Broncos Drop Heartbreaker

Despite the energy of the sell-out home crowd and a five-goal effort the Bronco hockey team was unable to overcome a potent Michigan offense and some untimely penalties. The 4,575 in attendance were treated to one of the most exciting hockey games all season but went home disappointed in events beyond the Broncos' control.

With 2:19 left on the clock in the third period Western Michigan's Mat Ponto was sent to the penalty box on a questionable tripping penalty. The ensuing Michigan power play led to Brandon Kaleniecki's third goal of the night to break a 5-5 tie with under a minute left in the game.

The Wolverines would travel home with a 6-5 victory, but not after WMU give every effort to tie it up in the waning seconds of the game.

With goalie Daniel Bellissimo pulled for the extra skater for the final 53 seconds the Broncos kept the play in the Michigan zone but were never able to find the back of the net for the equalizer. "I couldn't be prouder of the way the team played tonight," said head coach Jim Culhane after the game obviously frustrated with the result despite the effort.

"Sometimes you think there's nothing that could feel worse," said Vince Bellissimo, who finished the game with a goal and a pair of assists. "We were just working as hard as we could out there and we're just going to take this as a team... we're going to learn from it."

The Broncos took control of the momentum early in the game on goals by Ryan Mahrle and Bellissimo to skate into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead. That momentum would come crashing down mid-way through the second period as the Wolverines notched four goals in a span of less then three minutes to take a 5-2 lead.

Despite the deficit WMU fought back with a pair of late goals from Jonathan Lupa and Mike Erickson to pull within a single goal at the end of the second.

Jim McNamara was able to corral a rebound and bury the puck top shelf at 12:17 of the third to tie the game at five. That goal would be the Broncos' third power play goal of the game but it wouldn't be enough to earn a series split as the Broncos fell for the second night in a row under remarkably similar circumstances.

Culhane appeared quite frustrated with the officiating following the game but left the issue at a respectful "no comment" in the rather somber locker room.

"It was a mid-season game… at least it wasn't in the playoffs," added Bellissimo when asked about the frustrations of losing such a close hard-fought game.

The Broncos now stand at 9-10-1 (4-9-1 CCHA) and sit in last place in the conference standings heading into another home-and-home series next weekend against Michigan State. The home end of the series will be Friday night at Lawson Ice Arena with a very limited number of tickets remaining.

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