew we had to come out and take care of business.”

Rogowski even added that BG did not change game strategy at all in the rubber match between the two teams.

“We made no adjustments,” Rogowski said. “In that game, we didn’t play well, we didn’t get bounces, and we knew that we could come out and we could compete.

“We competed in the first game (4-2 BG win) and we competed in the second game, it’s just that bounces didn’t go our way.

“We knew we weren’t going to have another game like that, we didn’t need to change anything, we weren’t going to rewrite the script, we just had to play hard and play our game, and they did.

“I’m extremely proud of them because they just battled all night. They came back and scored a couple goals, but we always came back and didn’t allow them to get too much momentum.”

Now, the Bobcats have an entire week to get ready for St. Francis.

“It’s the same thing,” Rogowski said. “Same week of practice, we don’t change anything and continue doing what we do. We’ll have a great week and just keep rolling.”

Meanwhile, Patey says goodbye to a team that brought Findlay its first NHC Red Division championship.

“I’m so proud of them — the things that we accomplished and just where our seniors have brought our program to where it was to where it is now,” Patey said. “They are the building blocks of what we created and we’ll be back.”

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