COLUMN: Alaskan turning point

Coming back from their two-weekend trip to Alaska, Bulldog hockey starts to gain momentum

Junior forward Coale Norris takes a shot against Northern Michigan on Saturday, Oct. 26. Norris had a goal and an assist in Ferris’ 4-1 win over Alaska-Anchorage Photo by: Samantha Cavotta | Torch Photographer

It’s simple, when the Bulldogs play stout defense, the team wins games.

While this can be said for every Ferris State athletics team, it is especially noticeable for the hockey team. Sitting at 5-9 there have been quite a few rough patches for the Bulldogs as the team has worked through weekend sweeps from Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, and Western Michigan.

In the Bulldogs’ five victories this season, the defense has been stifling and has allowed 1.2 goals per win. In the nine losses the defense has been much more porous; allowing 4.67 goals per loss.

The trip to Alaska may be what turns the season around for the Bulldogs, though. With multiple top players injured, the Bulldogs were still able to go into Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage and win twice. They scored another point in a shootout loss to Alaska-Anchorage, to go 2-1-1 over the two-weekend trip. They were able to pick up seven out of 12 possible points over the away stand.

Over the four game Alaska trip, goalie play vastly improved, allowing only two goals per game. Take out the 4-4 shootout loss to Alaska-Anchorage and the Bulldogs only allowed 1.67 goals per game.

Senior Goaltender Austin Shaw allowed 1 goal in his only game played on the trip with 27 saves. Freshman Goaltender Carter McPhail then earned the start for the next three games, allowing an average of 2.67 over three games with an average of 29 saves.

With the strong defense, the Bulldogs offensive attack which has averaged 2.86 goals a game was able to pull off two wins and the tie.

The attacking offense has been well spread out this season, with 17 players on the roster scoring at least one goal and 19 players scoring at least one assist. This unselfish mindset carried into the two-week series, with nine different players scoring goals in the four games and ten different players scoring an assist.

Freshman defenseman Jake Willets led the team in points over the last four games with four total points. 13 total players scored points against both Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage.

Moving forward, the Bulldogs will have until Dec. 13 and 14 to prepare for their next opponents when Alabama-Huntsville comes to Big Rapids. Alabama-Huntsville is last in the WCHA conference standings, sitting at 4 points in conference play with one win, eight losses, and a tie.

The Bulldogs sit in ninth place, close behind Alaska-Anchorage and five points behind Bowling Green and Michigan Tech, who are tied for fifth in the WCHA.

If the Bulldogs continue playing the defense they have been playing, they have a chance to make some noise in conference play. There is time for the injuries, which have undoubtedly affected the team, to heal up. With the Bulldogs at full strength, the team has a solid shot to reach its potential.

It may have taken a third of the season, but the Bulldogs appear to be on the right track.

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