Western Michigan had some lingering resentment toward Colorado College. The Broncos converted it into a victory with a four-goal third period.
The Tigers dispatched the Broncos in three games last spring in Kalamazoo, Mich., becoming the first National Collegiate Hockey Conference quarterfinals lower seed to advance since 2015 and ending WMU’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
CC was flying in the second period but ceded that momentum to Western Michigan in the third, dropping its conference opener 6-3 at The Broadmoor World Arena.
“I think it’s time to really look at ourselves in the mirror as a team,” redshirt senior Chris Wilkie said. “Looking back at all these games, we’ve had the lead and it comes down to bearing down.”
Nick Halloran, who missed last Friday’s game with a lower-body injury, started the scoring early in the second period. Bailey Conger sprung him, he went in alone and slipped the puck behind goaltender Brandon Bussi.
Thirty-four seconds later, Andrew Gaus hit trailer Zach Berzolla, who ducked around a Bronco and snapped one past Bussi (31 saves). It didn’t look like it came from a stay-at-home defenseman that had scored just once in 80 previous games at CC.
Wilkie had been sniffing around the net all night, as he does, and took advantage of the extra ice when the teams were 4-on-4. Wilkie forced a turnover at the blue line, kicked the puck around a bit on a breakaway and beat Bussi low glove side to make it 3-1.
He had a game-high seven shots on goal. Colorado College could have used a few more conversions because the Broncos weren’t done. For the second time in five games, CC led 2-0 and 3-1 before its opponent came storming back.
Jason Polin scored his first career goal for the Broncos before the end of the second period.
“It’s a goal that should not go in and it’s a goal that we’re standing next to the guy,” CC coach Mike Haviland said. “We never got it back.”
Dawson DiPietro, who scored twice against the Tigers in that playoff series, tied the game 5:33 into the third period. Paul Washe soon gave the Broncos the lead, finding the puck as it pinballed around the slot.
“We just gotta figure out a way to match that intensity coming out for the period when we have a lead,” Wilkie said.
Drew Worrad added his second power-play goal of the night as the penalty kill went 3-of-5. The Tigers were roughed up in the faceoff circle, losing 63%. They have yet to lead in that category this season, and the percentages have gotten progressively worse.
Ryan Ruck (27 saves) was pulled late in favor of Matt Vernon (2 saves), who allowed Josh Passolt’s final goal.
“We just got outworked in front of the net on two of them, for me,” Haviland said. “That can’t happen.”