Facing CCHA juggernaut Miami-Ohio is no small feat for any team, particularly conference cellar-dweller Western Michigan. While the team, particularly injured netminder Daniel Bellissimo (pictured above) and senior Brent Walton, put forth an admirable effort, they came up short and were swept in Ohio.
For Western, taking a 6-1 drubbing on Friday was a hard way to start the weekend. Miami (17-4-4, 14-3-2 CCHA) got out to an early 2-0 lead, and while Walton's power-play goal was a bright spot for the Broncos (Paul Szczechura and Daryl Moore assisted), the Red Hawks responded with four unanswered goals. Bellissimo stopped 24 shots in the first two periods before he began feeling the strain of a nagging groin injury and was replaced by Eric Marvin, who made 15 saves in the third period.
While Saturday's contest appeared to be going down the same path, Miami had a 2-0 lead by early in the second period, the tide turned in Western's direction at 13:30 of the second period. Moore and Mike Lesperance set up Walton on the power play, and then Moore and Lesperance connected again on the power play early in the third, this time to send the puck to Jeff LoVecchio, who beat Miami goalie Jeff Zatkoff.
And when Reid Yantzi scored his first goal of the season at 16:22, it seemed victory was within the Broncos' grasp. But a two-man disadvantage proved fatal for Western. Bellissimo gave up a goal to Miami with 22 seconds remaining, and the fired-up Red Hawks scored again with two seconds remaining to snatch the 4-3 win from Western.
“I’m really proud of our effort tonight, I thought our guys battled hard tonight against a good Miami team,” said WMU coach Jim Culhane. “The difference was that they found a way to win when the game was on the line.”
Bellissimo finished with 40 saves in Saturday's game.
Western (5-16-3, 5-11-2 CCHA) welcomes Northern Michigan to Kalamazoo next weekend.