Broncos Host the Purple Eagles in Hockey

In a game sometimes measured by the lucky breaks you sometimes do or don't get the Broncos look to build off a weekend split with #13 Ohio State by hosting their first non-conference action of the season. The Niagara Purple Eagles are also looking to build off a weekend split – in their case with Clarkson – as they head into their seventh and eighth consecutive road games of the young season.

Last weekend for the Broncos was a very exciting and physical weekend of hockey. Skating to a 6-3 win over nationally ranked Ohio State in the midst of foggy conditions last Friday. The next night WMU came out hard but fell just short of the Buckeyes in a 5-2 loss that was capped by a pair of empty net goals.

"I thought we played extremely hard both nights," said head coach Jim Culhane. "We killed off 14 power plays for Ohio State. Maybe we need a little more hard work and maybe a bounce here and there but our work ethic has been solid."

The Broncos have struggled a bit out of the gate this season going 2-4-0 so far this fall. In each of WMU's first three games there have been lapses in play.

"We've now put together the Saturday game at Nebraska-Omaha, the two here against Ohio State where we have executed and we have played our rear ends off for a full 60-plus minutes," said Culhane of the adjustments made since the first three games. "That's what it's going to take to be successful."

One of the brightest spots for the Broncos so far has been the play of Brent Walton. Walton is currently among the leaders in scoring in the NCAA. Depending on how you look at it he is third nationally in total points (12) or fourth nationally in points per game (2.00).

For Niagara their strengths and weaknesses are very similar to WMU's. Both schools have strong goals-for averages while struggling with the goals-against average. Both schools also sport strong power plays while maintaining average penalty kills.

In fact Niagara's power play is so good that 11 of their 24 goals this season are on the power play.

The one area where the Purple Eagles are ahead of the Broncos is goaltending. For Niagara Jeff Van Nynatten has a .902 save percentage while the goalie of choice at WMU, Denial Bellissimo, has only a .853 save percentage.

The numbers are deceiving for Bellissimo because of being pulled just six minutes into a game with Nebraska-Omaha two weekends ago, however there is room for improvement according to the young netminder. "I think I've played well," said Bellissimo. "But I expect more from myself. I think it'll come around and hopefully I'll have a good weekend this weekend."

Offensively the forward line of Barret Ehgoetz, Ryan Gale and Justin Cross leads Niagara. The trio has combined for 24 points and four power play goals including a pair of game winners.

"They work really, really hard… they're physical… they really attack," added Culhane.

The Broncos have faced the Purple Eagles seven times in Niagara's nine seasons as a Division 1 program winning five of those meetings. Last season WMU split at Dwyer Arena posting a pair of 3-2 games. "I think that's turned into a nice non-conference rivalry for both programs," said Culhane. "We recruit in the same areas and it's been good for both programs."

The two teams will face off at Lawson Ice Arena on November, 5 and 6 with 7:35pm face-offs. Tickets are available by calling 1-888-4-WMU-TIX, visiting wmubroncos.com or at the door beginning two-hours prior to game time.

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