In the final CCHA regular season matchup, the Western Michigan Broncos lost, 1-0, to rival Michigan State in a game that ended with controversy.
In the final minutes of the game, WMU had a goal waved off. Junior Dennis Brown ripped a shot on the power play that beat MSU goalie Jake Hildebrand, who was screened by tri-captain Dane Walters, but immediately the officials waved it off due to Walters being in the crease. The call never got reviewed on the ice which caused WMU head coach Andy Murray to be very animated with frustration after the game.
“It was an important element,” Murray said. “We just watched it twice; after the puck goes in the net it appears he falls backwards, and he was still a foot from it. He ends up back afterwards, we clearly saw.”
Michigan State’s only goal came at 10:07 on the stick of Anthony Hayes. Hayes found a loose puck, turned, and fired it past the stickless Bronco goalie, Frank Slubowski.
Throughout the game, WMU outshot and out-chanced the the Spartans, but nothing seemed to work for the Broncos.
“I think we out chanced them substantially,” Murray said. “We had [Chase] Balisy and [Luke] Witkowski at the end part of the game. Michigan State played real hard and well. We played hard too; I like how hard we’ve been playing. Unfortunately the goal didn’t stick.”
WMU ended the night going 0-5 on the power play, something Murray believed the team needed in order to pull out a victory.
“I think they did a good job blocking shots,” Murray said. “We had multiple chances on the power play, and we needed them.”
WMU finished the game outshooting MSU, 28-21, and Slubowski made 20 saves, but it was not enough.
With the loss, WMU finished in third place in the CCHA, something Witkowski felt did not matter.
“It’s over,” the tri-captain from Holland, Mich. said. “We didn’t get first place. It doesn’t really matter. We have an extra week to prepare for whoever we have at home for whoever we play. We go right back to work on Monday.”
The Broncos have a week off before they find out who they will play. Barring any upsets, WMU is slated to host Alaska in the second round of the CCHA playoffs on Mar. 15-17 in a three game series at Lawson Ice Arena. Alaska hosts MSU in a first round matchup next weekend.
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