"Countdown To Faceoff": The Specialty Teams
Editor's Note: This is the fourth and final installment of a fourth-part series produced by the FSU Athletics Communications Office looking at different position groups as the Bulldogs open their 2010-11 season this Saturday (Oct. 2) evening versus Ontario Institute of Technology in an exhibition contest.
A key factor in Ferris State's 21 overall victories coupled with its third-place finish in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and a CCHA Championships appearance for the 2009-10 season was the Bulldogs' ability to neutralize the opposition's power play.
Ferris State was so successful in erasing opponent extra-skater opportunities that the Bulldogs completed the 2009-10 campaign ranking first among the 58 teams in the NCAA Division I ranks with a national-best .884 percentage, killing 190 of 215 power-play chances.
"We're certainly proud of this accomplishment," said Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels. "We put a lot of time and effort in our penalty killing year in and out. The success we achieved (last season) was noteworthy but this is a new season and a new team so we will need to continue working hard at it."
The Bulldogs, who registered a third-best .865 penalty-kill percentage in CCHA regular-season outings only for the 2009-10 campaign, have annually been among the league's top penalty-kill units and hope to be so again this upcoming 2010-11 season.
"We have a solid collection of experienced players returning, including the team's number one penalty killer - our goaltenders," added Daniels in reference to senior Pat Nagle (Bloomfield) and junior Taylor Nelson (Regina, Saskatchewan).
Highlighting the list of returning Bulldogs who saw extensive ice time on the penalty kill are senior center Justin Menke (Shamrock, Saskatchewan), sophomore right wing Matthew Kirzinger (Leroy, Saskatchewan), sophomore center Travis Ouellette (Windsor, Ontario), senior left wing Mike Embach (Orland Park, Ill.), and senior left wing Mike Fillinger (Grand Ledge).
While Daniels was elated with the success rate of Ferris State's penalty killing a season ago, the Bulldog bench boss wasn't pleased with the 694 minutes rolled up by the Bulldogs as a result of committing 276 penalties in 2009-10 and has vowed to address this facet of the game.
"Our goal this season is to reduce our penalty minutes without compromising our aggressive style of play," said Daniels. "We, as a coaching staff, are making lowering our penalty minutes a point of emphasis and our guys directly control the amount of minutes spent in the (penalty) box.
"We had an overabundance of checking and hitting from behind penalties called on us last year so we're looking to reduce those type of penalties by at least 50 percent," added Daniels.
Consistency is always a variable of whether or not a team's power play will attain a notable amount of success.
A season ago, Ferris State finished 19th in the nation for power-play efficiency as the Bulldogs converted 19.2% of their man-advantage chances with 43 lamplighters in 224 opportunities. Furthermore, Ferris netted at least two power-play markers in a game on 12 occasions and tallied such a goal in 24 of the team's 40 contests this past campaign.
"I was extremely pleased at times and extremely frustrated in other instances," said Daniels. "Last season we would have streaks of scoring at least two goals in a game and other times we couldn't score not matter what. Our goal this season is to be more consistent and avoid those lengthy lapses."
The outlook of FSU's power-play unit for 2010-11 is promising as a number of veteran defensemen who logged considerable minutes in man-advantage situations are back. Senior Zach Redmond (Traverse City) and senior Scott Wietecha (Wolverine Lake) along with juniors Chad Billins (Marysville) and Brett Wysopal (LaGrange Park, Ill.) headline the list. Redmond recorded a team-high 16 power-play points (4-12=16) last season while Wysopal's 10 points (1-9=10) tied for the fourth most among the squad's leaders.
"This is probably our most wide-open area in terms of the roles to be filled," Daniels said. "We're going to keep rotating guys until we can find the right combination."
It's time to drop the puck for what promises to be an exciting 2010-11 season!