KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Western Michigan Broncos fought back from a 5-2 deficit with just over eight minutes left to earn a tie with the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in a wild one at Lawson Ice Arena
“It was a gritty, gutsy effort. We are playing against a team that is vying for one of the top for spots in the CCHA,” Bronco Head Coach Jim Culhane said.
The Broncos got off to a quick start when Paul Szczechura lit the lamp for the ninth time this season. Maverick defender Dan Knapp took an early first period penalty which opened the door for the Broncos. Brent Walton and Kevin Labatte got the assists on the power play goal that gave the Broncos a 1-0 lead.
Bill Thomas brought the Mavericks back when he found the puck laying on the door step after Bronco goalie Daniel Bellissimo stopped a Scott Parse breakaway. Bryan Marshall got the other assist on the Mavericks first goal of the night.
Kaleb Betts gave the Mavericks a 2-1 lead at 2:40 of the second period when he fired a shot that deflected off of Bellissimo’s glove and into the back of the net. The goal was unassisted.
The Mavericks added to their lead when Brandon Scero fired a shot from the left circle and beat Bellissimo to the far side just under the glove. Rob Chappell was given an assist on the goal.
The Broncos began to fight back when Dave Krisky found himself in on a mini-breakaway and roofed it over Maverick goalie Jerad Kaufmann’s blocker. Sean Weaver and Daryl Moore were given the assists that brought the Broncos within 1.
Nebraska-Omaha added another goal at 7:45 of the second period. With Chris Frank sitting in the penalty box for face-off interference, Alex Nikiforuk deflected a Kaleb Betts shot passed Bellissimo. Bill Thomas was given the other assist on the goal.
The Mavericks took a 4-2 lead into the locker room and came out in the third period and added another tally. Adam Bartholomay scored his seventh goal of the season when he sent a backhand shot on net that deflected of Bronco defensemen Jonathan Lupa’s stick and into the high side of the net.
The Bronco comeback began with 7:22 left in the third period when Mike Lesperance beat Kaufmann on a breakaway. Set up by Szczechura, Lesperance found himself in alone and made no mistake and buried it.
Daryl Moore continued the comeback with under three minutes to go in the game when he put the biscuit in the basket. The assist on the goal went to Reid Yantzi.
“It was definitely good. We didn’t give up,” Daryl Moore said. “It’s our last weekend at home for the seniors and we tried to get a couple of wins at home before were done.”
Defensemen Chris Frank completed the comeback scoring the tying goal with 2:23 remaining in the game. Frank put the puck on net and it deflected off of the Maverick defender and behind Kaufmann. Szczechura was given an assist giving him a goal and two assist on the night.
“We didn’t play to the caliber or capability of our team. It was not one of our better performances,” Maverick Head Coach Mike Kemp said.
The Broncos fired a total of 28 shots at Kaufmann who turned away 23, while the Mavericks fired 33 at Bellissimo.
The Mavericks finished 1 for 8 on the power play, while the Broncos finished 1 for 4.
“We have been talking about getting on a role going into playoffs. Its been a long year but if we can get on a role it only takes two out of three to get to the next round,” Brent Walton said.
The rematch is set for tomorrow night, Senior Night, at Lawson Ice Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:35.