Andy Murray retired after the 2020-21 season, ending a 40-year coaching career that included 16 NHL seasons and a 10-year run at Western Michigan and leaving the program’s future in question.
But under first-year coach Pat Ferschweiler, the Broncos not only advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years, they won in the opening round for the first time in school history, advancing to the regional finals.
WMU won 26 games for the first time since 1995-96, earning Ferschweiler a three-year extension earlier this week, but his job will be harder in 2022-23 as the Broncos lost all of their top five scorers plus goalie Brandon Bussi, who turned pro after his junior year.
View From the Glass takes a look at Western Michigan in Part VII of its seven-part NCHC Snapshot series:
NCAA TITLES: None.
COACH: Pat Ferschweiler (second season, 26-12-1, .679).
2021-22 RECORD: 26-12-1, 14-9-1 NCHC (fourth place); lost in first round of NCAA Tournament.
RINK: Lawson Arena (3,667), Kalamazoo, Mich..
MIAMI VS. WESTERN MICHIGAN IN 2021-22: 0-4.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Western Michigan leads, 75-72-13.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: At Western Michigan – Nov. 4-5; At Miami – March 3-4.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Cole Gallant, F Jamie Rome, F Jason Polin, F Max Sasson, F Jamie Rome, D Cedric Fiedler.
KEY NEW FACES: F Barrett Brooks, F Cole Burtch, G Will Hambley, D Samuel Sjolund, F Jack Perbix.
KEY LOSSES: F Ethen Frank, D Michael Joyaux, D Ronnie Attard, F Drew Worrad, F Josh Passolt, G Brandon Bussi.
NOTES: Western Michigan may have set a two-decade high in wins last season, but it must address several issues if it hopes to return to the top echelon of the NCHC again in 2022-23.
Most importantly, the Broncos have no clear stud in net entering this season. Will Hambley posted a .929 save percentage and a 1.96 goals-against average in the MJHL, but the NCHC is a major step up.
Wisconsin transfer Cameron Rowe finished with an .861 save percentage with the Badgers in 2021-22, and Kirk Laursen – who transferred from Miami – did not play a minute with the RedHawks last season.
Both of WMU’s top points-producing defensemen are gone, but four juniors – Aidan Fulp, Cedric Fiedler, Jacob Bauer and Daniel Hilsendager – have all played extensively and key the Broncos’ blueline corps.
Up front, Jason Polin returns after finishing second on the team in goals with 16. Like Cole Gallant, he notched 26 points in 2021-22. Max Sasson and Luke Grainger are the only other double-digit points-producing forwards back.
Until recently, Miami led the all-time series, but the RedHawks are 0-7-1 in their last eight meetings with WMU.