KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Sophomore forward Jeremy Cheyne’s fifth goal of the season at 8:21 of the third period broke a 2-2 deadlock and 24 saves by freshman goaltender Scott Foster helped lead Western Michigan to key 4-2 victory over Notre Dame.
Cheyne put in a rebound from a shot by junior captain Dana Lattery on a two-on-one rush to give the Broncos (15-16-2, 13-11-1 CCHA) a 3-2 lead late in the game.
Both teams received excellent goaltending efforts on the night. Foster improved his record to 7-5-2 on the season while Irish sophomore netminder Morgan Cey made 26 saves in defeat.
Lattery’s three assists on the evening extend his point streak to eight consecutive games.
The win, coupled with Northern Michigan’s victory over Ohio State, puts the Broncos in a tie for fifth place with NMU at 27 points. The loss drops ND to seventh place, two points out of home ice in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.
“This time of year is huge,” said Foster. “If you look at the standings, the middle of the pack, everyone is right there. We’re all playing each other, so that’s the best part; you don’t have to worry about other teams doing your dirty work, you just have to go out and win. You don’t have to watch the scoreboard at home; you know if you win, you get the higher spot in the standings.”
ND head coach Dave Poulin agreed.
“It’s critical at this point of the year; it’s playoff time,” he said. “We played very well in the first, but we have to be up by more than a goal; you can’t pass up opportunities like we have. We talked about getting early chances; and we have to be up by more than one (after the first).”
The Irish continue to struggle in Kalamazoo, dropping their record to 3-16-2 at Lawson Ice Arena since the 1988-89 season.
ND (13-14-6, 11-11-3 CCHA) took the play to the Broncos out of the gate and got on the board first at 10:41 of the opening frame. While cycling in the WMU zone, junior forward Rob Globke chipped his own rebound off his initial shot that deflected off a Bronco skater for his 19th goal of the season to give the Irish a 1-0 lead.
Following the first intermission the Broncos dominated, outshooting the Irish 14-3 in the second period. Senior forward Ben Gagnon tied the game at 2:26 of the second period by putting a wrist shot top-shelf over Cey from the slot to tie the score at 1-1. The goal was Gagnon’s third tally against ND this season, the most he has against any CCHA school.
“(It was) a great team effort,” said WMU head coach Jim Culhane. “That second period is probably the best period of hockey I’ve seen us play in a couple months. A solid performance by everybody.”
One of the keys for the Broncos’ success down the stretch is big goals from the end of the bench, and WMU continues to get big contributions from those skaters. Trevor Cook accepted a pass from Lattery at 13:35 of the second period and squeezed a shot from along the goal line and inside the far post for his second goal in as many games. Cook’s tally put the Broncos up 2-1.
“You have to get the puck to the net,” said Culhane, “and we did a better job with that in the second period than we did in the first period. If you get it to the net, then you’re going to get traffic and rebound chances. We did that better as the game went along.”
But the Irish answered at 5:11 of the third to tie the game. Yan Stastny scored his 14th goal of the season by following his own shot between the circles and tucking a backhander between Foster’s pads to even the score.
Following Cheyne’s game-winner, ND had a chance to get back into the game after Cey stopped a penalty shot by WMU freshman forward Vince Bellissimo at 14:06 of the third period. Cey out waited the forward and took away the goal line, as Bellissimo couldn’t find the net on his last of three dekes.
But the Irish failed to respond with increased energy, and with Cey pulled for the extra attacker, WMU junior forward Jeff Campbell put the puck in the empty net from along the left boards for his 13th goal of the season, giving WMU a 4-2 victory.
Foster continues to make his case to start in net down the stretch for the Broncos after platooning with Mantua most of the season.
“I just go out and play every time Coach tells me I’m going to play; I can’t control the decisions that are made. If Mike goes in there, I have the utmost confidence Mike’s going to do the job. I know Coach feels the same thing, so it’s up to Coach to decide. If I’m the one who gets the call then I’m just going to go out and work hard to help the team.”
Poulin spoke about what it would take for an Irish victory Saturday.
“A continuance of what we did in the first period. Down-low play was good in the first period and we created lots of space for ourselves, and that’s what we have to do tomorrow night.”
The two teams meet for the final time this season, Saturday, in South Bend, Ind. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.