The season is beginning.
The Bulldogs must be barking.
Ferris State finished eighth last season, taking three of four games from cluster-mate Alaska-Fairbanks late in the campaign, but struggling down the stretch with Notre Dame, Lake Superior, and Bowling Green. The Bulldogs ended their season with two first-round playoff losses in Yost Arena.
I Know Why the Caged Puck Dings
The Bulldogs are rebuilding from the net out this year, with the loss of senior Vince Owen and the early departure of Phil Osaer, who signed a three-year contract with St. Louis.
“We’re excited about this opportunity for Phil and certainly wish him the best,” says Bob Daniels. “From a team standpoint, it’s difficult when you lose one of your top all-time goaltenders at the end of the summer and it’s an obstacle we will have to overcome.”
Returning junior netminder Matt Swanson will be joined by rookie Mike Brown, who played last season with the Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, posting a .894 save percentage and 3.77 goals-against average.
Life on the Big Rapids
The Bulldogs finished the 2000-01 season 11th in goals scored per game (2.39) – and last year’s leading goal-scorer, Kevin Swider, has graduated.
Rob Collins (15-17-32) and Chris Kunitz (16-13-29) do return, but after Swider, Collins, and Kunitz, no one on the Ferris State squad even came close to double-digits in goal production.
This year the Bulldogs add Jeff Legue, who notched 54 goals for the Cornwall Colts last year; Derek Nesbitt (22-38-60) from the Sarnia Steeplejack Bees; and Carter Thompson, a 30-goal scorer with the Melville Millionaires of the SJHL.
Defensively, there’s no doubt that Ferris State will miss Jim Dube and Scott Lewis, but Daniels hopes that returnees Troy Milam and Chad McIver — along with rookies Skip Renauld and Matt York — will flesh out the blue line.
The bottom line for Ferris State is that Osaer’s late departure – along with the turnover from last year’s senior class – really leaves the Bulldogs in a jam this season. Ferris is a scrappy, hard-working team, coached by the nicest contingency in college hockey, and a positive atmosphere can go a long way for any team, but it looks as though the Bulldogs may be anticipating a first-round postseason pairing with Michigan State.
Of course, in this league, as the coaches are fond of say, anything can happen. It’s a long season. You have to play 60 minutes every night. You never know. That’s why they play the game.