Every weekday from June 12-27, we will be looking back at the "Top Shelf Moments" from the 2016-17 WCHA Men's League season. Up next on our countdown is
Moment #7: Dufour's Hat Trick Heroics
If it's true that legends are born in the postseason, then the night of March 10, 2017 took the already fabled "Church of Dufour" to new heights in Bowling Green lore.
The setting was the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn.; the scene was Game One in the best-of-three, 2017 WCHA Semifinals. Host Bemidji State entered the series as the top seed in the league playoffs; the regular season champion Beavers, with the MacNaughton Cup in hand, had dispatched Northern Michigan in the quarterfinals. After winning its final three regular season games to secure the fourth seed, Bowling Green had swept Ferris State in its Quarterfinal Round series.
For the Falcons to advance to the WCHA Championship, and become the lone road team to win a series in the 2017 league tournament, BGSU would have to solve the conference's stingiest defensive team and win twice in a hostile environment. Game One was key.
Bowling Green senior forward Kevin Dufour, whose scoring prowess (especially during a remarkable surge early in the 2015-16 season) had affectionally spawned the "Church of Dufour" social media following, entered the contest second on the team with 14 goals (including a huge goal in the series-clincher against Ferris State). A fan favorite already, Dufour's efforts on this night which were nothing less than a hat trick, including the game-tying goal and game-winner in overtime assured that his No. 10 sweater will be forever remembered by the Falcon Faithful.
Dufour opened the Semifinal Round scoring 9:08 into the contest, beating Bemidji State goaltender and WCHA Player of the Year Michael Bitzer to give the Falcons an early 1-0 lead. However, by the time he began a shift late in the third period, Bemidji State was on top 3-2 and stood less than seven minutes away from a 1-0 series lead. Crashing the net, Dufour tipped in a rebound off a Jacob Dalton shot, tying the game at 3-3 with just 6:30 remaining in regulation.
Behind 38 regulation saves from goaltender Chris Nell (who finished with 45 stops) and Dufour's first two goals, Bowling Green forced overtime. The extra session was worthy of two of the WCHA's top programs, with the teams trading quality attempts through a scoreless 17:23. But, with the clock ticking down on the first OT, Dufour played the hero. Again showing a nose for the puck, he was the first to corral a rebound off the back boards; and, with 2:37 remaining, he calmly tucked it in the back door to complete the hat trick and give Bowling Green a thrilling 4-3, overtime victory in Game One.
Bowling Green completed the sweep the next night with another one-goal victory, indeed advancing to the WCHA Championship by becoming the only road team to win a series in the 2017 tournament. Dufour again played a huge role, erasing a 1-0 deficit with the tying goal 1:35 into the second period. Fellow senior Matt Pohlkamp scored the tie-breaking, game-winner at the 3:49 mark of the third period, and the Falcons held on for the 2-1 triumph behind Nell's 25 saves.
Dufour's hat trick was his second of the season, following a three-goal effort (including the game-winner) against Alabama Huntsville on Feb. 24. He joined teammate Mitchell McLain and Northern Michigan's Dominik Shine as the first WCHA skaters with multiple hat tricks in the same season since the 2011-12 campaign (Colorado College's Rylan Schwartz had three that season).
"Top Shelf Moments" from the 2016-17 WCHA Season