Five minutes left in the CCHA championship game, the high-powered Michigan offense is bearing down on your defense down only one goal, and your goalie is a freshman.
Western Michigan goaltender Frank Slubowski stepped up and shut down the hungry Wolverines to win the CCHA championship 3-2 Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, the Broncos’ first since the 1985-86 season.
Slubowski, who was a member of the CCHA All-Rookie Team, had a shutout going into the third period. Michigan scored twice, including a short-handed goal from Kevin Clare and a power-play tally from Lee Moffie. Michigan had all the momentum, but Slubowski remained calm and didn’t let anything faze him.
Michigan forward Luke Glendening said he thought Michigan had a chance with the major penalty called to Western Michigan’s Ian Slater.
“We thought we could actually do this,” Glendening said. “We thought we had a legitimate chance of coming back, but things just didn’t work out.”
Slubowski made save after save and paralyzed Michigan’s attack. He made Michigan have to be perfect with its opportunities Saturday night, finishing with 27 saves.
“He played good. I think he is like 21 and he’s done a good job this year,” Glendening said. “For a freshman to step up and do that kind of thing, hats off to him; he played great.”
Slubowski came into the championship game with a lot of confidence after a 6-2 win against Miami on Friday, where he also was flirting with a shutout.
He was the only freshman goalie to be ranked in the top 10 in the CCHA playoff goaltending leaders, ranking third in goals against average. He also ranked sixth in saves and save percentage.
With his stellar play in the CCHA semifinal and championship game he earned the Best Goaltender and Most Valuable Player awards for the CCHA tournament. He outshined Michigan’s senior goalie Shawn Hunwick and improved to 17-10-4 heading into the NCAA tournament.
Western Michigan coach Andy Murray was proud of his goalie.
“When you have a good goalie you’ve got a good chance of being a good coach,” Murray said. “The bottom line is Frank gave us outstanding goaltending.”
He made excellent saves, showing his talent and pure flexibility by stretching from post to post. He made plenty of saves with the blocker, but he also might have saved the game with a great glove save. In all, he held the high-powered offenses from Miami and Michigan to just two goals apiece.
He has sprung some momentum heading into the NCAA tournament and Western Michigan’s program moving forward.