Broncos Clip Purple Eagles

The Western Michigan hockey team won a nail biter of a hockey game 4-3 in front of 2,171 Lawson faithful. The game-winning goal came with only 22 seconds left in regulation off the stick of Ryan Mahrle.

"The guys made a nice play to get Mahrle the puck and he showed a lot of poise around the net at a real critical time and he made a great play for us," said head coach Jim Culhane.

The goal came on an odd man rush led by Brian Bicek and Vince Bellissimo and as the rush moved across the goal mouth Niagara goalie Allen Barton moved with it. Mahrle following the rush found the open net to put home his first goal of the season.

"It was just a nice play," said Ryan Mahrle. "I was in the slot and I saw that we had a possible three-on-two so I jumped in the rush and Brian Bicek was driving to the net and Vinnie [Bellissimo] hit me as the trailer and I just kind of went to the net. I just put it in."

The Broncos gave up a third period lead for the second straight game as Niagara's Matt Caruana put home a power play goal at 14:24 of the third period to tie things up at 3-3.

"You try to learn form each game and each series that you play," said Culhane of winning the game despite losing their lead in the third period. "We were able to close it up tonight."

The Broncos lead that they gave away came from Mike Lesperance who netted his first career goal at the college level on a feed from Brent Walton at 6:23 of the third. Walton's assist on the goal gave him three points on the night (1 goal, 2 assists) and increased his torrid scoring pace to over two points per game (2.14 ppg).

Scoring in the game opened just three and a half minutes in as Ryan Gale scored his sixth goal of the season with both teams down a skater. The Broncos would answer with Walton's goal just eleven seconds later – while both teams were still down a skater – on a feed from Paul Szczechura.

Gale would again score with both teams down a man down a minute later to send the teams into the first intermission with a 2-1 Purple Eagles lead.

Pat Dwyer would tie the game for the Broncos in the second period's long scoring on a 5-on-3 power play. The power play unit on the ice for the Broncos was somewhat unique as all five skaters for the Broncos were forwards.

The Purple Eagles gave WMU all they could handle fighting hard through the entire game. "It was exactly what we thought it was going to be," said Culhane of how Niagara played. "We knew what we were in for when we scheduled them."

The NCAA's mandate to call obstruction penalties by the book was responsible for the majority of the penalties in the game. The Broncos were whistled eight times for 16 minutes while Niagara was whistled nine times for 18 minutes.

"It's really effecting the development of the so-called third and fourth line guys," said Culhane. "There are guys in your line-up that don't play on the special teams. What it does is it really effects the number of minutes and the number of shifts that are out there for our guys that aren't on our special teams."

Culhane is in full support of the NCAA mandate, however frustrations are sure to mount until teams adjust to the style of play necessary to not incur those penalties.

The two teams would meet again tomorrow night at Lawson Ice Arena for a 7:35pm face off. For the Purple Eagles the game will mark the end to an eight game road swing while the Broncos will have passed the halfway point in a six game home stand.

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