KALAMAZOO, Mich — In what was a hard fought battle by both teams in this CCHA match up Friday night, the Miami RedHawks were able to earn the victory, 5-3 over the Western Michigan Broncos.
“We got a couple fortunate opportunistic bounces that we were able to capitalize on in that third period, and that was the game,” said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi.
The first period of the game offered the crowd of 2,687 a fast-paced start to the game with many quick, early shots by both teams.
“The first five minutes of the game, in my minds was a very good hockey game,” Blasi said. “It’s a great environment to play in. This is what college athletics is all about.”
Glad to be playing a game back in Lawson Ice Arena, the Broncos (7-12-1 overall, 6-9-1 in CCHA) came out flying up and down the ice, excited to have the friendly home crowd behind them once again.
“Oh yeah, we were very excited to be back here playing in-front of the home crowd,” said Steve Silver, WMU sophomore defenseman.
The Broncos showed that early excitement by killing a quick Miami (17-7-1, 12-4-1) power play, six minutes into the game, and just missing on cashing in some door-step opportunities in front of RedHawk goalie Charlie Effinger.
“Both teams showed tremendous effort throughout the game tonight,” said Jim Culhane, WMU Head Coach. “It was a hard fought game tonight, I really liked our effort that we came out with and were disappointed that we don’t take any points from the game to prove for our effort.”
However, WMU was able to light the red lamp first on a Silver goal at the 17:55 mark of the first period. The goal was Silver’s first of his career, and came on a wrist shot just inside the blue line alongside the right wing. Sophomore right-winger Patrick Galivan was given the assist on the Bronco goal.
Just 13 seconds later, Co-captain Jeff LoVecchio chipped in his ninth goal of the season off the rebound try from Galivan again planting a 2-0 lead, heading into the second period.
Trailing 2-0 in the second period, the hard play on both sides of the glass didn’t let up, as Miami went on the power play just 43 seconds into the period on Ryan Mahrle penalty. The Broncos though were able to execute their special team performance successfully killing the penalty with no damage.
“I thought we did a nice job killing penalties tonight, though they were able to get the one goal on the power play,” Culhane said.
That two goal advantage held by the Broncos didn’t last long, however as Miami was able to cut the lead to one on sophomore Justin Mercier’s goal at the 10:33 mark. Nino Musitelli and Geoff Smith earned the assists on the first ‘Hawk goal.
Not wasting anytime to even the score, center Matt Christie pushed his fifth goal of the season past, Bronco freshman net minder Riley Gill, just 1:04 later.
“I thought once we got that first goal, we started to get a little confidence under our belts,” Blasi said. “We started to play a little better, and started taking better care of the puck.”
With the first period momentum belonging to the Broncos and the RedHawks snagging the advantage right back in the second period, the third period was up in the air for both teams to take home the victory.
“There are momentum swings,” Culhane said. “If you look at it, we carried it throughout the first period, they took it back in the second and then they were able to capitalize on some scoring opportunities in the final period to get the win.”
Those scoring chances that the Bronco leader speaks of were three Miami goals coming in the closing period to seal the victory.
The third RedHawk goal came on the power play from freshman Jarod Palmer, taking the pass from Effinger at mid-ice moving coast-to-coast shooting a shot off Gill’s left leg for the goal.
A minute later off deep in the WMU zone, Geoff Smith took control of the puck and flicked a shot top-shelf past the outreached arms of Gill for what was the go ahead and eventual game-winning goal.
“We started to be a little more anxious on our scoring chances and try to gamble at creating some a bit,” Culhane said about the third period deficit. “We were trying to win the hockey game, gambling a bit to cut the lead to one, and eventually tie it.”
Cutting the lead to one is exactly what WMU did on Silver’s second goal of the night coming off rebounds from shots by LoVecchio and senior center Paul Szczechura. The goal proved to be the final Bronco goal of the night, as Miami added a fifth goal at the 14:32 point of the period by Musitelli.
Effinger stopped an impressive 20 shots by the Broncos, as Gill came up with 31 saves of his own. The RedHawk goalie improved to 8-4 on the season.
The Bronco head coach said they will practice on some things in the morning, they would like to improve on for Saturday night’s rematch, and come out with the same intensity they played with tonight.
Blasi knows that the second game of the series will be just like tonight and realizes the kind of effort it will take from his players once again to complete the sweep in Kalamazoo tomorrow.
“We have to come ready to play tomorrow, because you know they will be ready and our mind set needs to be on them,” he said. “It will be a war out there again tomorrow night, and we need to be ready to compete at a high-level again.”
Game two of the weekend series will face off at 7:35 p.m. at Lawson Ice Arena on Saturday night.