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MAC Hockey Round-Up: Broncos Sweep Miami In First MAC Series

Western Michigan used solid special teams play to down a high-powered Miami offense this weekend in our first MAC series of the season. Meanwhile, Bowling Green collected 3 of 4 points against Alaska and UMass did not see action due to facility issues.

Nolan LaPorte scored the game-winner, his second in as many nights, in WMU's 3-2 victory over #13 Miami
Nolan LaPorte scored the game-winner, his second in as many nights, in WMU's 3-2 victory over #13 Miami
GS Photo

Short-handed goals are rare.  When Western Michigan scored not one, but two of them on Friday, including Nolan LaPorte's game winner with 8.2 seconds left, it's a sight to behold.

Coming into Saturday's game, one had to not expect more goals to come a man down, but the Broncos would take full advantage of the open ice, scoring all three of their goals with 4 viable skaters on the ice in their 3-2 victory over the #13 Miami RedHawks.

"They just outplayed us, it's the bottom-line," Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said after the game on the series as a whole.  "They wanted it more, they scored short-handed goals.  Anytime you get a 5-minute power-play and you don't score a goal, it's usually a killer for you.  Credit goes to (Western Michigan).  They out-coached us, out special-teamed us, out-played us, out-goaltended us, you name it."

Miami went 0-for-8 on the power-play on Saturday after going 1-for-5 on Friday and conceding the two short-handed goals.  The RedHawks entered this weekend with the 10th best power-play in the nation, converting 22% of their chances.  The Broncos were killing 84% of their penalties, good for 21st in the nation.

The RedHawks had their chances early as well.  After a Dennis Brown high-sticking penalty, Miami had a chance to kick-start their offense just over a minute into the game.  However, LaPorte would go down the ice with a puck to kill off time, but would find senior captain Chase Balisy wide-open in front of the net, who calmly buried a shot for his 2nd short-handed goal in as many nights.

"We just tried to pressure them up-ice," Balisy said.  "We just try to throw (the puck) back at them, and Nolan made a great play out there."

A few minutes later, Miami would appear to score their own short-handed goal, as Sean Kuraly drove on Frank Slubowski (7-6-3) while killing a Bryon Paulazzo hooking call.  While Kuraly's first few attempts were saved by Slubowski, Kuraly would eventually force a shot home.  However, the goal was dis-allowed upon review when it was shown that the sophomore forward interfered with the Bronco net-minder.

However, the RedHawks would tie up the game mid-way through the 2nd period, as Riley Barber beat Slubowski for his 13th goal of the season, ringing a shot off the lower bar after multiple Miami shots had hit post to start the period.

The Broncos would continue to rack up penalties, but after Barber was called for playing with a broken stick, both teams would have a 4-on-4 try.  Western Michigan made the most of it, specifically Taylor Fleming.  The freshman defender scored his first collegiate goal on a loose puck in the slot.  His slap-shot beat RedHawk goaltender Jay Williams (3-3-0) to make it 2-1.

"I saw the scrum on the side of the net, so I started to sneak down," Fleming said on his goal.  "I was hoping the puck would pop out, and I saw it in the slot, so I just took a slap-shot.  It was awesome."

The Broncos would go into the 2nd intermission with that lead, but not before losing solid defensive forward Will Kessel for the game for checking from behind.  The 5-minute major penalty would be the 2nd major power-play for the RedHawks on the weekend, with Friday's seeing LaPorte's game-winner occur.

Despite multiple looks, Miami could not beat Slubowski and with time winding down, LaPorte took a puck down the wing.  When usually solid defender Matthew Caito fell, the sophomore had a one-on-one chance with Williams and calmly buried his 2nd goal of the series, just two seconds away from his 2nd short-handed goal, to make it 3-1.  It was the first time all weekend that either team led by 2 or more goals.

Miami would see two more power-play chances in the third period, but would fail to score on both.  However, after Riley Barber beat Slubowski with a wrap-around goal with 1 minute remaining, the RedHawks would put a flurry of attempts to try and tie the game.  Barber would again have a great look with Slubowski out of position; however, he was denied by Balisy, who sacrificed his body to prevent the tying goal with 8.2 seconds remaining.  The Broncos would clear the faceoff to hold onto the 3-2 victory.

