As most Bulldogs head for home signaling the end of fall semester, Ferris hockey is heading up north to Marquette where they look to rattle some cages against Northern Michigan.
The two teams squared off early in October, with the Wildcats coming out with a sweep on Bulldog ice. Getting swept on home ice certainly stings but nothing steals the excitement from Ferris fans quite like the way that series did.
In a building that is home to some of the best fan atmosphere college hockey has to offer, Ewigleben fell to a helpless silence when Wildcat forward Daniel Craighead slipped a fluttering puck by Bulldog goaltender Justin Kapelmaster with just 0.5 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 1-0 win to complete the sweep. It may be the first time in Ewigleben history that you could hear a pin drop over the usual electric Dawg Pound.
The loss put the Bulldogs at 1-3-0 (0-2-0 in WCHA) and took some mustard away as the team struggled to recover, going 1-3-1 in their next five games, including another winless conference weekend at the hands of Bemidji State.
Since then though, the Bulldogs are the hottest team in the WCHA, winning six of their last eight conference games, putting them at fifth in the conference with a 6-5-1 record. They sit right behind, you guess it: Northern Michigan.
The Wildcats come into the weekend at 6-4-2, three points higher than the Bulldogs. If the Bulldogs are able to pick up five points out of a possible six this weekend, they will overtake Northern for fourth place in the conference.
Even though there is a lot of hockey to be played, this weekend has huge implications on the WCHA playoff picture. The top four spots have home-ice advantage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, something the Bulldogs know they need to grab.
Ferris finished fifth last season, right behind Bowling Green State University. The two teams were relatively equal, but the Falcons used home ice to sweep the Bulldogs with a dominant performance in front of their home fans. The Dawg Pound certainly could have had a hand in that series going a different direction if the Bulldogs would have finished just one spot higher. This year they are looking for that extra spark come playoff time.
The Wildcats are led by senior forward Robbie Payne who has 19 points in 18 games this season (13-6-19). His shot separates him from the rest on the ice and the Bulldogs will certainly target him defensively this weekend.
Northern Michigan also relies heavily on the stout goaltending they receive from Atte Tolvanen. Tolvanen leads the Wildcats in between the pipes with a 2.43 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. He is 6-4-0 in his 10 games this year compared to a 2-4-2 Wildcat record without him in net. Tolvanen has been battling injury and his status is unknown heading into the weekend matchup.
Either way the Bulldogs will need to continue growing in their offensive game. The team has a chance to once again try and get past the .500 mark if they are able to secure a sweep.
Both Fridays and Saturdays games are set for a 7 p.m. Puck drop at Berry Events Center.
Check below for score predictions from the Torch staff!
Jacob Carlson (Sports Reporter): Friday, Dec. 15, 3-2 Ferris State | Saturday, Dec. 16, 5-3 Northern Michigan
Keith Salowich (Website Supervisor): Friday, Dec. 15, 5-2 Northern Michigan | Saturday, Dec. 16, 2-1 Ferris State