Defense was suppose to be the focal point in this Friday's (Dec. 10) Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) matchup between the nation's top two defensive units, but it was the offense generated by the 18th-nationally ranked Ferris State University men's ice hockey team which sparked a 4-2 victory over #14-ranked Alaska at FSU's Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids, Mich.
Ferris State tallied at least a goal in all three periods while four different Bulldog skaters netted a lamplighter in the home win, which improves FSU to 9-6-3 overall and 6-5-3-2 in the CCHA. Ferris, which entered the series opener tied with Alaska and Northern Michigan, is presently the lone fourth-place occupant in the CCHA standings with 23 league points to date. The win also marked the Bulldogs' third victory in their last four outings as FSU has compiled a 4-1-1 ledger in its last six appearances to date.
Alaska, which falls to 8-6-3 overall and 5-5-3-2 in the league with the loss, accounted for the game's initial score on a Andy Taranto goal at the 13:33 mark of the opening period. Taranto scored on a backhander from the inner half of the right circle near the slot to put the Nanooks up 1-0. Ferris State would draw into a 1-1 tie with 3:45 remaining in the period as senior center Nate Hennig (Macomb) recorded his team-leading sixth goal of the year. Junior defenseman Brett Wysopal (LaGrange Park, Ill.) chipped off the puck off the boards in the neutral zone to senior left wing Justin Menke (Shamrock, Saskatchewan), who proceeded to carry the puck down into the left circle before backhanding a pass to Hennig. The Bulldog forward fired the puck to the Alaska net as goaltender Scott Greenham's view was partially shielded by a Ferris skater.
The second period featured two more Ferris State lamplighters as a pair of seniors in forward Mike Embach (Orland Park, Ill.) and defenseman Zach Redmond (Traverse City) potted a goal each. Embach scored his fourth of the season with an unassisted marker at 10:22 as a result of picking up a loose puck along the leftside boards. He then took the puck in to the outside inner half of the left circle and wristed one which hit off the right-side inner post into the Alaska goal to give FSU a 2-1 lead. Ferris State added what proved to be the decisive goal with 2:55 to go in the second as Zach Redmond's shot from inside the right circle went five-hole through Scott Greenham as the Bulldogs proceeded to go up 3-1 after 40 minutes of play. The successful power-play scoring chance developed as sophomore center Travis Ouellette (Windsor, Ontario) put a pass from the left circle down to freshman right wing Justin DeMartino (Macomb), who was positioned behind the Nanooks' net. DeMartino then centered the pass for his first collegiate point to Redmond as the Bulldog captain chalked up his fifth tally of the year. FSU, which was outshot 13-11 in the second frame, capitalized on a double minor penalty to Alaska as the hosts enjoyed four minutes of the man advantage.
With a two-goal (3-1) lead, Ferris State appeared to have the outcome well in hand but the pesky Nanooks would figure out senior goaltender Pat Nagle (Bloomfield) for the second time on the night on a power-play goal by Jarret Granberg coming with just 1:56 remaining in regulation. Down the stretch, Alaska was forced to pull its goaltender for the extra attacker and Ferris State seized the opportunity to up its lead back to two goals (4-2) as junior center Jordie Johnston (Rosetown, Saskatchewan) stole the puck along the right side boards in the neutral zone and proceeded to skate uncontested in posting an empty-net goal with 20:1 seconds left on the clock. The unassisted lamplighter represented Johnston's second of the season.
Balanced scoring was a key as eight different Ferris State players netted a point. The Bulldogs, who boasts the nation's top scoring defense with a 1.89 goals per game average, were outshot 32-27 for the game and made good on one-of-four power play opportunities.
The contest also featured a showdown among two of the nation's top goaltenders as Pat Nagle claimed first star recognition with 30 saves in improving his season record to 9-5-3. Scott Greenham slides to 8-6-3 on the campaign and turned away 23 Ferris shots on net. The two netminders came into the game ranked among the top nine nationally in goals-against average.
Ferris State will get set to make its final home appearance of the 2010 portion of its season this Saturday (Dec. 11) evening in Big Rapids, Mich. The Bulldogs and Nanooks hook up again for a 7:05 p.m. (EST) contest and the annual Toys For Tots' Teddy Bear Toss will be held following Ferris' first goal of the game. For tickets, please contact the FSU Athletics Ticket Office at (231) 591-2888 or you can order online at www.startickets.com.
Notes: The Bulldogs improved to 6-2-3 at home this season with tonight's triumph over Alaska . . . Head coach Bob Daniels is one win shy of posting his 300th career victory and currently owns a 299-340-72 bench mark in 19 seasons directing the program . . . Nate Hennig has tallied at least a point in eight contests this season and scored a goal in six of those encounters . . . Justin DeMartino's first assist on FSU's game-winning goal represented his initial collegiate point in five outings . . . Pat Nagle is 2-1-0 in net for three December appearances to go with a 1.64 goals-against average (five goals allowed) and a .939 saves percentage (77 saves) in 183-plus minutes . . . Ferris State snapped a 15-game (0-13-2) non-winning streak in its all-time series against Alaska and hadn't defeated the Nanooks since Jan. 2, 2004 with a 7-5 home triumph. The Bulldogs snapped seven-game (0-5-2) non-winning skid versus the Nanooks and are now 14-7-2 at home in their all-time series with Alaska.