KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Great goaltending was the story in a 3-1 Western Michigan victory over Bentley College Saturday night at Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo. Falcons’ netminder Joe Calvi stopped 22 Bronco shots in the loss while sophomore Riley Gill came up with 33 saves of his own to earn his second win of the season.
“I wanted to stay extremely aggressive throughout the game,” Gill said. “I didn’t want to back down. I kept telling myself to stay aggressive, and I knew they were going to come at me all night.”
In a back-and-forth opening period on both sides of the ice, neither team was able to score. Bentley outshot WMU 12-5 in the first period.
“I thought we came out ready to play 60 minutes of hockey tonight, said Falcons’ head coach Ryan Soderquist. “I’m happy with our effort, not with the outcome. I thought we responded from our effort last night. Last night, we didn’t play with any effort; it was pretty disturbing. I was real excited about how the guys battled back tonight.”
While the Falcons came out firing in the opening period, the Broncos did not match the intensity of the Falcons.
“The big thing that I kept telling our guys tonight was that it is so difficult to win back-to-back nights against the same opponent,” said Broncos’ coach Jim Culhane. “You know they are disappointed that they lost last night, and they are going to come back and play extremely hard.”
Both teams upped the intensity in the second period, scoring just minutes apart from each other.
During a power play, Broncos’ sophomore Chris Clackson sent a pass from the right side goal line up the middle to Jeff LoVecchio, who was able to pound the puck past Calvi for the first goal of the night.
The LoVecchio goal seemed to raise the intensity of the Broncos, who started flying on the ice, punishing the Falcons with big hits against the boards.
The Broncos’ lead didn’t last long as Bentley answered back on an unassisted goal by sophomore winger Marc Menzione at the 5:11 mark of the middle period.
The Falcons got on the power play shortly after the goal, looking to take the lead for the first time, but Gill did his best to keep the score locked, making three huge saves.
“I think they were taking it to us at that point,” Gill said. “I think the goalie can give a team the spark to turn help turn the corner, and that is what I did.”
Culhane agreed that those saves were a big momentum boost for his squad.
“The best players on both teams tonight were the goaltenders,” he said. “Riley made some big saves tonight, and that was the difference in the game.”
As both teams took the ice for the final period, it was the Brown and Gold playing with a renewed sense of urgency.
“Both teams played extremely hard all game long,” Culhane said. “Bentley carried the momentum early on, and we got better as the game went on. I thought we played extremely hard and well in the third period.”
Just one minute into the period, the Broncos regained their one goal lead on freshman Max Campbell’s first college goal. Campbell took a pass from junior winger Patrick Galivan and nailed a onetimer past Calvi along the left post.
“I’m pretty excited; obviously it wasn’t the prettiest goal, but it was nice to bang home the first goal and get the monkey off my shoulder,” Campbell said.
Gill preserved the lead, making stops on a couple clear breakaway chances.
“Riley was outstanding tonight,” said Campbell. “Our team made a few defensive errors in the end, and he was there to back them up every time.”
Just like Friday night, the Broncos added another empty-netter in the final minute of regulation by junior Matt Clackson, as he and Falcons’ senior Jaye Judd battled for the puck in front of the net, and collided into the net to get the goal.
The Falcons (0-4 overall) are home next weekend against Air Force, while the Broncos (2-0 overall) will travel to Niagara.