After tough, overtime losses to Akron and Eastern Michigan in men's soccer and football earlier in the day, Bronco fans were looking forward to a home hockey match-up with former CCHA foe Northern Michigan. The Wildcats, now in the WCHA, had dropped their past 6 meetings with Western Michigan and were a mere 3-5-0 entering the match-up.
After a 3-1 lead in the first period, a dominating first period at that, it appeared Western Michigan would be well on their way to another victory over their in-state fiends.
Then another second period meltdown happened.
"We had a problem last weekend with the second period, and tonight we had more of the same," Bronco head coach Andy Murray said after the game. "We cannot be giving up the goals we gave up on the few shots that (Northern Michigan) generated tonight."
The Wildcats came out and quickly scored to make it a 3-2 game before Mike McKee received a game misconduct for checking from behind a couple minutes later. A Stephan Vigier power-play goal would tie the game up just 13 seconds into the major penalty. Reed Seckel would add another goal later in the period to make it 4-3.
The three goals were uncharacteristic to be given up by Bronco goaltender Frank Slubowski. Two seemed to be more loose pucks that found their way into the net rather than "snipes", or well placed shots to the uneducated fan. In fact, of the 5 goals total on the night Slubowski gave up, only about two appeared to be "usual" goals given up. Slubowski also appeared to misplay his angles, nearly conceding a goal in the 3rd on a trickling pass that rang off the post (Erik Higby would later have a breakaway for the game-winner).
In the first period, the Broncos did dominate play though.
"Everyone was feeling pretty good about themselves," Murray said on the strong opening. "Then we get to where some are thinking, 'Hey, it might be a point night for me' and we forget about the details of the game."
Western Michigan opened the scoring similar to how Northern opened the second period with a quick goal from Nolan LaPorte. After Vigier matched his goal a minute later, Kyle Novak added his second and third career goals on a power-play and crazy bounce behind the net to push the lead to 3-1 with 9 minutes to play in the period.
Jordan Oesterle scored his second goal of the season with 8 seconds left in the game to make it 5-4 as well.
Now, the Broncos must turn around and prepare for the Wildcats tomorrow in an odd 5 pm Sunday game. The teams agreed to the schedule as Northern was in Alaska last weekend and requested an extra rest day for travel.
As for me? Time to get ready for basketball in an hour or so. Last chance for a Bronco victory today!