KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Western Michigan Broncos earned their first shutout of the year Saturday night, shutting down the Wayne State Warriors, 4-0, at Lawson Arena.
The Broncos improved their overall record to 3-4 on the young season against WSU, which fell to 1-6 overall and 1-1 in their conference. Freshman netminder Riley Gill got his second start of his young career between the pipes and earned the shutout in his first game at Lawson Arena.
“I was real excited coming into tonight, first home start in my career, just wanted to get the first few saves under my belt to get comfortable in the game and just go from there,” said Gill.
“It was a well-played game by everybody,” said WMU head coach Jim Culhane. “Starting with the freshman [Gill] in his second college career start and getting the shutout is a real confidence booster for him.”
Last weekend, the Broncos dropped two tough games to Nebraska-Omaha, giving up many power play goals in both games, and struggled trying to kill their own penalties.
Culhane said they were disappointed in the number of special team goals they allowed and how many penalties they had go against them.
“It was an issue we addressed in practice this week, though we deal with it every week; hockey today is a real special team game,” he said.
Improving on their special teams they did against Wayne St. has the Broncos notched two power play goals in the first 20 minutes of play.
At the 9:05 mark of the first period, junior right-winger Jeff Pierce took the pass from senior Paul Szczechura in front of the net and put it right past the Warrior goalie, senior Will Hooper. Freshman Mark Letestu continued his scoring surge also earning an assist on the goal.
With 2:49 remaining in the first period, left-winger Brian Bicek added what was his first of two goals on the net on another Bronco power play.
As the Warriors trailed 2-0 heading into the second period, WSU came out firing early and often in the period, as they blasted 15 shots at the Bronco freshman stopper.
After giving up two first period power play goals, and missing on three shots on their lone advantage in the period, the opportunities have been there for the Warriors.
“We’ve had our opportunities to score, especially on the power play, we just can’t seem to be able to connect,” said Bill Wilkinson, Warrior Head Coach.
The connecting the Warrior head coach is referring to is the current eight period shutout streak that they have been blanked, a span of two and a half games.
“Two games in a row we’ve been blanked, actually now eight periods in a row we’ve been blanked,” Wilkinson said. “It doesn’t seem to be a lack of effort by the players, we are trying. We just need to maybe score a garbage goal, not the pretty ones to help build our confidence.”
About half way through the second period, the Broncos added their third goal of the night on senior Kevin Labatte’s breakaway steal in mid air from Warrior player, Taylor Donohue, right past the keeper, Hooper. Letestu added his second point of the game with the assist.
The Broncos’ fourth and final goal of the night came off a deflection off of the Warrior netminder to Bicek, punching in his second goal of the night. Defenseman Chris Frank and Pierce, who contributed his second assist in the game for a solid three-point performance.
“The guys in front of him [Gill], the defensive core and the forwards did an excellent job at blocking shots tonight and killing penalties,” Culhane said.
WMU killed all six power play chances the Warriors threw at them, stopping all eight shots fired at Gill, who stopped a total of 26 shots on the night. Hooper stopped 20 of the Broncos 24 shots.
Both squads hit the roads next week for two games. WSU will travel to Brown on Nov. 10 for a 7 p.m. face off and a 2 p.m. face off on Nov. 11, while WMU will take on the Ohio St. Buckeyes on Nov. 9 and 10th.
“Anytime you win just helps with the confidence and chemistry of the team, everyone can take great ownership of the win against WSU and start preparing for Ohio St. coming up this week,” Culhane said.