Monday, October 31, 2005
Western upsets #4 Ohio State
For most college hockey fans, the fact that Western Michigan was playing host to the Ohio State this past weekend likely merited little more than a yawn. WMU, 0-2 coming into the contest, had not shown tremendous power against lesser teams, and Ohio State was a nationally-ranked powerhouse. But the Broncos defied all expectations, sweeping the Buckeyes to the tune of 5-1 and 5-4 victories.
"Tonight's victory was a total team effort," reflected coach Jim Culhane. "Special teams played a big factor. We scored three times on the power play and we were able to keep them off the board in 12 chances on their power play."
Western had few scoring chances in the first stanza, but goalie Daniel Bellissimo held strong and kept the score even at zero. Less than one minute into the second period, a Buckeye player was called for holding the stick, and captain Mike Erickson made the most of the power play, banging in a shot with some help from Paul Szczechura (pictured, right) and Ryan Mahrle. Later in the period, after an unassisted Jeff Pierce goal put the Broncos up by two, Szczechura notched a goal of his own. Erickson returned the set-up favor and claimed an assist on the goal; Brent Walton (pictured, left) was also credited with an assist.
Though the Buckeyes peppered Bellissimo with shots throughout the third period, it was Western that was able to capitalize on its opportunities--Jeff Lovecchio widened the Broncos' lead to 4-0 on a shorthanded goal, assisted by Walton. The Broncos kept rolling as Erickson earned his second power play goal of the game off passes from Walton and Szczechura.
Although the Buckeyes scored with five minutes remaining to snatch Bellissimo's potential shutout, the Broncos refused to relinquish control of the game. Bellissimo finished with 36 saves, and Western had earned its first season win in glorious form.
The Buckeyes were hungry for vengeance on Saturday night, and for the first thirty minutes, redemption seemed within the grasp of the visiting team. Despite a Walton power play goal late in the first (assisted by Szczechura and Dave Krisky), it appeared that OSU would head to the locker room for the second intermission with a 4-1 lead.
But Western made the most of two power play opportunities late in the second period: Szczechura and Walton set up Jeff Pierce for his first goal of the season, and less than a minute later, Lovecchio helped Nathan Ansell earn his first season goal and bring Western within one goal of the Buckeyes. The Broncos had wrestled back the game's momentum and stayed in control throughout the third period.
Western scored two more unanswered goals in the third period: Jason Moul scored an even-strength goal midway through the period to tie the game (Lovecchio and Ansell assisted), and Krisky notched the go-ahead goal with less than three minutes left in the game (Walton and Szczechura just had to be involved again, and were credited with assists on the Krisky goal).
Bellissimo had an exciting repeat performance, stopping 37 shots in Saturday's contest, and Western killed every Ohio State power play opportunity.
Western looks to continue its dominance of CCHA opponents when Lake Superior State visits Lawson this weekend.