KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Coming into Friday night, Western Michigan was last in the CCHA standings, second to last in the conference in scoring offense and riding an 11-game winless streak.
It didn’t look like the Broncos were either in their 7-2 win over Notre Dame at Lawson Ice Arena. The win was the most goals WMU has scored this season, way above its 2.08 goals per game coming into Friday.
Western Michigan (6-15-5, 2-14-4-1) also has been homesick as of late, as it hadn’t played at home since Jan. 8 against Michigan and lost four out its last five games. The Broncos came back to Kalamazoo in fine fashion by going up on the Fighting Irish early and scoring three goals in the first period.
“Just a great effort from start to finish,” WMU coach Jim Culhane said. “Our goal was to try and set the tone of the hockey game and we were able to do that in the first 20 minutes of play.”
WMU had only scored five goals total in its last three games, but Kyle O’Kane got the Broncos’ scoring started at 4:23 into the first period.
O’Kane accepted a pass from Max Campbell to the left of Notre Dame goalie Mike Johnson and shot the puck right over Johnson’s left shoulder. The goal was only O’Kane’s second of the season and was also assisted by Campbell, his 10th of the season, and Mike Levendusky.
About three minutes later at 7:28, the Broncos struck again with a goal from defenseman Jordan Collins from the point, which was only his fourth of the season, and senior forward Jared Katz would pick up his seventh goal of the season at 12:50 to put Western Michigan up 3-0 at the end of the period.
Opening period goals have been hard to come by for the Broncos, as before Friday night, they had only scored 14 first period goals.
“It was real nice to get out to that early lead, you know, you sustain that pressure throughout the entire game and that’s something we haven’t done all season,” Western Michigan goalie Riley Gill said. “It was nice to see that tonight.”
Johnson was pulled by Fighting Irish coach Jeff Jackson in favor of junior Brad Phillips, but that didn’t help much, as WMU scored two more goals in the second period. Broncos’ senior forward Derek Roehl and Greg Squires each scored in the second period and Western Michigan added two more in the third from Cam Watson and Ross Henry, which was his first career goal.
Giving up seven goals is also something that is out of the norm for Notre Dame, as they came into Friday night third in the CCHA in scoring defense, giving up only 2.27 goals per game.
“They [Western Michigan] played with a lot of jam,” Jackson said. “I thought they came at us with waves and we couldn’t sustain handling the puck under pressure, so you end getting turnovers and mistakes that ended cutting in our net.”
Roehl’s goal was scored on the power play, which has been an Achilles’ heel for Western Michigan this season, only converting 11.4 percent on the power play this season, which is last in the CCHA and one the worst in the nation. Notre Dame came in with the best penalty kill in the conference at 90 percent.
Gill was also stellar in his performance, giving up only one goal on 27 shots and coming through in pressure situations.
Notre Dame’s goals were scored by Joe Lavin at 27 seconds into the second, his first of the season, and Riley Shehan at 14:46 in the third period.
Western Michigan also had four players with two assists in Levendusky, Campbell, Katz and defenseman Tyler Ludwig and Friday night was most goals Notre Dame has given up since giving up eight against Michigan in the 2005-06 season. Western Michigan hasn’t scored this many goals since scoring seven against Niagara in 2002.
“Even before the game I think the guys were kind of loose and having fun in the locker room, and that’s something we’ve been kind of missing,” Ludwig said. “We always been kind of focused on what we need to do and we got away from staying loose and tonight we just kind of went there and had fun and remembered to play simple and keep things tight in the ‘D’-zone and get it in deep and it worked out in our favor.”