KALAMAZOO, MICH. — Western Michigan freshman forward Pat Dwyer scored the game-winning goal early in the third period and freshman goaltender Mike Mantua earned his first career shutout with 18 saves to help the Broncos split the weekend with No. 6 Nebraska-Omaha, 2-0.
UNO continued its cold streak with the man-advantage, finishing 0-for-10 on the power play for the weekend.
The win over UNO gave the Broncos their third win over a top-10 ranked team at home this season.
WMU head coach Jim Culhane summed up the game. “What I saw tonight was basically playoff hockey in November. They are a very, very good hockey team, so it gives us some confidence in the fact that we can reflect back on beating three top-ten teams.”
Sophomore Dan Ellis took the loss for the Mavericks, allowing two goals on 18 shots.
Maverick head coach Mike Kemp noted that the difference between Friday night’s and Saturday’s game was the number of quality shots for each team. “The couple of chances they had went in, and we didn’t generate a significant number of shots ourselves. I can count on my hand the number of significant opportunities for our team tonight.”
The CCHA rivals exchanged penalties throughout the first and second periods and the defensive style employed by both lineups helped keep the game scoreless after two periods of hockey.
WMU started the third period on the power play after UNO’s leading scorer, Andrew Wong, was penalized for tripping at 19:54 of the second. In a game that saw defense dominate as it did in Friday’s showdown with only 36 shots on net betweem the two teams, Pat Dwyer was able to make his shot count by taking a pass from senior co-captain Mike Bishai and driving a shot between the pads of a screened Dan Ellis on the power play to give WMU a 1-0 lead 28 seconds into the third.
UNO missed a prime opportunity to even the game after WMU forward Shawn Rose turned the puck over to a waiting UNO forward in the high slot, but Mantua came up big with a glove save from the front of the crease.
WMU put the game out of the Mavericks’ reach at 8:37 when sophomore Paul Davies took an Ellis rebound and beat the goaltender five-hole to make the game 2-0. Lucas Drake and Anthony Battaglia were credited with assists on the play.
Both teams finished with 18 shots on net each.
Two Broncos returned to the lineup after missing time with injuries. Saturday’s game was Mike Bishai’s first after being sidelined for the last three games with a shoulder injury, and sophomore defensive enforcer Brian Pasko played in his first game for the Broncos this season after missing the previous games with a foot injury. Pasko showed no rust after missing 10 games, taking two penalties for slashing and crosschecking.
Culhane talked about how much it means to the team to have Pasko in the lineup. “Brian brings such an energy to Lawson (Ice Arena) itself with his enthusiasm. That’s one of the things that attracted us to Brian when we recruited him. It’s good to have him back.”
Culhane also explained his reasoning for scratching a number of key players from Saturday’s lineup in Nic Boileau, Jeremy Cheyne, and Mike Jarmuth.
“No discredit to them [UNO]. I thought they played very well, but we can play better than we did last night, so we decided that, hey, we’ve lost two in a row, we’re going to give some guys an opportunity to play.”
Western Michigan (4-4-2, 3-4-1 CCHA) hosts Notre Dame (2-5-3, 2-2-2 CCHA) next weekend at Lawson Ice Arena, while Nebraska-Omaha (7-3-0, 4-2-0 CCHA) returns to the Omaha Civic Center against Michigan (4-4-1, 3-3-1 CCHA).