The Western Michigan Broncos closed out a difficult season on a high note as they earned three of four points in their final series against the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks. The Broncos rallied to a 5-5 tie on Friday night and won 6-3 on Saturday.
The Broncos got ahead early in Friday's game. Paul Szczechura (pictured) took advantage of an early power play to score less than a minute into the game. Brent Walton and Kevin Labatte earned assists on the play. But the Broncos soon got behind the eight-ball as the Mavericks evened the score by the end of the period and then struck twice early in the second.
Dave Krisky cut UNO's lead to one with some help from Sean Weaver and Daryl Moore, but the Mavericks responded with two more goals and Western found itself trailing 5-3 going into the final half of the third period.
But refusing to go quietly, the Broncos scored three straight goals to tie the game. Mike Lesperance, assisted by Szczechura, started the scoring flurry at 12:38 of the third. At 17:06, Reid Yantzi set up Daryl Moore for his fourth goal of the season, and less than a minute later, Szczechura fed a pass to Chris Frank, who lit the lamp to send the game to overtime.
Coach Jim Culhane was pleased with his team's efforts.
"I've been real impressed all year long with the resiliency of the team," noted Culhane. "They've played hard and I'm glad they were rewarded for their efforts."
Daniel Bellissimo finished with 33 saves, including one in overtime.
The Broncos built a solid lead in Saturday's game. Labatte and Nathan Ansell set up Jeff LoVecchio for a power-play goal at 12:48 of the first. Labatte then got a goal of his own late in the period with some assistance from Moore and Lesperance and Walton helped Szczechura to his tenth goal of the season at 8:31 of the second period.
The Mavericks cut the Broncos lead to two on a power-play goal midway through the second period, but Walton's power-play goal in the period's final minute gave the Broncos a 4-1 lead heading into the last twenty minutes of play. Walton's points moved him into 18th place on Western's list of all-time scorers.
The Mavericks scored twice in the third period to come within a goal, but their ambition became the Broncos' gain. Both LoVecchio and Jason Moul scored on the UNO empty net, sealing a 6-3 win for Western.
Bellissimo finished with 43 saves, giving him a weekend total of 76.
Western finishes the regular season 8-22-6, and 7-16-5 in the CCHA. Saturday's win pushed the Broncos out of the very bottom of the CCHA rankings. Now ranked 11 of 12, they head to Lake Superior State for CCHA tournament action.