KALAMAZOO, Mich. — On Western Michigan’s senior night it was the freshmen who stole the show as the Broncos downed Bowling Green, 5-3, Saturday night.
Five Bronco freshman recorded at least one point in the win and left winger JJ Crew lead the effort with a pair of assists and a goal. Despite his strong night Crew was humbled after the game.
“We just wanted to go out there and have a group effort for these guys,” Crew said of the seniors. “We wanted to go out and play our hardest for them.”
BG carried the majority of the play in the opening stanza but good penalty killing and strong goaltending allowed the Broncos to escape the period tied at one. Bronco goalie Riley Gill turned away 17 shots in the period, while the defense in front of him helped kill BG’s first four power plays.
“They did a good job,” said BG coach Scott Paluch. “They worked hard to block shots and kill off our power plays.”
Despite only registering five shots on net in the period, the Broncos still scored as Crew snuck a week backhand shot between the post and BG goalie Nick Eno’s right leg at the 15:32 mark.
After the Crew goal, BG continued to pressure the Bronco defense and finally converted on their fifth power play of the period. James Perkin tied the game at one with a wrist shot that snuck between the arm and body of Gill.
In the second BG continued to pressure early.
The Falcon’s constant pressure paid off as Dan Sexton crashed the net hard and poked the rebound past Gill. The assist went to Solway who took the initial shot.
It seemed BG had a chance to double their lead as Sexton was taken down after the goal. However on the ensuing power play the Broncos turned the tables and picked up a goal of their own.
Bronco freshman Ian Slater stole the puck at the Western blue line, out skated his defender and slid the tying goal through the legs of Eno.
Five minutes later, Crew set up fellow freshman Kyle O’Kane for a tie-breaking goal. O’Kane fired a point blank wrist shot that beat Eno along the ice glove side.
“That was crucial, it got us momentum in the game,” Crew said of second period goals.
With just over four minutes remaining in the second the Falcons tied the game at three, as Sexton made a strong move around the net and found open line mate Brandon Svendsen who buried the puck past Gill.
Crew continued his superb game in the third as he set up line mate Jared Katz for what proved to be the game-winning goal. Crew was able to fight through the Falcon defense and found Katz right in front of the net, which beat Eno five-hole.
“I just remember shooting that puck at the net without even really looking,” Katz said of the goal. “I saw the net and the light went off so I knew it went in.”
Senior Patrick Galivan added an insurance goal for the Broncos at the 8:09 mark of the third. On the power play Galivan skated hard around the net and backhanded the puck over Eno’s right shoulder.
Two freshmen, Kevin Connauton and Greg Squires, picked up assists on the senior’s goal.
Coach Paluch attributed the Falcons loss to the change in emotion and lack of shots in the final two periods.
“Once we stopped shooting in the second period that really changed our game,” Paluch said.
With the regular season coming to a close, BG will head to Columbus for the first round of the CCHA playoffs after Ohio State lost to Miami Saturday night.
With the win Western Michigan clinched home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.