From freshman forward Jake Transit leading the team in points, to freshman goalie Carter McPhail seeing significant playing time, underclassmen have already made an impact for Ferris’ hockey team.
This season has not gone to plan with the Bulldogs record sitting at 6-17-2. A pair of losses to Alaska at home this past weekend (2-0 and 6-3) brought their losing streak to eight games. A bright spot on the team, though, has been the development of a young core of players looking to make better contributions moving forward.
Ferris hockey is in a youth movement which includes 10 freshmen players, more than one third of the team. Because of this, there have been a few bumps in the road for the Bulldogs.
Chemistry hasn’t been one of these issues for the group of freshmen, though, as many played in the same league or even the same team in the junior leagues. Most notably though, the trio of freshmen — defensemen Brenden Rons and Max Finner, and forward Dallas Tulik, all played together for the Topeka Roadrunners in the North American Hockey League before joining Ferris this season.
Ferris hockey Head Coach Bob Daniels commented on how the help of a former player brought these men together.
“It’s helped the three of them feel comfortable coming here,” Daniels said. “One of the coaches on the Topeka team the associate head coach is Justin DeMartino played here and he’s helped us identify those guys as good players and then help us secure them. Also, those guys can then call him when things aren’t going well and he can tell them that to hang in there and to stick it out, so it’s a real positive all the way around.”
Rons also felt his prior experience with his teammates helped build the team chemistry faster as they all joined the team.
“It was great, it’s made things really comfortable coming in from the start living in the dorms together it’s been a lot of fun so far,” Rons said. “It’s almost like I don’t even have to meet a new team, I already know all the guys.”
As the season has gone on, Daniels has raised his expectations for the young group of men. Halfway through their freshman season they now know how the college game works. Development still takes time, though.
One good example of someone making the leap from freshman to sophomore year is sophomore forward Ethan Stewart, a player who has recently been drawing praise from the coaching staff.
“Ethan Stewart is a sophomore, but he missed a lot of time at the beginning of the year due to a family illness,” Daniels said. “He ended up having to go home and help with some family things, but he has been dynamite ever since he’s been back. I think his game has really, really accelerated from a year ago. I find it odd that it’s not showing up on the scoreboard but the other intangibles that he does, the energy he brings. He’s a big body, he’s positionally almost always in the right spot.”
Stewart agreed that the extra year of work helped him adjust to the added speed of the game and he was more confident in his decision making on the ice.
“Right now, I feel really good,” Stewart said. “I feel confident in my game and I think when anyone has confidence it can take their game to another level. Coming to college, the game is definitely a lot quicker than the junior leagues so as I’ve entered my sophomore year, I feel that my decision making is faster and thus I’m making faster plays.”
There is still a long way to go for the Bulldogs. The season has not been too kind, yet the players have great expectations for the future. According to Stewart, this includes winning the WCHA, making the playoffs and ultimately winning a national title.
“They’re coming along,” Daniels said. “One thing I really enjoy about the entire class is their hearts are all in the right place. They’re a great group of kids. Some certain contributions are more from some of the kids than others right now, but the overall contribution from that class, and I think it bodes well for the future too.”
Ferris hockey will continue their season at Michigan Tech this weekend, facing the nationally ranked Huskies on Friday, Jan. 24, at 7 pm and Saturday, Jan. 25, at 6 pm.