Ferris State hockey returns for 48th season

The Bulldogs look to make a splash in the CCHA

Seven months following their loss against Minnesota State in the CCHA playoff semifinals, the Ferris State hockey team looks to continue their progress.

The Bulldogs broke a long-standing drought of playoff game and series wins last season when they swept the Bowling Green Falcons in the best-of-three CCHA quarterfinals.

The Bulldogs finished the year with a record of 14-19-4 and an in-conference record of 9-14-3.

Despite their first playoff game and series win since 2015-16, the needle has not moved for their expectations. They have been picked to finish seventh in the CCHA, according to the CCHA preseason coaches’ poll. Since the CCHA reformed in 2021-22, the Bulldogs have been picked to place seventh each year.

Head coach Bob Daniels, who is entering his 31st year with the program and only 13 wins away from 500 career wins, feels the same as he did last year with rankings.

“I feel, like most teams, that we’re better than where we were selected,” Daniels said. “We finished sixth last year and made it to the final four of our playoffs. We’re returning a wealth of talent from last year’s team. We’re fortunate to have our top line back in Antonio Venuto, Stephan Pokorny and Jason Brancheau. That’s a combined 25 goals coming back.”

Last year, Daniels stated that he had been in hockey long enough to know “that the rankings more reflect the last season and [are] a prediction on this season.”

As mentioned by Daniels, the Bulldogs are retaining their leading scorer in senior forward Jason Brancheau. The recently named alternate captain scored 21 points in 35 games last year. Joining Brancheau in a fifth and final season as a Bulldog is senior defenseman captain Brenden MacLaren

MacLaren, who split the captaincy with former defenseman Matt Slick last year, is pleased to finish his career at Ferris.

“It means a lot to me,” MacLaren said. “This program has a great history and the coaching staff has a great history. Even the town of Big Rapids comes together when we’re having success on the ice, it just brings a better environment to the rink.”

MacLaren is also proud to be alongside Brancheau, stating, “I don’t think we [would] have it any other way.”

As expected when a new season is on the horizon, some new faces donning the crimson and gold this year. The Bulldogs added five freshmen, one senior grad transfer and a familiar face returns to the team:

Additions for the Bulldogs:

Freshman forward Holden Doell

19 years old, last with Battlefords North Stars of the SJHL

 33G, 67A, 100P in 49GP in 2022-23

Freshman defenseman Jack Mesic

20 years old, last with North Iowa Bulls of the NAHL, captain for the Bulls

7G, 29A, 36P in 58 GP in 2022-23

Freshman forward Emerson Goode

20 years old, last with the Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL

29G, 19A, 48P in 60 GP in 2022-23

Freshman defenseman Trevor Taulien

20 years old, last with the Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL

3G, 4A, 7P in 25 GP in 2022-23

Freshman forward Luigi Benincasa

20 years old, last with Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL

31G, 48A, 79P in 60GP in 2022-23

Senior defenseman Nick Hale

24 years old, grad-transfer from College of the Holy Cross, captain for Holy Cross

7G, 10A, 17P in 35GP

Junior defenseman Nico DeVita

22 years old, transfer from the University of New Hampshire, played for Ferris State in 2021-22

0G, 0A, 0P in 7GP in 2022-23

Subtractions for the Bulldogs:

Senior defenseman Matt Slick

4G, 6A, 10P in 33GP in 2022-23, no eligibility remaining.

Senior defenseman Blake Evennou

1G, 14A, 15P in 35GP in 2022-23, signed with Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL

Sophomore forward Bradley Marek

7G, 10A, 17P in 36GP in 2022-23, signed with San Jose Barracuda of the AHL

Senior forward Dallas Tulik

3G, 3A, 6P in 18GP in 2022-23, transferred to Robert Morris University

Junior forward Mitch Deelstra

7G, 6A, 13P in 33GP in 2022-23, transferred to Northern Michigan University

Junior defenseman Luke Farthing

1G, 3A, 4P in 20GP in 2022-23, transferred to Canisius College

Senior defenseman Brenden Rons

0G, 0A, 0P in 11GP in 2022-23, transferred to Lindenwood University

Senior forward Cade Kowalski

3G, 1A, 4P, in 20GP in 2022-23, transferred to University of Prince Edward Island

According to Brancheau, the incoming freshmen have “bought in.” To freshman defenseman Trevor Taulien, buying in means one thing.

“It just means we’re all ready to go,” Taulien said. “We want to win this year. We want to go far. We talked as a team and [we’ve] got together as a team.”

The chemistry between the rookies and the Bulldog veterans doesn’t seem to be an issue as Taulien added that the team has been “super close since day one.”

Alongside additions, there will always be roster turnover. Lack of eligibility and the transfer portal remains a threat to collegiate rosters.

Bulldog hockey is set to return on Saturday, Oct. 7 and Sunday, Oct. 8 to take on the Miami (OH) RedHawks, just as they have for the past two seasons.

The puck drop for Saturday’s matchup is set for 7:07 p.m. while Sunday’s is 5:07 p.m.