KALAMAZOO - Friday and Saturday night of No. 9 Western Michigan’s sweep of Michigan at Lawson Ice Arena this weekend looked identical in many ways.
The Wolverine offense came out roaring both nights, giving Michigan, in desperate need of a win, an early advantage both nights.
The Broncos, dormant for the first periods, woke up in time to salvage two impressive final 40 minutes of hockey.
But Saturday night, when Western Michigan won 5-1 in front of the biggest crowd Lawson has seen all season, was a little special. That’s because Saturday night the Broncos swept the Wolverines for the first time since February of 1986.
“It’s huge,” said junior forward Shane Berschbach of his team’s sweep. “It’s definitely awesome for our school and our hockey program. The battle we had to bring both nights shows what this meant to us. Our guys really stuck with it, and did something big for our school.”
The game began promising enough for Michigan as junior goalie Adam Janecyk made a couple pretty saves early on, just as he had the night before.
And then the Wolverine power play scored on the staunch Western Michigan penalty killers for the second straight night when Ann Arbor native Andrew Copp fired a wrister past Frank Slubowski after a pass from Kevin Lynch.
But the middle frame is when the wheels fell off for the Wolverines once again, as the Bronco offense arrived, albeit a period late. In the second period, Western Michigan outshot Michigan by a 15-3 margin.
The Broncos equalized when Berschbach redirected a point shot from Matt Stewart past Janecyk, who wasn’t expecting the tip in.
A little over two minutes later, Kenney Morrison wristed a shot on the power play to give his team the 2-1 lead. With about three minutes to go in the second period, Colton Hargrove scored his first of two goals on the night. Hargrove, crashing the net, received a pass from Josh Pitt for the third Western Michigan tally.
“I thought our team was much better tonight,” said Bronco coach Andy Murray. “We were focusing on what we needed to get done. We had more speed and tempo than last night, and from there we found a way to get some goals.”
Another pair of goals in the third period proved to be the final nail in the coffin for the Wolverines’ weekend. Pitt fired into the Michigan net from the left circle to make it 4-1, and the final goal came by way of another Hargrove score just 1:40 after Pitt’s goal.
“This is a really disappointing weekend for our team,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We expected more, and we showed glimpses of it, but there wasn’t enough of a push, there wasn’t enough defense, there wasn’t enough of anything to make it work.”
With the win, the Broncos maintained their narrow lead over Miami (Ohio) for first place in the CCHA. They’ll play Ferris State next weekend, while Michigan and Michigan State will continue their rivalry.