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December 2, 2012

Broncos sweep Northern Michigan: 4-2, 1-0

After a week off, the 10th ranked Western Michigan Broncos returned to action at home against the Northern Michigan Wildcats this weekend. It was the Broncos first two game home series since sweeping Canisius in the middle of October, and the Broncos picked up right where they left off.

On Friday, WMU played outstanding defense, limiting the Wildcats to a mere 12 shots on goal. However, after a scoreless 1st period, NMU found a pair of goals in the first 4 minutes of the 2nd period. The first was an awkward pair of bounces on a shot from Wade Epp. The shot ricocheted off a Bronco skate, then off Jake Johnson and between Bronco goalie Frank Slubowski's legs. The second goal was the result of a Dan DeKeyser mis-step that led to a 2-on-1 breakaway. Ryan Daugherty beat Slubowski to make it 2-0.

WMU would call a timeout after a Brett Beebe penalty about a minute after that. That timeout seemed to turn the tide of the game. Said Bronco head coach Andy Murray, "We had to play with more edge and more physicality. We had to refocus."

Boy did they.

Following the timeout, Chase Balisy pressured a cleared puck down the ice that Wildcat goalie Jared Coreau misplayed. Balisy was able to control the loose puck and slide it in for his 2nd short-handed goal of the season. It was the first time a Bronco player has scored 2 short-handed goals since 2008-09 when three players did it (Ian Slater, Patrick Galivan, and Sean Weaver). Said Balisy on his "knack" of scoring "shorties", "I just try and put pressure down ice. A couple weekends ago Dane (Walters) found me, and tonight I just put some pressure on (Coreau) and he made a mistake."

Later in the 2nd period, the Broncos would capitalize on their first power-play attempt. Kenney Morrison's one-timer from Dennis Brown would tie the game at 2. It was Morrison's 3rd goal of the season, with all 3 coming in the month of November. Morrison seems to have found his stride in replacing former Bronco defender, and loaded stick, Matt Tennyson.

"Tennyson was a good player. He had a wicked slap-shot. I just came in here as a freshman looking to work hard and earn a spot on the power-play and work on my slap-shot."

Morrison wasn't done providing scoring however. In the 3rd period, the Broncos again were on the power-play. Another rip from Morrison found it's way to the net. However, Coreau was able to stop the shot, but the rebound fell right to Dane Walters. Walters would lift it into the net and WMU had a 3-2 lead. The Broncos would seal the game roughly 8 minutes later with an empty net goal from Chase Balisy, his 5th goal of the season, to make it a 4-2 final.

On Saturday, the Broncos and Wildcats would play a defensive battle, with Coreau and Slubowski the stars of the battle. After a first period, in which WMU outshot Northern 15-2 and Wildcat assistant captain CJ Ludwig got a game misconduct for a vicious hit on Ben Warda, the Broncos would get their first "normal" goal of the series.

Trevor Elias, known for his speed, picked up a loose puck in the corner, and skated back towards the middle. Despite having a defender on his shoulder, Elias was able to flick a back-hander past Coreau's stick-side to give the Broncos a 1-0 lead 5:36 into the 2nd period.

The next 34+ minutes would be a battle however. The Broncos were caught being overly aggressive a few minutes after the goal, and sent 3 players to the penalty box in a span of 49 seconds. Despite the Wildcats getting 5 shots on the ensuing 5-on-3 PP, the WMU penalty kill held and the 2nd period ended 1-0. However, the Wildcats had recorded 9 SOG in the period, more than any 2 previous periods of the series combined.

The third period would be more of the same of the 2nd. Intense, physical play ruled the period, and both teams got plenty of opportunities, but Coreau and Slubowski held their nets. The Wildcats were able to get a few good looks with an extra attacker at the end, but the Broncos burned out the clock to hold onto a 1-0 victory. It was the first CCHA shutout since beating then #1 Ferris State on the road 3-0, and the 2nd shutout of the season.

Frank Slubowski, the star of Saturday's 1-0 win, addressed his play on the weekend after his shutout performance.

"(I had a) below average game (Friday), for sure. I would love to have that 2nd goal back. But I rebounded, got a lot of support, and had a good game (Saturday). We want to win a championship, and we will keep improving towards that...Every team in this league is competitive. To shut a team out, we need good defensive sacrifice, and we battled hard and got the (shutout) win."

The Broncos now will face defending CCHA regular season champion Ferris State in a top 5 battle in the CCHA standings. Ferris State returns a decent core of players from the squad that lost in the National Title game last season to Boston College. Both games are at 7:05 pm and are on Friday and Saturday. Make sure you get there early, as both games this weekend were sellouts, with attendance at 3,850+ both nights.



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