From Big Rapids to the big show

Bulldog hockey players sign minor league contracts

The Ferris State hockey team completed one of its most successful seasons in school history, but its legacy may not be fully written.

Three Bulldog hockey players signed contracts within a week of each other to play in the American Hockey League (AHL). Seniors Cody Chupp, Matt Case and Blair Riley have inked short-term contracts with three different AHL teams and may one day get an opportunity to play in the National Hockey League (NHL).

Chupp, a two-time Bulldog captain, signed an amateur tryout agreement with the Texas Stars, the affiliate for the National Hockey League’s Dallas Stars, on March 26 and appeared in his first game the same night. Through six contests, Chupp has recorded one assist for the Stars.

Chupp tied his career season-high and finished third on the team with 30 points during the 2009-10 season. He tallied nine goals and career-best 21 assists for the Bulldogs, while leading the team with a plus 13 efficiency rating this season.

Case, the Bulldogs’ lone senior defenseman, signed an ATO with the Norfolk (Va.) Admirals, the affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, on March 29. Case tallied a career-best 17 points for the Bulldogs this season. Case tallied an assist in his only game with the Admirals thus far.

Riley signed a contract with the Springfield Falcons and said he will be with the team for the remainder of the regular season as the team will not be in the playoffs. Riley led Ferris with 38 points this season, including a team-best 18 goals. For his career, Riley is 29th in goals, fifth in shots on goal, and 38th in points in Ferris hockey history.

Riley has appeared in two games and will likely compete in the final three games of the season.

The success of a team is sometimes defined long after the season ends. Ferris won the regular-season CCHA championship in the 2002-03 season. The season seems to become more and more impressive as Chris Kunitz, the team’s top scorer, continues to win Stanley Cup Championships during his professional career.

Through five full NHL seasons, Kunitz has been on a Stanley Cup-winning team twice and has a chance to keep winning while with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Senior forwards Casey Haines and Aaron Lewicki were each in the top five in points for the Bulldogs this season and could possibly also play professional hockey at some point. The team also has juniors such as defensemen Zach Redmond and Scott Wietecha, along with goaltender Pat Nagle and forward Mike Embach, who could all potentially play professional hockey in the future.

Time will tell just how talented the 2009-10 Bulldogs really were.