Defense has been the staple of the nationally 18th-ranked Ferris State University men's ice hockey team throughout the first half of this season but it was the play on the offensive end which received most of the praise even though the Bulldogs come up short in a 3-2 loss to Bemidji State this Friday (Dec. 31) in the opening game of the 20th annual Mariucci Classic held at the University of Minnesota's Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, Minn.
A positive for Ferris State, which hadn't played since Dec. 11, occurred on the offensive side as the Bulldogs registered 37 shots on goal for the contest. FSU would claim a 15-shots on goal advantage over Bemidji State in the game, which included a 19-5 lead in the third period alone. If not for the standout performance of BSU goaltender Dan Bakala, who made 35 saves, and a little luck, the outcome could have been much different. Ferris State's lone two scores would both came in the third period on lamplighters by junior right wing Aaron Schmit (Grafton, Wis.) and junior center Jordie Johnston (Rosetown, Saskatchewan).
At the opposite end of the rink, the nation's top-ranked defensive team struggled at times and an opportunistic Bemidji State team was able to convert three scoring chances. The Beavers accounted for the opening two scores as a Matt Carlson goal at 8:37 of the first period off a rebound broke the scoreless draught and Jordan George' backhander off a rebound on a breakaway put Bemidji State up 2-0 with 9:28 remaining in the second period.
Ferris State connected early in the third period as Aaron Schmit's shot from above the left circle found its way into the Beavers' net for his second on the season. Schmit netted the goal at 1:44 into the frame as a pair of Bulldog defensemen, freshman Scott Czarnowczan (Macomb) and junior Derek Graham (Schoolcraft), each earned an assist. However, Bemidji State would come right back to get the goal back as Drew Fisher recorded the game-winning marker just over a minute later. Despite trailing 3-1 at that point, Ferris might have been down but were not out as the Bulldogs narrowed the gap to a goal at 3-2 when Jordie Johnston tipped in the puck past Bakala with 1:01 left in the regulation outing. Senior defenseman Zach Redmond (Traverse City) and senior left wing Mike Embach (Orland Park, Ill.) garnered an assist on the Johnston goal, his third of the year.
Following the second FSU goal of the night, the Bulldogs pulled junior goaltender Taylor Nelson (Regina, Saskatchewan) for the extra attacker in the final 32 seconds following a called timeout and almost secured the equalizer with a high number of quality shots on Bakala but to no avail.
Ferris State, which drops to 9-8-3 overall on the season with the loss, received a 19-saves performance from Taylor Nelson. The Bulldog netminder, who is now 0-2-0 between the posts this campaign, received the starting nod for the second time this 2010-11 season and totaled a period-high 12 stops in the second after making three in the first and four in the third. Aaron Schmit, who posted FSU's initial score in the tilt, attained second star of the game recognition.
With the setback, Ferris State is presently 4-3-1 in its last eight appearances while Bemidji State is now 6-10-1 overall for the season and has won four of its last six encounters to date.
The Bulldogs will close out action in the Mariucci Classic this Saturday (Jan. 1) against the tourney host and nationally 19th-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers. The puck will drop for the New Year's Day contest at 8:07 p.m. (EST) in a game to be televised live on FOX Sports Detroit and FOX College Sports Central via FOX Sports North.
Notes: Ferris State is now 2-4-1 all-time in Mariucci Classic appearances . . . Zach Redmond has a current team-high 13 points (5-8=13) this season with his assist in the contest . . . Head coach Bob Daniels still remains one victory away from reaching 300 career wins . . . Aaron Schmit netted a goal in a regular-season tournament for the second straight season after tallying one in last year's Wisconsin Badger Hockey Showdown versus Merrimack (1/3/10) . . . Zach Redmond concluded the month of December with a squad-best four points (1-3=4) in five appearances . . . Jordie Johnston's goal represented his third of the season in 17 outings to date, which equals his previous career season-best lampligher total in 31 games for the 2008-09 campaign.