By Bob Miller/Western Michigan Beat Writer
When you're battling for the top spot in the CCHA conference standings, you simply can't afford to tread water.
Western Michigan split a home two-game series with struggling Ohio State, winning the Friday night match-up in overtime, 3-2, but fell to the Buckeyes in Saturday's series finale, 4-3, slipping three points further behind first-place Ferris State, who fashioned a series sweep against Notre Dame over the weekend.
The Broncos have accumulated 42 conference points, one ahead of third place Michigan and five less than top (Bull)dog Ferris State.
Dane Walters was the overtime hero for Western Michigan, beating Buckeye netminder Cal Heeter 3:20 into the overtime frame on the first shot the Broncos were able to direct Heeter's way in extra time.
“To tell you the truth,” started Walters about the overtime winner, “my linemates did most the work there. (Shane) Berschbach got it over to (Chase) Balisy, and Balisy pulled up, had a nice play, sent it back over to Berschbach who knocked the puck and kind of lost it. It was just laying there for me. I tried to pull it over and just put it in.”
Matt Tennyson and Kyle O'Kane provided the first two Western Michigan goals before Walters' overtime heroics.
In Saturday's 4-3 loss, Western Michigan battled back from an early 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead deep into the third period on goals by Chase Balisy, Will Kessel and Tennyson.
The Buckeyes' Alex Carlson beat Western Michigan goaltender Frank Slubowski twice in the game's final six minute for the Ohio State comeback win.
“Ohio State came and battled,” said Bronco head coach Andy Murray of the loss. “They played hard like they did last night. For three weekends in a row, we've found a way to be as good as we need to be on Saturday nights, and that's my responsibility. Leading by a goal with seven minutes left to go in the game, and let the lead slip away, that's my responsibility.”
Before their potentially pivotal season-ending series against Ferris State in two weeks, Western Michigan is tasked with traveling to the Sault for a two-game set with Lake Superior State this coming weekend.