Ferris State has a two-game opportunity to reach Joe Louis Arena and the semifinal playoff round of the CCHA’s last season.
The Bulldogs quelled the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first night of the CCHA Quarterfinal playoff round at Columbus, Ohio with a 4-2 victory, March 15.
Senior left wing Kyle Bonis gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead in the first period with a one-timer from the right circle that flew past Ohio State’s goaltender Brady Hjelle.
Sophomore forward Justin Buzzeo (7A, 12P) and senior center Travis Ouellette (14A, 24P) assisted his eighth power play goal of the year.
Down 2-1, with four against four in the second period, junior left wing Justin DeMartino hopped on the ice and beat Hjelle glove side for his fifth goal of the year to tie the game.
He continued a play set up by sophomore defenseman Brandon Anselmini (9A, 13P) and junior right wing Garrett Thompson (15A, 26P).
“When we got scored on tonight, the wheels didn’t fall off the cart,” Ferris’ senior center Matt Kirzinger said. “We just kept playing at an even keel.”
At the start of the third, DeMartino’s linemate, Kirzinger (3A, 4P), battled at the blueline to keep the puck in the attacking zone with sophomore defenseman Jason Binkley (17A, 19P).
Their effort allowed Ferris’ senior wing Eric Alexander to corral the puck before it left Buckeye territory and set up an easy chip-in at the front of the net for DeMartino’s (6G, 16P) second goal of the night and the eventual game-winning goal.
Alexander said, “We knew we, as a line, had to do a better job of starting the game off well and getting the puck deep in their zone and using our bodies. The three of us know how important a first win of a three game series is, so we knew that we had to be on top of it tonight.”
Alexander (6A, 11P) stood in front of Hjelle, intending to make Hjelle second-guess his next move and drew the attention of a Buckeye defender away from DeMartino prior to passing the game winning goal.
“That was a turning point for the team, especially after playing so well up to that point and killing off a lot of penalties,” Alexander said. “In a tie game, in the third, you always want to be the team to get the first goal. That was huge for us.”
In the final minute, Bonis (19G, 26P) sent a slapshot from the Bulldogs’ left circle into the empty net for his second tally of the night, ending all hope for an OSU comeback.
Ferris’ sophomore goaltender CJ Motte made 28 saves to earn his 15th victory of the season. While the Bulldogs improved to 16-14-5 and 14-6-2 when they score first this year.
“We did a great job with our team defense, starting with CJ. Everyone was committed to our system,” DeMartino said. “We know how hard it is to win, let alone get two, on the road. We really emphasized how important the area in front of both nets would be this series.”
Ferris will attempt to limit its penalties in the second game, after killing four of its five in the first of the series. Alexander said Ohio State’s skaters took pleasure in pestering the Bulldogs for a reaction.
“We need to cut down on the penalties and play smarter. We need to stay out of that stuff and draw more penalties for ourselves with hard work,” Alexander said. “I think if we do these things and work as hard as we did tonight, it’ll be hard to lose.”
Kirzinger declared March 16’s match-up a must-win. In order to ensure a win, every Bulldogs’ effort must be more stringent in the second night of the series in order to advance to “The Joe.”
“No team goes down without a fight. We need to draw on our past experiences and not make the mistakes we made two years ago,” Kirzinger said. “We need to focus one shift at a time and concentrate on getting tomorrow night’s win.”
Puck drop is five minutes after 7 p.m. in OSU Ice Rink at Columbus. Listen to 97.3 FM for radio coverage if you’re in the Big Rapids area, online with Ferris State Athletic’s live audio feed, or video stream from Ohio State Athletics .
*A denotes assists
*P denotes points
*G denotes goals