COLUMBUS, Ohio — Trailing 3-2 after one, and 4-2 just 32 seconds into the second period, the Western Michigan Broncos netted five consecutive goals in the second and third periods to take a commanding lead over Ohio State, eventually beating the Buckeyes 8-5 in Value City Arena.
“I think our team showed a lot of courage, specifically in that second period when we got down by two goals and they scored in the first minute of the second period,” said WMU head coach Jim Culhane. “I thought our team showed some courage in that situation; we didn’t get rattled and we were able to come back and ultimately take the lead there in the second period. Our momentum kept coming.”
The eight goals are the most scored by Western Michigan in Division I play since an 8-6 home win over Notre Dame Dec. 5, 2003.
Brian Bicek and Paul Szczechura each had two goals and an assist, and Jeff Pierce added three helpers, as six different Broncos found the net, with 13 players earning at least one point in the game. Half of Western’s goals came on the power play.
Ohio State head coach John Markell said that the loss “wasn’t an effort thing,” but expressed dismay at the kinds of penalties the Buckeyes took in the contest.
“I thought we established a 4-2 lead and the penalties got a hold of us,” said Markell. “Any time you’re taking hooking and holding penalties, they’re lazy penalties.”
Andrew Schembri led the Buckeyes in scoring with two goals and an assist, and Kenny Bernard had two shorthanded markers for OSU.
“We did give up five goals, and a number of those were obviously on the power play, too,” said Culhane. “You look at special teams situations [where] we did score on the power play, which was a positive for us, but there are other things we’ve got to do.”
The teams exchanged goals in the first with Schembri opening the scoring for OSU at 7:32 on the power play, shuffling the puck past Bronco freshman Riley Gill while falling into the WMU crease. Bicek made it 1-1 at 9:53 from Pierce from in front of the Buckeye net.
OSU then scored two of their own unanswered to take a 3-1 lead, with Corey Elkins scoring his first of the season on the power play at 10:49, and Bernard netting his first of the night shorthanded, a pretty breakaway from right of the crease at 17:14.
At 18:10, Szczechura scored the first of the Bronco power-play goals on another Pierce feed, and the first period ended 3-2 in favor of Ohio State.
When the Buckeyes scored at the 32-second mark in the second to again increase their lead to two goals, there was nothing to indicate that a change of momentum was in the making. But the Broncos played a steady game and took advantage of every chance to take a 5-4 lead by the end of the second — Kevin Labatte scored on the power play, Bicek scored again even strength, and Chris Clackson scored his first of the year for the third WMU man-advantage goal of the game — and continued to roll at the in the first half of the third to dominate the Buckeyes.
Mike Lesperance’s unassisted goal at 8:04 in the third — Lesperance stripped an OSU defender, broke in alone on freshman Buckeye goalie Joseph Palmer, and went five-hole — held up as the game-winner.
Less than two minutes later, Jeff LoVecchio scored even strength on a one-timer that he took the net himself, giving the Broncos a 7-4 lead and ending the night for Palmer.
Bernard’s second shorthander at 16:47 brought OSU to within two again, but penalties late in the third — including a bench minor for too many men with less than two minutes to go — led to Szczechura’s second goal and WMU’s final power-play tally at 19:49.
Culhane said that while giving up five goals was troublesome, getting offensive contributions from so many players is a positive that the Broncos will gladly take.
“We lost a 20-goal scorer back-to-back seasons,” said Culhane. “I wasn’t sure going into the year — and I’m still not sure now — that we have a 20-goal scorer, but I looked at Miami last year and they didn’t have a 20-goal scorer, but they had a lot of guys with eight, nine, 10, 12, 15. We talked about as a staff and with our team [that] we don’t need a 20-goal scorer; we need everyone to contribute.
“We need to have all four lines involved, and basically score by committee. I think we saw that here tonight that we had a lot of contributions from a lot of different people.”
Gill finished the night with 19 saves on 24 OSU shots; Palmer stopped 17 of 24, while his replacement, Nick Filion, allowed one goal on five shots.
WMU finished 4-for-8 on the power play to OSU’s 2-for-7.
The loss marks the second this season for the Buckeyes in which they’ve scored five or more goals. Ironically, OSU struggled to score goals last season and returns a veteran defense that was one of the top squads in the conference a year ago.
“Did I think I would be talking about our defense? No,” said Markell. “What would make you think that? We’ve got to keep working with them. We’re not in a position to trade them or call guys up from the minor league.
“I still believe in them. Obviously, we have to defend our end a little bit better. It’s concerning, though, where they’re at right now after nine games as hockey players.
“Scoring goals isn’t our problem. We scored more than enough to win that game.”
The Broncos (4-4-0, 3-4-0 CCHA) and the Buckeyes (2-6-1, 2-4-1 CCHA) meet again for their second and final regular-season match at the Ohio Expo Center Friday night. Game time is 7:05 p.m.