Kalamazoo, MI – When your penalty kill is ranked 57th out of 60 in the country, you have no margin for error. The Huskies found that out early in period one in the Saturday, January 25 rematch as the Broncos scored three first period power play goals and shut the lights out early on SCSU in a 6-2 win and convincing weekend sweep. The Huskies entered the series four points behind the Broncos with visions of capturing fourth place in the conference standings. They return home to St. Cloud ten points behind the Broncos and drop one position to sixth place. They’ll have little time to mope around as they host Miami at home next weekend and will be facing a team that is a mere three points behind them in the very tight league standings. For the Huskies, it was certainly a disappointing weekend as they surrendered the ground they made up last weekend after a sweep of the UMD Bulldogs.
The game on Saturday started as a mirror reflection of Friday’s game after a couple of early scoring chances for the Huskies. Slightly over a minute into period one, Kevin Fitzgerald placed a shot off the cross bar followed up by a goalmouth opportunity for Zach Okabe. Much like Friday, Okabe incurred an early first period penalty and Western Michigan took advantage scoring a minute later on a blast from inside the blue line by the Philadelphia Flyers third round draft pick Ronnie Attard. Fielding a pass at the point from Michael Joyeaux, who had a three-point game, Attard was given enough space to plant himself, survey his shot on goal and bast away at starter Jaxon Castor who probably never saw the shot.
After failing to even things up after a tripping penalty to goal-scorer Attard, the Huskies continued their generosity gifting two more penalties at 12:14. A boarding penalty to Micah Miller was supplemented by a bench minor (assumably for some vocal discussion about the call) that gave the Broncos a five on three for two minutes and WMU made quick work of the advantage scoring twice. Michael Joyaux scored his first goal of the year at 12:41 off a bast from the high slot for a 2-0 lead. Then at 14:05, Wade Allison, another Flyers draft choice, ripped a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle that beat Castor blocker side for a three-goal lead. After yielding three goals on seven shots, partially a product of his teammates misdeeds, Castor was pulled in favor of David Hrenak.
Finally, skating five on five, the Huskies closed the WMU advantage to two goals on Jake Wahlin’s fourth goal of the year at 16:42. A shot from the right circle was saved by the Bronco’s Bassi but Wahlin was there to bury the rebound to cut the lead to 3-1. An Austin Rueschoff penalty for slashing at 16:49 provided another opportunity for the Huskies but they couldn’t convert and Western responded adding another goal nine seconds after the penalty expired. Luke Jaycox lost the handle on the puck at the Broncos blue line and Dawson DiPietro jumped on it and raced in on Hrenak beating him low for a 4-1 WMU lead. Despite the score the Huskies outshot the Broncos 12-10 in period one.
The Huskies got off on the right track to start period two with a quick goal by Easton Brodzinski (Fitzgerald | N Poehling) at 1:56. On a nifty three-way play, Poehling left the puck for Fitzgerald just inside the blue line and Fitzgerald made a nice cross-ice pass to Brodzinski who was parked to the left of the goal. Brodzinski made it look easy with a high wrist shot that beat Bussi to close the lead to 4-2. Unfortunately, any momentum generated by the goal was quickly extinguished by a period littered with penalties starting at 7:34. A total of nine penalties for 26 minutes were called and the teams didn’t skate at even strength until about six minutes were remaining in the period. The Huskies controlled the last three minutes of the period and had several huge chances in the waning seconds but the score remained 4-2 at period end with SCSU outshooting WMU 21-19.
The Huskies were given an opportunity to climb back into the contest with a penalty to DiPietro just 49 seconds into the period but they couldn’t convert and surprisingly, the control of the game swung back to the Broncos who added their fifth goal at 3:58, the second of the game by MIchael Joyaux. They capped things off with another by Josh Passolt at 8:13 for the 6-2 final and sweep of the series.
“Tonight’s game was a real tough one despite the score” said coach Andy Murray in the post-game press conference. “St. Cloud came to play tonight. They played hard and put pressure on us all night. We needed our special teas to step up and certainly our power play and penalty kill got the job done. Those were the deciding factor in the hockey game. St. Cloud played hard and competed. To get both wins againt a team like that is vey gratifying.”
“I think our players played their best period of the hockey game in the last 20 minutes. We had them under pressure all period” Murray said. “In college hockey when you split it’s called an average weekend. It’s called a great weekend when you win them both”.
The Broncos outshot the Huskies 32-27 for the game. Brandon Bussi stopped 25 of 27 shots on goal to improve his record to 11-9-3. The tandem of Jaxon Castor and David Hrenak stopped 26 of 32 shots. The Broncos were three for six on the power play while SCSU was unsuccessful in all four of their chances. The Huskies blocked 14 shots while WMU blocked 11. The Broncos won 39 of 63 faceoffs.
Nick Poehling had the only multi-point game for the Huskies with two assists.
With the weekend losses, the Huskies overall record falls to 8-124 and their NCHC record to 5-9-0. They return home to face Miami next weekend.
Stars of the Game: #1 Michael Joyaux (WMU) #2 Brandon Bussi (WMU) #3 Ronnie Attard (WMU)