DULUTH, Minn. — Western Michigan has won its share of shootouts this season. But Thursday afternoon, in the opening game of a tournament entitled the Silverado Shootout, the Broncos relied on defense and solid goaltending to skate to victory.
Forwards Mike Bishai and Jeff Campbell scored first- and third-period goals, respectively, and goaltender Jeff Reynaert backed them up with 30 saves to lead the seventh-ranked Broncos to a 2-0 win over Colgate.
It was a change of pace for WMU (13-3-2), which has used a high-powered offense in posting most of its 13 victories this season. Before Thursday, Western had averaged 4.7 goals per game, and head coach Jim Culhane says he doesn’t mind his team using a little more “D” to gain a victory.
“During the second half of the season, I don’t know if we’ll be able to put those [offensive] numbers up,” Culhane said.
Credit a strong defensive game plan by Colgate (3-11-2) for keeping the Broncos’ scoring totals down. The Red Raiders limited WMU to 22 shots on goal, and coach Don Vaughan said he wanted to keep a forward back with the two defensemen to shore up its defensive play.
“We didn’t want to give up any odd-man rushes,” said Vaughan. “They’re a very explosive team.”
The two teams traded control of the game, with Western gaining the momentum early in the opening period. Bishai’s goal came on a power play at the 2:52 mark. The junior center notched his 11th goal of the season, grabbing a loose puck in the faceoff circle to the left of the goal and lifting a quick wrist shot that darted over the stick side of goaltender David Cann.
Colgate then controlled most of the play for the remainder of the first, outshooting Western 13-3 after the goal was scored. That flurry included three point-blank shots within a minute, all of which Reynaert was able to save with the help of his defensemen.
“This was a total team effort,” the junior goaltender said. “They forced a lot of shots from the outside, and they then weren’t too difficult to stop.”
The shutout was Reynaert’s second of the season.
No goals were scored in the second period, but WMU tallied its second marker late in the third stanza off a two-on-one break led by Bishai and Campbell.
The freshman, Campbell, got his stick on the puck directly in front of the net and appeared tied up by the Colgate defender, but was able to force it underneath Cann’s pads for his 14th goal of the season.
Culhane says the long layoff affected the play of both teams. “Conditioning played a big part — you could see it each way. We were just fortunate to capitalize on two of our chances.”
Vaughan said he couldn’t complain about how his team played. “I’m pleased with our effort; we stuck to our game plan and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”
The game also went relatively quickly. Only seven penalties were called throughout the contest, allowing the game to end two hours and ten minutes after the opening faceoff. WMU converted on its lone power-play opportunity, while the Red Raiders finished 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
Although the Silverado Shootout is a fixed-schedule tournament, Western will play for the de facto tournament championship Friday afternoon when it takes on fellow winner Merrimack. Colgate will face host Minnesota-Duluth Friday night.