Broncos Prepare for Nebraska-Omaha

Western Michigan (11-9-3 overall, 7-6-2 CCHA) travels to Nebraska-Omaha (6-13-3, 4-10-2 CCHA) this weekend (Jan. 16-17) to skate in college hockey's newest gem ? the Qwest Center Omaha. Part of a $291-million downtown project, the 14,700-seat Qwest Center serves as the third-largest collegiate arena in the nation. Both Central Collegiate Hockey Association games start at 7:05 p.m. CST.

Western Michigan "Broncos"
@ Nebraska-Omaha "Mavericks"
Jan. 16-17 *Omaha, NE
RADIO: Bronco Radio Network (Cool 101 FM)

After going winless in its first five games (0-3-2) against UNO, WMU has a chance to take over the all-time lead in a series that began during the 1999-00 season. The Broncos have compiled a 4-2-1 mark of late, which includes a split during its last trip to UNO in February, 2002.
ALL-TIME: UNO leads, 5-4-3
@ UNO: UNO, 2-1-1

Western Michigan claimed three of four points against Nebraska-Omaha in Kalamazoo on the second weekend of CCHA play (Oct. 17-18). WMU opened with a 5-1 win, spurred by a pair of Dana Lattery goals in his first appearance of the season. The teams skated to a 2-2 overtime tie the next night. Lattery and Vince Bellissimo provided the offense, D Reid Yanzti added two assists. UNO scored both goals on the power play.

Jan. 10, 2004 ? WMU 5, UAF 4
Western Michigan scored three times in the third period to seal a 5-4 come-from-behind victory and a weekend sweep of Alaska Fairbanks. UAF scored twice in the opening 31 seconds and led by two goals on three occasions. WMU's rally was aided by a 48-21 shot advantage.
Jan. 9, 2004 ? WMU 4, UAF 2
The Broncos struck for four goals in the third period to post a 4-2 victory over the Nanooks. Goals by Ryan Mahrle and Pat Dwyer scored 11 seconds apart proved to be the difference. Dwyer later added an empty netter.
Jan. 3, 2004 ? LSSU 2, WMU 1
WMU's offense was stymied the second straight night in a 2-1 setback to Lake Superior State. The Broncos finished with a 36-17 shot advantage, managing to stuff just one shot past Matt Violin on Brent Walton's goal at 14:59 of the second period.
Jan. 2, 2004 ? WMU 3, LSSU 3 OT
WMU peppered 43 shots on goal, but had to settle for a 3-3 overtime tie at LSSU. The Broncos outshot the Lakers 13-6 in the third period, and 4-1 in overtime, but couldn't overcome a 40-save performance from G Matt Violin.
Dec. 19, 2003 ? WMU 5, WLU 3 (Exh.)
Playing without five regulars, Western Michigan posted a 5-3 win over Wilfrid Lauier. LW Daryl Moore scored twice and D Jim McNamara added another ? resulting in their first goals as Broncos. G Eric Marvin earned the win in his first career start, finishing with 19 saves.

Nebraska-Omaha had a few days extra rest to prepare for its upcoming series after splitting a mid-week (Jan. 7-8) home set against Ferris State (2-5, 6-1) at the Qwest Center. The Mavericks excel on special teams, sporting the league's top penalty kill (86.6%) and second-best power play (23.2%) units for all games. Portage native Scott Parse (10-12-22) paces UNO in scoring, ranking second among CCHA rookies. D Mike Gabinet rates third in team scoring (3-14-17), third among CCHA blueliners. UNO has turned to G Chris Holt of the U.S. Under-18 program to fill the loss of Dan Ellis, who left a year early to turn pro. Holt, a 2003 draft pick of the N.Y. Rangers, has appeared in 13 contests, posting a 3.28 GAA and .899 saves percentage. Head Coach Mike Kemp owns a seven-year record of 103-127-25 at UNO, having made two trips to the CCHA Super Six. Kemp started the year with a league-high 12 rookies on his team.

Junior RW Pat Dwyer was named CCHA Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Alaska Fairbanks series. Dwyer scored two goals on seven shots Friday, including the game-winner, and distributed three assists the next night, helping set-up Paul Davies' game-winner. Dwyer, along with LW Lucas Drake and Davies, comprise the "high energy" line that accounted for five goals and six assists versus the Nanooks.

The rally caps in the student section of Lawson Arena brought good karma as Western Michigan staged third-period comebacks both nights of the UAF series. The Broncos erased a 2-0 deficit Friday by exploding for four goals, including twice in a span of 11 seconds, then rallied from two down on Saturday with three tallies in the final 20 minutes. The odds were stacked against the Broncos, who were previously 0-5-0 when trailing after two periods. The rallies also bucked a trend of third-period heartbreaks that saw three lost leads earlier in the season.

A key ingredient in WMU's success of late has been the team's ability to apply pressure in the offensive zone, mainly through an increase of shots. Jim Culhane's squad has peppered 40 or more shots on goal the last three games, including a season-high 48 on Saturday. Over the last seven games, WMU has averaged 39.7 shots, surpassing the 30-plus mark on each occasion. It's a far cry from the first month of the season, when WMU was outshot in nine of its first 10 games. During that span, the Broncos never once reached 30 shots and averaged just 23.4 shots on goal per contest.

"In life and in hockey, you are not always rewarded right away for your hard work. That was certainly the case last week when we took just point at Lake State. This time around against UAF, I thought we were rewarded for our efforts."

With a four-point weekend, Western Michigan jumped from ninth into a tie for fifth place in the CCHA standings * the Brown & Gold have earned 15 of 18 possible points at home, generating a 7-1-1 record versus CCHA opponents. WMU has won five straight league games at Lawson, with its last loss occurring Oct. 25 against Michigan State * WMU is also unbeaten in 10 of 14 home games (9-3-1) this season * freshman D Kyle Bushee owns a +6 plus/minus rating while classmate Ryan Mahrle stands sixth in CCHA overall defenseman scoring, second among freshmen with 14 points in 23 games * WMU ranks as the third least-penalized team in the CCHA, averaging 12.6 PIMs a game * senior Lucas Drake, tied for fourth in team scoring with 17 points, has surpassed his career-best season totals * three Broncos are averaging a point or more per game in 2003-04: LW Dana Lattery (1.35), RW Brent Walton (1.00) and C Vince Bellissimo (1.04). Lattery ranks ninth in NCAA scoring * senior LW Jeff Campbell needs five points to break into the top 25 in WMU career scoring. He is currently the team's leading active scorer with 134 points (61 goals, 73 assists) in 133 games * WMU's power play is 0-15 since last scoring a goal on Dec. 5 (vs. Notre Dame).

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