Senior Casey Haines (Indiana, Pa.) has scored some memorable game-winning goals during his Ferris State career, but none as important as his tally just 23 seconds into overtime as the Bulldogs will advance to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Semifinals as a result of their thrilling 3-2 playoff clinching win over Nebraska-Omaha this Saturday (March 13) evening at FSU's Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids, Mich.
Casey Haines' game-winning lamplighter came as a result of some persistent work in the offensive zone as the Bulldog center battled for the loose puck along the boards and was able to get the puck down to senior left wing Blair Riley (Kamloops, British Columbia) down in the right circle almost near the goal line. Riley then backhanded the puck back to Haines, who stopped at the circle's ring near the slot and fired the puck underneath the glove hand of Nebraska-Omaha goaltender John Faulkner for the decisive goal as the Bulldog bench quickly emptied on the ice to join in the celebration.
The win completed a two-game sweep of Nebraska-Omaha in the best-of-three CCHA Playoff Second-Round series as Ferris State punches its ticket to the 2010 CCHA Championship next weekend (March 19-20) at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich. The starting times for the two semifinal contests are 4:35 p.m. (EDT) and 8:05 p.m. (EDT) as Michigan and Northern Michigan join the Bulldogs as CCHA teams to have already clinched a berth to the semis. Ohio State and Miami will meet this Sunday (March 14) in a deciding third game with the winner advancing. FSU will be either playing Northern Michigan or Ohio State in its semifinal matchup.
Ferris State, which is now 21-11-6 overall this season to date, accounted for the first of three first-period scores as Blair Riley tallied his team-high 17th of the season just 3:21 into the contest on assists from senior Cody Chupp (Big Rapids) and Casey Haines. Riley deked Faulkner and put a shot on which deflected off his pads into the Mavericks' goal to give FSU a 1-0 lead. Nebraska-Omaha overcome the deficit with back-to-back scores 26 seconds apart as Nick Von Bokern and Dan Swanson each lighted the goal lamp. Van Bokern wristed a shot from just inside the blueline high above the slot which went through traffic in front of the Bulldog net and slid underneath Ferris goaltender Pat Nagle's (Bloomfield) stick to even the game at 1-1. UNO would break the deadlock seconds later when Dan Swanson connected on a rebound to the opposite side of Jordan Willert's shot from inside the right circle as the Mavericks held a 2-1 advantage after the opening 20 minutes.
Nebraska-Omaha maintained its one-goal lead until 6:25 left in the second period when senior right wing Aaron Lewicki (Livonia) recorded his 12th of the season on a Bulldog power play. Blair Riley skated out of the Ferris zone and outletted a pass up to junior center Justin Menke (Shamrock, Saskatchewan), who deked within the right circle and backhanded a pass over to Lewicki, who went on to garner second star of the game recognition. A wrist shot by Lewicki found its mark top shelf as the puck sailed above Faulkner's stick to even the game at 2-2.
Neither team was able to score in the final 26-plus minutes of regulation despite 12 shots on goal by Nebraska-Omaha in the third period and 11 by the Bulldogs. UNO would claim a 35-31 lead in shots for the contest.
In overtime, Haines potted his 11th goal of the year to earn the game's first star while Blair Riley and Cody Chupp each picked up a second assist on the night. Riley totaled three points in the game while Chupp along with Haines produced two points apiece. Pat Nagle (12-8-3) stopped 33 of the 35 shots he faced in a winning performance while John Faulkner made 28 saves for the Mavericks, who fall to 20-16-6 overall on the season.
Notes: Ferris State is now 12-0 all-time in CCHA Tournament games on its home ice . . . The Bulldogs will be making their first trip to the Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA Championships since the 2002-03 season. FSU skated to a 4-2 win over Northern Michigan in the 2003 semifinals before falling 5-3 to Michigan in the championship game . . . The 2009-10 team will join three previous Bulldog squads (1990-91, 1992-93, and 2002-03) to earn a trip to the CCHA Playoff Championship Semis . . . Casey Haines scored his team-leading fifth game-winning goal of this season and his third in overtime - vs. Robert Morris (10/23), against Ohio State (11/21), and vs. Nebraska-Omaha (3/13) . . . Blair Riley's first-period tally snapped a nine-game non-goal scoring streak which started on Feb. 5 at Ohio State. Riley's three-point (1-2=3) outing equaled his second highest points total in a game this season, matching his three points (2-1=3) against Robert Morris (10/23) . . . Ferris State improved to 17-3-5 this season when registering a contest's initial goal . . . FSU's pair of league playoff wins this campaign (3-1 and 3-2 in overtime) avenges last season's playoff sweep by Nebraska-Omaha as the Mavericks claimed 3-0 and 5-2 decisions in the opening round.