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The Western Michigan University hockey team (15-17-2 overall, 13-12-1 CCHA, 5th-tied) closes its regular season with a home-and-home series (March 7-8) versus Michigan State University (19-13-2 overall, 15-10-1 CCHA, 4th) starting Friday in Kalamazoo. Faceoff on Senior Night from Lawson Arena (3,667) is 7:05 p.m. Saturday's tilt from Munn Arena (6,470) in East Lansing begins at 7:05 p.m.

WMU has traditionally played well against MSU at Lawson Arena. Since the 1995-96 season, WMU owns a 6-2-1 mark, out-scoring MSU 27-17. At Munn it's been a different story, as the Spartans are 10-0-3 against the Broncos over the past nine seasons.

All-TIME: MSU leads, 50-22-6
@ WMU: MSU leads, 20-16-1
@ MSU: MSU leads, 26-4-5
STREAK: ND (2-0-0)

LAST YEAR'S SERIES

Western Michigan-Michigan State split a home-and-home series last season (Jan. 11-12, 2002). The Spartans posted a 6-3 win at Munn in the opener, putting 40 shots on goal. Adam Hall earned No. 1 Star honors with three points (2-1). WMU responded with a 2-0 win the next night before 4,575 fans at Lawson Arena on "Blackout Saturday."

Jeff Reynaert made 24 saves during the shutout effort and became WMU's starting goaltender the rest of the season.

WMU'S LAST FIVE

March 1, 2003 — UND 5, WMU 2
Notre Dame scored twice in a span of two minutes late in the third period to pin a 5-2 loss on WMU at the Joyce Center. Matt Amado split the Bronco defense for the decisive goal with 6:23 left in regulation. Mike Mantua replaced Scott Foster in goal after the freshman collided with an Irish player in the crease.

Feb. 28, 2003 — WMU 4, UND 2
Dana Lattery provided three assists to lead WMU to a 4-2 win at Lawson Arena before a FOX Sports Net Detroit viewing audience. With the game tied at 2-2 in the third, Lattery assisted Jeremy Cheyne on the game-winning goal off a two-on-one break. Lattery later fed Campbell on an empty net goal to seal the win. WMU was called for a season-low one minor penalty.

Feb. 22, 2003 — WMU 4, BGSU 2
Freshman G Scott Foster made 32 saves to help WMU post a 4-2 win at Bowling Green. Trevor Cook's goal at 10:12 of the third period proved to be the game-winner. BGSU outshot WMU, 34-23, in the series finale between the teams.

Feb. 21, 2003 — WMU 3, BGSU 3 OT
Western Michigan skated to a 3-3 overtime with Bowling Green in a wild open contest that saw 64 shots on goal. After WMU opened a 2-0 lead in the first period, BG rallied for three goals, two coming from Tyler Knight. Dana Lattery's tally at 7:33 of the third forced overtime.

Feb. 16, 2003 — FSU 5, WMU 3
Derek Nesbitt's two-goal night propelled FSU to a 5-3 win and weekend sweep of WMU. Tied 1-1 after one period, FSU scored five straight goals. WMU scored twice in the third period, but couldn't draw any closer despite a 32-26 shot advantage.

SCOUTING MICHIGAN STATE

The Spartans split this past weekend against eighth-ranked Michigan, notching a 4-0 win in Ann Arbor and dropping a close 5-4 decision Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. MSU scored two short-handed goals in the loss to take over the league lead in SHGs from WMU. Rick Comley's squad has turned in a solid second half of the year (11-5-1) after finding themselves in 10th place at the end of December, sporting an overall mark of 8-8-1. In a change from past seasons, MSU's offense is actually overshadowing its defense. The Green & White rank third in overall CCHA scoring (3.62) and sixth in defense (3.06). The Spartans own the conference's best power play at 26.1 percent for all games. John-Michael Liles, the league's top scoring defenseman, paces MSU with 16 goals and 41 points. Sophomore Jim Slater stands second in scoring (13-24-37), but did not play last week because of injury. Matt Migliaccio has been solid in his first season (2.59 GAA, .915%), posting four shutouts. Comley owns a 616-488-73 record in 30 seasons of collegiate coaching.

PLAYOFF SCRAMBLE

With four teams tied for fifth place in the CCHA, the battle for home ice is still murky. Amidst the many possible scenarios, the following items are known for sure: *Despite being tied with Northern Michigan, Notre Dame and Western Michigan with 27 points, Alaska Fairbanks is on the road for the playoffs because of the first tie-breaker — they have fewer league wins.

*If WMU wins one game this weekend, it will host a first round series.

*A WMU sweep would catapult the Broncos into fourth place.

*The second tie-breaker is head-to-head results. WMU loses out against Northern Michigan and Notre Dame, but does hold the advantage over Miami. The CCHA's top six teams, in order of regular season finish, will host a first round best-of-three game series, starting next week (March 14-16).

A TRIPLE IN THE WORKS?

Freshman C Vince Bellissimo is in position to challenge for the CCHA rookie scoring title — a feat accomplished in back-to-back seasons by the Broncos Pat Dwyer (2002) and Jeff Campbell (2001). Bellissimo trails Jeff Tambellini of Michigan by three points, having totaled 25 points (14-11) in 25 games. Bellissimo has compiled six points in his last four games, registering a goal and five assists.

CULHANE ON THE MICHIGAN STATE SERIES

"It all comes down to this weekend in our quest for home ice. Michigan State is a very talented team, one of the elite programs in the CCHA. They have good quickness and skilled forwards up front. We're facing a huge challenge this weekend, but I know the guys will be excited to play before a large home crowd on Friday and then at their place Saturday."

BRONCO NOTEBOOK

The first encounter of the season between Western Michigan and Michigan State also marks the first meeting in 13 months … should WMU record a win this weekend, it would mark a seven-year high for conference victories … the Broncos are looking to host a first round series for the second straight year … WMU drew a sold out crowd of 4,326 last Friday versus Notre Dame, even though spring break had started that day. It was the second largest attended game at Lawson this season. The Broncos are averaging 3,044 fans after 17 home dates … the Brown & Gold are tied for the fourth-most home wins (11) in the CCHA … Vince Bellissimo was awarded WMU's second penalty shot of the season Friday versus Notre Dame. His attempt was turned away by Morgan Cey … RW Dana Lattery saw his points streak end at eight games Saturday, which was a team season-high. He occupies 15th place in overall league scoring (18-14-32) … freshman G Scott Foster is unbeaten in his last three contests … WMU regained the services of RW Pat Dwyer and D Mat Ponto last weekend. Dwyer had missed four games and Ponto three contests because of injuries … seven Broncos will play in their final regular season game at Lawson Arena Friday: D Josh Akright, D Dave Cousineau, LW Ben Gagnon, LW Brent Rumble, C Shaun Rose, D Andy Townsend, D Rob Yamashita. Five of the seniors have played in 100 or more games … Western Michigan stands fourth in conference scoring, averaging 3.35 goals in 26 league games.

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