KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Every hockey player and every hockey club eventually knows the sting of losing a game in which all the effort in the world can’t seem to overcome the breaks that go against you.
The Broncos were stung on Friday night as Western Michigan fell 4-1 to the Michigan Wolverines before a capacity crowd at Lawson Arena. With the win, the Wolverines hurdled the Broncos into second place in the CCHA standings.
Michigan’s Jason Dest scored the game-winner after WMU goalie Scott Foster was knocked down on the play, and David Moss added a goal during a five-minute major to give the Wolverines insurance en route to the win.
No one can fault the effort of the Broncos — or the Wolverines for that matter, as both clubs produced another epic CCHA contest, as the two of the top teams in the conference battled it out for the full 60 minutes.
The best efforts aren’t always rewarded, though, which for the Broncos became painfully clear.
Trailing by a goal entering the third period, the Broncos looked to continue the third-period magic that had been the story of the team for the better part of a month. It was not to be.
Brent Walton tipped in Vince Bellissimo’s shot from the side of the net, as the Brown and Gold faithful exploded with the game knotted at one.
It took 44 minutes of hockey, but a break had finally gone the Broncos’ way.
Late in the second period the Broncos caught one of those bad breaks, as Foster stoned Milan Gajic on a breakaway, only to have one of his own forwards back into him as the puck squirted between the pads.
Of course depending what color your sweater is, sometimes the puck bounces just right. It did for the Wolverines, as they were up a goal after two.
Just a hair under two minutes after knotting the game at one Western Michigan caught another bad break, as Foster appeared to be interfered with, though no call was made, and lay motionless on the ice. The puck found its way past the inanimate Foster off the stick of Jason Dest and UM was up 2-1.
Following the goal, things went from bad to worse for Culhane’s club.
“There are things in life that you can’t control, and that’s what happened tonight,” Culhane said.
Western captain Dana Lattery was issued a five-minute major for charging after colliding with UM goaltender Al Montoya as both went to play the puck behind the net.
On the ensuing power play Moss banked a shot off Foster’s pad from along the goal line and the Wolverines were up a deuce.
Trailing 3-1 late in the year, the Bronco faithful hoped for a little dj vu, recalling the Broncos improbably comeback over the Wolverines under the same circumstances last season, but history was not to repeat itself.
Brandon Kaleniecki scored on a breakaway with just three minutes remaining to seal the fate of the Broncos and the victory for the Wolverines.
“I thought we played hard,” said WMU head coach Jim Culhane. “I thought we played tremendous. … I’m very proud of our effort, the way we stuck together as a team, and the way we played with class and composure.”
The loss was just the second in conference for the Broncos since late November, who fell into a three-way tie for third place in the CCHA.
The Broncos travel to Yost Arena Saturday night to complete the home-and-home, where they will look to avenge a 10-3 rout at the hands of the Wolverines last season at Yost. Faceoff is set for 7 p.m.