Broncos Comeback on Senior Night

Although it was senior night, it was a junior who played hero lifting Western Michigan (12-18-2, 7-17-2 CCHA) from a 2-0 deficit for the 3-2-overtime victory over Lake Superior State (9-18-7, 8-12-6 CCHA). With 2,546 fans on hand Vince Bellissimo notched his second career hat trick scoring the game winner just 12 seconds into the overtime period.

"The defense rimmed the puck and it just happened to hit their guy's foot and it popped out right to the middle," said Bellissimo on his game-winning goal. "Coach has been telling me to shoot and I just shot and it went in."

That goal would send the entire Bronco bench onto the ice to celebrate the team's first win in six games and only the third victory since the Christmas break. "You can't start winning until you break out of the funk you're in," Bellissimo said.

But the night belonged to the seniors. Pat Dwyer, Mat Ponto, Jim McNamara and Trevor Cook took the ceremonial lap around the ice before the game greeted by their parents and head coach Jim Culhane. It was an extra special weekend for Cook, "whose mother got to see him play division one college hockey for the first time," Culhane said.

"For myself it's an emotional time and it's an emotional time for the players," added Culhane on the senior night festivities. "It's a special night for them."

Those seniors – and the rest of the Bronco team – started the game at a torrid pace taking the first 11 shots in the game and finishing the first period with 18 shots on goal. Despite the fast start the game would go into the first intermission tied 0-0 thanks in no small part to a pair of goaltenders.

Both the Broncos' Daniel Bellissimo (24 saves) and the Lakers Jeff Jakaitis (45 saves) had solid nights in net. "Tonight we were just trying to get pucks to the net," said Culhane on how the team responded to a goalie that saved over 93% of his shots in the game.

The Lakers would strike first with a power play tally early in the second period by Ren Fauci who's shot from the blue line was deflected past a screened Bellissimo. LSSU would score their second goal in a scramble as Dan Eves slid the puck to the back of the net in the third period.

Vince Bellissimo would spark the Broncos comeback at 8:39 of the third period taking a shot from near the goal line that sneaked past Jakaitis. Just 3:45 later Bellissimo would strike again on a wrap around as Jakaitis covered the opposite post and couldn't recover in time.

All that was left was for Bellissimo to finish his hat trick sending an already excited crowd home happy.

"We showed a lot of perseverance and fought through some adversity throughout the hockey game… it's great to see the team get rewarded for some hard work," said Culhane. "It's a special night for Vince and for those four seniors."

It was an emotional ending to an already emotional game and it's some momentum heading into the last weekend of the season as well as the playoffs. "The main thing is we want to carry some momentum into the rest of the season and create some real excitement," said Bellissimo.

The Broncos would finish the game with a season-high 48 shots on goal attempting 81 total shots. The Lakers would have 26 shots on goal attempting 48. WMU had 5 penalties for 10 minutes and LSSU had 4 for 8 minutes.

The regular season comes to an end for the Broncos next weekend in a home-and-home series with Ferris State – the two teams are tied for tenth place in the CCHA. The games are in Big Rapids Friday March 4 and the next night back home in Kalamazoo. The Broncos will be on the road for the first round of the CCHA playoffs most likely at either Ohio State or Northern Michigan.

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