Behind three second-period goals and a solid performance in net, the 14th nationally-ranked Ferris State University men's ice hockey team took over sole possession of second place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) standings with a 4-1 upset victory over 12th-ranked Michigan State Friday (Feb. 19) night before a sellout crowd of 2,493 fans at FSU's Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids, Mich.
With only four games remaining in the regular season prior to the contest, the series opener was key for both teams not only in terms of occupying second place alone in the CCHA but also affecting a bid into the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
The victory improves Ferris State's record to 19-10-4 overall and 13-8-4-3 in the CCHA as the Bulldogs have registered a current 46 league points to date with three regular-season league contests remaining. FSU is now three points in front of third-place Michigan State (17-11-5, 12-8-5-2 CCHA) and five ahead of fourth-place Nebraska-Omaha in the race for runner up honors to regular-season champion Miami (Ohio).
Ferris State came out focused from the start as the Bulldogs applied offensive pressure in the Spartans' zone, outshooting the visitors 7-2 in the scoreless opening 20 minutes of action with junior goaltender Pat Nagle (Bloomfield) making both stops for FSU. The opening frame was almost penalty free as a minor infraction was whistled on each team apiece.
The Bulldogs' offense went into high gear in the second period with an unanswered three-goal output to claim a 3-0 lead entering the final period. Senior right wing Aaron Lewicki (Livonia) tallied the contest's initial score with his 10th goal of the season at 6:51 into the period. Senior left wing Blair Riley (Kamloops, British Columbia) stole the puck in the right corner of Michigan State's zone and skated in on Spartan netminder Drew Palmisano before firing a shot. The puck rebounded off Palmisano to junior center Justin Menke (Shamrock, Saskatchewan), who chipped it back on the MSU goaltender before Lewicki banged home the puck from the right side near the post.
Ferris State maintained its one goal lead for about five minutes later until the Bulldogs struck again. A shot from junior right wing Todd Pococke (Saginaw) between inside between the circles deflected off Palmisano to the left edge of the crease where junior left wing Mike Fillinger (Grand Ledge) pounced on the puck and scored on an all-out hustle play. Fillinger netted his second of the season with 8:19 remaining in the stanza. The Bulldogs then proceeded to increase their margin to 3-0 4:07 later when freshman left wing Kyle Bonis (Lindsay, Ontario) scored his second of the year. Todd Pococke fired a shot off the board in Ferris State's defensive end which deflected off toward a Michigan State skater as the puck proceeded to through his legs into the neutral zone. Sophomore center Derek Graham (Schoolcraft) was able to outrace the Spartan defender for the loose puck on the left side and skated into the visitor's zone before dumping the puck over to Bonis on the right. The Bulldog freshman shoveled the puck into the MSU net on a backhander past Palmisano's gloveside.
Trailing 3-0, Michigan State was able to get on the board at 2:47 into the third period as Derek Grant tallied on a Spartan power play. Grant redirected a shot from Torey Krug at the left point thru traffic for the only score on Pat Nagle (10-7-1), who collected 22 saves in securing the game's second star. Ferris State managed to collect its fourth goal of the game with 6:15 left in the contest as the Bulldogs generated a power-play lamplighter. The play developed with junior left wing Mike Embach (Grand Ledge) fired a lengthy pass up the ice from the left to the right side. Aaron Lewicki put one on the Michigan State goal from the near the right wall which Justin Menke tipped with his stick over Palmisano's shoulder on a shot from the bottom portion of the right circle. The goal represented Menke's seventh of the season.
Ferris State managed a 29-23 advantage in shots with Drew Palmisano (13-9-4) turning aside 25 total. Four different Bulldogs produced multiple points as Aaron Lewicki, the game's first star, and Justin Menke, the third star, each netted a goal and an assist. Todd Pococke and Derek Graham also supported the win with two helpers apiece.
The two in-state team will concluded their weekend two-game league set this Saturday (Feb. 20) at MSU's Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, Mich. The finale of the home-and-home series will get underway at 5:05 p.m. (EST).
Notes: FSU's 19 victories this season is one shy of tying for the sixth-highest wins total in the program's history . . . Kyle Bonis' goal was his first since the Bulldogs' season opener on Oct. 9 at Canisius . . . Pat Nagle earned his team-leading 10th win of the season in the decision . . . FSU snapped a four-game winless streak against Michigan State in the all-time series as the Bulldogs are now 4-5-2 at home against the Spartans in February matchups . . . Derek Graham produced his fourth multiple-point game of this season and has generated two assists in a contest on three occasions this campaign . . . Ferris State's 13 home wins this season (13-3-1 record) is the most since the record-setting 2002-03 team's 13 regular-season victories (13-4-1 record) inside the Ewigleben Ice Arena . . . The Bulldogs improved to 15-3-4 on the season when tallying the game's initial score.