KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Friday night, Western Michigan opened its 31st varsity season with a 4-2 victory over defending CCHA champion Ferris State before a sellout crowd of 3,870 at Lawson Arena.
The Bulldogs, who entered the game ranked eighth in the USCHO.com poll, fell victim to a lackluster power play and an inability to control the puck through the neutral zone. Western put a forth a defensive effort the likes of which had been lacking the previous season.
The first period saw a defensive battle, as both clubs had trouble establishing an even-strength attack. Success on the power play didn’t come any easier as the Broncos went zero for two with the extra man and Ferris was unable to capitalize on its one power play. Ferris skated out of the period with a 9-4 advantage in shots.
The second period opened much as the first did, with a grinding battle and strong play through the neutral zone. Western Michigan forward Brett Walton opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal, finishing a two-on-one break by lifting the puck over Ferris netminder Mike Brown’s left shoulder.
Ferris tied the score at one when Greg Rallo scored unassisted, tucking the puck under the crossbar, finishing off an even-strength two-on-one break.
The game was delayed for 20 minutes in the second period following a center ice hit by Bronco Daryl Moore that shattered the glass in front of the scorer’s table. Though the feat will probably land Moore a spot on the season’s highlight reel, it was bittersweet as he took a high-sticking penalty at 10:26 on the hit.
“We were bugging him about it a little,” said Jeremy Cheyne, who had two goals on the night. “It’s pretty good with him being the smallest player on the team and breaking the glass.”
Following the delay, Cheyne tallied the first of his two goals when his shot from the right post deflected off an FSU skater and into the net.
“When that glass broke, Coach said he wanted us to come out 2-1, so we just tried to work hard to get it done,” said Cheyne.
The second period scoring was closed out by Cheyne’s second tally of the night, this time on the power play following a scramble in front of the Ferris net.
Ferris State got back into the game at 2:20 of the third period when Carter Thompson scored a shorthanded goal, pulling the Bulldogs within one, 3-2.
But Paul Davies provided the Broncos some breathing room at 6:26 with an even-strength goal off a backhander from the far post.
Western goaltender Mike Mantua turned away 27 shots for the victory, while Mike Brown turned away 13 in the loss.
Such an accomplishment to start the season was not lost on the Bronco players or their coach.
“Opening night, beating the regular-season CCHA champs, will give us good confidence through the year that we can play in this league,” said junior forward Pat Dwyer.
“It gives us a little bit of confidence going into tomorrow,” said Bronco head coach Jim Culhane. “For us to come away with two points, it was obviously a nice start to the season.”
The Broncos inserted six freshmen into the lineup. Captain Dana Lattery, last season’s co-scoring leader, did not play due to a wrist injury.
The Broncos won’t have long to savor their victory, as they face off against the Bulldogs again on Saturday night in Big Rapids.