KALAMAZOO, Mich. — With Christmas nearing, the Wayne State Warriors and Western Michigan Broncos stepped out of their respected conferences as both teams faced off against each other Friday night with the Broncos earning their way to a 5-2 victory over the Warriors.
For the Broncos it was a time to get away from league play, and gain their confidence back after playing below expectations for the majority of the first half of the season, as the Warriors have an overall record of 3-10-2, and are 1-3 in the CHA this season.
Bronco freshman net minder Jerry Kuhn earned his first career collegiate win against WSU as he came up with 24 saves on 26 Warrior shots.
I thought I played well, Kuhn said. I had some jitters in the beginning but I settled down. I played well overall. I saw everything pretty well. The second goal I couldnt see but that comes with not playing in a long time.
The first game of the weekend series between the Warriors and the Broncos got off to slow start Friday night as Warrior goal tender Brett Bothwell held the Brown and Gold scoreless on 12 WMU shots and Bronco freshman net minder Jerry Kuhn stopped the two WSU shots on net.
I thought we made a step here tonight as a team, said sophomore defenseman Tyler Ludwig. We all kind of wanted to get the win under our belts, and get some confidence. It was just a solid team effort, killing those penalties that some were unnecessary, but it was very good for confidence.
I thought it was real solid team effort, said Bronco head coach Jim Culhane. We played a full 60 minutes, and it was great to see Jerry get his first career win here at home. The one thing we need to look at and were not happy with is obviously we can give up three 5-on-3 opportunities.
With the first 20 minutes of regulation being scoreless for both sides, WMU and WSU came out with a lot more energy, intensity and firing at all cylinders in the middle period as the Warriors attempted 14 shots on Kuhn and the Broncos added 16 more shots in the second period.
After the first period, we really were on our heels and then we started to play a little bit, said Bill Wilkinson, Warrior head coach. Special teams were really the difference for us tonight. We had three 5-on-3 opportunities and only came away with one goal in all that. You have to score on your special teams.
The Broncos got the scoring started when senior Brian Bicek rushed the net from the left corner, lost control of the puck and junior Matt Clackson was there to tap the puck past the goal line for the first goal of the night.
The second period was just an example of the first and the third, Culhane said. I thought we played well through all three periods, and we were able to make some plays here tonight and get pucks on net.
Less than two minutes later, the Broncos added their second goal of the night on junior Patrick Galivans third of the season at the 7:06 mark of the middle period. Freshman Max Campbell got credited with his seventh assist of the year and sophomore Cam Watson also earned an assist.
The Warriors would not go away down two goals to none, as senior Tylor Michel took a pass from center Tyler Ruel at the top of the right-wing circle, and fired a rocket shot past the Bronco freshman goal tender, going top shelf for the Warriors first marker of the night.
Just scoring a goal gives you confidence and momentum, it is very important to put pucks on the net, Wilkinson said. I thought the Michel goal was a good one and [Stavros] Paskaris just fired one through traffic, and found the back of the net. Then, late in the period we gave up that power play goal that rattled off the post, and off of our goalies back.
Tied at two a piece, the Broncos were able to retake the lead once again late in the second period, in the middle of a WMU power play chance, as Galivan and senior forward Jeff Pierce knocked the puck around the offensive zone over to Ludwig, who then fired a rocket shot through the zone, and ricocheted it off the post as it then, bounced off the back of Bothwell and into the back of the net.
To be honest with you, I just tried to get through the zone and to the net, so some of our skill guys can get down there and bang it home, Ludwig said. It chipped off the post, and bounced off the back of his butt and went in.
Heading into the final period of play, the Broncos led the Warriors in shots on goal by a count of 28-16, and was completely controlling the flow of the game.
I would probably say when we killed that penalty late in the second period, and killed the one to start the third period, Ludwig said about when the Broncos really started taking control of the game. That really gave some confidence and brought us to victory here tonight.
The Broncos added two more insurance goals in the third period, when Bicek added his third goal of the season to complete his two-point night at the 6:24 mark of the period, taking a pass from Ludwig and deked left around the Warrior net minder and lit the red lamp for the score.
It was a a big load off my shoulders to see that goal go in tonight, Bicek said. It has been a slow start to the season for everyone. It felt good to kind of get rewarded tonight.
Sophomore Chris Clackson added the fifth goal, an empty-netter with : 51 seconds remaining in the contest to seal the victory for the Broncos.
It is effort for us that is what depends on us getting the victory tomorrow night, Wilkinson said. We have to come out play hard, special teams has to come out, not be fancy, shoot pucks and crash nets.
The Warriors (3-10-2, 1-3 CHA) and the Broncos (5-10 Overall and 2-8 CCHA) will again take center ice Saturday night from Lawson Ice Arena at 7:35 to conclude the weekend season series between these two in-state teams.