The 14th-ranked Ferris State University men's ice hockey team accomplished one of its 2009-10 season goals this Friday (Feb. 26) night as the Bulldogs clinched a first-round Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Playoff bye as a result of winning 2-0 in a shootout following a 2-2 overtime tie against the Western Michigan Broncos at FSU's Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids, Mich.
Ferris State picked up two league points with the shootout win and overtime tie as the Bulldogs have accumulated 48 points in CCHA play this season to date, which guarantees home ice for the best two-of-three CCHA Playoff Quarterfinal-Round series to be held March 12-14 in Big Rapids. The Bulldogs are now 19-11-5 overall with a third-place 13-9-5-4 league mark as a result of the tie and shootout victory in their regular-season home finale. FSU presently trails second-place Michigan State (49 points) by one point entering this Saturday's (Feb. 27) final regular-season appearance for both teams. MSU visits Bowling Green State while Ferris State will skate on the Western Michigan's home ice.
The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead just under five minutes into the opening period when freshman right wing Travis Ouellette (Windsor, Ontario) scored his seventh of the season on a shot from inside the inner half of the right circle which went into the far corner of the Bronco net. Senior center Cody Chupp (Big Rapids) gained control inside the blueline and chipped the puck down along the boards to freshman left wing Kyle Bonis (Lindsay, Ontario), who fired a pass from the back wall to Ouellette in the right circle.
Ferris State didn't hold the lead for long as less than a minute later Ryan Watson potted his first lamplighter of the season with a shot on the left edge of the goal crease through junior netminder Pat Nagle's (Bloomfield) five-hole to even the count at 1-1. Following a FSU turnover in its own zone, Kyle O'Kane corralled the puck along the back boards and skated around the net before feeding a short pass to Watson who tucked the puck between the pads of Nagle past the goal line. The Bulldogs concluded the first frame with a 17-7 lead in shots.
The two teams played scoreless hockey for the majority of the second period before Western Michigan gained an edge as Cam Watson scored at the 15:46 mark to put the visitors up 2-1. Watson tipped in the puck from between the circles off a rebound shot from Matt Tennyson.
Trailing by a goal, the Bulldogs were able to gain the equalizer at 1:53 into the third period of action when Cody Chupp scored his eighth goal of the year on an assist from Travis Ouellette. Chupp won the faceoff and directed the puck over to Ouellette in the corner where the FSU freshman swung the puck out of the corner back to Chupp, who was chosen as the first star of the game. The Bulldog team captain wristed a shot from the right circle which found its mark into the WMU goal. FSU's 15 shots in the final period of regulation matched its shots total from the previous period as the Bulldogs would go on to a 49-28 shots on goal advantage in the 65-minute contest.
The teams went through the five-minute overtime period before going to the three-round shootout. The waning moments of the extra session were exciting to say the least as a WMU skater broke through the Bulldog defense and skated in on Pat Nagle in the final seconds but was hauled down on a hooking penalty committed by senior right wing Aaron Lewicki as time expired. The referees conferred for several minutes following the play's sequence and elected not to call a penalty shot.
In the shootout, Ferris State went first and converted on its initial attempt as senior Blair Riley's (Kamloops, British Columbia) shot hit off WMU goaltender Jerry Kuhn's pad into the net to give FSU a 1-0 lead. Kyle O'Kane tried to deke Nagle on the Broncos' first chance but his shot went wide left. Sophomore defenseman Chad Billins (Marysville), who has been Ferris' top shootout performer this season, came through once again with a shot into the far post after moving the puck rapidly from right to left in on Kuhn. On Western's final chance, Max Campbell was denied by Nagle as the FSU goaltender blocked the Bronco skater's shot straight on.
Pat Nagle (10-8-2) recorded 26 saves, including 11 in the third period, for Ferris State while the game's second star Jerry Kuhn (1-3-2) turned in a noteworthy performance with 47 stops.
Prior to the regular-season home finale, the FSU hockey program paid tribute to its six-member senior class comprised of Cody Chupp, Blair Riley, Casey Haines (Indiana, Pa.), Aaron Lewicki, Matt Case (Plymouth, Minn.), and Jordan Barber (Caledonia).
Ferris State and Western Michigan will end the regular season this Saturday (Feb. 27) at WMU's Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich. The puck will drop at 7:35 p.m. (EST).
Notes: FSU is 13-3-2 at home to date this season with the tie. . . The Bulldogs are 2-3-2 in February matchups this campaign . . . Cody Chupp returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games due to an injury. Chupp's lamplighter was the first in his last seven contests as the Bulldog captain last scored at Notre Dame (Jan. 10) . . . Travis Ouellette notched his second multi-point game performance of this season with a goal and an assist. Ouellette scored twice earlier this campaign (Nov. 7) in a 3-2 home league decision over Bowling Green State . . . Ferris State improved to 4-1 in shootouts this season with its 2-0 decision and has a 1-1 home record in such encounters . . . Chad Billins has netted three shootout tallies this season.