KALAMAZOO – Broncos fans can exhale deeply now that Friday’s game is over.
The Western Michigan Broncos (10-8-3, 4-5-0 NCHC) completed the comeback victory against NCHC conference foe, the #13 Miami Redhawks (9-8-2, 3-6-0 NCHC), by a score of 5-4, after Nolan LaPorte scored a shorthanded goal with 8.3 seconds remaining in the third period.
While killing a five-minute major penalty, Nolan LaPorte crashed the net to bang home a Balisy rebound with 8.3 seconds left in the third period; the crowd erupted as the Broncos celebrated LaPorte’s goal. Kenney Morrison received an assist on LaPorte’s sixth goal of the season.
Balisy spoke about LaPorte’s energy, both in games and in practice, saying “everyone feeds off him, it’s always positive.”
LaPorte wasn’t the only Bronco to get in on the action with a man down. Western Michigan captain Chase Balisy recorded his third career shorthanded goal in the third period, giving him a total of three points (1g, 2a) for the night.
Balisy evened the game for the Broncos with a shorthanded, breakaway goal 3:06 into the third period. Nolan LaPorte recorded the single assist on the play, and the Broncos gained momentum after feeding off of the crowd’s energy.
After the game, Head Coach Andy Murray praised his captain.
“He’s our captain for a reason, because he does everything right,” Murray said. “I think there is a correlation between doing things right all the time in your life and having success and being rewarded, and he got rewarded tonight.”
“These are the best games to play in especially against a team like Miami,” Balisy said. “They play you hard, they play you tough, like we do, and it’s always fun to play a team like yours.”
Frank Slubowski took over for Lukas Hafner in the second period and recorded the win for the Broncos in net. Slubowski tallied 13 saves on the night.
“It’s a situation now where we have two capable goaltenders and when one guy maybe isn’t on his game, we’re going to get the other guy in there,” Murray said. “You believe in all your goalies, but it is a performance-related sport and you have to get the job done. I felt Lukas, who played great for us in the GLI, was not as good tonight as he needed to be.”
Miami’s scoring was highlighted by sophomore Sean Kuraly, who recored two goals for the Redhawks. Livonia native Riley Barber chipped in with a goal and an assist, and freshman Justin Greenberg recorded his first collegiate points as he had two assists in a losing effort.
Miami amped it up in the second period and retook the lead with 7:25 remaining when Sean Kuraly scored his fifth goal of the season. Jimmy Mullin and Anthony Louis assisted on the goal. Frank Slubowski took over in net for the Broncos after Miami’s third goal on 11 shots.
But the real story tonight was the Broncos and their resiliency, which Murray spoke to after the game.
“It was an intense game, it was fast,” Murray said. “They have a bunch of warriors on their team, and our team really plays hard. It was a man’s game tonight.”
Friday night’s game had five different lead changes and neither team lead by more than a goal. The first period ended tied, 1-1, but the Broncos held the shot advantage, 19-5.
After Balisy tied the game, Josh Pitt split the Miami defense for his eighth goal of the season to give to Broncos the lead with about 14 minutes to play. Pitt scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Michigan in the Great Lakes Invitational at Comerica Park two weeks ago.
Kuraly tied the game for Miami with 6:18 left in the third period, giving way to LaPorte’s game-winning goal. Alex Wideman and Barber received assists on Kuraly’s second goal of the game.
Prior to puck drop, Shane Berschbach was honored after he received his 100th career point in a Bronco uniform earlier in the season. The Clawson native has 102 career points after Friday’s game.
The Broncos look to sweep the weekend series against former CCHA and current NCHC opponent, and Murray hopes to see a great crowd for what he expects to be a great game.
“It’s going to be the same type of game tomorrow, tooth and nail,” Murray said. “I hope this place is jammed pack tomorrow night, because I think both teams deserve that type of support. Our student section was great, our crowd was great, but I would like to see it even more rocking tomorrow night.”