ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The resurgence of No. 7 Western Michigan in the CCHA took its third downward swing, as the ninth-ranked Wolverines held back the Broncos, 5-1, in front of a sellout crowd at Yost Ice Arena.
Michigan (17-6-3, 11-4-1 CCHA) outshot Western Michigan, 44-23, for the game, including a 29-12 advantage in the final two periods.
“I think we worked pretty hard. Obviously you have to give Michigan credit,” said Broncos coach Jim Culhane, whose team is winless in its last three. “[Michigan goaltender Josh] Blackburn played very well in net for them. He made the big save when it was a 3-1 hockey game.”
Blackburn’s save on two breakaways, including a one-on-one stop of Brent Rumble in the second period, kept Western Michigan in check on the way to the goaltender’s 22-save night.
The Broncos (16-5-3, 9-4-3) started off right, taking a quick 1-0 lead just four minutes into the game on a two-man advantage. Freshman Dana Lattery fought through a scrum around the net and tapped the puck past Blackburn.
But while Western Michigan didn’t play a horrendous game, the Wolverines fended off the Broncos’ quality chances and took control the rest of the contest.
“I thought it was a great effort,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “Blackburn was solid. They had two golden opportunities. It could have been tied after two periods.”
With four Broncos and two Wolverines in the top 10 NCAA scoring leaders, the battle of the top scoring talent ensued. But the high-scoring Wolverines dominated the contest.
Andy Hilbert notched two goals, both which were assisted by another top-10 scorer, Mike Cammalleri. Defenseman Jeff Jillson added a goal and an assist. The trio also led a special teams unit that had two power-play goals and a shorthanded tally.
Pelted with shots, Western Michigan goaltender Jeff Raynaert’s bad night came to a bitter climax when Michigan defenseman Mike Roemensky tossed a long shot from the Wolverines’ blueline. The puck hit Raynaert’s stick and ricocheted into the net.
“That’s a one-in-a-thousand chance,” Blackburn said. “I’m glad it wasn’t me.”
The unusual third-period goal put Michigan up 5-1, a lopsided result that represents a lost opportunity for Western Michigan, which continues its quest to prove it can battle with the CCHA elite.
Yost Fans dug into the Broncos, chanting “overrated” in the final minutes of the game.
Berenson disagreed that Western Michigan isn’t up to snuff and credited the blowout score to the direct turnaround from all of his players after last weekend’s split with Ohio State.
“A week ago, it was hard to point out six players who played well,” Berenson said. “This week it was tough to pick out anyone who didn’t play well.”
The Wolverines also returned two players into the lineup. Defenseman and assistant captain Dave Huntzicker added 17 minutes, playing for the first time since Nov. 17.
“I’m not at 100 percent — I don’t think I ever got back to 100 percent at the beginning of the year,” Huntzicker said. “I’m a little ways away, but not far enough to where I can’t help this team.”
Senior Mark Kosick also re-entered the lineup after Berenson scratched him the past three games and provided a better lift.
Western Michigan played without one of their leading scorers. Steven Rymsha, out due to a game disqualification, will return when teams will battle it out in Kalamazoo Saturday.
Mark Francescutti is a sports editor for The Michigan Daily.