Special to The Sun
WENTZVILLE, Mo. —
A rematch with a scrappy Lindenwood Lions team provided the UCO Bronchos a stiff challenge Saturday night. Craig McAlister’s young, battered squad rose to the occasion, needing an empty-net goal from freshman Brandon Harley in the closing minutes to secure a 4-3 victory at the Lindenwood Ice Arena.
The Lions (0-2) came in to their opening weekend ranked No. 1 in the country. After dropping an overtime loss to the Bronchos (4-2) the previous night, Lindenwood came out firing early on a powerplay goal by Cody Barra early in the first period. Nolan Hopkins was able to tie the game 1-1 for UCO on their own powerplay chance.
The Bronchos responded with fire. Despite losing forwards Nolan Grauer and Brandon Gorges to injury the previous night, UCO fired off two unanswered goals beginning seven minutes into the second, courtesy of defenseman Michael Wall beating goalie Kirk Croswell off the feeder from Shane Khalaf. Freshman Jordan Bledsoe put UCO ahead four minutes later to send the Bronchos to the third with a 3-1 lead.
Lindenwood pulled within one in the third following a powerplay goal by Stephen Bopp, however when Lions coach Rick Zombo pulled Croswell for the extra attacker in a bid to tie the game and send it to overtime, Harley’s empty net goal gave UCO an insurmountable 4-2 lead with 1:06 left. Even a final Lions goal with 36 seconds remaining was not enough to keep the Bronchos from securing their first series sweep against Lindenwood in the school’s history.
Tory Caldwell stopped 34 of 36 shots in net for the Bronchos for a .919 save percentage. Croswell blocked 13 of 17 shots.
UCO has a short rest before they hit the road again, travelling to Springfield, Ill., for three games at the annual ACHA Division 1 Showcase, where they will face Stony Brook, Davenport and Western Michigan.