By Karl Henkel/Western Michigan Beat Writer
Western Michigan continued its end-of-season upswing in the opening round of the CCHA playoffs, defeating Lake Superior State in a third and decisive game, 3-1, in Kalamazoo yesterday.
The Broncos overcame a disastrous game-one loss with a double-overtime victory before taking the capper to advance to the second round.
Riley Gill had 30 stops in the clincher and J.J. Crew, who had four points in the series, scored the third goal to extend the lead and put the game out of reach.
But WMU wouldn’t have had the opportunity to win — let alone play — in game three had it not been for the combination of Gill and Kevin Connauton in game two.
Coming after a disastrous game in which he allowed six goals on 26 shots and was pulled, Gill made 54 stops — a career high — and Connauton’s goal just under eight minutes into overtime gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory after blowing a two-goal lead with their backs against the wall.
Greg Squires, Jared Katz and Connauton gave WMU a 3-1 lead in the second period, but two Lake Superior State goals erased the advantage.
Brian Mahoney-Wilson helped keep the Lakers afloat by stopping 41 shots, just one night after turning aside 39 in the 6-3 victory. Nathan Perkovich (2), Troy Schwab, Matt Cowie, Fred Cassiani and Brad Cooper all scored for Lake Superior State.
WMU’s 3-1 victory Sunday was part of the only first-round CCHA series to need the “if necessary” game. Pat Inglis started in net for LSSU (11-20-8) and made 25 saves.
The Broncos (14-18-7) will now have to travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan. Friday’s game starts at 7:35 and Saturday’s contest at 7:05. If a third game is necessary, it will be Sunday at a yet-to-be-determined time. Michigan and WMU split a two-game series back in November.