After a short break, the Western Michigan hockey team is diving back into NCHC play, with a pair of games at North Dakota on Friday and Saturday. Both games can be watched live on NCHC.tv and heard live on the Bronco Media Network.
The Broncos tallied one point against the Fighting Hawks at Lawson Arena back in December, tying the first contest 2-2 and falling 3-0 in the second contest.
LAST TIME OUT
Western Michigan broke a four-game winless streak with a dominant performance at the Great Lakes Invitational back on Dec. 27 & 28. The Broncos dismantled No. 17 Michigan Tech in the opener, earning an 8-1 victory. In the championship game against Ferris State, WMU secured an 8-2 win, which gave the program its fourth MacInnes Cup.
Jason Polin was named the GLI's Most Valuable Player after notching six goals in the two-game tournament, while Ryan McAllister, Aidan Fulp and Cameron Rowe earned All-Tournament honors.
Against Michigan Tech, Polin kicked things off with a goal at the 6:49 mark, assisted by McAllister and Daniel Hilsendager. The Broncos would carry that one-goal advantage into the second period.
That's where the game broke open, as the Broncos tallied six second-period goals to push in front, 7-0. Polin added two more goals to earn his fourth hat trick of the season, while Cole Gallant had two goals. Wyatt Schingoethe and Jacob Bauer also had goals in the period.
Dylan Wendt continued WMU's good fortune in the third period, tacking on the eighth and final goal of the night.
The following night against Ferris State, Western Michigan didn't show any signs of slowing down, as the Broncos put together another eight-goal performance.
Chad Hillebrand got Western Michigan on the board with a goal at the 9:03 mark of the first period. However, the Bulldogs would answer, thanks to a goal by Kaleb Ergang moments later.
But Polin had seen enough and decided to take control of the game, notching three consecutive goals and earning his fifth hat trick of the year to push the Broncos in front, 4-1, midway through the second period.
Luke Grainger and Aidan Fulp also added goals in the second period. At the same time, Max Sasson and Hillebrand tallied third-period goals to help get WMU to eight goals for second consecutive contest.
Western Michigan has asserted itself as one of the country's top programs in various statistical categories. The Broncos also have a plethora of players among the national leaders.
As a team, WMU leads the country in scoring offense (4.23 GPG), assists (160), and team points (253), while also ranking fifth in scoring margin (+1.36).
Player wise, Ryan McAllister leads the nation in assists per game (1.27) and points per game (1.73). Jason Polin is D1's leader in goals per game (0.86) and hat tricks (5). Additionally, Jamie Rome is fourth in the country in power play goals (6) and Max Sasson is 15th in faceoffs won (235).
McAllister leads the nation in points (38), while Polin is third (30) and Sasson is sixth (28).
THE NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS | 9-8-4
– THE SERIES: North Dakota leads the all-time series 28-10-1, and the Fighting Hawks won in a shootout against the Broncos on Dec. 9 before blanking WMU the following night, 3-0 .
– SCOUTING THE FIGHTING HAWKS: North Dakota enters as one of the hotter teams in the country having won four straight games. The Fighting Hawks have gone more than a month without dropping a game. The Fighting Hawks' last loss came back on Dec. 3 against St. Cloud State.
The 9-8-4 record can be deceiving, as UND has played a strong schedule. Six of its eight losses have come against ranked opponents. If you can pinpoint a reason for the Fighting Hawks' success, take a look at the power play and penalty kill numbers. They rank first in the league in both categories, converting just under 30 percent of their power plays (26/87) and killing off 84 percent of their penalties (64/76).
However, defense has been a problem for North Dakota, with the Fighting Hawks ranking near the bottom of the league in goals allowed per game (3.10) and save percentage (.873). Western Michigan leads the league in goals per game (4.23).
ON THE HORIZON
After the series against North Dakota, the Broncos will remain on the road and head west for two games against Colorado College on Jan. 20 & 21.