Icers Host First-Place Buckeyes

The struggling Western Michigan (1-3-0, 1-3-0 CCHA) hockey team returns home to Lawson Ice Arena for a pair of games against the Buckeyes of Ohio State (4-2-0, 4-0-0 CCHA). The Buckeyes invade the Lawson Lunatics in sole possession of first place in the CCHA with two wins each against Ferris State and Miami.

Western Michigan is struggling early in the season after opening their campaign with a split of an extremely young Alaska-Fairbanks and then a pair of road losses to a rebuilding Nebraska-Omaha.

In last weekend's games the Broncos fell behind 3-0 Friday in just six minutes Friday forcing coach Jim Culhane to pull freshman goaltender Daniel Bellissimo in favor of walk-on junior Eric Marvin. The Broncos finished the game losing 7-3, but not before the Broncos pulled to a 4-3 deficit in the second period.

In Saturday's tilt the Broncos visited the sin bin 11 times compared to UNO's 5 trips to the penalty box. Being down two skates four times and being out-shot 30-19 the Broncos still took a 3-3 tie into overtime before the Mavericks put the game away on a Kaleb Betts goal.

"I was pleased with our effort Saturday," said Culhane of the Bronco's near miss that followed a sound beating. "[We] put ourselves in a position to win… Unfortunately it didn't happen."

WMU's quest this season doesn't get any easier this weekend as OSU enters the series after sweeping a series with Miami with a 9-3 blow-out and a 2-1 goaltender's dual.

Rod Pelley, who posted a 3-2-5 line last weekend and a 5-3-8 line on the season, leads the Buckeyes. Also leading the way are junior Dan Knapp and a foursome of freshmen: Tom Fritsche, Domenic Maiani, Kyle Hood and Matt McIlvane.

Perhaps the most important leader to this Buckeye team though is junior Goalie Dave Caruso who holds down a 2.38 goals against average and a .912 save percentage.

In contrast to the Broncos' goaltending Daniel Bellissimo (5.29 GAA, .828 SV%) started the season in promising fashion despite occasionally poor defense in front of him in his first two games as a Bronco. His third start of the season however ended poorly giving up three goals on just five shots. Eric Marvin (4.15 GAA, .855 SV%) has played since giving up four goals in each game he has played this season in 116 minutes of action.

Keys to the Games:

1 – Goaltending and defense: the two go hand-in-hand in hockey and the Broncos have not been stellar in either area. Goaltending has yet to realize its full potential and on defense the entire defensive corps needs to reduce the number of opponent scoring chances and neutral zone turnovers.

2 – 3rd and 4th lines: The Broncos' top two forward lines have been productive as expected, however the young third and fourth lines have been decidedly unproductive. The last two lines don't need to produce at the level of the first two lines but they do need to produce more then the scattering of points produced so far.

3 – Special teams: WMU must continue to adjust to the NCAA's directive to cut down on obstruction and keep from making trips to the sin bin more then their opponents.

The Weekend Series:

Games are Friday and Saturday nights the 29th and 30th. Both games are at Lawson Ice Arena with 7:35pm face-offs this weekend. The student section will be receiving free t-shirts giving the already rowdy "Lawson Lunatics" a visible identity.

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