Let’s flash back to the late 1970s. Ohio State and Bowling Green are not only in-state hockey rivals, but also in-conference rivals within the previous incarnation of the CCHA. The two teams played four times in the 1976-77 regular season with all games taking place in the second half of the season in 1977. The teams split the first series at Ohio State after the Buckeyes won 5-4 in overtime in the second game of the weekend. The final regular season series of the year for both teams saw the Buckeyes travel to Bowling Green in what resulted in another split. The Falcons put 10 goals on the board in the Friday night game on February 25, 1977. The Buckeyes rebounded to win 4-2 the following evening. The Falcons finished second within the CCHA with a 10-6-0 conference record and the Buckeyes finished third at 8-7-1. With four teams advancing to the CCHA playoffs, this set the stage for a rematch the following weekend at Bowling Green.
In 1977, the CCHA playoffs included four teams and consisted of two semifinal series and a championship series. All three series included two games apiece with the aggregate goals rule in effect. This meant that the team that scored the most total goals within the two games was declared the winner. The first semifinal game between OSU and Bowling Green took place on Friday, March 4. With the season series tied 2-2, something had to give. The first night saw the Falcons defeat the Buckeyes 5-2. If Ohio State wanted to keep its season alive, the team had to win the second game by a minimum of four goals. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, that didn’t happen. In the second game that took place March 6, 1977, Bowling Green finished off Ohio State by a score of 4-1. This effectively ended Ohio State’s season while the Falcons moved on to the CCHA championship series against top-ranked St. Louis.
The following weekend saw the Falcons defeat the Billikens 4-0 in game one. St. Louis responded in game two by winning 4-1. However, the total goals scored differential favored the Falcons by one goal. The 1977 CCHA tournament title earned Bowling Green an invite to the 1977 national tournament. It was the first appearance in the Division I men’s national tournament for Bowling Green. It also happened to be the first time the national tournament field had expanded past four with the Falcons securing the fifth spot. The Falcons ended up losing the first round game 7-5 to eventual national runner-up Michigan.
Ohio State and Bowling Green will begin a home-and-home series this week on Thursday night. It’s the first time the teams will face one another since October 27, 2018, when the Falcons and Buckeyes tied 2-2 at Bowling Green. The first game is Thursday in Columbus and the teams will travel north to Bowling Green for a Friday night matchup. The two teams are no longer both within the same conference. Bowling Green is once again affiliated with the new-look CCHA while Ohio State is in the Big Ten hockey conference. This is the ninth season since the two programs parted ways for different conferences yet this week’s matchup will be the sixth season the in-state rivals will face off against one another in that time period. So despite changes in conference alignment, the Battle for Ohio continues on. With all of the conference shifting in the past decade within Division I men’s hockey, a focus on keeping in-state rivalries in tact is very beneficial for the sport.
In the above photo, Jack Laine and Paul Titanic of Bowling Green look down at an OSU player who has the puck beneath him. The photo was taken during the CCHA semifinal series at Bowling Green in March 1977.
Photo Credit: Bowling Green State University, “The Key 1977” (1977). BGSU Key Yearbooks.