By @StefanKubus –
DETROIT – The Broncos were simply too much to handle for Michigan State Thursday night.
Western Michigan topped the Spartans, 4-1, in the second of two Great Lakes Invitational semifinal games, earning a spot in the championship game against Michigan Tech Friday night.
Jade McMullen, captain Sheldon Dries (Macomb), Griffen Molino (Trenton) and Matheson Iacopelli (Brownstown) all lit the lamp for WMU, while Ben Blacker recorded the shutout win in goal.
Mason Appleton scored MSU’s lone marker.
“In college hockey, every single game you play is important, whether it’s in a tournament, non-conference game, everything counts in terms of where you sit in the rankings, so we took Michigan State very, very serious tonight,” Broncos head coach Andy Murray said. “We knew that they’d played some good hockey as of late, they won in North Dakota. We knew it’d be a battle for us.”
The Spartans came out of the gates sizzling, using their speed to sustain pressure in the offensive zone, which earned them a pair of power plays in the process.
But the Broncos managed to stave off the Michigan State attack and gained momentum from it, too. At 11:31, just seven seconds into a power play of their own, Western Michigan opened the scoring, courtesy of a McMullen rebound goal.
“I liked our start, actually outside of special teams, liked our first period,” MSU head coach Tom Anastos said. “Special teams has been a real issue for us of late in particular and cost us the game tonight.”
With 2:26 to play in the opening frame, the Broncos added another. Dries threw a puck on net from along the left boards at the hash marks, and the puck managed to squeak through Minney, who had lost his stick just prior.
Molino continued to build on the Broncos’ lead, as he made it a 3-0 contest at 11:08 of the middle frame with a slick forehand-backhand move.
“It feels really good, obviously we came into it – we wanted to get a team win,” Molino said. “We knew that we were coming here to win two games… Our power play had some success tonight, so it was really good to come in and put a tally on the board, but also come in and get that first one.”
With 7:27 remaining in the period, Appleton put the Spartans on the board to pull his squad to within two. It was a power-play goal with WMU’s Corey Schueneman given a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding.
Iacopelli (Brownstown) potted his 14th of the sason with 3:10 left in the period to regain the three-goal lead for WMU and make it a 4-1 game. Iacopelli stepped into a wrister from between the circles on the power play to beat Minney on the far side.
That proved to be enough for Western, as they held on for the 4-1 final.
The Broncos will meet the Huskies Friday night in a battle for the final MacInnes Cup at Joe Louis Arena.
“I think it’s exciting to come play in the GLI,” Iacopelli said. “Obviously we came out tonight hard, our power play was good. I thought we were good overall.”