The nationally No. 13-ranked Bulldog hockey team is heading to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semifinals after sweeping No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha at home.
The victories gave Ferris its first trip to the CCHA Championships since the 2002-2003 season and a 12-0 record all-time in CCHA Tournament games at home.
After taking the first contest of the best-of-three, second round series by a score of 3-1 on Friday, Ferris senior left wing Casey Haines scored a game-winning, overtime goal on Saturday to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 victory and a berth in the semifinals.
With a chance to clinch a CCHA Playoff Championship, Ferris head coach Bob Daniels said his team has its goal in sight.
“Our driving force right now is to get to Joe Louis and see if we can come back with a championship,” said Daniels.
Ferris jumped on the board first in the decisive contest when senior left wing Blair Riley netted his team-high 17th goal of the season only 3:21 into the first period.
The lead did not last for long though, as Nebraska-Omaha retaliated with two goals in less than 17 seconds at the midway mark of the first period to erase the Ferris advantage.
Nebraska-Omaha maintained the lead for the majority of the second period until Ferris senior center Aaron Lewicki posted a power-play goal with 6:25 left in the period to knot up the score at 2-2.
With the score tied, neither team could find the net in the final period of regulation despite 12 shots on goal from Nebraska-Omaha and 11 by the Bulldogs, sending the match to sudden-death overtime.
With a chance to finish off the series and prevent a decisive third game, the Bulldogs struck just 23 seconds into overtime when Haines fired a shot past Nebraska-Omaha goalie John Faulkner. The Bulldog bench frantically ran onto the ice and smothered Haines after his decisive goal.
“I was just trying to get the puck on net and I never saw it go in,” said Haines. “Once I saw the students jump, I took off towards center ice to celebrate.”
Riley tallied a goal and two assists for the Bulldogs and senior captain Cody Chupp added two assists in their final contests at Ewigleben Ice Arena. The Bulldogs were 3 for 8 in power play opportunities in the series, while holding Nebraska-Omaha to 0 for 6 in its power play chances.
With the series win, the Bulldogs will face either Northern Michigan or Ohio State in a semifinal matchup at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on March 19, with a spot in the CCHA Championship on the line.
“We’ve got some work to do in preparation for the weekend at the Joe,” said Daniels. “But we’re going to try and come back with a championship.”