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Broncos best season in 15 years ends in double overtime

by Adam Bodnar

March 27, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of WMU hockey Broncos.
Hockey Broncos earn respect with best season in 15 years
GREEN BAY, Wis.--Western Michigan University's Bronco hockey team fell in a double-overtime thriller to Denver, 3-2, in an NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinal contest Saturday night at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

WMU led 2-0 on goals by Derek Roehl and Trevor Elias with five minutes left to play in the third period before Denver stormed back, scoring twice in regulation to tie the contest and the game-winner at 11:14 into the second overtime period.

Bronco goalkeeper Jerry Kuhn made 35 saves in his final collegiate game, while Denver's Sam Brittain made 30 saves in the win.

A busted play led to WMU drawing first blood at the 13:17 mark in the second period. Kyle O'Kane poked the puck near the Denver net. A miscommunication between Denver's goalie and a defenseman led to Ben Warda getting a shot on goal, and Roehl punching in the rebound for his fourth goal of the season. Warda tallied his fourth assist of the season, and O'Kane notched his 10th.

WMU took a 2-0 lead just 3:32 into the third period as Elias knocked in his own rebound to tally his sixth goal of the season. The play was created when Greg Squires intercepted a pass and found Elias in the left circle. Elias' first shot went high and was saved by Denver's Brittain, but he couldn't control the rebound, and Elias punched it in. The assist was 20th of the season for Squires.

Denver cut the lead to one with 4:29 remaining in the third period on a power-play goal by Kyle Ostrow. The game-tying goal for Denver came with 2:36 left in the period after Matt Donovan blasted one past Kuhn's shoulder. Jason Zucker banged in his own rebound for the game-winner in double overtime.

WMU finished its best season in 15 years with a record of 19-13-10 and ranked 10th in the nation. The Broncos took fourth place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association after a last-place conference finish one year ago, defeated Michigan, 5-2, in the CCHA Tournament semifinals, and earned their first berth in the NCAA Tournament since 1996.

Denver entered Saturday's contest ranked fifth in the nation and advanced to the regional final today against No. 1-ranked North Dakota, which is the only surviving No. 1 seed from the four regional tournaments. Of the other top seeds, CCHA champion Miami lost, 3-2, to New Hampshire; defending national champion Boston College lost, 8-4, to Colorado College; and Yale lost, 5-3, to Minnesota-Duluth.

Update (March 28) The Central and Western Collegiate Hockey associations are the only conferences represented in this year's Frozen Four. Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota from the WCHA, and Michigan and Notre Dame of the CCHA will play April 7 and 9 in St. Paul, Minn., for the national title.

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