Quick OT goal lifts Western Michigan past Northeastern for Broncos' first NCAA tourney win
There was overtime and a video review needed for Western Michigan to win the first NCAA tournament game in their program's history, but neither took very long and the Broncos are moving on.
WORCESTER, Mass. -– In this era of seemingly endless video reviews and overtimes by the dozen, Friday’s Worcester Regional opener was a refreshing change.
Yes, we needed more than 60 minutes and a check of the video review to determine that Western Michigan beat Northeastern 2-1 in overtime. But the extra session took just 93 seconds for the Broncos' Luke Grainger to slip a wraparound shot just over the goal line, thwarting what initially looked like a ridiculous save by Northeastern goalie Devon Levi. And the review, to confirm that Grainger’s shot had completely crossed the red line, took even less time.
The end result was the first-ever NCAA tournament win by the Broncos (26-11-1) who will play either Minnesota or UMass on Sunday for a spot in the Frozen Four.
“I thought that was exactly what NCAA hockey should look like,” said Broncos coach Pat Ferschweiler, who is in his first season behind the bench for his alma mater.
Levi finished with 34 saves in the loss for the Huskies (25-13-1). Not to be out-done, Broncos goalie Brandon Bussi stopped 30, only missing on a close-in shot by Northeastern star forward Aidan McDonough with 3:20 to play in regulation.
Northeastern, renowned for the work of Hobey finalist goalie Levi which powered them to a Hockey East regular season title, needed him in the opening period. They went nearly 10 minutes without a shot on goal and had to kill two penalties in the frame. Western took the lead on a seeing-eye rocket by top line winger Cole Gallant, whose shot hit the upper corner behind Levi before the goalie could move.
Luke Grainger gives @WMUHockey their first ever NCAA Tournament victory on this wrap around.— EVERYTHING COLLEGE HOCKEY (@TeamECH) March 25, 2022
Levi was SO close from keeping this out of the net.
But the Broncos are moving onto Sunday! #LetsRide pic.twitter.com/zTQYZWc9Q5
The Broncos missed a few chances to build on their lead in the first period, as Levi kept them off the board on two power play opportunities.
“Our power play has been exceptional all year, and we haven’t executed as well as we can in probably the last three to five games,” Ferschweiler said. “There were some half chances in there but nothing great, and that’s a credit to Northeastern.”
Huskies coach Jerry Keefe, also in his first year behind the bench, was philosophical on the abrupt ending to the season, which is a fact of life in the NCAA playoffs.
“They played hard for each other. You get to overtime and it’s usually a bounce one way or another,” he said. “Credit to Western Michigan. They played a good game and they got the bounce in overtime, but that doesn’t take away anything that our group did today.”
Western Michigan 2, Northeastern 1, OT
Western Michigan 1-0-0-1—2
First period — 1. WM, Cole Gallant 9 (Drew Worrad, Ethen Frank), 14:01. Penalties — Ryan St. Louis, NE (cross checking), 15:06; Aidan McDonough, NE (hooking), 17:55.
Second period — No scoring. Penalties — Cedric Fiedler, WM (hooking), 5:17.
Third period — 2. NE, McDonough 25 (Sam Colangelo), 16:40. Penalties — Jayden Struble, NE (slashing), 3:44.
Overtime — 3. WM, Luke Grainger 8 (Unassisted), 1:33. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — WM 11-11-13-1—36; NE 5-10-15-1—31. Goalies — Brandon Bussi, WM (31 shots-30 saves); Devon Levi, NE (36-34). Power plays — WM 0-of-3, NE 0-of-1. Referees — Brendan Blanchard, Chris Leavitt. Linesmen — Brendan Lewis, Matt Terreri. Att. — NA.