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Lakers top Falcons with four goals in the third period

Photo courtesy Todd Pavlack-
Photo courtesy Todd Pavlack-
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SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich.- A four-goal outburst in the final period propelled Lake Superior State to a 4-2 victory in the opening night of their Western Collegiate Hockey Association series against Bowling Green.

A crowd of 1,800 fans came alive inside Taffy Abel Arena as the Lakers (8-7-0, 5-6-0 WCHA) handed the visiting Falcons (7-8-2, 6-4-1-1 WCHA) their first loss in seven games and ended an unbeaten streak of 5-0-1 in their last six.

Nearly 45 minutes of regulation time was played before freshman Luke Morgan tapped in a goal-mouth scramble to tie the score at 1-1 with 15:41 remaining in the third. Sophomore defenseman Owen Headrick earned an assist on the play, as did sophomore forward Mitch Hults, who had his initial shot blocked by Falcons goaltender Chris Nell.

Just under four minutes later the Lakers took a 2-1 lead on a goal in-tight by Anthony Nellis, who lifted a shot over Chris Nell's shoulder with 11:51 remaining. Nellis was sprung by defenseman Matt McArdle and forward Gage Torrel.

LSSU maintained the 2-1 lead through the waning moments of the third period, eventually killing off a boarding call against Josh Nenadal with 10:34 remaining in regulation.

With the Lakers clinging to the one-goal lead, Max Humitz gave LSSU some breathing room with 4:37 remaining, firing home a rebound that came out to him in the slot. McArdle added his second assist on the play and picked up his first career multi-point game with the pair of helpers.

BGSU responded two minutes later with a goal by Frederic Letourneau with 2:16 left in regulation.

Falcons head coach Chris Bergeron called a timeout with 1:38 remaining a pulled Nell in favor of the extra attacker. The Falcons controlled the ensuing faceoff and held the offensive zone for nearly a full minute, applying constant pressure to the Lakers defense and starting goaltender Gordon Defiel.

Moments after the clock showed a minute remaining in regulation, the puck was retrieved in the defensive zone by Torrel, who made a spinning pass and backhanded it to his line mate Hults. Hults then sprung Diego Cuglietta for the empty net goal with 46 seconds left in the game.

Torrel and Hults each earned their second assists of the night on the empty-netter.

Defiel shined throughout the contest, making a number of acrobatic saves to ensure the victory for the Lakers. In all, the junior netminder turned aside 35 shots on the way to his eighth victory of the season.

Nell, who was perfect against 17 shots by LSSU through the first 40 minutes, was tagged with three goals against and just five saves in the final period.

The teams conclude the two-game series on Saturday at 7:07 p.m. Following the Lakers' first goal in Saturday's contest, fans are encouraged to throw a new or gently used teddy bear or a rolled-up pair of new socks on the ice for the annual Teddy Bear Toss. All teddy bears and pairs of socks will be donated to local children in need.