Sports Speculations – Hockey

Do the Bulldogs have what it takes to make noise in the postseason?

Bulldog hockey is set to begin a seven week stretch of hockey in what will be the second half of the season.

The seven week stretch includes 14 games, which will lead directly to the CCHA tournament in March. The Bulldogs have a great chance of gaining home ice in the playoffs if they take advantage of the second half of the season.

The Bulldogs (10-10-2 overall, 7-6-1 in conference) currently sit in fifth place in the CCHA and are five points behind the fourth place Michigan Tech Huskies. The Bulldogs currently have between two and four games in hand after not playing this past week.

Coach Bob Daniels revealed that the issues he’d like to fix are the same from the first half of play.

“We want to make sure we’re disciplined and our penalty minutes are down,” Daniels said. “It’s constant work right now trying to make sure we’re not stuck in our own zone. We want to play more in the other team’s end.”

Being stuck in your defensive zone can create numerous issues. One of which is being unable to score.

The Bulldogs struggle with scoring, especially under the circumstances. The team is tied fourth in scoring in the CCHA with 54 goals. Ferris doesn’t have a natural goal scorer, either. They are still very much a “score-by-committee” team. Six Bulldogs have either five or six goals, while the rest of the team has no more than three goals.

The power-play is sitting at 15-87 (17.2%) this season. This might seem a little low, but it is an improvement. The Bulldogs have one less power-play goal at this halfway point than they had all season last year.

Sophomore forward Brad Marek gave his thoughts on what the offense must do in the second half of the season.

“I think we need the four lines to be producing all the time,” Marek said. “[There’s been] a lot of emphasis lately on two guys getting in hard and supporting your teammates and producing offense, but we have to be getting our defensive zone as well. That’s where the offense starts.”

The Bulldogs celebrate during their victory in the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament over Michigan State. The Spartans were ranked 11th in the nation at the time. Ferris’ win inspired hope that they can compete for a successful postseason run in 2023. Photo courtesy of Ferris Athletics.

Defensively, the Bulldogs have been solid. Don’t let the -12 goal differential fool you. This is exacerbated by two terrible losses for the Bulldogs. The team’s loss to Bowling Green (6-0) and their GLI tournament loss to Western Michigan (8-2) really hurt the scoring differential.

Senior defenseman Brendan MacLaren, who is an alternate captain for the Bulldogs, shared what he believes the defense needs to do in the second half of the season.

“As a group, our defensive core has been really good, especially the last two months,” MacLaren said. “We just gotta keep all the chances against the outside in our end and then get it up to our forwards as fast as possible. The least amount of time in our end will lead to success in the offensive zone.”

As previously mentioned, the defense presented by the Bulldogs has been good. A testament of this has been the Bulldog’s penalty kill. The unit has only allowed 17 power-play goals on 86 penalty kills (80.2%).

So, what do the Bulldogs need to do in order to jump in the standings and land home ice for the CCHA playoffs? The biggest thing needed is consistency in their weekend series. The Bulldogs have only picked up one sweep through the 2022-23 season so far. However, they have not been swept. This is what their .500 record shows.

Another split this past weekend against Lake State, who ranks last in CCHA standings, means the Bulldogs will need to take advantage of upcoming back-to-back weekend homestands against Michigan Tech and Minnesota State.

Have hope for the Bulldogs in the second half of the season. They may have a miracle or two in them.