KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Western Michigan coach Jim Culhane put his head down in disappointment after Ohio State’s Zac Dalpe scored an empty-net goal late in the third period, ending the Broncos chance of a comeback.
Culhane’s reaction and Ohio State’s 3-1 win over Western Michigan has been a testament to this whole season for the Broncos, a season where WMU has struggled to score goals, covert on the power play and will end with Culhane being relieved of his head coaching duties.
Western Michigan (8-18-5, 4-17-4-1 CCHA) announced Thursday that Culhane has been fired, but will finish out the season.
“We had some real quality chances in the second period, couldn’t get it to the back of the net,” Culhane said. “It’s been a challenge all year long to score goals and it was no different here tonight.”
The Broncos came into Friday night second to last in the CCHA, scoring 2.29 goals per game, and have converted only 15.9 percent on the power play this season, which is ninth in the conference. Western Michigan was 0-for-7 with the man advantage Friday and Ohio State outshot WMU 35-32.
Ohio State (12-15-4, 10-11-4-1) built a 2-0 lead in the first period to gain the early advantage. Dalpe received a pass from Hunter Bishop at center ice and broke through the Broncos’ defensemen and put a backhand shot past Western Michigan goalie Riley Gill at 10:45 of the first period. The goal was Dalpe’s 17th of the season.
Patrick Schafer scored the second Buckeyes’ goal at 15:09 when he poked the puck past Gill off a rebound.
Western Michigan junior center Max Campbell got the Broncos back in the game late in the third period when his slap shot was fired into the net at 19:07.
After Gill was pulled, the Broncos turned the puck over in the neutral zone and it was picked up by Dalpe, who broke away and scored the empty-net goal for his second of the game and 18th of the season.
“I thought we played 50 minutes of pretty good hockey,” Ohio State coach John Markell said. “We did what we had to do to get a win. There’s also things you have to work on, but Mr. Dalpe is certainly a good hockey player and he’s a compliment to a lot of our guys too.”
Ohio State goalie Dustin Carlson stopped 32 of 33 shots, which led Markell to say, “Dustin Carlson had a big game for us tonight.”
Despite the announcement of Culhane’s firing, Western Michigan senior defenseman Tyler Ludwig said it didn’t have any impact in the locker room before the game.
“I think we just kind of focused on Ohio State,” Ludwig said. “They got a couple goals and we fell behind in the game there.”