DETROIT — After the first half of Wayne State’s season was filled with scoring droughts galore, a seven goal outburst heading into the holiday break was a just the early Christmas present the struggling Warriors needed.
Jason Bloomingburg’s go-ahead goal with 12:46 remaining powered Wayne State to a wild 7-5 win over Western Michigan before a season-high 1,018 fans Saturday night at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Bloomingburg notched his sixth tally of the season and second of the night by firing home a rebound off Matt Krug’s shot on the power play to help the Warriors retake the one-goal lead they relinquished twice during a frantic second period.
“I’ve been working a lot with (assistant coach Frank) Novock on releasing my shot quicker, and on the power play, he wants me to move faster to the open ice, like I did there,” said Bloomingburg while describing his game-winner. “It was a good gift -the rebound came right to me, and I just had to fire it home. It was a good present right there.”
Bloomingburg also slipped a rebound five-hole past WMU goalie Daniel Bellissimo with 15 seconds left in the first period and assisted on Mark Nebus’ power play goal that opened the scoring in the second, giving the former Providence standout his first multi-point game in over a month (Nov. 10 against Brown).
“We talk about not giving up a goal in the first or last minute of a period,” Bloomingburg said, “and for us to do it to them, it gave us a lot of momentum heading into the locker room. We came out and had a really strong second we got some of the breaks we haven’t been getting all season.”
Wayne State (4-14-0, 1-5-0 CHA) entered the game on a five-game losing streak where the Warriors scored just four total goals, and WSU had already been shut out a school-record six times this year including a 4-0 blanking against Western Michigan earlier this season at Lawson Arena.
But the Warriors broke through for two goals in the first period and three in the second, keeping pace with the Broncos on the scoreboard before Bloomingburg’s heroics in the third.
“Finally,” said WSU head coach Bill Wilkinson, “We’ve only had a couple of those games all year. It was back-and-forth where you think the last shot is going to win the game, but we got the power play goal and Will Hooper made some big saves down the stretch to seal it.”
Hooper started his third straight game in goal for WSU and gave up five goals on 21 shots through two periods, but rebounded to stop all eight he faced during the third including a kick save on a great individual effort from Paul Szczechura and a tough blocker save on Jeff LoVecchio’s bid for a hat-trick to pick up his first win of the season in 10 starts.
“In the third, Hooper was really the difference,” Wilkinson said. “He came up with some tremendous saves when they had opportunities. It was a bonus at that point for us and gave us the chance to win the game.”
Freshman Mark Letestu Western Michigan’s leading scorer gave the Broncos a 5-4 lead at 16:06 of the second with his ninth goal of the year. But WMU’s third marker of the middle stanza would be its last of the game, as the Broncos gave the momentum right back to Wayne State when Taylor Donohoe’s slap shot from the left point trickled through the legs of Bellissimo just 32 seconds later, tying the game at five.
And after Bloomingburg broke the game’s fifth tie in the third, WSU staved off a pair of late Western rushes, allowing Derek Punches to tack on an empty-netter with 3.4 seconds left to seal Wayne State’s first home victory this season.
LoVecchio provided the WMU offense during the first period with a pair of goals and assisted on Chris Frank’s marker midway through the second. But the Broncos (6-7-1, 5-7-1 CCHA) were slow at corralling rebounds in front of their own net and ultimately gave the Warriors too many offensive chances.
“I don’t think we really showed up to play tonight,” said LoVecchio. “I don’t think we played as intense as they did. Last time we were (the team) at our home barn…any time you have a team playing at home, they’re going to come out fired up. “And any time you score five goals, you probably should win the game.” WMU head coach Jim Culhane didn’t discount his team’s effort but agreed with his star forward’s assessment.
“Both teams capitalized on their scoring chances,” Culhane said. “After 40 minutes of play, when the score is 5-5, that next goal is big, and they got one more on the power play. “On any given night, five goals should be enough to win, but it wasn’t tonight.”
Bellissimo made his first start for WMU since Oct. 28 (a 4-0 loss at Nebraska-Omaha) and made 25 saves in the loss.
Western Michigan next plays Dec. 29-30 at the Florida College Classic, facing No. 3 Maine in the semifinals and either New Hampshire or Cornell in the finals.
Wayne State is idle until the New Year when the Warriors return to conference play with a weekend series Jan. 5-6 at Bemidji State.