KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A solid performance in net from Mike Mantua and the return of team captain Dana Lattery factored heavily in Western Michigan’s 5-1 downing of CCHA rival Nebraska-Omaha Friday night.
2,819 fans saw Lattery in the lineup after missing the opening weekend with a wrist injury. They also saw a solid performance from senior netminder Mantua, who turned away 30 shots on the night in his third consecutive start.
The early minutes of the first period saw play deep in the Maverick end, as WMU forces several turnovers with a high-pressure five-on-five attack.
Pat Dwyer opened the scoring for the Broncos at 7:56 of the first when his pass deflected off a UNO stick and beat Maverick goaltender Chris Holt.
The Broncos closed out the second period when Lucas Drake, who had a career night, put his stick on a loose puck in front of the Maverick goal.
WMU skated away with a 2-0 lead and an 11-3 shot advantage through one.
The second period found UNO shifting its play into a higher gear, and the Mavericks began to dominate on the offensive end. The Mavericks outshot the Broncos 20-8 for the period and got on the board with Mike Gabinet’s top-shelf backhander at 3:52.
Second-period scoring was capped by Bronco forward Vince Bellissimo, whose swat at a loose puck trickled inside the left post at 14:56
After being dominated in the second, the Broncos took the intermission to regroup.
“That really came from within (the team); a lot of it was self-coached, the things they needed to do to be successful,” said Bronco head coach Jim Culhane of his team’s adjustments between periods.
Third-period play saw the Broncos retake control when Lattery scored from the slot at 8:02. Lattery later tallied his second goal of the night when his wrister found the top corner of the net at 15:49.
Despite his effort, Lattery preferred to focus on the team accomplishment: “It feels good, but to get the win out there, two points is bigger than any two goals you could ever score.”
For the game, the Mavericks were unable to convert on four man-advantage situations, including a 5-on-3 opportunity against a WMU penalty kill that has yet to beaten on the season. The Bronco power play didn’t fare any better, going 0-for-6.
The loss leaves UNO winless in its last 11 games (0-10-1) dating back to last season. WMU improves to 2-1 for the year.
The Broncos will face the Mavericks in a rematch Saturday night at Lawson Arena.