KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Western Michigan jumped out to a four-goal lead in the first period and Bronco senior netminder Jeff Reynaert earned his fourth career shutout to help WMU cruise to a 4-0 win and a sweep over #10 Northern Michigan.
WMU head coach Jim Culhane was happy to gain ground in the race for hosting a first-round series in the CCHA tournament.
“I’m pretty pleased with the outcome this weekend. We started the weekend five points back of Northern, and we knew that we could either close the gap with them, or it would widen on their part. Obviously, we’re pretty pleased with the victory last night, 5-3, and with the 4-0 shutout tonight, we’re pleased that we’re only one point back of Northern.”
“I think a big challenge for us now is going to UNO, [to play in] a nationally-ranked team in their own building, which is very difficult to play in with 8300 people. We’ll enjoy this weekend’s sweep, here, and be ready come Monday for a big weekend with UNO.”
NMU head coach Rick Comley’s words were short and sweet following the game.
“You never like losing and falling behind like that. It makes it a long, tough game.”
Saturday’s victory is the fourth consecutive for the Broncos as WMU also took two games in Bowling Green Feb. 1-2.
Bronco special teams accounted for all the goals as WMU special teams were 2-for-8 on the power play with two shorthanded tallies.
Reynaert stopped all 18 Wildcat shots while only having to stop two in the second period. NMU sophomore goaltender Craig Kowalski entered the game following the first period after freshman goaltender Tuomas Tarkki allowed four goals on nine shots.
Comley spoke about the decision to start the freshman netminder.
“The coaching staff just felt the kid needed to play. He’s worked hard and looked ready in practice, and obviously, he looked overmatched tonight.”
Bronco sophomore forward Jeff Campbell continued his terrific weekend by tallying two goals and one assist. Freshman forward Pat Dwyer scored the opening goal and had an assist on the Campbell goal.
The Wildcats were without leading scorers Bryce Cockburn and Chris Gobert for the second consecutive game. The current three-game losing streak is the longest on the season for NMU.
“You’ve taken three of our top four players out of our lineup,” said Comley. “We don’t have a lot of firepower when they’re not in there. We must get very good goaltending like we did the last two periods, without them, and hope they can get back soon.”
Dwyer opened up the scoring at 6:04 of the first period when the Great Falls, Mont. native one-timed a pass across the slot from Campbell past Tarkki while shorthanded.
Campbell tallied his 10th goal of the season at 7:24 of the first period on the power play by putting a rebound from junior defenseman Dave Cousineau top-shelf over Tarkii to put WMU up 2-0.
WMU defenseman Ryan Crane tallied the third goal of the game at 12:43 of the first period when the senior blew a long rebound past Tarkki while on the power play to give the Broncos a three-goal lead.
Campbell tallied again, this time while shorthanded, at 18:02 of the first period after deking a NMU defenseman before beating Tarkki to give the game it’s final score of 4-0.
“We talked about trying to jump on them right away and not give them any confidence and to make sure we took the play to them right away in the first period,” said Culhane. “We’re fortunate that some of the things that we got to the net went in, and the young guy for them had a tough night, but they made a goalie change and Kowalski came in and played pretty solid.”
Next weekend WMU heads west to take on Nebraska-Omaha, while Northern Michigan hosts Miami.