Ponto's First Goal A Big One

Another weird goal leads to a key come-from-behind conference win for the Western Michigan University hockey team (10-12-1, 8-7-0), which defeated its second straight ranked opponent in No. 14 Miami University (14-9-2, 8-7-0).

Sophomore Mat Ponto's netted his first career goal on an end-over-end shot that slipped over MU's netminder senior David Burleigh to tie the game, barely five minutes later WMU grabbed the lead and the 3-2 win.

"It's been about two years since I scored a goal," Ponto said. "It's just nice to get it out of the way."

Just as in the previous victory against the No. 8 University of Michigan, freshmen Vince Bellissimo played inspired hockey, netting two goals, including the game winner 5:09 after Ponto's tally. The center from Toronto, Ontario now holds the sole possession of team goals (11) and has three two-goal games, each in one-goal Bronco victories.

More importantly the WMU defense held the RedHawks to just 18 shots on the game, its second worst total of the year. MU stands at 0-4-0 when failing to clear 20 shots.

"They've had a lot of shots on goal in the last few games," Ponto said. "We knew if we kept them to the outside and cut down the shots we could get the win."

Sophomore Mike Mantua finished with 16 saves on the night and improves his record to 7-8-0. Bellissimo started the scoring as a Bronco penalty kill ended. The rookie center picked off a MU pass in its own zone and beat Burleigh's glove side, firing his 10th goal under the crossbar.

"(Dana) Lattery scared the crap out of the (MU) defensemen and he just passed me the puck," Bellissimo said. "All the credit goes to Lattery." The first period ended with a 1-0 Bronco lead but with the shot total dead even at 12.

Through the second period both teams tied up the neutral zone only allowing three shots each with no goals in the second period. However, a late Bronco penalty would prove costly.

With just seconds left in the WMU penalty the RedHawks notched a power play goal 1:00 into the third. MU took control of the play for the next few minutes and eventually took a 2-1 lead 4:56 into the third. Mantua made the original save but his momentum drove him into the net giving the RedHawks the one-goal advantage.

Less than four minutes later senior Ben Gagnon, broken nose and all, found Ponto inside the blueline on the right side. Ponto's shot found the back of the net and pulled the Broncos even at two.

Momentum had shifted and the Bronco pressure picked up. Another loose puck bounced onto a Bronco stick and began a three-on-zero breakaway. Sophomore Jeremy Cheyne timed his pass perfectly and slid it across the goalmouth to a waiting Bellissimo. Cheyne's ninth assist puts him in a three-way second place tie for helpers (Drake, Cousineau).

"My confidence isn't too high shooting the puck," Cheyne said. "I just thought I'd give the puck to a guy that's shooting really well right now." MU pulled Burleigh with 41 seconds remaining but failed to get a shot on net and the Broncos sealed its third win in the last four games. WMU and MU square off again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Lawson Ice Arena.

BRONCO NOTES: Bellissimo now has four goals in two straight games…2,646 fans were in attendance…The win marks the third victory over a ranked opponent (Ferris State, Michigan, Miami)…MU has lost six consecutive road games…Friday's game was also freshmen goaltender Scott Foster's birthday (21st).

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