Western Michigan comes into Yost this weekend with a first round bye in the CCHA Playoffs and a possible NCAA tournament berth on the line. The ultra-impressive Broncos, picked to finish 10th in both preseason polls, come into this weekend in 4th place in the CCHA, three points ahead of Ferris State. They're tied for 15th in the PWR and are 16th in RPI.
Here are ten things to know about the team from WMU:
1) This past weekend, the Miami RedHawks snapped Western's 14-game unbeaten streak. Over that span, they swept Union, Alaska, and Northern. They did go 3-3 in shootouts during that unbeaten streak.
2) Their leading scorer is freshman Chase Balisy, who has 11-16--27 in 32 games. Senior Max Campbell leads the team in goals with 13. Amazingly, those are the only two 10-goal scorers. (Then again, that's 2 more than they had last season.) They do have four more guys with exactly 7 goals and six guys total with 15+ points. Greg Squires is averaging almost an identical amount of points per game as he did last year. Last year he led the team in scoring, this year he's fourth.
3) JJ Crew has missed some time this year and has just 1-6--7, but he was their second-leading scorer last year. He hails from Placentia, CA, the same city that gave us Scooter Vaughan. What are the friggin odds that two guys from a city in California that spans 6.6 square miles would face off against each other in a college hockey game in Michigan? He has 1-3--4 in six games against Michigan, to lead all Broncos.
4) Riley Gill is gone. Senior Jerry Kuhn is 8-2-6 with a 2.05/.919. He ranks 10th in the country in GAA. Sophomore Nick Pisellini is 7-5-4 with a 2.38/.899. Pisellini, a transfer from Quinnipiac, was the man in the early going but has been banged up and hasn't played since mid-December. Kuhn has stepped in and is playing far-and-away the best hockey of his career. He owned a career record of 4-19-7 prior to this year. He doesn't have a decision against Michigan, but gave up 2 goals in one period of action back in his freshman season. He's got a 6.00 goals against and a .857 save percentage against Michigan. The best goals against in WMU history is 2.58, so what Kuhn has done this year is really impressive.
5) The Broncos defense has been really solid. During a 6-game stretch in late-January/early-February, Kuhn faced 20, 24, 23, 18, 15, 20 shots. They're giving up 25.1 shots per game for the season.
6) They've owned the third period, outscoring their opponents 32-15 despite shots on goal being almost identical. They've given up 100 more shots than they've taken in the first period, but have outscored their opponents by a pair. So their goalies have had to be good right out of the gate.
7) Freshman forward Shane Berschbach is one of those 7-goal scorers. He has 7-14--21 in 29 games, but has been out since February 4th with an injury. He was projected to miss 3-6 weeks, so I don't expect to see him this weekend. He had 10 points in his last 8 games before he got hurt.
8) Western is 34th in offense and 9th in defense. The power play is only 15.9% (42nd nationally), but defenseman Matt Tennyson has 6 of his 7 goals with the man advantage. For a team as good as they are defensively, the PK hasn't been all that good. They're 34th, at 81.2%. (Michigan is 33rd at 81.2%.)
9) This is the first time since 2002 that these teams have both been ranked when they've played. Michigan is 3-1-1 in the five matchups all-time between ranked Michigan and WMU teams. We catch a break with both games being at Yost instead of the usual home-and-home. Western is 11-3-3 at home, but are just 4-4-7 on the road. This is the first time WMU will finish above .500 since 01-02. Gotta think that Jeff Blashill will get some votes for CCHA Coach of the Year.
10) Carl Hagelin has 6-6--12 in 8 games against WMU. His 12 points matches the amount of points that the WMU team has in their careers against Michigan. Caporusso has 4-5--9, Rust has 3-5--8, Burlon has 1-5--6, and Wohlberg has 3 goals in five games. Bryan Hogan is 5-0-0 with a 1.46/.932, but Shawn Hunwick has never faced the Broncos.
Friday's game will air on Comcast 900 and will be replayed Saturday at noon on the NHL Network. Saturday's game is on Fox Sports Detroit. I'll be trying to avoid Twitter and, really, the internet, on Friday night so I can watch the game on tape delay.