EAST LANSING, Mich. — Western Michigan was in such a hurry to take the ice at Michigan State on Friday that the Broncos broke the norm and stepped onto the Munn Ice Arena surface before the home Spartans.
At the end of the game, the Broncos didn’t exit stage left as excited as they entered it.
Senior captain Adam Hall and junior winger Bryan Maloney each had three points as No. 6 Michigan State extended its home unbeaten streak to 30 games with a 6-3 win over WMU in an entertaining game before 6,786 fans at Munn.
The two teams will meet again Saturday night at Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo at 7 p.m.
With the win, the Spartans remained tied with Michigan atop the CCHA standings with 23 points.
“I’m glad we picked it up in third [period], particularly on defense,” said MSU head coach Ron Mason. “We haven’t been pressured like that in four games, which is something we can build on going into tomorrow.”
Michigan State didn’t take long to open the scoring as senior defenseman Andrew Hutchinson fluttered an innocent shot towards the net that WMU goalie Mike Mantua mishandled with his glove, allowing the puck to get behind him and into the net just 41 seconds into the game.
Western Michigan answered shorthanded at 7:18 of the first when sophomore center Paul Davies cut across the Spartan zone and fired a perfect shot above MSU goalie Ryan Miller’s glove to tie the game 1-1.
Having scored one-man down, the Broncos couldn’t duplicate such success two-men down after junior defenseman Dave Cousineau took an interference penalty at 8:01, which resulted in a 2-1 MSU lead at 8:31 when Hall put home an easy rebound off a point shot from junior defenseman John-Michael Liles.
The Spartans capped off a wild first period when freshman center Lee Falardeau took a perfect centering pass from junior defenseman Brad Fast and beat Mantua from in front of the goal for a 3-1 MSU lead with just 31.6 seconds remaining in the period.
Mantua was replaced by senior goalie Jeff Reynaert to start the second period.
The Broncos appeared to be on the edge of a cliff ready to fall off, but they turned the game around midway through the second after killing off another Spartan two-man advantage.
Just 14 seconds after his second penalty expired, sophomore winger Jeff Campbell picked up a loose puck off a shot from freshman winger Pat Dwyer and slipped a backhand into a wide open net to make it 3-2 MSU at 6:53.
The play was set up by Campbell, who originally cut in on Miller and forced the Spartan netminder to the ice, setting up Dwyer’s shot and Campbell’s easy rebound.
WMU then tied the game at 14:47 when, gasp, Miller let in a bad goal.
Senior center Chad Kline fired a bad angle shot that appeared to go through Miller’s pads to make it 3-3, much to the delight of the few Bronco fans who made the trek from Kalamazoo.
However, the Spartans wasted little time in regaining the lead as senior center Joe Goodenow found a loose puck in front of the WMU goal off a shot from Hutchinson and fought through a scrum to poke the puck into the net for a 4-3 MSU lead at 15:49.
WMU stayed within one goal and had a good chance to tie the game by getting a power-play with just over seven minutes left.
Instead of a tie game, the Bronco power-play produced a 5-3 MSU lead after Maloney skated in two-on-one with Hall and fed a perfect pass cross-ice pass to Hall, who roofed the puck into the net for the second shorthanded goal of the game at 14:15 of the third.
“They’re the No. 1 penalty killing team in the CCHA and you see why,” said WMU head coach Jim Culhane. “They put pressure on our power play and then made a nice play and got the goal.”
Maloney then capped off the scoring when he beat Reynaert from the left slot off a feed from Hall with 3:38 left in the game.
The pendulum of emotions swung both directions throughout the game, but Hall said his team never wavered the entire night.
“I think that this team of all the teams I’ve been on, never counts themselves out of a game,” he said. “We never doubt ourselves offensively.”