WMU Stuns Colorado College in NCHC Opener

WMU Media File

The Western Michigan Bronco hockey team finally got back on the ice after a bye week in their first game in the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference at Lawson Ice Arena on Friday. In a tough, physical game, they came out on top with a wild finish.

What a way to enter your new conference!

In their NCHC debut, Andy Murray and his Western Michigan squad sure made an entrance with a physical, come-from-behind, overtime victory over the Colorado College Tigers 3-2.

"Give a lot of credit to Colorado College," Murray said after the game.  "They were much better than us in the first 10 minutes of the game and we were lucky to only be down a couple of goals.  We had some good puck possession in the offensive zone to help tilt the game though.  An overall good hockey game."

And Murray was right.  After Josh Pitt opened the game with a bone-crushing hit on Tiger defenseman Russell Finch, which luckily saw Finch leave the ice under his own power, both teams picked up the physical play.  However, the Tigers struck first after Archie Skalbeck found a lane to shoot on an obstructed Frank Slubowski.

The Tigers would strike again just 5 minutes later when Cody Bradley made an incredible pass to find Alex Roos wide-open on Slubowski's back-side.  Roos would flip the puck into the net for just the 7th goal of the season for the Tigers, and his 2nd.

That goal seemed to awaken the Bronco offense, as Pitt would capitalize on a 2-on-1 chance, hitting a wide-open Justin Kovacs at the last second for an easy put-away goal just 65 seconds after the Roos goal.  It was Kovacs' 5th career goal and his first of the season.

After coincidental roughing penalties a couple minutes later, the Broncos would again find the back of the net.

Just as Eamonn McDermott and Mike McKee were leaving the box, Jordan Oesterle threw a puck on net that happened to beat Josh Thorimbert, who fell into his own net after a Bronco player fell on him.  After reviewing the goal, the officials appeared to find nothing wrong with the play, suggesting the Bronco player was pushed into the senior net-minder.

That would be the last of the scoring for a while.  Both teams would trade excellent looks, with the crisp attack of the Tigers matching the physical, "aim-for-the-shaky-glove" look of the Broncos.  Slubowski was generally solid in net with Thorimbert often mishandling the puck.  Still, neither would concede a goal over the next 42 minutes.

After a strong start to overtime by the Tigers, the Broncos mounted an attack trying to get the game-winning goal.  They would get it in the form of a freshman's first career look.

Former Green Bay Gamblers (of the USHL) teammates Will Kessel and Nolan LaPorte found an open Kyle Novak, also from the Gamblers in the slot who threw a puck towards Thorimbert.  After initially making the save, the Tiger net-minder lost the puck behind him, and went to lay on it.  Unfortunately for the Tigers, instead of trapping the puck beneath his back, his short pads pushed the puck into the net for the game-winning goal.

"There was a screen and I got a great pass from Kessel right into the slot, but I guess the goalie did the rest of the work," Novak said on his first career goal.  "It's great to get the first win (in the NCHC), but now we have to get the sweep tomorrow."

The Broncos, now 2-2-1 (1-0-0), will take on the Tigers, now 1-4-0 (1-2-0), tomorrow night.  Both the time (7 pm) and location (Lawson Ice Arena) will remain the same as tonight.

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