The nationally 11th-ranked Ferris State University men's ice hockey team stretched its current unbeaten streak in Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) play to 12 straight as senior left wing Blair Riley's (Kamloops, British Columbia) early third-period goal was the difference in a physically-fought 4-2 decision over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Sunday (Jan. 10) afternoon at UND's Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.
The winning ways continue for Ferris State, which not only improves to 16-4-2 overall and 10-2-2-2 in the CCHA this season but also remained unbeaten in its last 12 league encounters with a 10-0-2 mark. The Bulldogs' record to date for the campaign represents the second best in program history, second only to the 1979-80 squad's 17-5-0 start and better than the record-setting 2002-03 team's 16-5-1 record thru its first 22 outings.
Notre Dame overcame a 1-0 deficit late in the first period with back-to-back power-play goals to claim a 2-1 lead following the initial 20 minutes of what was physical play by both teams at both ends of the ice. Ferris State struck when junior left wing Mike Embach (Orland Park, Ill.) tallied his fifth goal of this season and second of the series at the 11:19 mark. Senior right wing Aaron Lewicki (Livonia) picked up a loose puck and proceeded to skate into Notre Dame's where junior center Justin Menke (Shamrock, Saskatchewan) gained possession and fired the puck on Irish goaltender Tom O'Brien. Menke's shot bounced out in front of the crease where Embach was able to bury one into the Irish net. Ferris would relinquish its lead with 6:44 remaining in the period on a Kyle Lawson power-play goal which occurred after his shot from the slot was momentarily stopped but the puck dribbled past Bulldog junior netminder Pat Nagle (Bloomfield). The Irish, who would be outshot 13-10 in the first period, then notched the go-ahead score less than two minutes later as Ian Cole netted a goal on a one-timer from above the right circle with 5:05 to go in the stanza giving the hosts a one-goal lead.
In the second period, Ferris State had a prime opportunity to even the score as Notre Dame was whistled twice for infractions early in the frame to give the Bulldogs a five-on-three skater advantage. Although FSU failed to capitalize on the situation, the Bulldogs managed to record the equalizer 6:53 into the period as freshman right wing Eric Alexander (Kentwood) produced his third of the campaign on a shot from inside the left circle to O'Brien's stick side. Ferris State appeared to take the lead with 8:36 left in the period but a potential go-ahead goal by freshman center Matthew Kirzinger (Leroy, Saskatchwan) was disallowed as a result of a Bulldog in the crease area. Both teams continued their aggressive play the remainder of the period but both netminders came up with some big glove saves as Ferris generated a 14-8 advantage in shots on goal for the period.
The contest didn't stay tied for long in the third period, just 14 seconds into the frame to be exact, as Blair Riley put Ferris State ahead 3-2 as the forward put in a rebound shot during a flurry of action near the Irish goal. Riley chalked up his team-high 16th goal of the season with senior linemates Casey Haines (Indiana, Pa. ) and Cody Chupp (Big Rapids) assisting. FSU potted its fourth score of the game with 15:13 remaining as Cody Chupp netted a backhander top shelf which deflected off the crossbar into the Notre Dame net for his seventh on the season to cap the scoring.
For Ferris, Pat Nagle (7-2-1) recorded 27 saves on the day to receive both victories in the weekend series. Tom O'Brien was dealt the loss for Notre Dame and concluded the contest with 29 stops. Ferris State compiled a 33-29 lead in shots for the contest as 10 different Bulldog skaters notched at least a point.
Ferris State will be at home for the first time in 2010 next weekend, Jan. 15-16, versus the nationally number-one ranked Miami (Ohio) RedHawks in a key CCHA two-game set at FSU's Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids, Mich. The Bulldogs will face off against the RedHawks next Friday, Jan. 15, at 7:05 p.m. (EST) in the opener before the two league clustermates conclude the weekend series on Saturday, Jan. 16, with the puck scheduled to drop at 5:05 p.m. (EST). FSU claimed a pair CCHA shootout decisions at Miami earlier this season (Nov. 13-14) following back-to-back overtime ties with the RedHawks. For ticket information, please contact the FSU Athletics Ticket Office at (231) 591-2888.
Notes: Mike Embach concluded the series with four points on two goals and assists apiece . . . Eric Alexander's goal marked his first since Nov. 20 against Ohio State . . . Blair Riley extended his current points string to 10 games with his game-winning lamplighter. The Hobey Baker Memorial Award candidate has accumulated a combined 16 points (8-8=16) during that 10-game period . . . With an assist, Justin Menke has now generated a point in his last three contests while totaling four points (2-2=4) in that span . . . The series finale win by Ferris State gives the Bulldogs 34 league points through their first 14 CCHA encounters and moves FSU into a first-place tie with Miami in the CCHA standings.