The Western Michigan Broncos will open up the Three Rivers Classic tournament facing the Colgate Raiders at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 28. The Broncos are coming into the tournament with a record of 7-8-1, but their record may not indicate their true potential.
The Broncos are coming off of a successful home series against Colorado College as they returned to NCHC play on Dec. 12 and 13. In the first match-up, freshman forward Frederik Tiffels scored two goals, including the overtime winner, to lead Western Michigan to a 3-2 overtime win. The following night was a tight defensive battle, as goaltender Lukas Hafner turned away 24 of 25 shots in a 1-1 tie. Following his performance in WMU’s Colorado College series, Hafner was named Bauer NCHC Goaltender of the Week. This was the second time this season that Hefner received this honor. Throughout the weekend series, he stopped a total of 43 of 46 shots and allowed just one five-on-five goal in the series.
Prior to the Colorado College series, Western Michigan traveled to South Bend, Indiana where they came up as 2014 Shillelagh Tournament Champions. Western Michigan opened the tournament with a convincing 6-2 win over former CCHA rivals Ohio State. In the championship game, WMU trounced the defending NCAA national champions Union, 8-2. In that game, the Broncos jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period on goals by Nolan LaPorte, Colton Hargrove, J.T. Osborn and Sheldon Dries. LaPorte finished off his first career hat trick with a pair of power-play goals in the second period. The 6-foot, 186-pound junior is also tied for fourth in the nation with five power-play goals. Justin Kovacs had five assists in the game and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The senior forward has tallied 14 assists in 14 games, good for the fifth most assists in the nation. Hafner made a career-high 40 saves in the win and WMU’s power play went 5-of-10. Tiffels, LaPorte, Hafner and Kenney Morrison were also all named to the All-Tournament Team.
Head coach Andy Murray is in the midst of his fourth season with the program. Prior to being named the sixth coach in program history, he had been the head coach of both the St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings. Murray has many coaching accomplishments under his belt, which also includes coaching beside Penguins head coach, Mike Johnston. The two have coached Team Canada as a duo on several occasions.
Author: Taylor Duncan