Crunch time

Strong defense is not enough as the Bulldogs falter to begin final stretch

The Ferris hockey team has reached the point in the season comparable to the final minutes of a game. It’s crunch time for the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs were swept for the eighth time this past weekend as they fell at home to Michigan Tech. This pair of losses kept the Bulldogs stationary in ninth place in the conference standings as the team prepares for the final two weeks of the regular season.

A strong defensive performance over the weekend may give the Bulldogs momentum moving forward.

The Bulldogs held the Huskies of Michigan Tech to four goals over the weekend. Game one on Friday was a strong team game, as the Bulldogs only allowed 16 shots on goal during the contest. Coach Bob Daniels commented on the defensive performance in Friday’s contest.

“I thought our puck management was pretty good, except for maybe one play during the night. I thought we did a really good job of managing the puck and moving it and knowing when to chip it off the window. Possessing the puck can limit the scoring opportunities,” Daniels said.

The strong defense continued into Saturday, but not due to the lack of shots. Senior goaltender Austin Shaw made 30 saves while only allowing one goal in Saturday’s 2-0 loss.

“I think we have a solid d-core, you know, a couple young guys, Evennou, Willets, then we have Rutkowski and Kallen, so I think there is experience and talent there,” Shaw said. “It makes my job easier when I can count on those guys. As we go down the stretch our guys don’t need to overthink anything and keep on going.”

Yet in both games, the strong defensive performances were not enough. In Friday’s contest, three goals were netted on the 16 shots that went sophomore goalie Roni Salmenkangas’s way and the Bulldogs could only muster two goals and two near misses. Saturday the offense was quiet, allowing a shutout off 36 shots on goal.

These inconsistencies have plagued the Bulldogs all season. At this point in the season, every game needs to be a full 60-minute contest of the Bulldogs playing their best. With these past games, Daniels believes there is a blueprint to success.

“What I would like to do is bottle our games this weekend, the way we played, and take that on the road to Bowling Green and roll out there,” Daniels said. “I can’t help to think that with those opportunities we will bang a few home.”

There are four more opportunities for the Bulldogs to make some noise in the conference and make the playoffs. The first two come this weekend with the Bulldogs traveling to Ohio to play Bowling Green State, a team that sits at sixth in the standings with a 15-13-3 record.

The Bulldogs will end the regular season at home against Lake Superior State on Feb. 28 and Feb. 29. Lake Superior State sits at seventh in the conference standings with a 10- 20-4 record on the season.