I don’t think two sheets of paper have ever confounded me more than they did last year when Michigan came to town.
The sheets were the lines for that night’s hockey game between the University of Michigan and Ferris State University.
Beneath nearly every name on the Michigan roster was an NHL team that had drafted them.
Not a single name on the Ferris State team was associated with an NHL team, yet we smoked the Blue 5-0 in our first meeting at home, and played close games with them the rest of the way.
On Groundhog Day, we played Western Michigan. Again, there were plenty of players associated with the NHL on the Western roster. Star defenseman Danny DeKeyser went on to play big minutes for the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs that season.
After a brawl, a third period scramble and a shootout victory, we had taken down the mighty Broncos, who were then ranked No. 6 in the nation.
Why is it guys like DeKeyser and ex-Michigan Wolverine Jacob Trouba are immediately NHL impact-ready, yet the Bulldogs can still beat their teams? Shouldn’t that crop of stars win out against a lowly team from Big Rapids?
I wrestled with that question for many nights long after the season had ended. It’s a testament to the cohesiveness of the team Ferris fields every fall. The other teams have stars, but Ferris has a grind-it-out team mentality that doesn’t fail them when the lights are brightest.
In the final three minutes of a championship game, I would have no issues putting any of our defensive pairs out in front of junior goaltender CJ Motte.
Head coach Bob Daniels has pretty incredible defensive flexibility to work with this season. Whether he chooses Jason Binkley and Simon Denis, Zach Dorer and Travis White or Brandon Anselmini and Scott Czarnowczan to stand sentry to opposing offenses, there isn’t really a way he could go wrong.
From the blue line back, Daniels confidently said he doesn’t really worry about any of them.
The forwards are opportunistic, yet defensively responsible. The team is built in somewhat of a Scotty Bowman image.
While these men may never see the bright lights of Madison Square Garden in an NHL jersey, they are a rejuvination of the way hockey was meant to be played. You may not see many former Dogs in the NHL, but it isn’t for lack of hockey intelligence.
Their experience will prove paramount as they transition to a new league. That will make all the difference this season on the back-end, a season during which fans may see the best defensive team in the WCHA.