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INDIANAPOLIS – The Ferris State University men's ice hockey program continues to produce at a high-level both on and off the ice, ranking as the leader in its conference and among the top teams in the country in both categories.
Not only have the Bulldogs ranked among one of the country's top squads in recent years and reached the NCAA Tournament twice in the last three seasons, but FSU has also been one of the nation's most successful programs in the classroom, according to the NCAA's recent release of the 2014 Academic Progress Rates (APR).
For the second-straight year, Ferris State placed among the top ten teams in the country and led its respective conference for the most recent data figures announced by the NCAA on Wednesday. FSU posted a near-perfect 997 overall score for the second year in a row based on 2012-13 cumulative data and placed tied for ninth overall in the nation.
FSU, which was eighth overall a year ago based on 2011-12 statistical data, posted the highest team APR of any school in the current Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) or the former Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), of which the Bulldogs were a member in 2012-13.
The scores, which are based on eligibility and retention of scholarship players, include multi-year data from the 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years.
"The APR is an indicator of student-athletes staying for four years and leaving with a degree," said FSU head coach Bob Daniels, a two-time National Coach of the Year Award recipient who will embark on his 23rd season behind the Bulldogs' bench as the program's all-time winningest coach in 2014-15. "A lot of credit goes to Associate Head Coach Drew Famulak and our staff for recruiting kids who value the opportunity to play hockey and receive a quality education while leaving with a degree.
"It's also a reflection on the emphasis of our athletics department in achieving excellence both in competition and in the classroom," he added.
The average score for men's ice hockey teams was 984, which was tops among all NCAA sports. Under Daniels' direction, the Bulldogs have now recorded back-to-back single year perfect APR scores of 1000 for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons only.
Every Division I sports team calculates its APR each academic year, based on the eligibility, graduation and retention of each scholarship student-athlete. Teams scoring below certain thresholds can face consequences, such as practice restrictions and restrictions on postseason competition. Rates are based on the past four years' performance.
NCAA President Mark Emmert praised the academic progress of Division I student-athletes and noted that the APR is accomplishing the goals of its creators.
"Ten years ago, the membership designed the APR to encourage student-athletes to stay in school and earn good grades. We are pleased to see that more and more student-athletes are doing that every year," Emmert said. "The significant academic standards adopted by our membership help us support success in the classroom to the same degree that we support success on the playing fields."
Ferris State's 997 score for 2012-13 matched its highest-ever figure in the Division I APR listing from the 2011-12 academic year. It marked the sixth consecutive year in which the Bulldogs either saw an improvement or posted an equally-high figure in their overall score. FSU has achieved a 967 score or higher in each of the past nine years to date.
The Bulldogs' 2012-13 squad, which earned the program's then fourth-straight CCHA Playoff first-round bye, included five senior graduates in forwards Kyle Bonis, Eric Alexander, Travis Ouellette and Matthew Kirzinger along with goaltender Rob Granett. All five went on to eventually sign at some point with a professional hockey franchise.
FSU continued its academic excellence this past season as the 2013-14 Bulldog Hockey team had seven individuals named to the WCHA All-Academic Team and seven others tabbed as WCHA Scholar-Athletes. Five seniors also received Ferris State degrees this season in Scott Czarnowczan, Justin DeMartino, Cory Kane, Andy Huff and Garrett Thompson. Three of the five played in the professional ranks after the year concluded.
This past year, Czarnowczan was among 10 national finalists for the Senior CLASS Award presented to student-athletes who excel both on and off the ice. It marked the third-straight year in which a Ferris State skater has been one of the final 10 nominees.
On the ice, the Bulldogs won the WCHA Regular-Season Championship in their debut campaign, reached the WCHA Final Five Championship game and came within a single victory of reaching the NCAA Frozen Four for the second time in three years.
Along the way, FSU set a school-record with a nation-leading 16-game unbeaten streak that stretched from late October to early January and the Bulldogs' 29 total wins led the country and ranked as the second-best seasonal mark in school history. The Bulldogs were ranked as high as second in the nation and boasted the nation's Premier Player of the Year and one of the top 10 Hobey Baker Award finalists in goaltender CJ Motte.
Ferris State was the lone team from the state of Michigan to reach the NCAA Tournament this campaign and one of only two schools from the WCHA along with Minnesota State. The Bulldogs led the WCHA race for the McNaughton Cup from wire-to-wire and became only the third program ever to win both the former CCHA along with the WCHA. This year's senior class left with a school-record 89 total wins over their four seasons in the program.
The Bulldogs will open defense of their WCHA Regular-Season Championship as they begin the 2014-15 campaign in early October.