KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Vince Bellissimo showed Saturday that he has more than just a scorer’s touch, being highly involved in a hard-hitting battle which resulted in a 4-1 victory for Western Michigan over the Purple Eagles of Niagara.
Rough play seemed to be the theme for a game packed with hard hits, not to mention a rare college hockey occurrence.
At 3:20 of the third period, Bellissimo finally had enough of Niagara forward Jason Williamson when the two squared off and put on the foil, resulting in a disqualification with suspensions presumably to follow.
Bellissimo had his feelings towards what went on with Williamson.
“Sometimes in hockey these things happen. Their guy came up to me, asked me to fight and I decided it would be a good idea.”
Niagara goaltender Allen Barton was tested early with heavy pressure from the Broncos offense during the beginning of the first period
A costly penalty was taken by Niagara’s Kris Wiebe. At 12:41 in the first the CCHA’s leading scorer, Brent Walton, put home his ninth goal of the season with a twisting wrister from the right faceoff dot, giving the Broncos a 1-0 lead.
Walton has been on a fast pace this season at almost two goals a game.
“My teammates have been finding me and the puck seems to be going in right now, I don’t know what else to say; it’s just happening.”
Although Niagara started the second period off on the power play, it failed to help as the Broncos tallied a shorthanded goal at 6:39.
Center Paul Szczechura stepped up at the far blue line to intercept a Niagara clearing attempt, creating a 2-on-1 opportunity. He found freshman Brian Bicek for one of his two goals on the night, beating Barton high over the glove.
Szczechura wasn’t done. At 8:31 in the second, he showed great patience as he took the puck from a Niagara defenseman and evaded Barton over the glove again.
Physical play started to show as Andrew Dwyer and captain Pat Dwyer (no relation) were sent to the box seconds apart, giving the Purple Eagles a solid 5-on-3 and a chance to get back in the game.
That put pressure on Bronco goalie Daniel Bellissimo, although he didn’t seemed to be fazed as he put up another strong night by recording 42 saves.
The Broncos were outshot for the game by a big margin of 43-24, despite a solid victory.
The power play was a problem for the Purple Eagles throughout the series, going 0-7 Saturday and a combined 1-15 for the weekend. From then on Niagara showed little sign of a comeback as Western kept putting points on the board.
Pat Dwyer recorded his fifth assist on the season with a smart play, throwing the puck to the front of the net and finding an untouched Bicek for his second goal of the game. That goal put Western Michigan up 4-0 and caused a goalie change, giving freshman Scott Mollison a chance between the pipes.
It wasn’t all bad news for Niagara, which returns home for the first time since October 8.
Niagara coach Dave Burkholder felt his team put in a full effort on the lengthy road trip.
“This was one of the grittiest, gutsiest efforts from a Niagara team in years. I don’t care about the scoreboard; we battled to the end, I’m very happy with the guys in the locker room — they never quit.”
Niagara (3-6-0) will head home to face off against the Quinnipiac Bobcats as the Broncos (4-4-0) face a tough challenge with Notre Dame at Lawson Arena Friday night.