KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Western Michigan Broncos beat the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in a game that saw two goals in the first minute off the game, a hat trick and spectacular goaltending in the final minutes of play.
“I was pleased with our effort. Both teams played well, lots of energy and a wild first minute of play,” said Bronco head coach Jim Culhane.
Notre Dame got off to a flying start when Tim Wallace netted the game’s first goal just nine seconds into the game. Wallace took a pass from Matt Amado, broke into the Broncos end and beat Bronco net minder Daniel Bellissimo high and to the blocker side.
“We have been able to do that (score an early goal) for several games. It doesn’t do you any good if you can’t sustain it,” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said. “I thought we played well for much of the game. We have to do a little bit better with our gap control. We gave them too much space and they built up some speed, and that’s the way they play the game.”
Twenty-four seconds later, the Broncos tied the game when Daryl Moore got his first of the season. Moore took the face off and beat Irish goalie Jordan Pearce high and to the blocker side.
“It was big for us to come back after they scored the goal on the first shift and score on the second shift. It was a big momentum swing back our way. It was huge for us,” said Bronco forward Brent Walton.
The Broncos took the lead while on the power play 1:50 later when Brent Walton lit the lamp for the 8th time this season. Daniel Bellissimo started the play by passing the puck to Ryan Mahrle, who then delivered a pass to Walton, who placed the puck just under the cross bar over Pearce’s glove.
Walton scored his second goal of the night, again on the power play, with just over four minute left in the second period. Mahrle got another assist when he passed Walton the puck. Walton then fired a one-timer and beat Pearce five-hole.
Under a minute later, Walton completed his hat trick. Linemate Jason Moul raced in and took a shot on net. Pearce, however, gave up a rebound, and Walton was standing on the doorstep and slammed it into the open net, giving the Broncos a 4-1 lead.
“Brent had a night tonight where he had a lot of jump in his legs. His line mates were playing well, and he was shooting the puck,” Culhane said.
Walton’s hat trick was his second of his career, and he has scored 7 goals in the last 5 games.
“My shots were going in. I was getting chances out there and luckily they were finding the back of the net,” Walton said.
The Irish brought the game a little closer when Jason Paige scored an unassisted goal after he stole a pass in the Bronco defensive end. Paige beat Bellissimo high and to the glove side. The period ended with the score of 4-2 in favor of the Broncos.
Notre Dame scored the only goal in the third period when Josh Sciba found the puck in a scramble in front of the Bronco crease. Sciba put the puck to the top shelf. The assists of the goal went to Erik Condra and Brock Sheahan.
Bellissimo made 32 saves on the evening, none bigger then the multiple shots mustarded towards the Bronco net minder in approximately the final five minutes. Bellissimo was a major factor for the Broncos in the 5-3 win.
Pearce and David Brown, whom the Irish put in goal at the start of the third, had 12 saves and 7 saves respectively.
The Broncos finished 2 for 6 on the power play while Notre Dame was held off the board in the four power play chances it had.
“Special teams wise, we scored a couple power-play goals and we kept them off the scoreboard on their power plays,” Culhane said.
The Broncos (4-7-2 overall, 4-4-1 CCHA) and the Irish (3-9-1, 2-6-1) face off again tomorrow night at the Joyce Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.