KALAMAZOO, Mich. — WOLVERINES TOP BRONCOS
IN OFFENSIVE BATTLE
by Craig Pilawski/ USCHO Arena Reporter
Michigan forward Brandon Kaleniecki capped a hat trick, scoring with 53 seconds left in the game to give the Wolverines a 6-5 win over Western Michigan on Saturday. The win finished a weekend sweep, and came after a thrilling back-and-forth affair.
Michigan applied heavy pressure on the Broncos’ freshman goalie Daniel Bellissimo with just seconds left, giving Kaleniecki the opportunity in which he made no mistake. Kaleniecki grabbed a loose puck and tucked a shot just inside the near post.
“Way too many goals against but we’re fortunate we can score goals when we need them,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We have a lot of guys that can score and it’s nice to see the power play and the guys scoring.”
After relaxing a bit in the first half of the second period, things became highly-charged from there, with the Wolverine offense leading the way. Within a span of 2:53, Michigan scored four goals in the period, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead.
It started off at 11:13 with Kaleniecki, who ripped a slap shot from the left circle that beat Bellissimo stick side.
Fourty-two seconds later, on a two-on-one rush, Chad Kolarik made a fantastic play, slapping home a bouncing puck with his stick, giving Michigan a 3-2 lead. Less than two minutes later, Kaleniecki was at it again, netting his second goal of the game by redirecting a pass from David Moss.
At 14:06, the offensive mayhem seized when top prospect Jeff Tambellini put a slap shot over Bellissimo’s shoulder after gathering the puck from the faceoff for a 5-2 lead.
But Western Michigan did not relent. A cross-checking penalty from Michigan’s Andrew Ebbert gave the Broncos a power play. They cashed in, giving life back to home crowd on a goal from Mike Erickson who lifted a wrister top shelf with just three seconds left in the period.
Michigan goalie Al Montoya seemed to take it personally as he got involved in an altercation with a Bronco forward. Some words were exchanged and Montoya got physical, resulting in all the players on the ice to throw some punches along with pushing and shoving.
The Broncos scored twice more in the third to tie, sending the raucous home crowd of 4,575 into a frenzy. But Kaleniecki’s heroics won the day.
“This is a test,” said Montoya, in his first weekend back from the World Junior tournament. “It’s easy to win at home but it tonight we showed that we have character and the whole team pulled through and no matter what the time game it was, we came out and finished the game off right.”
Western Michigan had a goal disallowed, as well, and Western Michigan coach Jim Culhane got heated at times at the officiating during the rough game. But afterwards, he had little to say.
“No comment on the officiating and I couldn’t be more proud of my hockey team,” Culhane said.
The upcoming schedule for the nationally No. 4-ranked Wolverines (16-5-1) leads them with a weekend at home against Alaska-Fairbanks, while the struggling Broncos have another home-and-home challenge with the intrastate rival Michigan State Spartans next weekend.