KALAMAZOO, Mich. - As anticipated, Western Michigan wasn’t ready to call it a season.
Dawson DiPietro iced Sunday’s game with his second of the night straight out of the penalty box. Kristian Blumenschein hustled back in time, but DiPietro wound and fired a perfect shot off the crossbar and in for the final goal of a 5-2 Broncos victory.
The Tigers had allowed a goal or less in three straight, all wins, but got caught watching early, and lost battles and turned the puck over throughout.
If they don’t win Monday’s deciding Game 3, they’ll be watching from home.
“I’ve seen this team play harder than they did tonight,” coach Mike Haviland said.
“Now it’s do or die.”
The Broncos scored twice in a span of 2:42 late in the second period. Colt Conrad, fourth in the league in scoring, banged home his own rebound in the crease and gave his team a 2-1 lead.
Then WMU captain Corey Schueneman skated up the middle and buried a feed from Conrad.
Bryan Yoon got one back for the Tigers with 12 seconds left in the period. The conference all-rookie selection held onto it at the point for a second, then wristed it through traffic.
Austin Rueschhoff ensured Yoon’s goal didn’t give anyone funny ideas, restoring the Broncos’ two-goal lead 1:44 into the third period when he was left alone in front of the net. Cam Orchard kicked the puck out to the sophomore and he beat Alex Leclerc (35 saves) high stick side.
“It’s just too easy of a goal,” Haviland said.
No. 13 Western Michigan, the second-highest scoring team in the NCHC, became the first team since, well, Western Michigan to score more than two on the Tigers. The Broncos accomplished the feat Feb. 22, eight games ago.
The game’s start was nearly identical to the previous night’s. Western Michigan (21-14-1) showed up on time and nearly benefited from a lucky bounce as Leclerc went to retrieve a puck behind the net but it never made it there and sat in the crease. A Bronco pounced but it went high.
Seconds later, DiPietro took a feed from Wade Allison and unleashed on Leclerc. The Broncos made it 1-0 eight seconds earlier than they did Saturday.
“You knew they were going to push,” Haviland said. “They took it to us. We need to make sure we’re ready to play right from the drop.”
The third-seeded Broncos’ frantic energy wore out before they could do more damage and the sixth-seeded Tigers (16-18-4) controlled play for the last few minutes of the period.
Troy Conzo chased the puck behind the net and banked it off Trevor Gorsuch’s (25 saves) back and in to tie the game early in the second period.
St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Duluth and Denver all swept their opponents and are waiting for the winner of this series to complete the Frozen Faceoff bracket. Whoever it is will have even less time to prepare.
Colorado College can represent the lower seeds in St. Paul.
“They’ll respond. I know that. They have all year,” Haviland said. “Nobody in that room is ready to be done, it’s as simple as that.”