BEMIDJI -- Coaches always urge their players to get into those dirty areas in front of the goalie to create scoring chances.
That’s what Tyler Kirkup did Friday night. He just so happened to use his noggin.
The sophomore forward netted an unconventional game-winning goal for the No. 19 Bemidji State men’s hockey team in a 4-1 victory over Bowling Green at the Sanford Center.
With the game tied at 1-1 and the Beavers on the power play with five minutes to go in the second period, Brad Johnson blasted a shot from deep. Kirkup was positioned by the crease when the blast deflected off his helmet and into the back of the net.
Kirkup went down in pain as his teammates surrounded him for one of the more awkward goal celebrations you’ll likely ever see.
“It just happened so fast. … But then my teammates told me I scored, so I wasn’t too mad about it,” Kirkup grinned.
Most importantly, Kirkup returned to the ice within no time and was on the mend postgame.
“My neck’s a little sore, but it’s feeling better now. I iced it a bit,” he said.
Kirkup’s power-play goal lifted BSU into the lead for good. Aaron Miller tallied his 11th goal of the season three minutes later as Bemidji State answered the bell following the Falcons’ equalizer seconds into the period, outshooting them 20-8 for the frame and 40-30 for the game.
“I liked every facet of our game,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “I think it was one of our best 60-minute outings of the year, and the second period, I thought, was one of the best periods we’ve had this year.”
Kirkup assisted on the game’s opening goal at the 4:53 mark of the first period. The Virden, Manitoba, native fired a shot off the rush, and Ethan Somoza collected it for the rebound goal.
Will Cullen tied it 1-1 early in the second period as he swatted Brandon Kruse’s shot from the point past Zach Driscoll only 28 seconds into the frame.
Kirkup struck for the go-ahead goal later in the period. The power play produced another goal before the period was out when Miller fired a low shot from the high slot that evaded Eric Dop and extended the lead to 3-1.
Alex Ierullo tacked on the final goal at the 6:36 mark of the third period. The sophomore skated in from the corner and slid a backhander past Dop for his fifth goal of the season.
Serratore was pleased with how his team handled the demanding style of the Falcons (13-12-2, 8-9-2-2 WCHA).
“When you play Bowling Green, they’re heavy (and) and you have to be heavy,” Serratore said. “It’s like punch/counterpunch. If you don’t play a heavy game against them, they dictate play.”
The Beavers (15-8-4, 15-4-2-1 WCHA) also dominated in the circle, winning 62 percent of faceoffs.
The BSU special teams units were on top of their game, per usual. The power play finished 2-for-6 and the penalty kill held BGSU 0-for-4 on the advantage.
Driscoll was nearly perfect in net, turning aside 29 of 30 shots. Dop made his share of clutch stops, though he suffered the loss on a 36-save night.
Bemidji State finishes the month of January with a blazing hot 7-1-1 record and in second place in the WCHA.
The Beavers will aim to keep on chugging along into February as the team begins the final month of the regular season with Saturday’s series finale against Bowling Green. Puck drop is set for 6:07 p.m. at the Sanford Center.
“I think we’ve just got to bring the same mentality,” Kirkup said. “We know they’re going to bring it again tomorrow. It’s going to be another tough game. We’ve just got to bring it out of the gates again and continue the whole game.”
No. 19 Bemidji State 4, Bowling Green 1
BGSU 0 1 0 -- 1
BSU 1 2 1 -- 4
First period -- 1, BSU, Somoza (Kirkup, Miller), 4:53.
Second period -- 2, BGSU, Cullen (Kruse, Daly), 0:28; 3, BSU, Kirkup (B. Johnson, Somoza), 14:40, PP; 4, BSU, Miller (Rosén, Sillinger), 17:53, PP.
Third period -- 5, BSU, Ierullo (Sillinger, Combs), 6:36.
Goalies (saves-shots) -- BSU, Driscoll (29-30); BGSU, Dop (36-40).