For the second straight year, Western Michigan is one and done in the NCAA Hockey Tournament.
North Dakota goals by Michael Parks (Philadelphia Flyers) and Corban Knight (Florida Panthers) were too much for the Broncos to overcome and Brock Nelson (New York Islanders) added an empty netter as the Broncos lost to UND 3-1 in the first game of the 2012 West Regional. Aaron Dell made 24 saves while Kyle O'Kane scored Western Michigan's only goal.
North Dakota got off to a fast start which resulted in Parks' goal 6:04 into the game on a wraparound; his third consecutive game with a goal. The Broncos settled down afterwards but were unable to solve UND's aggressive forecheck and defense and ended the period down a goal.
They came out better as the second period began, putting up the first five shots on goal, but Knight muted Western Michigan's offensive attack when he knocked in a rebound for his 16th goal of the season. Kyle O'Kane got Western Michigan on the board with 7:03 left in the second after receiving a breakout pass from Derek Roehl and shooting the puck past Aaron Dell to cut North Dakota's lead to 2-1.
"I saw a little gap off the draw, and took it. Derek hit me and the goalie’s glove was a little down. I didn’t try to make a move or anything," said O'Kane.
The Broncos nearly tied the game at 2 a couple minutes later but a potential goal by Ian Slater was waved off after the net came off its pegs before the puck crossed the line. It was initially ruled a no-goal on the ice and upheld after a review and ended up being the best chance WMU had as the second winded down.
"I actually haven't seen (the no-goal call). The referee wanted to come over and give me an explanation, and I just waved him away, because what are you going to do? We just wanted to keep the game going," Western Michigan coach Andy Murray said. "College referees talk to the coaches way too much."
North Dakota were caught back on their heels towards the end of the second and beginning of the third period but their defense continued to move bodies out of the way and cut down the number of rebound chances for Western Michigan. They also turned a Broncos power play that led the CCHA into an afterthought as WMU went 0-3 with the man advantage and ended up being the aggressor in the final five minutes.
Despite one last chance with the goalie pulled, Nelson was able to score from the far side of the North Dakota bench to put the game on ice.
North Dakota now awaits the winner of Minnesota-Boston University later today to play tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. local time for a berth in the 2012 Frozen Four in Tampa.
For more on the West Regional, be sure to check out this storystream throughout the tournament for updates on the road to Tampa. You can also follow SB Nation Detroit for the Western Michigan perspective and SB Nation's NHL hub for a national college hockey perspective.