The Ferris State hockey team has clinched a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs, capping off the best regular season in seven years for the team.
After a weekend series against Western Michigan that saw the teams face-off in two straight shootouts after regulation, the Bulldogs have secured a third-place finish in the CCHA while also locking down home ice for the quarterfinal round of the CCHA playoffs.
Ferris took the first shootout victory of the home-and-home series on Friday in Big Rapids.
In a first period where the Bulldogs held a 17-7 lead in shots on goal, they jumped out to an early lead just five minutes in when freshman right wing Travis Ouellette knocked a shot from the right circle into the Bronco net.
Western Michigan’s Ryan Watson knotted the score on a goal following a Ferris turnover in its own zone 40 seconds after the Bulldogs got on the board.
After a back-and-forth first period, neither team could break the tie for the majority of the second period until the Broncos tipped in a rebound past Ferris junior goalie Pat Nagle with less than four minutes left.
Trailing by one goal heading into the final period of regulation, the Bulldogs scored the equalizer two minutes into the third period when senior captain Cody Chupp wristed a shot from the right circle into the Western net to tie the contest at 2-2. Chupp knew the team would be in for a fight against the Broncos.
“We knew we were going to get the best effort from those guys, even with them being at the bottom of the conference,” said Chupp.
As neither team could capitalize for the rest of the period, the match went to an overtime period. In the five minute overtime period, neither Ferris nor Western scored and the game went to a shootout to decide the victor.
The Bulldogs started off the shootout and converted on their first attempt as senior left wing Blair Riley knocked in the puck off of Broncos goalie Jerry Kuhn.
After a stop by Nagle on Western’s first shot attempt, Ferris pushed the lead to 2-0 when sophomore defenseman Chad Billins fired the puck past Kuhn, giving the Bulldogs the shootout victory and two league points. Ferris won four of its six shootouts this season, second most in the conference.
With the victory clinching a first-round bye and home-ice for the second-round series in the CCHA playoffs, Ferris head coach Bob Daniels credited the team for a successful season.
“I was really happy to clinch the home ice for the playoffs and I know the guys are too,” said Daniels. “I’m really proud of the guys and I can’t fault the effort they’ve been giving all season.”
The Bulldogs headed to Kalamazoo on Feb. 27 and skated to a 1-1 tie in the regular season finale, with the Broncos claiming a 1-0 shootout victory.
With the regulation tie, Ferris gained its 49th league point of the season, giving the team a third place finish in the CCHA; one point behind second place Michigan State.
The Bulldogs will have the opening weekend of the CCHA playoffs off while they prepare to return to the ice on March 12-14 to host a quarterfinal-round series of the playoffs at Ewigleben Ice Arena.
Heading into the playoffs, the team feels very confident that they will be able to make a deep run towards a championship.
“We had a little bit of a rough stretch towards the end of the season,” said Chupp. “But we’re starting to look good at the time that it matters most, so we’re excited.”