"That was a real gutsy performance tonight," Bronco coach Andy Murray said after the game.  "Both teams played really hard this weekend, and someone's got to win, and fortunately we got the job done.  We need to be smarter and not take unnecessary penalties, but our penalty kill is outstanding."

The Broncos now head to take on #3 St. Cloud State next weekend in St. Cloud, a difficult venue for any opponent.  Meanwhile, the reeling RedHawk squad head back home to take on a solid Nebraska-Omaha squad next weekend.

Here is a quick video recap of the game with Colin Windecker from AM 1660 The Fan.

NOTES:  Western Michigan now moves to 6-5-0 in one-goal games while Miami continues to struggle in close games, with an 0-5-0 record........Miami is now 0-6-1 when conceding the first goal, 0-5-1 when trailing after the first period, and 0-6-1 when trailing after two periods.............Western Michigan is perfect when holding teams scoreless on the power-play this season, with an 8-0-0 record now.........Chase Balisy and Riley Barber are now tied in the NCHC in conference scoring with 12 points in 10 games............Barber's 14 goals on the season move him into a tie for 4th nationally, as do his 32 points and 1.6 points/game...............RedHawk captain Austin Czarnik suffered an apparent concussion on Friday and will be evaluated throughout the week.  His status for next weekend's games is uncertain.

Bowling Green Takes 3 of 4 Points Against Alaska

Matt Daley was on the scene for both games.  You can check out his recaps in the links below.  I highly suggest you do so.  Stop dallying and click them already!

Friday's 3-0 victory over Alaska.

Saturday's 1-1 tie in a solid PK effort.

Bowling Green now sits alone in 2nd place in the WCHA, but have played two more games than 3rd place Minnesota State, who takes on #2 Ferris State next weekend while the Falcons have a bye week.  Ferris State leads the league by 5 points over the Falcons (2.5 games), while playing 4 fewer than Bowling Green.

Minutemen's Game Against #12 Cornell Cancelled

Well, that's one way to avoid a loss.  Joking aside, UMass didn't get to play a solid Big Red team on Friday due to issues with the ice at Lynah Rink.  The game won't be made-up, as it was a non-conference game and the Hockey East conference schedule is so crazy that trying to find a feasible date would be nearly impossible.

Meanwhile, UMass thumped the U.S. U-18 National Development team 5-2 today in an exhibition game, after leading 5-0 after the 2nd period.  This is the same U-18 team that defeated Michigan and Miami earlier this season in exhibition matches, so the world just doesn't make sense.  The Minutemen return to NCAA action on Tuesday when they host lowly American International.

Full standings run-down below:

Rank Team GP W L T Pts
1 Ferris State 14 12 0 2 26
2 Bowling Green 18 9 6 3 21
3 Minnesota State 16 10 6 0 20
4 Bemidji State 18 7 7 4 18
5 Alaska-Anchorage 16 7 7 2 16
6 Lake Superior State 16 7 9 0 14

Michigan Tech 16 5 7 4 14
8 Northern Michigan 12 6 5 1 13
9 Alaska-Fairbanks 16 5 9 2 12
10 Alabama-Huntsville 14 1 13 0 2

Rank Team GP W L T (SOW) Pts
1 St. Cloud State 10 7 2 1 (0) 22
2 North Dakota 12 7 5 0 (0) 21
3 Denver 10 5 4 1 (1) 17

Nebraska-Omaha 10 5 4 1 (1) 17
5 Minnesota-Duluth 10 5 5 0 (0) 15

Western Michigan 10 5 5 0 (0) 15
7 Colorado College 12 2 7 3 (1) 10
8 Miami 10 3 7 0 (0) 9

Hockey East
Rank Team GP W L T Pts
1 Boston College 10 8 1 1 17
2 Northeastern 11 6 4 1 13

Providence 11 6 4 1 13
4 Maine 8 5 2 1 11
5 New Hampshire 10 5 5 0 10
6 UMass-Lowell 7 4 3 0 8

Vermont 9 4 5 0 8
8 Notre Dame 9 3 5 1 7
9 Massachusetts 11 2 7 2 6
10 Boston University 8 2 5 1 5
11 Merrimack 8 1 5 2 4