Western Michigan defeated Bowling Green State, 2-1, Saturday night at Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Seniors Mike Leone and Luke Witkowski each tallied a goal for the Broncos (14-6-4, 10-4-2-1) ending BGSU’s (8-11-5, 5-8-3-1) six game unbeaten streak.
“It was an intense game, like every hockey game is,” WMU Head Coach Andy Murray said after the hard fought game. “They are a great rival and play hard. They have quality players and are well organized as a team.”
“I like the structure that their coaches have brought to their game. Compliments to them, and compliments to our guys too. We challenged our guys in our morning meeting to elevate their game; we were disappointed with the result last night, and certainly this has a much better feeling to it.”
WMU split the weekend series with BGSU with each team winning on their home rinks respectively. The four points earned by WMU propelled them into a first place tie in the CCHA with Notre Dame after the Fighting Irish got swept by Alaska.
Witkowski, a tri-captain, did not seem fazed by being in first place at this point in the season.
“I don’t think it really matters, what matters is where we are at the end,” said Witkowski. “We will go to practice and work hard and prepare for Michigan this upcoming weekend.”
BGSU struck first on Ryan Carpenter’s tenth goal of the season. At the 12:35 mark in the first period, Rusty Hafner, cousin of Bronco goalie Lukas, took a shot from the point that created a lot of traffic and Carpenter was finally able to knock the loose puck in.
The Broncos would rally and tie the game at 15:47 in the second period on the power play. Mike Cichy saucered a pass
cross-ice that found Witkowski who wristed it from the right circle past Andrew Hammond for his second goal of the season, and seventh of his career. Five of his seven career goals have come against Ohio schools.
“We’ve talked about that play before,” said Witkowski, a Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick. “I actually found Cichy in
practice earlier this week the same way. I just got in the hole and [Justin] Kovacs had a big screen and it went in.”
Both teams came out very physical in the third period. Leone eventually scored the game-winning goal on a backhander that beat Hammond between the legs. Both Justin Kovacs and Ben Warda tallied assists on the play.
“Bowling Green is a hardworking team, and they definitely competed through all three periods today,” Leone said. “We just focused on taking pucks to the net which makes us a hard team to play against. The puck was in the corner and I just tried to throw it in front and sure enough it went in. It was a big goal for our team.”
The Broncos did not make it easy on themselves to hold onto the lead. WMU took two penalties late and the Falcons had a five-on-three power play opportunity but the Broncos fought them off to earn the win.
“The 5-on-3 was a big kill,” said Witkowski. “We had three of our captains out there and I think we did a pretty good job. We really battled until the end. I think we did a solid job all night.”
WMU would finish the night 1-6 on the power play but 5-5 on the penalty kill. Coach Murray was very pleased with his team’s effort on the ice.
“We scored a huge goal on the power play and we killed all of the penalties,” said Murray. “I would say that’s pretty good.”
WMU goalie Frank Slubowski made 18 saves en route to the third star of the game.
The Broncos will be at home on Friday and Saturday at Lawson to play host to rival University of Michigan. Friday’s game will start at 7:05 and Saturday will start at 7:35 due to both games being televised.