Junior forward Dana Lattery’s second career hat-trick and 26 saves from sophomore goaltender Mike Mantua helped Western Michigan win its third straight contest and complete a sweep of Miami, 4-1, at Lawson Ice Arena.
Lattery’s team-leading 13th goal of the season at 7:08 of the third period sealed the victory for the Broncos (11-12-1, 9-7-0 CCHA). The Cochrane, Alb., native deflected a shot in front of the net from Dave Cousineau past senior goaltender Dave Burleigh while on the power play to continue Miami’s struggles on the road. The RedHawks (14-10-2, 8-8-2) are now winless in their last seven contests away from Goggin Ice Arena.
Lattery gave credit to his backstop for the victory.
“He’s the difference in the game right there,” said Culhane of Mantua. “We rely on Mike a lot, our defensive game is not the best, but we rely on him to make the big save, and he did, making a lot of big saves tonight. He was definitely the difference in the game.”
A poor effort by Miami special teams allowed WMU to make its scoring opportunities count, despite being outshot 27-16, including a margin of 17-6 in the second period. Sophomore forward Pat Dwyer tallied his fifth goal of the season, the game winner, while shorthanded at 11:11 of the second period. Burleigh stopped a shot by junior forward Jeff Campbell, only to have Dwyer put the rebound back into the net. WMU leads all CCHA teams with seven shorthanded goals.
The RedHawk power play, ranked second overall in the CCHA coming into the series, finished the weekend 1-for-16 with the man advantage, including an 0-for-10 mark Saturday.
Freshman forward Vince Bellissimo continues to play well, recording two assists on the night for six points in his last three games.
Despite praising Mantua’s play, WMU head coach Jim Culhane is still worried about his team’s undisciplined play.
“A great performance by Mike [Mantua],” Culhane said. “Mike is absolutely the difference in the game. Until we can get things shored up with being undisciplined at times, he’s going to have to play that way. It could cost us home-ice for the playoffs, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves, and we’ll be pretty upset if that’s the case.”
“We talked about it, again, after the game. It’s very redundant; late in the game, the difference was the penalty kill and the goaltending performance of Mike Mantua. Being undisciplined is going to cost us. It’s very unfortunate, it’s very frustrating, and we’ll continue to talk about it as a team. Again, we got to get it cleaned up.”
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “We, including myself, can’t be taking penalties at the end of the game, even if we are up 4-1. There is no excuse for that. We have to take care of that problem because it is going to kill us.”
The Broncos took the lead early for the second consecutive night. Lattery blasted a shot past Burleigh from the right boards at 1:31 to put WMU up 1-0.
The RedHawks bounced right back following the goal when sophomore forward Vince Pulera put home a rebound, his seventh goal of the season, past a sprawling Mantua at 2:27 of the first period to tie the game at 1-1.
Miami turned up the heat offensively following the first intermission, but couldn’t keep the pressure on long enough to prevent Lattery from scoring his second goal of the contest. While breaking in on Burleigh, Lattery grabbed his own rebound and deposited it glove side of Burleigh at 15:13 of the second period to give WMU a commanding 3-1 advantage.
The RedHawks had no match for the size advantage of the Broncos up front, and Lattery knew it.
“They’re a young team with a bunch of freshmen playing, and we knew we had to wear them down,” said Lattery. “We also knew they weren’t playing well on the road, so we just did what we had to do to wear them down.
“Tonight, we could have got away without playing physical, but we said ‘hey, we have to come play physical, that’s how Bronco hockey is played, and that’s how we’re going to win,’ and we did that.”
In order to continue their winning streak, the Broncos clearly know where they need to improve.
“We need to get better on the road,” said Mantua. “We need to take the leadership we’ve been getting the last couple games and bring it to the road games. We haven’t been too successful there yet, but I think we have a good start now.”
WMU heads to Alaska-Fairbanks next weekend for a two-game set, while Miami hosts a pair against Ferris State.