Western Michigan gets its first taste of Central Collegiate Hockey
Association action as it heads to South Bend, for a Friday/Sunday series
with the No.7/8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Friday’s game is set for
7:35 p.m., while Sunday’s puck drop will be at 5:05 p.m.
The Broncos head into conference play fresh off a bye week. WMU is in
the midst of a three-game winning streak after sweeping Canisius on Oct.
19 and 20. WMU shutout the Golden Griffins 3-0 in the first game of the
series. Frank Slubowski made 21 saves while WMU picked up goals from Josh Pitt, Jordan Oesterle and Mike Cichy. Saturday WMU needed a late goal from Trevor Elias but the Broncos also held Canisius to just 14 shots on goal.
Western Michigan leads the all-time series 40-32-8 over the Fighting
Irish. The Broncos went 2-1-1 last year against Notre Dame, including a
shootout win. WMU is 5-3-2 in its last 10 against their neighbors to the
southwest and have outscored Notre Dame 29-19, including 20-6 in the
Chase Balisy, Shane Berschbach and Dennis Brown
lead all Broncos with seven points against Notre Dame. Balisy has
netted a team-high five goals in eight games and also has tallied two
assists. Berschbach has two goals and five assists in seven games, while
Brown has one goal and six assists in eight games. Trevor Elias and Dane Walters each have four points in their careers. WMU goalie Frank Slubowski played in all four games last season and posted a 2-1-1 record with a 1.96 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.
SCOUTING THE FIGHTING IRISH
Last week was opening week of CCHA play, with only WMU on a bye week.
Notre Dame sits alone at the top of the CCHA standings after week one
after they were the only team to sweep their competition. The Fighting
Irish made the tough trip up to Marquette and swept the nationally
ranked Northern Michigan Wildcats with wins of 5-2 and 3-2.
Despite the eight goal outburst last weekend, Notre Dame ranks in the
middle of the pack in offensive output, 27th nationally, at 2.83 goals
per game. The usual suspects are at the top of the stat sheet for Notre
Dame. Anders Lee leads all scorers with five points through six games,
while T.J. Tynan is right behind him with four points on two goals and
four assists. Including those two, six different players have netted two
goals on the season. Sophomore Robbie Russo is the top scorer from the
blue line with a goal and two assists so far this season.
Defensively is where the Fighting Irish have stood out so far this
season. Through six games Notre Dame has surrendered just 10 goals,
averaging 1.67 per game and sixth best in the country. Last season saw
consistent switching of Mike Johnson and Steven Summerhays in net. So
far this season Summerhays has seen the lion’s share of the minutes,
starting in five games and playing 298 minutes. Summerhays has a 4-1-0
record with a 1.61 goals against average and a .938 save percentage to
go with one shutout. Mike Johnson did recently make his season debut in
Saturday’s 3-2 win at Northern Michigan. Johnson, who appeared in 26
games total last season, made 26 saves in the win.
The Fighting Irish have capitalized on just three of their 27 power play
opportunities (11-percent) but have shutdown opposing teams with just
two goals in 29 tries (93.1-percent).
THE BEST OFFENSE IS GOOD DEFENSEMAN, OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT
Chinese ruler Mao Zedong is famously quoted with saying “the best
defense is a good offense.” For the Broncos, the best offense has been
its good defensemen. WMU’s Dan DeKeyser, Garrett Haar and Jordan Oesterle
have scored five of the team’s 11 goals so far this season. Haar and
DeKeyser are the only Broncos to have scored more than one goal so far.
WMU’s defensive core has also combined for nine of the team’s 22
assists. Senior defenseman Luke Witkowski has registered three helpers so far in four games, to tie Mike Cichy for the team lead. Total, defenseman are responsible for 14 of the team’s 33 points, or 42.4 percent of the team’s office.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
With WMU’s trip to Notre Dame, so begins the Broncos’ final season of
play in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. WMU has been a member
since the 1973-74 season and joined the Division I portion of the CCHA
for the 1975-76 season.
Unfortunately for the Broncos they have no possible way to finish the
season with a total conference program record above .500. When factoring
in the two Division 2 season, the Broncos have an all-time CCHA record
of 429-509-109. At the Division I level it is 416-507-108.
ANDY MURRAY VERSUS THE NATION’S BEST
Notre Dame is the first nationally ranked opponent the Broncos have faced this season. Under second-year head coach Andy Murray the Broncos have a 13-8-4 record against teams ranked in the nation’s top 20 and an 8-5-2 record against teams in the top 10.