Feb. 28, 2000
KALAMAZOO -- For the first time in three years, Western Michigan University's hockey year will extend beyond the regular season as the Broncos have clinched a berth into the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament (10 out of 12 teams qualify).
"I'm obviously pleased that we have made the CCHA Tournament," said Coach Jim Culhane. "That has been a goal of ours since the first day of practice. It's a big step in the growth of our program."
With its playoff opponent still unknown, WMU will focus on Ferris State this week (March 3-4) as the regular season comes to a close. The Broncos travel to Big Rapids, Mich., on Friday before hosting the Ferris Bulldogs Saturday on Seniors' Night. Saturday is also KOHA Appreciation Night. Youth players wearing their team jerseys will receive free admission.
WMU is 11-18-3 overall and 9-14-3 in the CCHA (10th place). The Broncos have an opportunity to move up in the conference standings in the final weekend. They trail both Bowling Green and Miami (tied for 8th place) by two points. However, WMU would likely need to sweep the series with Ferris (19-13-2, 12-12-2 CCHA) to overtake Bowling Green or Miami.
Ferris and WMU split a two-match series earlier this season. Western Michigan dealt a 7-3 blow to Ferris on Dec. 3 in Kalamazoo before the Bulldogs responded with a 6-0 victory in Big Rapids. WMU leads the all-time series, 49-29-6, posting a 20-16-3 mark on the road and a 26-12-3 ledger at Lawson.
Says Culhane, "Ferris is having another fine season and is especially strong in goal with Vince Owen and Phil Osaer. Our games with them are always hard-fought and very close, and I expect the same again this weekend."
The Bulldogs are coming off a bye week. Senior Brian McCullough has a team-best 39 points on 20 goals the latter being a league high for all games. Kevin Swider (14-15-29) and Chris Kunitz (15-7-23) are also in double figures for goals. Phil Osaer sports the fifth-best goals-against average in the league (2.25), with Vince Owen not far behind at 2.83. Head Coach Bob Daniels owns a 105-138-20 coaching mark in eight seasons.
Possible first-round playoff opponents for WMU are Michigan, Michigan State, and Northern Michigan. The Broncos will play a best-of-three-game series at one of those schools, March 10-12.
Bronco hockey can be heard on the Bronco Radio Network (Flagship station WFAT-96.5 FM Kalamazoo), and via broadcast.com on the Bronco Web site <www.wmubroncos.com>.
The CCHA Office announced last week that its annual awards banquet will be held on Thursday, March 16, at the historic Fox Theatre in Detroit. Several Broncos could be in line for league recognition based on strong seasons. WMU is the only CCHA team with two players among the top five in conference scoring. Junior David Gove is in the thick of the scoring race with 38 points, four behind leader Mike Comrie of Michigan and two back of Michigan State's Shawn Horcoff. Gove also shares the top spot in goal scoring, with 16 in conference action. Sophomore Mike Bishai ranks fifth in conference scoring with 30 points and is second in power play goals (10) for all games. Freshmen David Cousineau and Ben Gagnon are strong candidates for all-rookie team honors. Cousineau stands fifth in rookie scoring with 19 points in 26 league games while Gagnon is ninth with 16 points.
Western Michigan's power play has generated 40 goals this season, an improvement of 22 percent over last year's total of 31. The Broncos' 18.9 percent success rate ranks third overall in the CCHA.
Six seniors will be appearing in their final home game on Saturday: Matt Addesa, Daryl Andrews, Caley Jones, Jeff Lukasak, Jason Redenius and Corey Waring.
Jim Culhane celebrates his one-year anniversary as head coach Friday at Ferris State.
In action last weekend, WMU recorded a 7-3 win over Lake Superior
State (Feb. 24) before a national
television audience on FOX Sports Net. The Lakers responded with a 6-3 win on Feb. 25 to even the season series at 2-2-0.
Media contact: Daniel Jankowski, 616 387-4122; firstname.lastname@example.org
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