Looking back on the regular season and looking forward to Western Michigan’s NCAA Tournament schedule.
Western Michigan Broncos (25-11-1, 14-9-1 NCHC) Ranked #4
The Broncos finished off their regular season with a home series against MAC counterpart Miami. Fresh off being swept by North Dakota, Western Michigan was eager to get back on the right side of the winning column and and the regular season on a high note. The Broncos took care of business, sweeping the RedHawks with a 5-3 win on Friday and a 3-0 shutout victory on Saturday.
The Broncos finished in third place in a very strong NCHC this season. They ended up 10 points behind the leading duo of North Dakota and Denver.
Next up for Western Michigan was the NCHC playoffs. They drew Omaha in the quarterfinal round and once again took care of business, winning the first two games of the three game series to advance to the semifinals. The Broncos loaded up the bus and headed to St Paul Minnesota for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.
In the semifinals, the Broncos met North Dakota, who had just swept them a few weeks earlier. Western Michigan ended up getting the last laugh, taking down North Dakota 4-2 thanks in part to two goals by Ty Glover. The Broncos were on to the Frozen Faceoff finals to play for the NCHC Tournament championship.
In order to win the championship, the Broncos had to defeat Minnesota-Duluth. The season series between the Broncos and Bulldogs was split 2-2, so it was geared up to be a close matchup. Minnesota-Duluth scored the first (and second, and third) goal of the game and never looked back. When the final horn sounded the score was 3-0 in favor of Duluth.
With conference play wrapped up, the Broncos gathered around the TV to find out their NCAA Tournament fate via the selection show. Western Michigan was granted a #1 seed and will be heading to Worcester, Massachusetts to take on Northeastern on March 25th. Northeastern (25-15-1, ranked #12) finished the regular season at the top of the Hockey East standings, but was upset by UConn in the conference playoffs.
If Western Michigan wins their first game they will meet the winner of Minnesota vs Massachusetts. UMass (ranked #10) is the defending national champion, as well as the current Hockey East tournament champion. Minnesota (ranked #5) claimed the Big Ten regular season championship this year before losing to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament championship.
A trip to the Frozen Four in Boston awaits the winner of the Worcester regional.
Bowling Green Falcons (15-19-3, 11-4-1 CCHA)
After hovering around the 0.500 mark for most of the season, the Falcons sputtered down the final stretch of the regular season. After dropping eight of their last nine games, Bowling Green was eager to turn their fortunes around in the CCHA tournament. Their only chance to make the NCAA Tournament was to make a run and win the CCHA tournament to get the conference’s auto-bid.
Bowling Green drew Bemidji State in the quarterfinals, so they loaded up the bus and headed out to Minnesota to take on the Beavers. The Falcons got the three-game-series off on the right foot by scoring the opening goal to take a 1-0 lead on Friday night. The Beavers responded, but Bowling Green netted a third period goal to claim the 2-1 lead.
With a win on Saturday night the Falcons would advance to the next round of the CCHA tournament. Bemidji State had other plans, however, and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Bowling Green clawed back with two consecutive goals, but it was too-little-too-late as the Beavers claimed the 4-2 win. This tied the series 1-1 and set up a Sunday matchup for all of the marbles.
The Beavers struck first on Sunday, but Bowling Green responded early in the third period to tie it at one goal apiece. The tie was short lived as Bemidji State added a goal just a few minutes later to take the lead. They would add another goal in the closing seconds to take the 3-1 win and end Bowling Green’s season.
Miami RedHawks (7-27-2, 4-19-1 NCHC)
It was a rough season for Miami, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few bright spots along the way.
Miami pulled off a big upset (in dominating fashion) over Minnesota-Duluth late in the season. The RedHawks were in control from the first puck drop and rode the momentum to a 4-0 win. Unfortunately the momentum from the upset was short-lived, as the RedHawks followed it up by being swept by MAC counterpart Western Michigan the following weekend. When the dust settled Miami found themselves in last place in the NCHC, although they were just one point behind Colorado College.
Miami drew conference leader Denver in the first round of the NCHC tournament. As the lower-ranked team, they hit the road to travel out to Colorado for the game. It was another tough weekend for the RedHawks, conceding five goals in each game on their way to a pair of losses (2-5 on Friday and 1-5 on Saturday).
With their season finished, Miami will start to look towards the 2022-2023 season.
The RedHawks should be returning their leading goal scorer as forward Matthew Barbolini (10 goals) was just a sophomore this year. Additionally, second leading point getter PJ Fletcher (24 points on 8 goals and 16 assists) was also a sophomore this season.