The nationally eighth-ranked Ferris State University men’s ice hockey team quest for the Mason Cup as the 2010 Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Playoff Champion is over despite a valiant effort by the Bulldogs who fell 5-4 in overtime to the nationally 12th-ranked Northern Michigan Wildcats this Friday (March 19) night in the opening semifinal-round contest at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich.
Ferris State (21-12-6 overall), who will now play regular-season league champion and top-seeded Miami in Saturday’s (March 20) third-place game at 3:35 p.m. (EDT) with a potential NCAA Tournament berth on the line, rallied twice to overcome a pair of two-goal deficits.
The Bulldogs trailed 4-2 almost midway thru the third period before tallying consecutive goals just a minute apart to send the game into a 20-minute overtime. Unfortunately, the finishing on Ferris’ noteworthy comeback fell just short as Northern Michigan’s Greger Hanson scored the game winner 1:07 into the extra session. Hanson netted the deciding goal with a shot just outside the inner part of the right circle which deflected off Ferris State junior goaltender Pat Nagle’s (Bloomfield) stick into the Bulldog net.
Greger Hanson’s goal spoiled an admirable comeback by Ferris State as the Bulldogs were down 4-2 with 8:04 elapsed in the third period after the Wildcats produced three consecutive second-period goals within 1:02 time span. Junior left wing Mike Embach (Orland Park, Ill.) netted his ninth of the season at the 13:06 mark on a shot above the slot which first hit off a NMU player’s stick to send a knuckling past toward the Wildcats’ goal which netminder Brian Stewart was unable to make the glove save. Trailing 4-3, the Bulldogs would answer again 1:01 later when junior defenseman Zach Redmond (Traverse City) fed a backdoor pass from top of the left circle down to freshman right wing Matthew Kirzinger (Leroy, Saskatchewan), who went top shelf for the equalizer to even things up at 4-4 with 5:53 remaining in regulation. FSU was unable to score again in regulation time despite finishing the frame with an 11-8 lead in shots.
The opening period featured exciting action at both ends as each team had several good scoring chances. However, neither team was able to break through on the scoreboard as solid backstopping by both Pat Nagle and Northern Brian Stewart kept their opponent from finding the net. With 2:29 remaining in the period, Ferris State broke the scoreless tie as junior right wing Todd Pococke (Saginaw) fired a shot from the slot which went through a NMU skater’s legs into the right side of the Wildcat goal to give FSU a 1-0 lead. Sophomore center Jordie Johnston (Rosetown, Saskatchewan) carried the puck into the left side of the Northern zone and put a shot on Stewart just inside the bottom half of the left circle which deflected back out to an opportunistic Pococke.
Northern Michigan would draw into a 1-1 tie at 11 minutes into the second period on Ray Kaunisto’s goal off a turnover behind the Bulldog net. Kaunisto put a shot on from the right side of the Ferris goal which rebounded back to him before putting the puck into the far corner of the Bulldog net beyond Nagle’s reach. NMU continued building on its momentum as the Wildcats struck twice more within a 21-second span on tallies by Andrew Cherniwchan and Ray Kaunisto. Cherniwachan gave Northern a 2-1 advantage only 41 seconds later following Kaunisto’s first marker with a right-handed blast from between the blueline and circles. Kaunisto lit the goal lamp for the second time seconds later as the 'Cats upped their lead to 3-1. Senior right wing Cody Chupp (Big Rapids) was able to get one back for Ferris State as his turnaround shot from inside the right circle went on Stewart's left shoulder into the Northern goal for his ninth of the season after the Bulldog captain had carried the puck to that point from around the back of the cage.
The Wildcats would stretch their lead to two goals at 4-2 with 8:04 elapsed in the third period as Tyler Gron took a cross ice pass from Ray Kaunisto and dispensed the puck into the Ferris goal from between the left circle and the crease area. Following a FSU timeout, the Bulldogs regained their composure and would get two shots past Stewart in the final regulation period.
For Ferris, Pat Nagle (12-9-3) registered 25 saves for the contest with 13 coming in the opening 20 minutes of action. Brian Stewart (18-9-7) made 35 stops for Northern Michigan in a winning performance. The Bulldogs would end the contest holding a 39-to-30 lead in shots on goal.
Notes: Ferris State is making its fourth appearance in the CCHA Championships and the program's first since 2002-03 in which the Bulldogs advanced to the title game . . . Goaltender Pat Nagle picked up his third assist of this season and his first since Jan. 3 against Merrimack in the third-place game of the Wisconsin Badger Hockey Showdown . . . Mike Embach equaled his career single-season high in goals with his ninth (9-11=20) of the 2009-10 campaign in 33 contests. The FSU forward totaled nine lamplighters (9-4=13) in 34 outings last season . . . Two of the last three series meetings with Northern Michigan to date have now been overtime sessions . . . Ferris sports a present 22-53-3 record in CCHA Playoff competition following tonight's outcome . . . Ten different Bulldog skaters recorded a point in the semifinal affair . . . Cody Chupp has produced six points (2-4=6) in his last five contests.