ST PAUL, MN (WKZO) – Western Michigan rode the momentum of their first CCHA championship in 26 years to St. Paul Minnesota, but fell short in their opening NCAA game to a tough North Dakota team, 3-1.
The Sioux scored first at the 6:04 mark of the opening period. Western killed a pair of penalties in the opening period, holding North Dakota scoreless on the man advantage. Bronco netminder Frank Slubowski was under immense pressure from the onset, blocking 9 shots in the first frame and finishing the game with 25 saves.
North Dakota added to their lead in the second at the 3:16 mark of the period. Kyle O’Kane scored Western’s lone goal in the contest to cut the lead in half. The momentum of the second period belonged to Western Michigan, out-shooting North Dakota by 3 in middle frame, but could not find the back of the net.
The power play, usually a strong point of Western Michigan’s offense, let them down today. The Broncos failed on 2 attempts on the man advantage, only getting 2 shots on goal with the extra skater. Western finished with 25 shots on goal, North Dakota finished with 28.
North Dakota sealed the win in the third period with an empty net goal with :25 to go in the game. They advance to tomorrow’s regional final round to play the winner of Boston U and Minnesota.
The loss ends Western Michigan’s magical season, and a career for the ages for 5 seniors. Those seniors have played for 3 coaches in the past 3 years. They have taken their program from the bottom of the barrel to 2 straight CCHA championship appearances, 2 straight NCAA tournament appearances, and in Andy Murray’s first year at the helm, earned the program’s first CCHA championship since 1986. J.J Crew, Ian Slater, Kyle O’Kane, Derek Roehl and Greg Squires are all household names to WMU hockey fans, and their careers and contributions to their team will not soon be forgotten by the Bronco hockey family.
Watch the full post game press conference here, including comments from senior forward Kyle O'Kane.