KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Western Michigan and Alabama-Huntsville came back early from a holiday weekend to face off Saturday night, ending with a hard-fought 5-1 Bronco victory in Lawson Arena.
Western Michigan’s Brent Walton continued his scoring pace, netting a goal and an assist and keeping his CCHA points lead.
At 17:25 of the first Walton ripped home a slapshot set up on a nice pass from Daryl Moore, blazing by Chargers goalie Scott Munroe to give the Broncos a 2-0 lead.
“It was a set one-timer play and Daryl made a perfect pass and I hit it hard as I could, didn’t really aim and (Mike) Erickson had a great screen in front so the goalie didn’t even see it.”
Walton is third in the nation in scoring. Saturday was his 10th multiple-point game of the season out of 13 games played.
“It’s pretty much all my linemates, they’re feeding me the puck and they’re scoring when I feed it to them.”
The Broncos started their scoring at 6:06 in the first period from a goal by Paul Szczechura, who stuffed home a rebound of Walton’s shot, beating Munroe with a flip of the backhand.
The Broncos’ strong play continued into the second period as defenseman Jim McNamara showed how hard work paid off while on the power play, giving the team a 3-0 lead. The goal was set up by Vince Bellissimo, returning from a two-game suspension. He made his way to the front for a shot off the pads of Munroe and right to McNamara, who he put it home.
A sign of hope for Alabama-Huntsville was created by sophomore forward Brett McConnachie. At 9:41 of the second, McConnachie showed skill with a nice play as he sent a wrist shot high beating Broncos goalie Daniel Bellissimo over the shoulder, giving the Chargers some life and cutting the Broncos’ lead to two.
Rough play was a focus — according to the referees, often too rough. A total of 30 penalties were called, many for contact to the head.
The shot total was heavy on both sides, with the Chargers leading every period and coming out on top 36-32.
WMU head coach Jim Culhane felt his team played strong.
“We’re pleased about winning, Daniel (Bellissimo) played very well tonight in net and we got going on the special teams. We were able to shut down their top line.”
The other side of the bench had a different story.
“We were up and down, we didn’t play consistent,” said UAH bench boss Doug Ross. “We had our opportunities early on and didn’t score and they capitalized on theirs. We didn’t score on the power play and that hurt us, but we’ll play a better game tomorrow night.”
The third period started to look like pond hockey as Vince Bellissimo pulled a practice move, sliding the puck through his own legs and gliding around the Chargers defense, beating Munroe to give the Broncos a commanding 4-1 lead.
The Chargers then had a goal disallowed, as the referee ruled the puck was kicked in.
That was about as close as Alabama-Huntsville came, as Daniel Bellissimo held the fort.
Broncos forward Jason Moul put on the final hurt at 19:21, lifting a deflection inside the near post for a power-play goal and the final margin.
The series continues with a matinee Sunday as the two teams square off at 3:05 p.m.