Kalamazoo, MI – After an exemplary effort by the Huskies last weekend vs the UMD Bulldogs, the Huskies had little go right in a 6-2 loss to the Western Michigan Broncos on Friday, January 24. In a dominant first period, the Broncos scored three times in the first fifteen minutes, outshot the Huskies 15-4 and never looked back in capturing this key league contest. With the win, the Broncos surged to a seven point lead over SCSU in the standings for fourth place and a possible home ice berth for the NCHC playoffs. The Huskies had never lost a game at Lawson Arena in the all-time series and are now 18-5-4 overall vs the Broncos and 7-1-3 in Kalamazoo.
Things couldn’t have gone any worse for the Huskies in period one with Western controlling play and going on the man-advantage 5:55 into the game after a high-sticking penalty to Zach Okabe. The Broncos didn’t score on the power play but did so four seconds after the penalty expired to take an early 1-0 lead. A bad angle shot from the right side wall by Paul Wasche got by Hrenak and gave him his 9th goal of the season. They added another at 14:11 on defenseman, Jared Kucharek’s first goal of the season for a two-goal advantage. On an odd-man rush, Kucharek sped up ice into the play and beat Hrenak high for a 2-0 game. The Broncos again took advantage of a reeling SCSU squad scoring 1:05 later with a goal by Hugh McGing, his 100th career point and it was starting to look like a route.
Captain, Jack Ahcan (Miller | Perbix) gave the Huskies some hope with a goal with just 12 seconds remaining in the period to close the advantage to two goals. Ahcan jumped into the play and Miller connected with a pass and Ahcan beat Bussi glove side for a 3-1 game. But, following the center ice faceoff, and with four seconds remaining in the period, Ahcan leveled Cole Gallant with a sideways hit along the boards that was ruled a contact to the head. Ahcan was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct and was lost for the game.
The Broncos had 4:56 of the major to work with to start period two and they capitalized at 3:20 with a goal by the oft-injured forward Wade Allison, his fourth goal of the year for a 4-1 lead. This was the end of the scoring for the period by the Broncos and they were outshooting the Huskies 20-6 in the game before getting into penalty trouble late in the period. Consecutive penalties to Paul Wasche at 13:25 for hooking and Ronnie Attard for cross-checking at 17:01 gave SCSU a golden opportunity to get back into the game but they were unable to take advantage. WMU outshot the Huskies once again 13-7 in the period.
The Huskies finally got some traction in the third period and were beginning to gain more possession in the Broncos zone. Bussi had to make a goalmouth save on Sam Hentges 1:56 into the period and another key save on Nick Poehling at 4:05. They finally cashed in with their second goal of the game at 10:32 by Zach Okabe, his 5th goal of the season. Luke Jaycox took a shot from the left point and Okabe buried the rebound to make it a 4-2 game. The goal seemed to jump-start the Huskies as they began to see the ice tilted in their favor with about six minutes remaining.
With the Broncos somewhat on their heels late but with the Huskies needing two goals, they pulled Hrenak for the extra attacker with 2:37 remaining. But, it backfired with WMU’s Ronnie Attard scoring a rink-length empty net goal from behind the Broncos goal line. The Broncos added their final goal with three seconds remaining on a quick shot from the left faceoff circle by Brett Van Os who placed the puck over Hrenak’s shoulder glove side for the Broncos sixth goal. WMU outshot the Huskies 13-9 in the final period.
For the game, Western Michigan dominated the Huskies in shots 40-21. David Hrenak stopped 34 of 39 shots in the loss and saw his record fall to 7-8-4. The Broncos Brendan Bussi turned aside 19 of 21 shots in the win with his record improving to 10-9-3. In a key statistic, SCSU was 0 for 2 on the power play while WMU was 1 for 3. The Huskies were also outdueled in the faceoff circle 31-25. Both teams blocked 15 shots.
“We have so much respect for St. Cloud” said coach Andy Murray in his post-game comments. “Obviously, they’ve owned us over the last number of years in the NCHC. They skate, they play hard, they compete and they play heavy on the puck. With that respect level you have to come prepared to play and our guys were ready at the start tonight.”
“I liked our change game and effort tonight and we’ll need more of the same tomorrow. Obviously, St. Cloud will rebound with a very solid game” said Murray.
About the rematch on Saturday forward Cole Gallant commented “They (St. Cloud State) are a heckuva team, but as long as we work and outplay them at both ends of the ice and we play a 200′ game against them I don’t think they can hang on with us towards the end of the game.”
Stars of the Game: #1 Hugh McGing (WMU) #2 Jared Kucharek (WMU) #3 Brett Van Os (WMU)