KALAMAZOO, MI – The NAIT Ooks men's hockey team came up short as they fell to the Western Michigan University Broncos 6-1 on Saturday night at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo.
The Ooks found themselves trailing early in the game after Brett Van Os scored on the power play off a feed from Drew Worrad. The Broncos had the early momentum as they pushed the Ooks on their heels for the opening five minutes.
The Ooks responded as they stole back the momentum, hemming the Broncos in their end for the next five minutes. The teams then evened out, exchanging pressure back and forth. Then at the 15:16 mark of the opening frame, Austin Rueschhhoff swatted a rebound out of the air from in front of the net to beat Brendan Jensen and put the Broncos up 2-0.
In the second period, the Ooks found themselves on the penalty kill early as Tyler Kunz took an interference penalty. It was NAIT who would capitalize though, Ryan Piche elected to shoot instead of pass on a two on one beating Brando Bussi to bring the Ooks within one. Rueschhoff responded less than two minutes later, scoring his second of the game on a slap shot from the slot, which steamed over Jensen's glove, putting the Broncos up 3-1, which is how the second period ended.
In the third period, NAIT once again found themselves in penalty trouble allowing two powerplay goals along with one even-strength goal. Final score Broncos 6, Ooks 1.
"We lost to an extremely strong team. We showed a lot of grit and compete, and were able to play with them for 40 minutes. Our goalies both played exceptional tonight as well," said head coach Tim Fragle.
"On a negative note, we lost the special team battle. They poked holes in our game, which gives us some things to take away and work on. The last three goals left a bit of a sour taste; it didn't exactly depict the way the game went."
NAIT Goaltenders Brendan Jensen and Jordan Papirny both played a period and a half. Jensen made 21 saves on 24 shots, while Papirny made 25 saves on 28 shots. Both goaltenders played stellar making impressive saves, but the firepower of the #14 ranked Western Michigan Broncos reigned supreme.
"Overall, it was a good trip. I think it is important to make these trips. We can give NAIT and our hockey program global exposure in places we normally wouldn't. The Broncos were great hosts and already invited us back again next year," said Fragle.
The Ooks will now head back to Alberta, where they will open up their season in Calgary against the SAIT Trojans on Friday, October 11th, at 7:00 pm. NAIT will then host the Trojans in their home-opener on October 12th at 6:00 pm.