One is better than none. The nationally 11th-ranked Ferris State University's men's ice hockey team certainly wouldn't dispute that assessment as the Bulldogs earned a key point in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) standings with a 3-3 overtime tie against the Northern Michigan this Friday (Feb. 5) night before falling in the shootout at FSU's Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids, Mich.
The Bulldogs (17-8-4 overall and 11-6-4-3 in the CCHA), who now have accumulated 40 league points to date, moved into within a single point of tying second-place Michigan State (41 points) in the latest CCHA standings as the Spartans were unable to gain any ground following a 2-0 league loss at Alaska late Friday evening.
The Wildcats picked up two league points as a result of the tie and ensuing 1-0 win in the shootout as Erik Gustafsson netted the lone goal on NMU's third and final attempt among the initial shooters. The Wildcat defenseman skated in on Ferris State sophomore goaltender Taylor Nelson (Regina, Saskatchewan) and put the puck just above the Bulldog netminder's stick for the winning shootout score. The official outcome of the CCHA matchup will be listed as a tie.
Ferris State had trailed 3-2 at the 12:17 mark of the third period following a breakaway short-handed goal by Northern Michigan's Mark Olver, who took a lead pass up the ice from TJ Miller and proceeded to go in one-on-one against Taylor Nelson. Olver deked to Nelson's glove side before sliding the puck on a backhander through Nelson's pads for the score. Olver's goal preceeded a power-play lamplighter on a one timer by Ray Kaunisto from the top of the left circle.
With just 3:54 remaining in regulation, senior center Casey Haines (Indiana, Pa.) tallied the equalizer on a shot from the right slot with sophomore center Derek Graham (Schoolcraft) receiving an assist on a pass to Haines. His seventh goal of this campaign made up for a breakaway scoring opportunity just over the midway point of the third period. The Bulldogs did catch a break with 1:22 to go in regulation as Jared Brown's potential game-winning shot was disallowed as a result of a NMU skater in the crease making contact with Taylor Nelson.
Freshman right wing Matthew Kirzinger (Leroy, Saskatchewan) put Ferris State on the board first with his seventh goal of the season at 14:14 of the opening period. Junior center Justin Menke (Shamrock, Saskatchewan) took a pass from junior defenseman Zach Redmond (Traverse City) and skated into the Wildcats' zone where he fired a shot from atop the left circle on NMU goalie Brian Stewart. The puck bounced off Stewart's leg pad to the right side where Kirzinger quickly shot the rebound deflection into the visitor's goal.
Ferris State's lead held up until the first period's final minute when Mike Maltese scored after taking the puck from behind the Bulldog net and driving one past Taylor Nelson near post. The scoring play developed after Phil Fox lobbed a high shot which hit off the back wall glass beyond Nelson's reach to an opportunistic Maltese, who gained possession of the puck and quickly turned into a dispensing a point-blank shot on Nelson.
The score remained tied until the second period when the Bulldogs snapped the deadlock as junior left wing Nate Hennig (Macomb) scored his first of the year on a shot from at least five feet behind the goal near the right corner which deflected off Brian Stewart's back leg into the net to give FSU a 2-1 advantage. Derek Graham along with junior left wing Mike Embach(Orland Park, Ill.) picked up a helper on the tally, which required assistance on the Cats' part because of the shot attempt's angle.
Taylor Nelson (9-2-3) recorded 30 stops for Ferris State, which outshot Northern Michigan by a 46-33 count. Brian Stewart (9-8-7) made 43 saves for the visitors in 65 minutes of action.
In the three-round shootout, senior left wing Blair Riley's (Kamloops, British Columbia) first attempt was blocked by Stewart's stick. Zach Redmond would follow with a shot which sailed wide right and senior right wing Cody Chupp (Big Rapids) represented the Bulldogs' final chance, but his shot went wide right as well.
Ferris State will face Northern Michigan again this Saturday (Feb. 6) in the series finale with the puck to drop at 7:35 p.m. (EST) due to a live telecast on FS Detroit Plus. For ticket information, please contact the FSU Athletics Ticket Office at (231) 591-2888.
Notes: Ferris State suffered its first shootout loss of this season after prevailing its previous three - at Miami (Nov. 13-14) and at Ohio State (Jan. 30) . . . Nate Hennig's goal was his first since last season (Nov. 14) at Nebraska-Omaha when he claimed both of his two points on the season with the goal and a helper. Hennig is presently midst a three-game point streak (1/29-2/5) with a goal and two assists in that span . . . Derek Graham, who had two assists in the game, has now totaled a career season-high 11 points (2-9=11) in 17 games this campaign to surpass his eight points (3-5=8) in 31 outings a season ago . . . With the tie, the Bulldogs sport a 12-2-1 home mark this season to date.