KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Coming off a 4-1 defeat to Michigan State on Oct. 13, Western Michigan (1-1 overall, 1-1 CCHA) fed off the intensity of its student section, “Lawson Lunatics” and the tough play of junior netminder Daniel Bellissimo to upset third-ranked MSU 3-2, Sunday afternoon at Lawson Ice Arena.
Bellissimo stopped 19 of the Spartans’ 21 shots, many coming at key times in the game, along with blocking seven power-play shots by MSU (1-1 overall, 1-1 CCHA).
In the eyes of many of the Broncos, including head coach Jim Culhane, Sunday’s win was not an upset. Center Mark Letestu and left winger Mike Lesperance agreed that they did not see the win as too much of an upset, as the team knew coming in that it could prevail.
The Broncos got the scoring started with a first-period goal by Letestu, with the assists given to juniors Brian Bicek and Jeff Pierce. With 50 seconds left on a double power play, MSU forward Jim McKenzie punched in his first goal of the season, knotting the score at 1 to end the first period.
The second period featured hard hitting and aggressive play by both teams. Bronco co-captain Jeff LoVecchio put the home team up 2-1 with his goal in the second period at the 11:54 mark. Matt Clackson was given the assist.
Both squads used special teams to build momentum throughout the game, with each penalty-killing unit coming up big. The Spartans shut down the Broncos’ power play, holding them 0-for-6 with just five shots fired at MSU goalie Jeff Lerg. The Broncos, in turn, held MSU to 1-for-6 on the power play with eight total shots.
Starting the third period, both teams were in the hole with a player in the box, but the Spartans used an aggressive start to their advantage with a Nick Sucharaski goal just 2:30 into the period. Forward Jay Sprague and defenseman Brandon Gentile were awarded the assists.
The Broncos, however, came right back and scored the eventual game-winning goal by Lesperance, coming off the rebound of a shot by Letestu.
MSU coach Rick Comley said this game will serve as a reality check for his players on how good and successful they can be.
Sunday’s win follows a recent trend of victories that the Broncos have had over MSU in the last 11 seasons. WMU is an impressive 8-4-1 against the Spartans at Lawson Arena in that time.
Throughout the game, the Broncos’ defense shut down the Spartans’ top line of impressive sophomores; Tim Kennedy, Justin Abdelkader and Tim Crowder. Crowder, who hurt the Broncos in East Lansing with two goals, was held to just one shot and two penalty minutes on Sunday.
The Spartans were outshot by a count of 23-21 and served 16 minutes in the box compared to the Broncos’ 14.
WMU will host Ferris State on Oct. 20 at Lawson Arena with a 7:35 faceoff, and will travel to FSU on Oct. 21 in a home-and-home weekend series. MSU will next host the U.S. National Under-18 team in an exhibition on Oct. 19.