After last night's 2-0 victory in East Lansing, the Western Michigan Bronco hockey team was anxious to get back home in front of the Lawson Lunatics and the rest of their faithful fans. Their opponent? A familiar foe in the Michigan State Spartans, an in-state and former CCHA rival. When they came out of the gate, everyone knew who was playing the stronger game on the night.
After drawing an early penalty, the Broncos snapped an 0-for-17 streak on power-plays when Kenney Morrison finally was able to drill home one of his hard slap-shots, beating Spartan goaltender Jake Hildebrand in his five-hole and netting his first goal of the season.
That's when the Shane Berschbach show began.
Berschbach, a senior forward for the Broncos, has been on a tear as of late. His goal-scoring has been met with great assists to his line-mates, making the line of Berschbach, Josh Pitt, and Justin Kovacs one of the more unstoppable lines in the country. In front of a packed crowd of 4,072 fans, a sellout at Lawson, Berschbach put on a show.
First, the assistant captain found Sam Mellor low, who in turn dished a perfect pass to Kovacs, who buried his 5th goal of the season rather easily past Hildebrand. The play happened so fast, it happened on a 10 second 4-on-4 opportunity, leaving a lone second before the Broncos would get on a power-play (which they wouldn't convert).
Then, Berschbach continued a power-play opportunity mid-way through the 2nd period after Pitt was unable to corral a pass from freshman defender Chris Dienes. The senior found Dienes again, who fired a wrist-shot above Hildebrand's shoulder for his first career goal, again on the power-play.
But he wasn't done. As the 2nd period was winding down, the high powered line mounted an attack. Pitt would create a turnover and find Kovacs, who in turn found Berschbach wide open in front of the net. A quick flick of the stick, and the 3-point night was complete, with his 6th goal of the season making it a 4-0 game after two periods.
Western Michigan would coast the rest of the way, with the Spartans breaking up Frank Slubowski's shutout with a 4-on-4 goal mid-way through the 3rd period by freshman forward Mackenzie MacEachern. It was Slubowski's first game back after not starting the previous two games in favor of sophomore Lukas Hafner. Slubowski stopped 28 of 29 shots and was superb in net against a plethora of decent Spartan chances.
Berschbach now has 17 points on the season, all coming in the past 10 games. He sits 4 points away from 100 in his career, and if his current production continues, will soon be having his name mentioned as a possible Hobey Baker candidate (the equivalent of the Heisman trophy for college hockey).
Meanwhile, the Broncos move back to .500 on the season, with a 5-5-2 record. They take on Northeastern in the first round of the Shillelagh Tournament on Black Friday at 4:30, with host Notre Dame taking on Alabama-Huntsville afterwards. Depending on the outcomes of the two games, the Broncos will either take on Notre Dame (presumably in the title game) or UAH (presumably in the consolation match).