Hockey Team Gets a Break, Kind of

The banged up Western Michigan (4-7-1, 4-6-0 CCHA) Hockey team takes a break from conference action to take on Niagara (4-8-0, 1-1-0 CHA) of the CHA. The two teams with similar records play a single game at Lawson Ice Arena on Saturday, November 23.

The Broncos are recovering from a wild weekend with the Ferris State Bulldogs in home and home action. "Over the course of the season you have injuries you have to deal with as a team, and right now we're going through a stretch were our guys pretty banged up. We gave them Sunday and [Monday] off, and we're back at it [Tuesday] so hopefully with just one game this weekend we can get healed up," said Jim Culhane about the teams injuries. Many of the players are bumped and bruised after a hard-hitting weekend that put the Broncos in the sin-bin for an astounding 73 minutes on 23 penalties. Culhane talked about the penalties, "I think Saturday specifically we took some dumb penalties, us included as a staff with the too many men on the ice and that's our fault. We're lucky we dodged a bullet against Ferris with the likes of Kunitz on there, and Legue and Nesbitt, we were fortunate to only give up one goal in the game."

On Friday FSU took away a 6-3 win in front of 1,780 Ewigleben Arena faithful that never make life easy for visiting opponents. The star of the game for Farris was Phil Lewandowski who scored 2 goals and 1 assist. WMU goalies Scott Foster (4.30 GAA, .845 SV%) and Mike Mantua (3.38 GAA, .878 SV%) once again split time in net with Foster giving up 4 goals on 23 shots and Mantua giving up 2 goals on 21 shots in relief.

Saturday, in front of 3,587 Lawson Rowdies, the Broncos won their first game in 5 tries. Mantua, who earned CCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors this weekend, let in only one goal, made 27 saves, and scored the final goal of the game to lead the Broncos to victory. "In a young career I think that was a career game for him right there," said Culhane. "I think both teams played really well, I think the difference in the game was Mike Mantua." Mantua's goal was the first goalie goal in team history, the second in CCHA history, and the fifth in college hockey history. Freshman Brent Walton scored 1 goal and had 1 assist, and Lucas Drake assisted on 2 Bronco goals. For the bulldogs Derek Nesbitt scored their only goal with assists from Jeff Legue and Troy Milam.

To update on the captains of the team, Dana Lattery will continue to be out of the line-up for the Broncos while he nurses a broken hand. "He's been skating all along, can't play obviously with the broken hand, but he's been on skates all along," said Culhane. Dana added about his recovery time, "I'm kind of going for the Colorado College series but, maybe sooner, maybe later, it's a hard thing for me right now." Paul Davies, WMU assistant captain, was hit with a game misconduct on Saturday after a hit from behind on FSU's Matt York. Per NCAA rules Davies will have to sit out the Broncos next game versus Niagara.

The Purple Eagles of Niagara will be playing its third straight game against a CCHA foe when they face-off with WMU this Saturday. The previous two games were with perennial CCHA power Michigan State at Munn Arena. Niagara is coached by David Burkholder who is in his second season as top man behind the bench. Junior defensemen Nick Kormanyos and Dave Hominuk are the team captains and senior forward Bernie Sigrist is assistant captain.

Burkholder's team was able to upset the Spartans of MSU with a 2-1 win in game one of the series. Barret Ehgoetz led the charge with the game-winning goal and assisted on Joe Tallari's power play goal. Rob Bonk played all 60 minutes in goal for the Purple Eagles stopping 25 of the 26 shots he faced. In game two of the weekend things went quite different for both teams as MSU won 5-4 in overtime. Rob Bonk was pulled from the net after the first period and giving up two goals to Jim Slater. Niagara was able to finish regulation with a 4-4 tie after Bernie Sigrist and Joe Tallari each scored third period goals to even the scoring up. The Niagara comeback lasted only 3:53 when Brock Radunske was able to play hero for MSU, winning the game for the Spartans.

The top scorer on Niagara's team right now is Junior Joe Tallari with 13 goals and 7 assists in just 11 games so far this season. Tallari currently leads the nation in goals and has scored 2 hat tricks this season. Other top scoring on the team is from Sophomores Barret Ehgoetz and Matt Ryan who have 12 and 8 points respectively. Junior Rob Bonk (3.02 GGA, .890 SV%) is the top goaltender having played in 8 games, but is backed up by freshman Jeff VanNynatten (4.32 GGA, .857 SV%) with 6 games of experience. This is a very young team with 10 freshman, and only 2 seniors.

Niagara scores an average of 3.2 goals per game while giving up 3.7 goals per game. On the power play the Purple Eagles convert 18.2% of their chances while holding opponents to just 13.6%. The team averages 6.9 penalties for 15.4 minutes per game at this point in the season.

Jim Culhane gave his thoughts on the Niagara team. "Any time you are able to go into Michigan State and get a split you catch the attention of our program and programs across the country. They have so very talented players, we were just looking at some tape [earlier], we will get our selves prepared this week and put all our energies into Saturday's game." Culhane also gives his thoughts on the six-game home stand the team is in the middle of. "Well I think with the support we've been getting [at Lawson] especially on Saturday it's outstanding. Again to see that student section filled from end to end, and having 13 people short of a sellout, we just need to get 13 more people in [Lawson]. It's tremendous, the support we get here at home from the student body and from the community is something that we cherish, that we're thankful for, and we need to encourage for everyone to come out and support the Broncos."

This is the first time the Broncos will have faced Niagara since they swept the Purple Eagles in the 2000-'01 season. The Broncos are 3-1 all time versus Niagara and are 12-3-2 in non-conference action over the last three seasons. This Saturday's game is the second game in a six-game home stand that includes 3 non-conference games and lasts until December 20 when WMU makes the trip to Colorado College.

This weekend's game is Saturday November 23 at 7:05pm at Lawson ice Arena. The game can be heard on the Bronco Hockey Radio Network led by COOL101 WQXC (100.9fm), and on internet broadcast at www.wmubroncos.com. Tickets for the game are available at the WMU Ticket Office, at 1-888-4-WMU-TIX, and at www.wmubroncos.com.

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