KALAMAZOO, MICH. — In a game that had the same physical style with which the Black Bears and Broncos played Friday, Western Michigan forward Anthony Battaglia scored the game-tying goal and registered an assist on the night, and senior goaltender Jeff Reynaert had 29 saves, ncluding seven saves in overtime, as WMU came from behind to tie No. 7 Maine, 2-2.
WMU head coach Jim Culhane thought it was a great weekend for the hockey fans.
“It was a very, very physical weekend for both teams, and it was a great weekend for college hockey. A perennial power in the Hockey East and a top-ten program nationally, and obviously we’re please to get three out of four points against an outstanding hockey club such as Maine.”
Culhane also mentioned that the decision to start Reynaert was made prior to this weekend.
“We had planned on it early in the week. We told them that Mike [Mantua] was going to get the start on Friday and Jeff [Reynaert] on Saturday, regardless of Mike’s play on Friday night. We needed Jeff to get back on his bicycle, and get back in there and play very well, and he gave us an outstanding performance tonight and an opportunity to win the game.”
The Broncos may have earned a point with the tie, but they lost a whole lot more when Mike Bishai went down after taking a nasty hit into the boards during the second period. Visibly holding his left arm, Bishai would not return to the game for WMU. His status for next weekend’s matchup with CCHA rival Miami is questionable.
The game caps two weekends that saw the Broncos take five points in four games from nationally ranked squads Maine and Michigan.
Maine head coach Tim Whitehead praised the Broncos. “I definitely have to give credit to Western Michigan, they had a great weekend and deserved the three points for sure. They’re a good hockey team, and they’re going to have a really good season. We’re a better team for having played them.”
Maine also received a stellar performance from senior goaltender Mike Morrison, who finished with 33 saves.
Early in the game, the Broncos got a huge break when a Maine forward knocked in the puck as soon as the net was dislodged behind Reynaert, but the Referee Bill Waisanen ruled there was no goal.
The Black Bears took it to the Broncos with their physical play early, and it paid off when
Peter Metcalf deflected a shot by Todd Jackson to a waiting Martin Kariya on the right side of Reynaert, who poked it in at 8:38, giving the Black Bears a 1-0 lead that Maine carried into the second.
After Bishai went down at 11:56 in the second period, the tone of the game took a vicious turn, and Metcalf was the first one to be penalized after the Bishai hit, receiving a minor for slashing at 14:13.
With seconds remaining on the Metcalf penalty, WMU got on the board after sophomore Paul Davies slipped a tight shot from the goal-line in between Morrison and the post at 16:09 to tie the game. It was 1-1 after two.
Just 2:30 into the third, the physical play continued as Bronco freshman Pat Dwyer was sent to the penalty box. Maine was able to capitalize when junior Robert Liscak deflected a shot from sophomore Prestin Ryan between Reynaert’s legs to put Maine on top again, 2-1 at 4:05.
With more give-and-take, Western’s Lucas Drake, freshman sensation Jeremy Cheyne, and Maine’s Colin Shields were sent to the box at 6:26, putting the Broncos down four-on-three. While shorthanded at 7:22, Battaglia skated in between the two Maine defenders alone and tried to put a move on Morrison, but collided with the netminder as the puck went over the goal line to bring the score to its final tally of 2-2.
Culhane was very proud of Battaglia’s play on the weekend. “That was just a heck of an individual effort on that tying goal to make it 2-2. He found a way and was just determined that he wasn’t going to be denied on the play.”
Later following the Battaglia goal, Maine junior Mike Schutte was assessed a major penalty and a game disqualification for a butt-end on a Bronco forward.
In the overtime session, both teams had multiple opportunities to win the game. Morrison came up huge on a one-time shot from the WMU attack to keep the game tied, while Maine had seven shots on net, not including multiple shots that Reynaert deflected wide.
The shot total was 35-31 in favor of Western Michigan.
Next weekend, the Broncos (3-2-1, 2-2-0 CCHA) head to Oxford, Ohio, to play Miami, and Maine (2-3-1, 0-0-0 Hockey East) hosts streaking UMass-Lowell Saturday in Orono.