The nationally-ranked Ferris State University men's ice hockey team registered its highest Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) regular-season finish in seven seasons by claiming third place as the Bulldogs earned a league point with a 1-1 overtime tie against Western Michigan Saturday (Feb. 27) evening before coming up short 1-0 in the shootout at WMU's Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Ferris State, as a result of the tie in the regular-season finale, registered its 49th league point as the Bulldogs garner third place with a 13-9-6-4 CCHA mark. FSU finishes a point behind Michigan State (50 points) for second place and a point ahead of fourth-place Northern Michigan (48 points). On the season, Ferris State is presently 19-11-6 overall.
The shootout represented the second straight in the home-and-home series as Ferris prevailed 2-0 in a shootout last night (Feb. 26) in Big Rapids following a 2-2 overtime score.
The game featured end-to-end action throughout with good scoring chances in each end. Western Michigan was team which jumped on the board first as Kyle O'Kane netted his fourth of the year at with 5:08 left in the first period. Ferris State junior goaltender Pat Nagle (Bloomfield) made the stop momentarily on a Matt Tennyson shot from inside the left circle but was unable to corral the puck. O'Kane was positioned himself above the crease to tap it in to give the Broncos a 1-0 lead after the first intermission.
Ferris State received a golden opportunity to register the equalizer early in the second period as a pair of WMU skaters went into the penalty box at the same time 41 seconds into the frame. The Bulldogs with the two-man advantage were to get some good scoring chances, including one by senior left wing Blair Riley (Kamloops, British Columbia) which hit off the right goal post, but Bronco netminder Riley Gill stepped up with a couple of key stops. FSU would get another opportunity during a flurry of action in front of the WMU goal near the 13-minute mark but came up empty when a freshman left wing Kyle Bonis (Lindsay, Ontario) whirled around with the puck in the slot and his shot deflected off the left corner post. Riley would get another chance on a breakaway minutes later but Gill came up with another big stop.
Western Michigan was able to keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard for almost the entire second despite being called for seven penalties in the stanza and giving FSU six power-play scoring opportunities. Ferris would eventually capitalize with just 25 seconds to go in the period when senior center Casey Haines (Indiana, Pa.) tallied for the Bulldogs, his 10th of the season, on a 5-on-3 power-play advantage. Senior center Cody Chupp (Big Rapids) fired the puck on Gill and the rebound went out to Blair Riley who put one in on the Western goalie. Although Riley's attempt was unsuccessful, Haines was there at the right edge of the crease for the tap in to even the count at 1-1 going into the third period.
The third period began with Pat Nagle denying the Broncos the go-ahead goal on a breakaway chance a little over a minute elapsed into the frame and then at the 17:30 mark on the other end, junior defenseman Zach Redmond (Traverse City) picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated into the Western zone. Redmond maneuvered his way into the slot area before dispensing a shot which clanked off the crossbar. Ferris continued to attack the WMU goal throughout the period as the Bulldogs put 17 shots on Riley Gill in the frame to the Broncos' four shots.
FSU controlled most of the action in overtime as the Bulldogs continued their offensive pressure. However, Riley Gill continued his stellar performance between the posts as he prevented a potential game-winning goal by freshman right wing Matthew Kirzinger (Leroy, Saskatchewan) with 33.6 seconds remaining in overtime.
In the shootout, neither team was able to score until WMU's third attempt when Jared Katz went top shelf on a backhander past Nagle for the winning tally. The Bulldogs' final chance by Cody Chupp was denied by Gill to preserve the Broncos' shootout decision.
Ferris State ended the game holding a 42-20 lead in shots, but was only one-of-11 in power-play chances. The Broncos were unable to convert on all five of their opportunities.
Pat Nagle (10-8-3) turned away 19 shots for Ferris State while Riley Gill (7-15-6) earned the game's number one star with a 41-saves performance in the senior's final home appearance.
Ferris State, which has secured an opening-round bye for the 2010 CCHA Playoffs, will return to the ice March 12-14 to host a league playoff quarterfinal-round series at FSU's Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids, Mich. Game times are scheduled for 7:05 p.m. (EST) and the third game, if necessary, is also tentatively set for a 7:05 p.m. (EST) opening faceoff. For ticket information, please contact the FSU Athletics Ticket Office at (231) 591-2888.