Broncos Head North

After a weekend series split, Western Michigan (3-4-1, 3-3-0 CCHA) will head north to take on the Wildcats of Northern Michigan (4-4-1, 3-3-0 CCHA). Broncos Illustrated takes a look at both teams and the Olympic sized ice rink they will be playing on.

Western Michigan played an up and down weekend series with Nebraska-Omaha with an 8-2 win on Friday night and a 2-0 loss on Saturday. The Broncos played very well defensively both nights only allowing 2 goals in each game with Mike Mantua and Scott Foster once again sharing time in net, while both were able to pull their goals against averages below 4 goals per game.

On Friday the Broncos rolled to an 8-2 win that included a 5-point effort from Jeff Campbell with 2 goals and 3 assists. "The night started off good, I was eager to get back, and missed last weekend because of my sister's wedding," said Jeff Campbell. "I was fresh coming in to the game, started with a new line playing with [Dana] Lattery and [Lucas] Drake, and the three of us started clicking right off the bat." Pat Dwyer added to the scoring with 1 assist and a penalty shot goal in the second period, and junior captain Dana Lattery added 2 goals on the night. Campbell added about Dwyer's penalty shot, "that's a key play in the game there… fortunately for us [Dwyer] made a good move and scored. It's a big team lift for us and it really buries [UNO} to be down 3 goals."

Saturday, the scoring for the Broncos came to an abrupt halt. In what turned out to be a defensive goaltenders dual UNO was able to put 2 goals past Scott Foster, and Dan Ellis of UNO was able to shutout the Broncos for the 2-0 UNO win. The lack of an effective power play was a problem for the Broncos who went 0-6 on the man advantage. "I think we generated things, we generated a 4 on 3 and stuff like that," said coach Culhane about the power play. "I don't think it was really anything we did. I think we had some quality chances, but I think Dan Ellis was there to make the saves."

Northern Michigan played a home and home series with Lake Superior St. this past weekend. NMU won both of the weekend games with a 3-2 win on Friday and a 3-0 shutout on Saturday. Craig Kowalski started in net for the Wildcats both nights making 38 saves on the weekend. Jim Culhane talked about Kowalski's importance to the NMU team, "I think it's really similar to what we talk about in Dan Ellis… I think Kowalski is a real key ingredient to [NMU's] hockey program and to their success of their program."

The game Friday was played at the Taffy Abel Arena in Sault Ste. Marie to a 3-2 NMU advantage. The Wildcats had a balanced attack on offense with 8 players receiving points in the game as they peppered LSSU's Matt Violin with 32 shots. Craig Kowalski made 20 saves on 22 shots between the pipes for NMU's win.

Craig Kowalski followed up his Friday effort with a shutout of the Lakers on Saturday night in front of the home crowd. The shutout was Kowalski's sixth of his career. Both Dirk Southern and Terry Harrison scored 1 goal and 1 assist in the win, and both assisted in Alex Sawruk's power play goal that ended up being an insurance goal in the second period.

Northern Michigan is led by first year head coach Walt Kyle, who replaced 26-year head coach Rick Comley when he left for the green pastures at Michigan State. Kyle served as an assistant coach to the Wildcats when they won their National Championship in 1991, and before that lettered with the team for two years as team captain (the team advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four both years, '80 and '81) after transferring from Boston College. "I was very impressed with Walt [Kyle], the way he carried himself, his enthusiasm for being back in college hockey and at Northern Michigan," Culhane said about meeting Kyle at the CCHA meetings this fall. "I look forward to getting up to Northern and seeing how he has his team prepared."

One of the keys to the games next weekend will be stopping the scoring of senior forward Chris Gobert, who already has 4 goals and 11 assists for 15 points in just 9 games. The other player to stop offensively is Mike Stutzel with 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points, also in 9 games played. Another key will be to get goals past the senior goaltender Craig Kowalski, who has established himself as one of the best goalies in the CCHA.

Games at NMU are played in the Berry Events Center which houses one of two Olympic sized rinks in the CCHA. Culhane talked about the ice at NMU, "obviously on the big sheet of ice you have to make sure positionally that you're sound. You've got to make sure you're taking away the positioning in the lanes, also taking away the passing and shooting lanes." Jeff Campbell also talked about the big ice sheet at NMU. "Personally I don't mind it, I find it will work good for our team, were a speed team, so on a big ice surface we have to use our speed to our advantage. [NMU] is used to playing on it, so it's definitely going to be an adjustment for us, so we got to go out there and work hard and use our team strengths." The typical dimensions of college hockey ice rinks is 200 x 85, but the ice at NMU is 15 feet wider at 200 x 100. The venue seats approx. 3800 fans including 16 luxury suites. This is the first trip WMU will take to NMU since the, now famed, first round playoff series in 2001, which NMU won 3-2 OT, 7-9, 5-4 OT.

The games this weekend are on November 8 and 9. Both games will be played at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, MI with an opening face-off of 7:05pm. COOL101 WQXC (100.9fm) will be heading up the Bronco Hockey Radio Network with live broadcasts both nights, and on Internet broadcast at www.wmubroncos.com.

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