Kalamazoo, MI – As of late, it hasn’t been an enjoyable trip to Kalamazoo, MI for the SCSU Huskies. SCSU is 7-4-3 all-time against the Broncos at Lawson Arena and had never lost at Lawson Arena until January 24, 2020. Since then, they have lost four straight. It’s going to be a battle for sure but the WMU Broncos are battling a few issues as well.
The Broncos who had been awfully good on the road (4-1-0), including whipping top-ranked Michigan 5-2 on their home ice suddenly lost their touch in Denver last weekend getting swept by scores of 5-3 and 5-2 by the Pioneers. Both games started well with the Broncos leading in each contest but were unable to hold onto the lead.
“They (Denver) came out super hungry on Friday night and we pushed back but didn’t finish,” said head coach Pat Ferschweiler in his weekly press conference. “On Saturday, honestly I thought we were in control of the hockey game. Shots were 17-9 and we were up 2-1. A too many men on the ice penalty and a faceoff violation call changed the momentum of the game.” The Broncos ultimately lost 5-2.
Suddenly, the Broncos have lost three games in a row, are 2-2-0 on home ice, and currently sit in 6th place in the NCHC standings with 3 points. So, the Broncos need to regroup as they face the 2nd ranked Huskies at Lawson Arena on Friday and Saturday. They also need to find their power play that was clicking at 31% after the first four games but is 11% since although they were 2 for 8 (25%) against Denver.
“It wasn’t good enough for about three games as far as our entries, movement, and pucks to the net,” explained Ferschweiler. “It’s like novocaine, over time it’ll set in and work. You just have to get pucks and bodies down there to the net. I don’t think there’s a lot of magic. We have some guys that can really shoot the puck with Ronnie (Attard) and Mikey Joyaux, our weapons on top and we just have to deliver as many pucks as we can to the net.”
The Broncos are not only battling some injuries but also illness (not COVID) that is floating around the team. “We are down several bodies and it’s day to day but we’re monitoring it,” said Ferschweiler. The left side of the defense has been depleted due to injuries to senior, Jared Kucharek, sophomore Aiden Fulp, and freshman Nick Strom requiring the team to shift players around including moving forward Cam Knuble to defense in the Denver series.
Goaltender Brandon Bussi’s current numbers are not that impressive with a 3.01 GAA and .896 SV% and he allowed 10 goals vs Denver but Ferschweiler is not placing the blame on his goaltender. “I thought Brandon Bussi was solid,” he said. “He made some world-class saves. For him to perform better, we need to perform better in front of him.” The WMU defense is currently ranked 28th in the country allowing 3.20 goals per game.
On facing the Huskies, Ferschweiler heaps a lot of praise on their highly-ranked opponent. “St. Cloud is mature, deep, and talented, all the things you want out of a championship team. They went to the Frozen Four last year and essentially returned everyone and they added the best defenseman out of Minnesota. The Peart kid is a star so their defensive corps is better than it was last year. They are deeper than they were last year. It’s a real quality opponent.”
Fifth-year graduate player Josh Passolt is another player that opted to return due to the COVID waiver. “I wouldn’t have it any other way with the option to come back with what we have here, what it can be and what we’re trying to do here.”
“It’s a great test for our team,” said Passolt of this week’s opponent. “We have a lot of similarities to St. Cloud in terms of guys coming back and obviously they had a very successful year last year so you have to be ready to go. Against St. Cloud, we have to play our game, ” said Passolt. “We’ve proven we can play with the best teams in the nation this year. Every weekend in this league is tough and you have to play a full game. We learned that (vs Denver) last weekend that you have to play sixty minutes. It takes sixty minutes for all four lines, our defense and solid goaltending.”
“We’re expecting great crowds here and we’re excited for the weekend,” said Ferschweiler.