ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Western Michigan rode a three-goal second-period outburst and a 30-save performance by freshman goaltender Riley Gill to 6-3 win over Michigan at Yost Arena Friday night.
The win was the Broncos’ first victory at Yost after 15 straight losses dating back to 1995. The victory also pulled the Broncos within three points of the Wolverines in the CCHA standings heading into Saturday night’s rematch back on the Broncos’ home ice in Kalamazoo.
Sophomore center Andrew Cogliano’s hat trick provided all the Wolverines’ offense, bumping his season goal total into double figures at 10.
“For me, right now, I’m happy for our seniors,” said Western Michigan coach Jim Culhane. “I’ve coached a number of teams here, both as an assistant and as a head coach, and it’s a tribute to our senior class. We’ve got good solid senior leadership and my hat’s off to them. This is something they can remember.
“We’ve preached all year long that we have to be a team,” continued Culhane. “We don’t have any stars. We have to score by committee and we have to play as a group.
“This is a very, very difficult place for us to play,” said Culhane of Yost Arena. “It’s tough to win on the road here. It adds some confidence to our young team that we came into a very difficult environment and were able to stay composed and poised.”
“Our goals weren’t going in,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Some nights they go in and some nights they don’t. That’s why we can’t give up those easy goals. In the meantime, we’re giving up too many quality chances. From our standpoint, it wasn’t a good game. From their standpoint, it was a great game.”
With veteran Bronco goaltender Daniel Bellissimo out with a shoulder injury, Riley’s solid play, with several big saves late in the second period while his team only led by a goal, was a key component of the Western Michigan victory.
“My confidence level is pretty high,” said Riley. “I’ve got a winning record and I’m happy with that. I’m just going to try and keep focused and things will continue to go my way. My defense did a great job allowing me to see the puck. Obviously, if you get to see more shots, you get that sweat going and you get your confidence up. The puck was hitting me in the right spots and it worked out.
“It was a great environment in here tonight,” continued the Bronco netminder. “The more fans, the more fun. It’s a great college atmosphere. I love playing in loud buildings. It just gets you more pumped up.”
Western Michigan opened the scoring at 2:52 of the first period on an unscreened shot from the right point by freshman defenseman Tyler Ludwig. The puck slipped under the right arm of Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer, giving Ludwig his first career goal.
Matt Hunwick started the play that put the Wolverines back even with the Broncos. The senior captain carried the puck deep into the Western Michigan zone and snapped off a quick wrist shot that bounded off Gill. Patrolling the slot, Cogliano banged in the rebound to knot the score at 5:18.
Jeff Pierce’s goal, only 45 seconds after Cogliano had tied the game for Michigan, 2-2, midway through the second was the key moment in the Broncos’ three-goal middle period.
Earlier in the period, with Michigan already down a man due to a too-many-men penalty, Bronco Patrick Galivan capitalized on a second Michigan penalty to Tim Miller.
Gill sprinted to the bench on the delayed second call and Galivan snapped a rebound by Sauer while the Broncos held a six-to-four advantage. Galivan’s goal gave the Broncos a 2-1 edge.
Cogliano’s second goal of the night brought Michigan back even at 10:55 when he converted on a goalmouth scramble. Though no assists were given, T.J. Hensick initiated the play sequence by walking out of the corner with the puck passing to the front of the net.
Mark Letestu scored his sixth goal of the season at 18:47 to send the Broncos to the second intermission with a two-goal bulge.
Cogliano again tried to bring the Wolverines back in the third, tipping a pass from Chad Kolarik between the legs of Riley at 6:23.
“I gave us another life with that goal,” said Cogliano. “We had a few good chances to score, but we didn’t. I think the third one brought the team a lift, but we couldn’t bury it.”
Bronco senior center Paul Szczechura sealed the Wolverines’ fate at 17:20, breaking around Kolarik and beating Sauer high over his shoulder.
Letestu added an empty netter at 19:50.
The Wolverine-Bronco rivalry resumes Saturday night when Michigan (11-5-0, 7-3-0 CCHA) travels down I-94 for another matchup with Western Michigan (6-6-1, 5-6-1 CCHA) at Lawson Arena at 7:35.