Western Michigan hockey
Western Michigan University’s hockey team has been making headlines and defying expectations in recent years, becoming a powerhouse in the college hockey world. This once underdog team has risen to prominence, making it to the NCAA tournament for the past three seasons and winning their first-ever Frozen Four appearance in 2021. At the heart of this success is the leadership of head coach, Andy Murray, who has built a dynasty in the making at Western Michigan. Let’s take a closer look at how this team has achieved such success and what the future holds for the Broncos.
Rising from Humble Beginnings
Western Michigan’s hockey program may not be as well-known as some of the bigger schools in the country, but it has a rich history and a dedicated fan base. The Broncos began their journey in 1973 as a Division II team and then moved up to Division I in 1985. It wasn’t until 2010 that they made their first NCAA tournament appearance, eventually falling to Boston College in the first round. However, that experience set the foundation for the team’s future success.
The Rise of Coach Andy Murray
In 2011, Andy Murray, former NHL coach, took the reins of the Western Michigan team. With his impressive resume and experience, expectations were high for the program’s future. As it turns out, those expectations were not unfounded. In his first season, Murray led the Broncos to their first-ever CCHA Championship, which they won against heavy favorites, Miami University. Since then, Murray has continued to lead the team to new heights, boasting an impressive winning record of 208-138-50 over 10 seasons.
The Importance of Recruiting
One of the key reasons for the Broncos’ success is their recruiting strategy. Murray has a keen eye for talent and has been able to bring in high-caliber players to the team. In 2020, Western Michigan had eight players drafted by NHL teams, a testament to the caliber of talent that the program is attracting. Murray also places a strong emphasis on recruiting players that fit into the culture of the team and have a strong work ethic. This combination of talented players and a strong team culture has helped propel the Broncos to success on the ice.
The Role of Team Environment
Team chemistry is often an underrated aspect of a team’s success. But for Western Michigan, it has been a crucial factor in their rise to prominence. The Broncos have a small-town feel, with players often living close to campus and spending a lot of time together. This closeness has fostered a strong bond between players, leading to a supportive and winning team environment. Murray has also cultivated a culture of hard work and accountability, which has contributed to the team’s success on the ice.
The Impact of COVID-19
The 2021 season was unlike any other, with the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacting college sports. Despite the challenges and uncertainty, Western Michigan continued to excel on the ice, with a 19-6 record and a spot in the Frozen Four. This is a testament to the resilience and determination of both the coaching staff and the players, who were able to overcome the obstacles and continue to push forward.
What Does the Future Hold?
With such a strong foundation and an impressive track record, it’s safe to say that Western Michigan’s hockey program is on the rise. Coach Murray has signed a contract extension through the 2024-2025 season, demonstrating his commitment to the team and the university. The recruiting pipeline is also looking bright, with talented players committed to joining the team in the coming years. It’s clear that the Broncos are not stopping anytime soon and will continue to make waves in the college hockey world.
Western Michigan’s hockey program has undergone a transformation in recent years, going from an underdog team to a dominant force in the NCAA. The leadership of Coach Andy Murray, along with a strong recruiting strategy and team environment, has paved the way for the team’s success. With the future looking bright, Western Michigan is undoubtedly a dynasty in the making, and only time will tell what this team will achieve in the years to come.