Broncos advance to CCHA championship versus Michigan

Contact: Adam Bodnar
Photo of WMU hockey .

Broncos versus Miami

DETROIT--For the second straight season the Western Michigan University hockey team heads to the CCHA Championship game after a 6-2 win over Miami University Friday night (March 16) at Joe Louis Arena.

In Friday's other semifinal contest, the University of Michigan came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Bowling Green, 3-2, in double overtime.

The Broncos and Wolverines will play for the championship at 7 p.m. today at Joe Louis Arena.

By coincidence, the Broncos faced the same two teams in the 2011 CCHA tournament, defeating Michigan in the semifinals and losing to Miami in the championship game. WMU is making consecutive appearances in the finals for the first time in team history.

In their semifinal match versus Miami, the Broncos rode two-point performances by Matt Tennyson, Dennis Brown, Greg Squires and a three point night by Will Kessel in the win. Kessel netted two goals and added an assist for his first collegiate three-point game. Squires tallied two goals, while Leone and Brown each had two assists. Tennyson had his second straight two-point game with a goal and an assist. WMU goalie Frank Slubowski made 19 saves to earn his 16th win of the season.

WMU took an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Squires at 7:56 in the first period. Tennyson wrapped the puck around to Garrett Haar and the freshman blue-liner took off down the ice. Just as he was getting to the goal line at the Miami end, he fired a pass into the slot and Squires banged it home top-shelf for his seventh goal of the season. Harr tallied his seventh assist of the season, while Tennyson notched his 13th.

The Broncos took a 2-0 lead on a short-handed goal by J.J. Crew at 17:20 in the first. Brown attempted to clear the puck down the ice but it hopped off the board and a Miami defenseman misplayed the puck and Crew was off to the races. He caught up to the puck at the top of the right circle and skated in on CCHA Goalie of the Year Connor Knapp and buried it for his fourth goal of the season.

Miami countered just 50 seconds later to cut the lead to 2-1. Reilly Smith redirected a shot and it bounced off of a Bronco defender and into the net.

WMU pushed the lead back to two goals on Squires's second of the night, which also ended up as the game-winner. WMU was on the power play and Kessel had a shot saved but the rebound popped out into the slot. With Knapp down, Squires waited and put it into an empty net.

Kessel notched his first of the night at 9:47 of the second period for WMU's second of three power play goals on the night. Luke Witkowski fired a wrist shot from the right circle and the puck deflected off the shaft of the freshman forward's stick and into the lower left of the net. Witkowski and Leone each picked up helpers on what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Smith struck again for Miami midway through the third period on a short-handed goal at 10:46. Smith banged in a pass by Cameron Schilling on Slubowski's stick side for his 29th goal of the season.

Kessel struck again just 31 seconds later on a one-timer from Justin Kovacs. Kovacs was racing down the left side of the boards and centered it to Kessel, who beat Miami goalie Cody Reichard.

Tennyson added his power play tally just over two minutes later at 13:58 on a slap shot from the left circle. The goal was a career-high 11th of the season for the junior blue-liner.

The Broncos finished the night 3-for-9 on the power play and held Miami scoreless on three chances. The Bronco defense smothered the Miami offense, allowing just 21 shots, while firing off 36 of their own.

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