KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Western Michigan opens its season 2-0 for the first time in 11 years, thanks to two power-play tallies and freshman forward Vince Bellissimo’s second game-winning goal in as many nights, as the Broncos completed a two-game sweep of the Bowling Green Falcons with tonight’s 3-2 win.
The last time the Broncos started out 2-0 was in 1991 when WMU took two at Illinois-Chicago. That Bronco squad featured NHL star Keith Jones in his senior season.
Bellissimo nudged the puck past BGSU sophomore goaltender Jordan Sigalet at 2:40 of the third period to seal the victory. The Toronto native also tallied Friday’s game winner at :25 in overtime to give WMU a 6-5 win in the BGSU Ice Arena.
WMU head coach Jim Culhane credited improved special teams play for the victory.
“Tonight we played much better within our special teams, scored a couple goals, obviously, on the power play, and then shut them down on their power play, too. We’re better in that regard, and we had a better effort all around in executing our systems. The work ethic was there last night, and it was there tonight.”
The Broncos took advantage of Falcon defenseman Kevin Bieska’s slashing penalty
midway through the first period when senior defenseman Dave Cousineau blasted a
shot from the point past a screened Sigalet at 10:06 to put WMU up 1-0.
“It was just a one-timer play that [Pat] Dwyer and I work on all the time in practice,” Cousineau said. “Just basically shoot at the net and hope it goes somewhere good, and it happened to go in.”
WMU took advantage of another Bieska penalty at 16:56 in the first when junior forward Jeff Campbell collected a loose puck around the goal mouth and roofed a shot over Sigalet while on the power play to give the Broncos a two-goal lead.
BGSU head coach Scott Paluch knew exactly why the Broncos were able to go up 2-0.
“We knew that we weren’t playing Falcon hockey. Through one period, we weren’t getting the loose pucks, nor making a lot of contact out there, and we had to get back to that.”
“When we move our feet and create contact for loose pucks, that’s when our team is effective. We were able to do that in the second period, we got ourselves back into the game, and unfortunately, we needed to step up and make plays in the third period.”
BGSU junior forward Mark Wires cut the Bronco lead in half at 11:53 of the second period after the Calgary native slid a shot through the pads of WMU freshman netminder Scott Foster to make the score 2-1.
Falcon forward Ryan Minnabarriet banged home a rebound past Foster from the slot at 14:00 of the second period to even the score at 2-2.
Bellissimo’s game-winning goal early in the third helped finish off a Falcon squad that, despite being outshot 77-44 on the weekend, managed to lose only by a single goal each night.
Foster finished with 19 saves on the evening to earn the victory while Sigalet stopped 24 Bronco shots in defeat.
Despite a shaky performance Friday, Culhane justified starting the freshman again Saturday.
“We felt he played well. He’s done a great job in practice, and we felt to get some consistency and confidence into Scotty, [we would] give him another start. I felt that with the game on the line, tied 2-2, he played very well.”
The Falcons also made a surprising move in net as well, starting Sigalet over usual starter Tyler Masters, who tallied 44 saves in defeat Friday.
“Jordan is a very proven goalie from his time here last year,” Paluch said. “He’s been very good in practice since the start of the year, and Tyler had played the first three games to start the year, but we have two very good goalies, and whoever is going to be in the pipes for that night, we know we’re going to get a pretty good effort out of them.”
The Broncos tallied on two of five power-play opportunities while BGSU was held scoreless with the man advantage.
The win marks the fifth consecutive victory over BGSU for the Broncos dating back to the 2000-2001 season.
Western Michigan takes on Notre Dame in a home-and-home set next Friday and Saturday, while Bowling Green heads to Big Rapids to take on Ferris State for two games.