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College Hockey:
Breaks don’t go Western Michigan’s way in opening-round loss

— Whether you prefer the term “puck luck” or “getting a bounce,” Western Michigan had neither in the second period of its 3-1 West Regional semifinal loss to North Dakota on Saturday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.

Unfortunate deflections, a disallowed goal and bouncing pucks left the Broncos with nothing to show for their efforts in a middle period that saw them outshoot the Fighting Sioux 13-10.

Already trailing 1-0 after a first period mostly carried by North Dakota, Western Michigan came out of the dressing room for the second period with a vengeance. The Broncos dominated the first three minutes of the second and had UND seemingly on the ropes as they sought the tying goal.

But shortly thereafter, a Brock Nelson shot from the right circle deflected off WMU’s Luke Witkowski and hit Witkowski’s teammate Matt Tennyson at the right post before falling to rest in the crease behind Broncos goalie Frank Slubowski.

North Dakota’s Corban Knight was in the right place at the right time to pounce on the loose puck for a two-goal North Dakota lead. But after what could have been a devastating sequence for Western Michigan, the Broncos forged ahead.

“When that second one went in, I don’t think it took any wind out of our sail,” said Broncos right wing Kyle O’Kane, who scored Western Michigan’s lone goal later in the period. “I think if you watched the game, we still kept going.”

Broncos coach Andy Murray saw things similarly.

“There’s quite a bit been made of that second goal and I thought we played even played better after that, we were even more determined,” said Murray. “That’s kind of our trademark, that we just continue to play.”

Western Michigan continued to press forward, closing the gap to one on O’Kane’s breakaway goal at 12:57. It appeared to tie the game less than two minutes later when a floating puck hit WMU’s Ian Slater and crossed the line behind North Dakota goalie Aaron Dell.

The official immediately waved off the goal and, following a lengthy review, the call was confirmed due to the net becoming dislodged in the chaos. Despite the misfortune, Murray and his team immediately put it behind them and were prepared to move forward.

“When the referee wanted to come over and give me an explanation I just waved him away because, what are you going to do?” Murray said. “We just wanted to keep the game going. We were playing well at that point and we talked about it on the bench that, either way, we were going to continue to play hard.

“College referees talk to the coaches way too much. Just go about your business and that’s fine.”

“Obviously, it’s a huge turning point in the game,” said O’Kane. “We said to ourselves either way, if it’s a goal or not, we’re going to continue to press hard and continue to get pucks deep and get to the net and work hard.”

The Broncos were victimized by a few more unfortunate bounces, including a puck that wouldn’t settle for left wing Will Kessel on a glorious rebound opportunity with just over a minute to go.

“Any time that you can’t find the back of the net it’s frustrating,” said O’Kane. “Especially after that rough first period we kind of had, I thought we bounced back very well and I think we were playing hard all night.”


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  • Gopherzrule

    Haha nice title of the article.  Sioux played terrible from the 13 minutes mark of the 2nd period.  WMU was about the caliber of a Michigan Tech.  Which is not that bad but they need to improve before 2013.

    • collegehockeyfan0924

      North Dakota played terrible because Western outplayed and outworked them from the 13 minute mark of the 2nd period. Minnesota is about the caliber of a mid-level CCHA team which is not that bad but they need to improve before 2013. 

      • Guest

        Judging on Teams in the tourney, the WCHA had a pretty good year.  Mid level CCHA? I dont think so and I don’t even care for the gophers.

      • Scpa0305

        No..UND did not play very well today at all, I was at the game.  Something happened in the second and they played back on their heels.  Either way we won so on to the goofers.  I don’t like the goofers too much because they have terrible cocky fans BUT they are no mid level CCHA team.  Their team is loaded….just like ours.  Gotta get lucky and get the bounces tomorrow!  I still cannot believe we’re in the same bracket.  The other side is an absolute joke! 

        • CallingASpadeASpade

          The other brackets are not a joke.  BC and Duluth in the same bracket?  That’s no joke.  Michigan, Denver and Ferris State in the same bracket was no joke either.  Michigan had a PP hit a wall at the wrong time because the officials did everything they could last night to hand the game to them and they happened to meet Cornell who played a phenomenal defensive game (especially on the PK).  And Union is a solid team.  Definitely better than a lot of fans are giving them credit for.  

          The CCHA hasn’t fared very well though.  Of the 5 teams representing them in the tournament 4 of them lost in the first round.  If Ferris doesn’t beat Cornell then Cornell who happens to be the 4 seed will have beaten the two best teams in the CCHA based on regular season records.

          The WCHA on the other hand…4 teams representing and have gone 3-1 in first round play.  I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.  The Sioux/Gopher game should be a doozie and the BC/Duluth game will be a battle.  

          What’s funny to think about is the number of teams that are in the tournament this year and where they’ll be when the conferences realign.  North Dakota, Duluth, Denver, Miami, Western, and Ferris all made the tourney this year. How many Big 10 schools made it?  Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State.  Under the new format one conference will have gone 3-3 at this point with Ferris still playing. The other went 1-2.  Good stuff.  F U Big 10. 

          • Scpa0305

            I was talking about the other side of the bracket….yes I understand both BC and UMD are very good teams.  Right now Union and Ferris state are in the frozen four….I wonder how they would handle on the other side of the bracket. Oh well….all things work out in the end.  I never thought Ferris would beat Denver either so let just see.

