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January 18, 2013

WMU vs BGSU Hockey Preview

When the Western Michigan Broncos take on the Bowling Green Falcons this weekend, it will be the first time of four this season that WMU completes the 2nd half of a series on their season schedule. The lone dual home-and-home series on the Broncos schedule, the Falcons come into the 2nd set of games having finally found some success. BGSU is 4-0-1 in their last 5 games, and 5-1-2 in their last 8 since starting the season 2-9-3. Not to be outdone, the Broncos have also had some success recently as well. After a brief 3 game winless streak to follow their 6 game win streak in early December, Western Michigan is 2-0-2 in their past 2 series.

When these teams first met, the Broncos won the first leg of the home-and-home in a hard-fought 3-1 victory before taking the shootout the next night in Bowling Green in a 2-2 tie. The Falcons showed signs of the fight they had when they made their magical run to Detroit last March in the CCHA, and their head coach Chris Bergeron acknowledged his team's strong showing as a possible chance to jump back into the thick of things in the CCHA. Now it appears his BGSU team is finally putting everything together in time for the 2nd half of the season.

Ryan Carpenter has largely helped carry the Falcon offense this season. Carpenter leads the team in goals and points with 8 and 17 respectively. He gets some help from Dan DeSalvo, the hero from that CCHA run last season, who has 12 assists this season and is 2nd on the team with 14 points. After that a group of Falcon forwards and defensemen have between 10-13 points individually, including Bryce Williamson who is 2nd on the team with 7 goals. Defensively, Bobby Shea and Mike Sullivan lead the blue-line corps with a +11 and +13 plus/minus respectively. They both also have double-digit points, with Sullivan netting a defensive-high 11 assists.

As for as goaltending goes, Andrew Hammond seems to have settled back in as the main starter, having started 16 games and is playing well. He still trails back-up Tommy Burke in GAA with a 2.65 mark, but his .914 save percentage is tops on the team, and he has two shutouts, with one being the first game of the current 5 game unbeaten streak. Still Burke could see time if Hammond struggles in the first game.

For the Broncos, this could be a huge weekend. If Notre Dame continues to struggle, and with Miami on the road in a non-conference series at Wisconsin, Western Michigan could very well either be in 1st place, or inside of a game of the Irish. With a series at home against both the Irish and RedHawks, having an advantage could be vital for giving the Broncos some cushion between their opponents.

Prediction: The Broncos have not beaten the Falcons away from Lawson since 2007, which includes an 0-1-2 mark in Andy Murray's tenure. Still, the Falcon special teams have not played well, only converting 10.8% of their chances and killing only 78.2% of their penalties themselves. Both teams come into this series with some good recent play, but the Bronco offense still isn't consistent enough to say they can take the full 6 points with everything on the line this weekend. BGSU 2-1, WMU 3-1

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