BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Western Michigan freshman Vince Bellissimo was credited with the winning goal — his second of the game — on a batted puck 25 seconds into the overtime period as the Broncos picked up a wild win at the Bowling Green Ice Arena, 6-5, in the CCHA opener for both teams.
The goal was credited to Bellissimo after a BG defenseman apparently batted the puck into his own net in an attempt to clear the puck away. The score completed a three-goal rally for WMU, which trailed 5-3 midway through the third period.
“It happened a couple of times tonight,” said Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch. “They got a guy in behind our D, and this time, our defenseman apparently hit it in.”
The win gives Western a very early lead in the CCHA race, as the Broncos got some strong goaltending from freshman Scott Foster while lighting the lamp for six goals against Falcon netminder Tyler Masters.
“I told the guys, I was pleased about their work ethic and I was pleased about the win,” said Western Michigan coach Jim Culhane.
Culhane was especially satisfied with the play of his rookie netminder.
“This was a good start for his first college game,” said Culhane. “This was a good test on the road. He played solid.”
Paluch was pleased with his team’s play although the outcome wasn’t what he wanted.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed, but it was a well-played game. Western was explosive. They have some high-quality forwards. They made it tough, but they made a fun hockey game.”
Western Michigan opened up the scoring at the 8:46 mark of the opening period. Bellissimo notched his first collegiate goal as he beat Masters from the right side.
After a Bronco penalty handed to Bellissimo for tripping, the Falcons scored as senior Tyler Knight picked up his first goal of the season, beating Foster with three seconds left on the power play.
The Broncos made it a 2-1 game at the 20:00 mark of the first period. After a scramble at the net, defenseman Andy Townsend found the puck in the crease and slid it past Masters as the buzzer sounded. Western peppered Masters with 20 shots in the opening period. Masters stopped 44 of 50 shots in the game.
“Tyler made a lot of crucial saves tonight,” said Paluch. “He made the saves that gave our team a chance to win the hockey game.”
Bowling Green knotted the game at 2 at the 6:46 mark as defenseman Kevin Bieksa blasted a shot from the right point into the net.
Kevin Brudzewski gave the Falcons a lead at 8:06 as he netted his second goal of the season on a shorthanded try in front of the net. After the Ryan Minnabarriet shot from in front of the crease, Brudzewski shoveled the rebound between the legs of Foster.
Western tied it back up seven minutes later as freshman Brent Walton netted his first collegiate goal, a shorthanded effort on an up-ice pass from Jeff Campbell that beat Masters on the short side.
Freshman Don Morrison gave BG a 4-3 lead 5:32 into the third period as he picked up his first collegiate goal on a rebound from Foster. Brett Pilkington picked up the assist on the play.
Just three minutes later, Steve Brudzewski added his second goal of the night, beating Foster on a power-play chance to make the score 5-3. The goal was Bowling Green’s third power-play goal of the night, after Western’s Dave Cousineau was sent off for holding.
Facing a two-goal deficit, the Broncos answered at 9:58. Junior Dana Lattery notched an unassisted goal, beating Masters from just outside the crease to make it 5-4.
The Broncos fought back and tied the game with 4:37 to go in the period when Dave Cousineau blasted a shot past Masters on the left side to knot the game at 5-5. With the assist, Lattery picked up his third point of the night, while Jeremy Cheyne added his first.
That set up Bellissimo’s winner, a puck that was deflected over Masters’ right shoulder and into the net.
Western Michigan was shut down on the power play in seven attempts, while BG netted three power-play goals in six attempts.
“[Bowling Green] won the special teams tonight. We’ve got to find a way to win those and we’ve only got 24 hours,” said Culhane.
The Falcons and Broncos travel to Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich., for the second half of the home-and-home series. Game time is at 8:05 p.m. Saturday.