MARQUETTE, Mich. — If ever there was a time for Western Michigan to prove why it deserves to be in Kalamazoo for the first round of CCHA playoffs, that time was Saturday night.
After dropping a tough 3-2 loss Friday night, the Broncos rebounded Saturday and throttled the Northern Michigan Wildcats, 6-2, at the Berry Events Center.
WMU had not won a game at NMU since Mar. 10, 2001, a 9-7 romp by the Broncos.
Despite getting on the board first, Western (15-13-3, 11-10-2 CCHA) had its work cut out when Northern (14-12-2, 11-11-0, CCHA) went up 2-1 on goals by Zach Tarkir and Rob Lehtinen six minutes through the second period.
Tarkir put the first NMU goal on the board on the power play, a beautiful feed by defensive partner Geoff Waugh. Tarkir’s first goal in a Northern uniform came at 18:57 of the first. Alex Sawruk picked up the other assist.
The turning point of the game, however, was a high shot by the ‘Cats that appeared to redirect off the sweater of NMU defenseman Jamie Milam and go in to the goal. But the officials waved the goal off, claiming that Milam had hit the puck in with his glove as he was falling down in front of the net.
That was all the offense the Wildcats could muster as Western went on to score five unanswered goals, including two by senior Jeff Campbell.
Campbell got his first of the night and 10th of the year with the Broncos on the penalty kill. The equalizer, assisted by Mat Ponto, got by NMU goalie Craig Kowalski at 10:01 of the second period.
A little under seven minutes later, WMU struck again with a netter by Pat Dwyer. Dwyer’s 10th of the year, and the eventual game winner, was assisted by Lucas Drake.
The third period belonged to the Broncos as Western tallied markers from Brent Walton, Vince Bellissimo and Campbell to take the win, 6-2.
At 13:01 of the third, Bellissimo scored is 11th goal of the year off the stick of linemates Walton and Dana Lattery.
After the Bellissimo goal, NMU coach Walt Kyle pulled Kowalski in favor of backup netminder Tuomas Tarkki, but 46 seconds later, Campbell beat Tarkki with an unassisted turnover goal to nail the Wildcat coffin shut and take the split.
Jeremy Cheyne got on the board first for the Broncos, a shot from a very wide angle, at 7:34 of the first. Ponto and Paul Szczechura got the assists.
Despite being out shot 47-25, Northern’s penalty kill was the one good thing the Wildcats had going. Western was blanked on five chances on the man-advantage. Northern went 1-for-5 with Tarkir’s power-play tally.
Northern is back in action with two non-conference matchups next weekend at Wayne State in Detroit. Western has a weekend off before returning to play Ohio State at home Feb. 20.