Despite a one-win campaign last season, Ferris State Hockey has many reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming 2021-2022 season.
The Bulldogs come into the new campaign with more experience and confidence than last year. After only losing a few players and gaining more in recruiting, many players are hungry to change the narrative from a year ago.
“We have something to prove this year,” senior forward Ethan Stewart said. “We are excited about the opportunity ahead of us.”
One of the changes providing the excitement is a shift in conference. After 70 years of hosting some of the finest collegiate hockey, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) officially announced the league would be disbanding on July 1 due to over 80% of the teams deciding to jointly leave the league.
With the WCHA disbanding, the seven teams that left the league ultimately decided to re-brand and join a former conference that dissolved in 2013: the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). The CCHA began in 1971 and operated for over 42 years in the Midwest region. With the Bulldogs having played in the former conference, head coach Bob Daniels is excited for the CCHA’s return.
“I coached my first 25 years in the CCHA, so to me, it’s a ‘new-old’ conference,” Daniels said. “It’s kind of like a welcome home.”
Joining Ferris State in the CCHA are former WCHA competitors Bemidji State, Minnesota State-Mankato, Bowling Green, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, and Northern Michigan. Rounding out the eight-team conference is the University of St. Thomas, who are making their Division I debut after previously competing in the Division III Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“I know as a team we are excited for the change into the CCHA,” senior forward Jake Transit said. “It’s been fun seeing the culture change already in such a short amount of time.”
Along with new conference opponents, the Bulldogs will also be facing new competitors outside of the CCHA in the upcoming campaign. This includes a series with Canisius College, a Division I program with a familiar face leading the team: Trevor Large. The former Bulldog player from 2000-2004 is entering his fifth season as the head coach of the Golden Griffins.
“We wanted to get them on the schedule as soon we could,” Coach Daniels said regarding Canisius.
With the return of the conference comes an upgrade in their branding. The conference has made several changes including adding a new logo, website, and media network. With all the hard work, these updates have caught the attention of many supportive players.
“We’ve all seen how active they are on representing the conference on social media,” Transit said. “Us players are very appreciative of that.”
Not only will the Bulldogs have new opponents on their home ice this winter, but they will also have an updated locker room to prep for those teams. According to Coach Daniels, the new renovations and additions will be made for this upcoming season.
“(The locker rooms) were new to us 25 years ago, but now they are starting to age,” Daniels said. “This project will give them a more contemporary look.”
Some of the notable locker room changes include new LED lighting, vinyl artwork and locker stalls with new seats. Coach Daniels believes the changes will provide a “contemporary facelift” to the facility.
The renovations aren’t the only changes occurring within team facilities. Along with the locker room modifications, the Bulldogs have also obtained a new nutrition station and team weight room. The nutrition station, named the Sarah Collins room, provides proper nutritional snacks and hydration for all the teams’ student athletes. The new satellite weight room allows for the athletes to train throughout the school year and summer at their convenience.
There is no doubt the new facilities will make a huge impact. Many players like Stewart believe the new additions are going to be a huge resource for training moving forward.
“The new facilities have been extremely helpful,” Stewart said. “The implementation of the nutrition center was huge for us players. The coaches and trainers have done an amazing job providing us different foods before and after workouts.”
Not only are the new changes beneficial for the current team members, but they will also be crucial for future players at the university.
“Facilities are always important when it comes to recruiting,” Stewart said. “The future recruits are going to be in a great spot with everything we have going on now.”
With all the new tools and a clean slated conference, the hockey program is looking to make a jump this season. Many players, including Transit, believe these changes have already provided motivation towards the improvement.
“We’re all excited to have a fresh start,” Transit said. “This preseason has been very good for us and guys have been working super hard. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people this year.”
The Bulldogs open the season Oct. 2 at home vs. Miami University-Ohio. For tickets or more information, visit www.ferrisstatebulldogs.com/sports/mice.