DETROIT — Two-goal games were the order of the day in Friday’s opening CCHA championship tournament semi-final game at Joe Louis Arena.
Western Michigan senior forward Greg Squires and his freshman linemate, Will Kessel, each scored a pair of goals to lead the offensive attack in the Broncos’ 6-2 win over Miami, earning Western Michigan a berth in Saturday night’s championship final game.
For Squires, it was his second multiple-goal performance of the season and for Kessel, who also added an assist, it was his first multiple goal performance.
True to the game’s form, Reilly Smith scored both RedHawk goals in the loss.
Squires got Western Michigan off to fast start, notching his pair of scores by the time the game was only 22 minutes old, sandwiched around a shorthanded tally by teammate J.J. Crew.
“I thought it was important because I watched a tape of Miami against Michigan State and Michigan State after 11 seconds in the hockey game,” said Western Michigan coach Andy Murray of the quick start. “We knew that it would be imperative to get off to a strong start.”
At 7:56 on a three-on-one break, Western Michigan defenseman Garrett Haar carried the puck deep into the left corner and found Squires alone in the slot on the game’s opening goal.
Squires picked up his second of the game at 2:07 of the second period with a slick move. Corralling a loose puck at close range in front of Miami netminder Connor Knapp, the Bronco senior took a step back to create a better angle and picked the top of the RedHawk cage over Knapp.
“Tonight was one of those games where the puck was going in the net,” Squires said. “We were fortunate to get six tonight.”
“This is huge for us,” continued Squires. “Not just for myself, but for the team. We talked about where we came from, but like Coach (Murray) said, we have more tomorrow. Then, we’ll be happy.”
Murray was pleased to point out that Squires reached a personal milestone with his effort.
“I don’t congratulate too many individuals on things because I’m all about the team,”said Murray. “But Greg Squires got his 100th point tonight and that’s pretty special.”
Kessel saved his scoring spurt for later in the game.
On a power play again at 9:47 of the second period, Western Michigan increased its lead to 4-1 when Luke Witkowski’s shot from the right point passed through a maze of players, grazing Kessel on the way to the far corner of the net. Kessel added an insurance goal to the Bronco cause at 11:15 of the third period in addition to assisting on Squires’ second goal.
“Coach Murray’s got his own philosophies and systems,” Kessel said. “He’s an easy guy to play for.”
Smith bagged the first of his two goals to draw the RedHawks to within one of Western Michigan early in the second period and added his second to pull Miami within two goals, 4-2, midway through the final period.
“They really shut down our breakout,” said Smith. “They were right on our forwards. It was tough to get the puck and to get anything started.”
Murray was happy, but not surprised to get the offense from Squires and Kessel.
“They are expected to score,” said Murray when asked if he was pleased to get the scoring from unexpected sources. “To be successful, you need all of your units. We’re a four-line team. We play everybody. Everybody has the same mission out there. Last weekend, it was the same thing.”
Murray’s troops will now carry that mission into Saturday night’s championship final game, with the Broncos hoping to fully avenge last season’s loss to Miami in the tournament final.
Video: Western Michigan assistant coach Rob Facca on the team’s power play: