The Ferris hockey team, now 8-22-2, took a 2-0 loss against the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers in an important Western Collegiate Hockey Association match up.
Headed into Friday, Feb. 22, the Bulldogs sat in ninth place with 18 points, just four points behind the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, who had 22 points and a record of 6-24-2. Both teams knew that playoff implications were on the line, and the Bulldogs tried to change a few things to get much needed points.
“We played well, we really did,” Ferris hockey head coach Bob Daniels said. “We worked on a few things during the course of the week a little different than we normally did, the guys ran it to a T. We talked about discipline and we took one penalty and Huntsville took one penalty. We had plenty of good looks at the net, their goaltender had a good game. They had some good looks at our net and Roni [Salmenkangas] played very well.”
In front of a loud crowd of 1,354 fans inside the Ewigleben Ice Arena, there was a playoff-like atmosphere, and it was a battle of the eighth and final spot in the WCHA postseason. Both teams played a conservative game in the first, as no penalties were drawn in the first 20 minutes of play.
The Bulldogs looked to gain momentum and get on the board first but were not able to get one of their 13 shots to find the back of the net. The Chargers, however, broke even and took the lead less than halfway through the first, which came from Huntsville freshman defenseman Drew Lennon, who scored his first of the season.
The second period played like the first, passive in the fact that the first penalty of the game came 38 minutes into play, committed by the Chargers. Both teams had a few good looks as Ferris outshot the Chargers 12-8 again, but for this period, neither team was able to put the puck past the goaltender and the 1-0 Charger lead carried into the third period.
As Huntsville committed their first penalty late into the second, Ferris would follow where they committed their one and only penalty a little over three minutes into the final period of regulation. Around the halfway mark of the third, the Chargers appeared to have increased their lead to 2-0, but after a video review, the call on the ice was changed to no goal, as the Chargers’ forward intentionally kicked the puck into the net.
Although the shots say otherwise, as they were even at 10, Ferris brought the pressure in their attacking zone, especially in the final five minutes with several good looks on net. To keep up the pressure, Ferris freshman goaltender Roni Salmenkangas left his net to bring on the extra attacker for the Bulldogs, but it did Ferris no help. The Chargers held on and tacked on an empty net goal with four seconds left to win 2-0 and get the three points.
“The message will be the same, we want to stay locked in tomorrow,” Daniels said. “We had plenty of opportunities tonight, we don’t need to river boat gamble tomorrow. We make good decisions with the puck, we stay out of the box, we find ways now to get pucks into the goal.”
Ferris will have playoff hopes on the line in a win-or-go-home game for the Bulldogs, where they need to win and get three points to still have a shot at the eighth spot in the WCHA. A loss would result in Ferris missing the conference playoffs, which would be the first time ever in program history.
The puck drops 7:07 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, against Alabama-Huntsville in Ewigleben Ice Arena.