Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's ice hockey team fell one goal short of reaching Detroit's Joe Louis Arena for the last-ever Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Championships as the Bulldogs suffered a heart-breaking 3-2 loss in the deciding game three of a league second-round playoff series on Sunday (March 17) night at the OSU Ice Rink in Columbus, Ohio.
With the loss, the Bulldogs ended their season with a 16-16-5 overall record and Sunday's outing marked the last-ever CCHA contest for Ferris State, which moves to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) due to college hockey realignment next season.
After receiving a first-round bye, the Bulldogs had opened the playoff series with a 4-2 victory on Friday night in Columbus to grab a 1-0 lead in the series while seeking the program's first-ever playoff road win under the current best-of-three format. However, Ohio State came back to register a 3-1 triumph in Saturday's game two to set up the pivotal and deciding third and final game.
The Buckeyes took an early 1-0 lead at 1:32 of the opening frame when Max McCormick notched his second goal of the weekend on Ohio State's first power-play of the evening. Tanner Fritz and Ryan Dzingel earned the assists.
However, the Bulldogs came back and junior wing Andy Huff tied the contest at a goal apiece late in first period action at 13:31 as he netted his sixth goal of this campaign and first of the postseason. Registering his 15th assist was senior center Travis Ouellette, who fed the puck to senior wing Kyle Bonis before the Bulldog captain eventually passed the puck to the front and found the stick of Huff for his eighth assist this season.
Then, just over a minute later at 14:30 of the first frame, junior center Cory Kane gave the Bulldogs a 2-1 advantage when he tallied his ninth lamplighter of the season and first of the playoff series. Senior wing Eric Alexander skated down the middle with the puck before making the feed to sophomore Dom Panetta, who found the stick of Kane. Alexander and Panetta earned their seventh and third assists, respectively. Buckeye netminder Brady Hjelle made the original save, but was unable to prevent the Bulldogs from scoring as FSU took its only lead of the game.
Ohio State quickly tied the game back up at two goals apiece on the power-play at 18:50 of the opening period when Curtis Gedig shot the puck over sophomore Bulldog goaltender CJ Motte's right shoulder for his third goal of the season. Dzingel notched his second helper of the evening and Craig Dalrymple earned his third assist of the series on the goal.
Following a scoreless second period, Anthony Greco produced the eventual game-winner for the Buckeyes at 3:33 of the final frame and the score stood the rest of the way despite several Bulldog scoring chances. Gredig earned his second point of the evening and fifth point of this series while Dzingel earned his third point of the night and fourth of the series as both were credited with assists.
Motte was in net for 58:52 before being pulled late in the contest for the extra skater and recorded 24 saves while Hjelle spent the entire 60 minutes in net and made 47 saves for the Buckeyes on the opposite end of the ice.
The Bulldogs held a decisive 49-27 margin in total shots for the game, but Hjelle, a first-team all-conference goaltender, was up to the task for the Buckeyes throughout the contest. Kane paced the Bulldogs with a game-high eight shots on goal.
Ohio State improved to 16-16-7 overall with the win over Ferris State and advanced to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA Semifinals, joining Miami (Ohio), Notre Dame and Michigan for the last-ever championship round in the 42-year history of the CCHA.
Ferris State had five penalties for a total of 10 minutes and the Buckeyes had three penalties for a total of six minutes on the night. The Bulldogs were unable to convert on two power-play opportunities while the Buckeyes found the back of the net on two out of four man-advantages.
In addition to being the final game for the Bulldogs in CCHA play, the contest also marked the final outing for five Bulldog seniors in Bonis, Ouellette, Alexander and forward Matthew Kirzinger along with goaltender Rob Granett.
The five helped the Bulldogs earned a first-round bye in the league tournament this year for the fourth consecutive season as FSU joined Miami as the lone league member to receive a bye in each of the final four years of the CCHA. Together, they also were key members of FSU's 2011-12 squad that won the CCHA regular-season crown and advanced to the national championship game at the Frozen Four.