KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Lawson Ice Arena has quickly become a giant killer. Western Michigan started the season sweeping Ohio State, who was No. 4 at the time, and now they have beaten the No. 13 Spartans of Michigan State by a final of 5-3.
The Broncos started off the game with a series of bad events. They lost Ryan Mahrle 18 seconds into the game when referee Kevin Hall issued a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for checking from behind. As that major expired Broncos forward Sean Weaver was also given the gate for the same infraction.
Michigan State struck on the second of the two major penalties when defensemen Corey Potter sent a shot from the blue line through traffic and beat Broncos goaltender Daniel Bellissimo. Chris Lawrence and Zak McClellan were given the assists.
Five minutes later, Mike Lesperance got the Broncos on the board with his first goal of the season. Bronco defensemen Reid Yantzi banked the puck off of the side boards and hit a streaking Lesperance who used the defender as a screen and beat Spartans goalie Dominic Vicari.
“Glad to break the ice and get some goals, hopefully they will keep going in for me,” said Broncos forward Mike Lesperance.
Two minutes later, the Broncos captain Mike Erickson put the biscuit in the basket with his team on the power play. Erickson found himself in the right place at the right time when he collected the rebound from Patrick Galivan’s shot which had clankeded off the post and slid the puck past Vicari.
The scoring in the second period ended at 18:45 when Mike Lesperance lit the lamp for the second time on the evening. Paul Szczechura took the initial shot and Vicari gave up the rebound that found its way on to Lesperance’s stick. He roofed it on the stick side, giving the Broncos a 3-1 lead heading into the second period.
“I thought (Lesperance) played well. He had a lot of jump in his legs, he was shooting the puck and he was playing with a lot of confidence over the puck,” said Broncos head coach Jim Culhane.
At 3:50 of the second period the Broncos found the back of the net again. This time Brent Walton got the goal. Walton had his stick ripped from his hands a few seconds before picking it up along with the puck. He skated a foot or two off of the goal line and beat Vicari high and to the stick side. Nathan Ansell got the assist on the play.
After Walton’s goal Michigan State was forced to go to their bench. Jeff Lerg replaced Dominic Vicari in the Spartans net.
Five minutes later, Spartan forward Colton Fretter made a great individual effort when he went down to block a Broncos shot and then chased down the puck and took it in for a breakaway. Fretter beat Bellissimo high and to the glove side.
With just under five minutes to go in the second period, Broncos defensemen Chris Frank scored his first goal in his career. “Frank the Tank,” as the students at Western Michigan like to call him, beat Lerg five hole when he pinched down deep to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Jeff Pierce and Mike Erickson got the assists on the play.
Spartans forward Tim Crowder brought Michigan State closer when he beat Bellissimo low to the glove side. Crowder received a pass from Chris Mueller, took the puck out front and scored the goal. David Booth got the other assist.
Daniel Bellissimo made 36 saves on the night, while Dominic Vicari made seven and Jeff Lerg made 12.
“I though (Bellissimo) played outstanding. He obviously stood on his head and made some spectacular saves. This day in age a goaltender can steal a game,” said Spartans head coach Rick Comley.
The Spartans finished 2-for-9 on the power play, while the Broncos finished 3-for-7.
The Broncos are in action next weekend when the travel to play Colgate. The Spartans also will see action next week when they face off with Wisconsin on Friday night and Minnesota on Saturday night.