February 22, 2012

#1 FSU Hockey Featured In USCHO Story

Note: The story below is courtey of USCHO.com.

By Paula Weston
CCHA Columnist

FERRIS STATE PLANS TO ENJOY TITLE, BUT CELEBRATION ON HOLD!

What a ride for CCHA fans. Last year at this time, with one point separating Notre Dame and Michigan at the top of the league standings, we were wondering who would be crowned regular season champs.

This year we know who will get at least a piece of that crown, and a hearty congratulations to a deserving Ferris State team. With their sweep of Bowling Green last weekend, the Bulldogs played themselves into at least a tie for first place, their first regular season title since their only other one in 2002-03.

So how does coach Bob Daniels feel? "Really good, obviously, but it's an odd kind of feeling, to tell you the truth," said Daniels, in his 20th season with FSU.

"On the one hand, you solidify the co-championship. On the other hand, it's not the championship. As excited as we are, knowing we have a bye week [in the first round of the playoffs], we can kind of look ahead to that as the time when we'll be able to look back and enjoy this a little bit."

You can't blame Daniels for his low-key reaction to FSU's season. He's had to keep his team focused through its current 14-game unbeaten streak (11-0-3) in a strong league, without the benefit of someone like Chris Kunitz, who had 35 goals the last time the Bulldogs pulled off this feat.

"The hockey's so good, every night," said Daniels. "That Bowling Green team never let up. I don't want to have to face them again in the playoffs. We're playing Western Michigan this weekend and they have a lot going for them and a lot on the line.

"Rather than dwell on [the title], let's keep the focus on what we have to do yet."

What the Bulldogs need to do yet is earn one point against the Broncos this weekend to claim the regular-season title all to themselves. Second-place Michigan, which plays a series against those tough BG Falcons, is six points behind Ferris State.

The Bulldogs are also focused on getting through the league's playoffs and back to Joe Louis Arena for another shot at the Mason Cup; FSU lost the 2003 CCHA championship game to Michigan. Beyond that would be another shot at the NCAA tournament. In 2003, FSU beat North Dakota before losing to eventual champion Minnesota.

Naturally, there are comparisons between this year's Bulldogs team and the one that went so far in 2003, and the consensus is that this year's team doesn't have a star like that team did. That team had Kunitz and a bunch of other guys who made noise that season — goaltender Mike Brown, forwards Jeff Legue, Phil Lewandowski and Derek Nesbitt, defensemen Troy Milam and Matt York — but Daniels said that this year's team measures up in slightly different ways.

"There's a Chris Kunitz, but it's a different name every night," said Daniels. "Chad Billins has been great all year. We've had really marquee moments with Jordie Johnston and Kyle Bonis.

"It's kind of a grind, every weekend. We had the right team for where college hockey is and where our team is."

Daniels said that it has been easy to motivate this group. Because it's not a completely done deal, the team hasn't really processed the regular-season title yet and Daniels said they don't even talk about the unbeaten streak.

"It's not like we don't want to jinx it," said Daniels, "but we don't talk about it because it doesn't help us in the future. We have this weekend to think about and then the playoffs.

"And the title is nice, but OK, what's our next thing? I do think it's important that we take a moment to enjoy it — it's part of the process — but it's been very subdued."

Ferris State finishes the regular season with a home-and-home series against Western Michigan this weekend. Friday's game is in Kalamazoo; Saturday's is in Big Rapids.


Read more: http://www.uscho.com/2012/02/22/ferris-state-plans-to-enjoy-ccha-title-but-celebration-is-on-hold-for-now/#ixzz1n7oDvJgJ