Western Michigan hadn't lost since a trip to Duluth, Minnesota on December 14th. Since then, they had claimed a pair of overtime victories in the Great Lakes Invitational, a sweep over Miami, and grabbed 5 points on the road at NCHC leader St. Cloud State. On Friday, they tasted the sting of defeat against the same team that handed them their last loss in a disappointing 5-2 game that saw the Broncos collapse in the 3rd period.
"Tonight, we were second to every puck," Bronco head coach Andy Murray said after the game. "We go into the (third) period in a tie game, and have two good chances early, and then took a penalty. That's a sign of a team that's not on top of their game. We have to be better."
The Broncos came out fairly strong in a physical game, with both teams skating hard and drawing penalties early on. However, after Josh Pitt received a game misconduct for contact to the head just 7:17 into the game, the Bulldogs capitalized on the major power-play early with great passing leading to a wide-open Kyle Osterberg goal next to the net.
It wouldn't be long, though, for the Broncos to respond, as Sheldon Dries would take intercept a pass just moments later and net a breakaway short-handed goal, the Broncos' 3rd straight home game with such a goal, to tie the game up at 1.
That score would hold through most of the 2nd period, with the Bulldogs controlling most of the play despite both teams taking multiple penalties. Tony Cameranesi would break the tie with 50 seconds left in the period though with his 4th goal of the year.
That lead would be short-lived as Carson Soucy would take a game misconduct penalty for checking from behind just seconds later, leading to the Broncos getting a major power-play. Just 9 seconds into that penalty, Kenney Morrison let rip one of his strong slap-shots, and beat Aaron Crandall for his 3rd goal of the season.
The intermission would allow the Bulldogs to regroup after being on the ropes after the penalty, and with the Lawson Lunatics rocking. Early on, they would draw a Chase Balisy tripping penalty to kill 2 minutes of the penalty before drawing a Morrison interference call just 30 seconds after the Balisy penalty expired. Just a few seconds later, Justin Crandall would beat Lukas Hafner for his 9th goal of the season to give the Bulldogs the lead.
After that, the Broncos seemingly collapsed. With the energy gone after a missed chance on the major penalty, the Bulldogs controlled the play through the end of the game. A fluky goal from Osterberg gave Minnesota-Duluth an insurance goal with 4:33 left, and Crandall (not the goalie) would net an empty netter to make it 5-2.
Hafner moves to 5-3-1 on the season, after allowing 4 goals on 32 shots. Crandall is now 9-6-2 after stopping 17 shots and allowing 2 goals, so both had very similar save percentages on the night. However, the Bulldog pressure and intensity forced the issue and won the game for the team that just a week ago took the #1 Minnesota team to overtime.
Colin Windecker and Brandon Fitzsimons after WMU's 5-2 loss to Minnesota Duluth (via WKZO News)
Both teams are in action again Saturday at Lawson Ice Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 pm.