Ewigleben Ice Arena saw its first fans of the season with 100 parents being able to watch the Bulldogs battle against the Wildcats of Northern Michigan.
Parents were treated to a high scoring thriller in which the Bulldogs fell 6-5. This was a topsy turvy affair that saw the Bulldogs start the 2nd period up 3-0, lose the lead in the 3rd, and score a game-tying goal within the final 35 seconds of regulation.
Head Coach Bob Daniels was optimistic after the game, happy about the offensive output by the Bulldogs.
“There are some areas in the game we can fix rather easily, for one thing, let’s start with this, we scored five goals, and we’ve been scoring goals, and if you can do that you can win. The defensive side is the easier side to coach, it’s the easier side to improve. I’m excited by the number of goals we’re scoring now.”
It was a tale of three different periods for the Bulldogs, jumping out to a hot start, scoring three goals in the first period. Leading 3-0 at the 1st break. Freshman forward Mitch Deelstra and junior forward Jake Transit each scored during the period, with Transit’s goal being short-handed.
Junior forward Ethan Stewart was the main star in the first period, scoring one goal and two assists before the period ended, playing a part in every goal as Ferris built their early lead. Coach Daniels gave his thoughts on the improvement of the forward.
“I think he’s having a really good year so far,” Daniels said. “We’re watching his growth and it’s a really good steady growth. He’s big, he’s strong, and he skates really well. For us, with Ethan, we’re really happy, he’s good defensively, kills penalties well, and now that he’s adding some points it’s just a bonus for us.”
While everything went right in the first period, nothing went right in the second, the strong defense that the Bulldogs had shown in the beginning began to crack as the period wore on. After an early score in the period made the score 3-1, both teams would go 10 minutes without another score before NMU scored twice.
A last-second goal by senior forward Coale Norris put them up 4-3 heading into the 3rd.
In the 3rd period, Northern Michigan scored twice, including a turnover that saw two Bulldogs trip, leading to a one on one against sophomore goalie Roni Salmenkangas, in which Salmenkangas couldn’t make the stop. This made the score 5-4 Northern Michigan as the game was drawing to a close.
A dramatic sequence took place at the end of the 3rd period, seeing sophomore forward Jason Brancheau hit a shot just inside the top right corner of the goal. It wasn’t called until after NMU scored an empty netter as Ferris wondered what was happening. After review, the goal was called, and Ferris saw its first overtime game of the season.
After Jake Transits’ stick broke early in the overtime period, the Bulldogs were on the defensive. Salmenkangas made several saves but in the end, momentum was on the Wildcats’ side. They were able to punch it in and win 6–5.
Coach Bob Daniels was notably not on the bench with the Bulldogs, instead opting to work from the booth. It was revealed that his father had died in the last week and his funeral was the previous day. Daniels had missed practice the previous three days.
“My dad passed away, his funeral was yesterday, the last three days I missed practice, I thought yesterday “Am I going to parachute into the middle of all of this?” and Drew Famulak has been here the entire time and suddenly I’m back after missing for three days, that could be a bit of a disruption,” Daniels said. “I also thought about what if we got to the playoffs and all of a sudden, I was contact traced because of COVID I’m not behind the bench, it was kind of nice to see we can play when I’m not behind the bench. In a season like this, the ability to adapt to different situations maybe this could help prepare us for these moments.”
The Bulldogs were impressive offensively, taking 38 shots and scoring five times. But NMU was more efficient, hitting six goals on 32 shots.
The Bulldogs will open conference play at home against Bowling Green State on Saturday, Jan. 2 at 3 p.m.