KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Western Michigan showed solid performances over the Thanksgiving weekend, completing a sweep with a victory over Alabama-Huntsville Sunday afternoon by a score of 3-1.
The Broncos’ play was led by the Perani Cup No. 1 star of the game, freshman Jeff Pierce, who tallied two goals Sunday.
At 7:37 of the second period, a nice power-play set up was rewarded for the Broncos as Vince Bellissimo found Pierce in front of the net. He made no mistake, roofing one by Chargers goaltender Scott Munroe to give Western Michigan a 2-1 lead.
Pierce found the twine again halfway through the third, capitalizing on a power play with tape-to-tape passing. Brian Bicek threw a centering pass that found Pierce giving the Broncos a 3-1 margin and two tallies in the win column.
Pierce provided some personal relief with his two-goal effort.
“It felt really good, it’s a little lift of my shoulders. It’s been a while since I’ve scored and just to get two is an added bonus. Good plays by my teammates and linemates, and I cashed in on it.”
UAH came out quick and looked like it had plans for a different outcome from Saturday’s game, putting one on the board 14 seconds in on a 2-on-1 after stealing the puck at center ice. The goal came from Bruce Mulherin, who made sure to have his stick down on a pass from Brett McConnachie which gave the Chargers a 1-0 lead.
The Broncos didn’t panic, however. 6:20 into the first period, Mike Erickson worked the breakout to perfection receiving a pass from Ryan Mahrle while cutting across the Chargers blue line and putting a deke on Munroe under the blocker.
The rest of the period and most of the game was filled with calls by the whistle-happy officials, an occurrence throughout the weekend.
Bronco goaltender Daniel Bellissimo showed confidence throughout the weekend, stopping 63 of 65 shots. He also showed an offensive side, getting credit for an assist on the Broncos’ first goal of the game by Erickson.
Head coach Jim Culhane was pleased with the weekend.
“Every time you win obviously it adds confidence to your team. I think our best player this weekend was Daniel. It continues to add an element to our team knowing he’s back there for us and as he continues to get better and excel. It adds confidence to his play and our team; he did a nice job for us.”
Play was heavy in the physical department, with a show of big hits all over the ice from both teams, much to the delight of the undersized hometown crowd of 1,674.
Alabama-Huntsville had a tough weekend, as head coach Doug Ross noted.
“We didn’t play consistently, we had enough opportunities to make both games a lot closer. Their goaltender was good; he made a lot of good saves and playing at home helps too. They scored on their power plays and we didn’t convert.”
Western Michigan ( 7-6-1) will return to CCHA play this weekend with a home-and-home series against rival Ferris State, while the Chargers (6-4-2) head home for a weekend series against the Purple Eagles of Niagara.