      • Scpa0305

        No..UND did not play very well today at all, I was at the game.  Something happened in the second and they played back on their heels.  Either way we won so on to the goofers.  I don’t like the goofers too much because they have terrible cocky fans BUT they are no mid level CCHA team.  Their team is loaded….just like ours.  Gotta get lucky and get the bounces tomorrow!  I still cannot believe we’re in the same bracket.  The other side is an absolute joke! 

      • CallingASpadeASpade

        A mid level CCHA team?  Let me guess, you use it for medicinal purposes?

      • Jdhockeyboyz

        I think we’re looking at a case of Gopher envy here.  Ironically, the Gophers did look like a mid-level CCHA team the last three years when they were AWOL from the NCAA tourney.

    • Hockey God

      Minnesota was about the caliber of a Michigan Tech when the Sioux spanked them last week at the X in the Final Five!

  • Wick

    Sioux played solid.  Western Michigan played well.  Sioux got a few good bounces. The disallowed goal was the right call.  You win some, you lose some.  Go Fighting Sioux!  That’s what they’re called.  It’s just the NCAA that doesn’t recognize it.

  • WMUBroncoAlumnus02

    Congratulations and best of luck to UND! Thank you to my beloved Broncos, especially seniors Ian Slater, JJ Crew, Derek Roehl, Kyle O’Kane and Greg Squires for an amazing season. The program will continue to grow, we’re just getting started. Fight on, fight on for Western!

    • Siouxper

      Much respect to you guys! You gave us all we could handle especially in the second half of that game. Cant wait to see more of this match up in a couple years!

    • CallingASpadeASpade

      I didn’t even know Western had a hockey team until about 3 years ago.  They’re the real deal and have a coach that will put them on the map.  If I was a Western fan I’d be super excited about the program.  Classy group you guys have on that roster.  I’d wish you luck for next year but I don’t think you’ll be needing it.  

    • Scpa0305

      Classy fans….like it!  I’m glad we’ll be slugging it out in a few years regularly. Much more classy than a typical goofer fan.

    • Fan Man

      Agreed, your coach/program is scrary and I look forward to consistent battles in the near future! Congrats on a impressive season

  • El Paso Hockey Fan

    Nice to see a college hockey fans lose with some dignity for once and not blame everything under sun for the loss

    • CallingASpadeASpade

      Amen to that!

  • collegehockeyfan

    Great game to watch, very high intensity, either one of the teams could have ended up on the upper hand.  Looking forward to seeing the rivalry game again!

  • CallingASpadeASpade

    Could Mr. Halverson have made this story sound like the Sioux were lucky to escape any more?  It was a good game and both teams had a few solid scoring chances.  I personally found it pretty impressive that despite the Sioux struggling a bit defensively once again Dell allowed 1 goal and it was a breakaway.  

    If the Sioux play like that again tomorrow it’s not going to be pretty.

  • 440fied

    I am a minnesotan and I am embarrassed at the way some of the gopher fans sound when they post on here. Please do Minnesota a favor and post with a little more maturity. Time will tell if the Gophers are half as good as they think they are!!

  • Guest 64

    Western’s second goal that was ruled a no-goal was very, very questionable.  I have no bone to pick w/ ND or their fans but why do the officials use replay when they get it wrong 97% of the time?   

    I realize that I will get a lot of folks jumping all over me with the above comments with remarks along the lines of “that it was ruled a no-goal” , “there are always bad calls and champions overcome”, etc. especially if their team was the beneficiary of the goal.   

    I wonder if the on-ice officials in college hockey need more help like the war room in TO for the NHL because the officiating during this tournament (at least involving goals – e.g., MSU, WMU, etc.) as been just plain awful…..

    • J_ott

      He threw the puck in with his right hand. It was a great “no call”

    • GeauxSioux

      Look at the above picture…

    • KAW

      The more I see/hear about it, the more it seems like they made the right call. The real difference-maker for me is that WMU, despite what they said, DID let it deflate their momentum when they were all over Dell. Sad to see a fantastic season end that way, but at least we know we’ll have some tough hockey to look forward to in the future, maybe get us a little more tournament-ready. If we hadn’t dropped those late-season games to OSU, LSSU, and BGSU, we wouldn’t have been facing a chamionship-level NoDak team.

      On the plus side, I can now go buy my CCHA tournament champions shirt in confidence, knowing I won’t get burned when they win the national title.

      I’m hoping for a Ferris vs. NoDak final. That’d be some quality hockey.

    • bob

      call was no goal because puck went arm/shoulder if he would have deflected it to his stick then knocked it in it woud have been a goal.

  • guest1

    I think it is important to note that the goal was NOT disallowed because of the net becoming dislodged.  Watching the game on tv, the replays clearly showed the WMU player – although unintentionally – “batting” the puck with a distinct motion with his hand immediately before it crossed the goal line.  (See the picture highlighted in the article).  Furthermore, when the on-ice officials were reviewing the replay the microphone picked up the refs telling the off-ice officials in the box that the goal was disallowed for this reason.  This explanation was also announced on the arena PA system.

    If the goal had been disallowed because of the net becoming dislodged (by the UND back-checking player as shown in the replay) the ensuing face-off would have remained in the UND defensive zone.  However, the following face-off was taken outside of the zone due to the illegal touch by WMU.

    Hope that makes sense :)

  • 81GRRBRONCO

    As a Bronco Fan since my Freshman Year in 1977, it’s good to be in the NCAAs and playing other Top Caliber teams to the final horn.  Congratulations on a great game UND and I look forward to your visits to Kalamazoo.  Win or lose, they’ll be great games.