Western Michigan finished fourth in the NCHC and its veteran-heavy team was poised for a big postseason, but COVID shut down the Broncos’ aspirations.
While WMU lost its top four scorers, it still has plenty of talent left from that 2019-20 team to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth.
And the Broncos have added 11 freshmen to complement their returning corps.
Part VII of our seven-part, NCHC opponent snapshot series focuses on the Broncos.
WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS
NCAA TITLES: None.
COACH: Andy Murray (10th season, 157-144-40, .519 winning percentage).
2019-20 RECORD: 18-13-5 (12-9-3 NCHC, fourth place).
RINK (capacity): Lawson Arena (3,667), Kalamazoo, Mich.
MIAMI VS. WESTERN MICHIGAN LAST SEASON: 0-3-1.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Western Michigan leads, 70-68-12.
2020-21 SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: At Miami – Jan. 2-3; At Western Michigan – Jan. 8-9; At Western Michigan – Feb. 26; At Miami – Feb. 28.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: G Brandon Bussi, F Paul Washe, F Ethen Frank, F Cole Gallant, D Michael Joyaux, D Ronnie Attard.
KEY NEW FACES: F Chad Hilldbrand, F Jarred White, D Cedric Fiedler, D Aidan Fulp.
KEY LOSSES: F Hugh McGing, F Dawson DiPietro, F Wade Allison, F Lawton Courtnall, F Austin Rueschhoff, D Cam Lee, D Luke Bafia, G Ben Blacker.
NOTES: Three skaters that posted at least 20 points do return for the Broncos, including 12-goal scorer Paul Washe.
Ethen Frank and Cole Gallant finished with 20 points each, and Rhett Kingston, Drew Worrad and Josh Passolt are also back after contributing offensively in 2019-20.
On defense, Michael Joyaux – younger brother of former RedHawks Chris and Matt – returns after going 2-15-17, and Ronnie Attard, a Philadelhia draft pick, led the team in blue line goals with six.
Scooter Brickey, Jared Kucharek and Kale Bennett also return to the Broncos’ blue line.
In net, Brandon Bussi went 18-12-4 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .910 save percentage, and the other two WMU goalies in 2019-20 were seniors.
OJHL product Austin Cain and the CCHL’s Alex Aslanidis will compete with Bussi for time in net.
The Broncos will need to improve their penalty killing to improve their chance at success. They were No. 52 in the NCAA on the PK at just 76.8 percent.
Western Michigan flipped the all-time season series vs. Miami, going 3-0-1 in the team’s four meetings. The RedHawks had long held an advantage over the Broncos, but WMU is now two games better than MU.