Western Michigan Solves Miami to Reach Final
by Zach Helfand/CHN Reporter
DETROIT In just a period and a half, Western Michigan’s Greg Squires did what the last four teams to play Miami could not. The senior forward scored twice and carried the Broncos into their second consecutive CCHA Championship game.
After a sweep at the hands of Michigan on Feb. 4, the red-hot RedHawks didn’t lose another game entering the CCHA semifinals against Western Michigan. During that eight-game winning streak, Miami could count its goals against on one hand:
The Broncos scored six on Friday in a 6-2 victory.
“I watched the tape of Miami against Michigan State,” said Western Michigan coach Andy Murray. “Michigan State had gone down after 11 seconds in the hockey game, so we knew that it would be imperative to get off to a strong start.”
And the Broncos did. In a rematch of last year’s CCHA Championship game, Western Michigan dominated from the opening whistle, and jumped out to an early 2-0 lead late in the first period. The victory avenged last year’s loss to Miami as well as a sweep at the hands of the RedHawks
earlier this season.
The Broncos outplayed Miami in nearly every facet of the game. They outshot Miami: The Broncos fired 36 shots on Knapp and his replacement Cody Reichard, compared to Miami’s 21.
They outworked Miami: Before Squires’ second goal that gave Western Michigan a 3-1 lead, he collected the puck in the corner and passed to junior defenseman Luke Witkowski on the near post. As Witkowski made several to force the puck past Knapp, Squires skated from the corner,
around the back of the net and beat everyone to a loose puck in the crease. With patience, he forced Knapp to commit, then easily flipped the puck in for a goal.
They even out-lucked Miami. During a power play in the first period, Miami defenseman Cameron Schilling waited for a puck that a teammate sent along the boards, when it hit something on the ice. The puck skipped over Schilling’s stick, and Broncos forward J.J Crew chased it down for a goal.
Fittingly, Squires, a senior, was the one to pace Western Michigan. He has endured two dismal seasons his first two years — including a last-place finish his sophomore year — and three different coaches in four years.
It was unusual, though, for Squires to power the Broncos’ offense. Squires, who had two goals, had scored just six the entire season. And freshman forward Will Kessel, who also tallied two goals, had scored just four.
Afterward, Murray emphasized that although Squires and Kessel aren’t typical goal scorers, he still expects them to score. He also took a rare moment to honor Squires.
“I don’t congratulate too many individual player on things because I’m all about team,” Murray said. “But Greg Squires got his 100th point tonight, and that’s pretty special.”
After the game, Squires reflected on what a second consecutive appearance in the CCHA Championship game meant for Western Michigan. The senior had endured three coaching changes and a dismal first two years.
“This is huge for us,” Squires said. “We talked all year long where we came from, how (we were) a bottom-of-the-barrel team to where we are now. We’re happy right now like coach said, but we have one more tomorrow. Then we’ll be happy.”