Sure, the Ferris State Bulldogs ended their 2008-09 season with seven straight losses, including two to Nebraska-Omaha in the first round of the CCHA playoffs, a series in which FSU scored just a pair of goals. And sure, the Bulldogs had three total wins in the entire second half last year and averaged a hair over two goals per league game all season long.
And, yes, Ferris State did this with a veteran offense that had produced 77 goals in CCHA play a season prior with a .500 record.
None of this matters, CCHA fans, because something wonderful is going to happen at midseason this year: The Ferris State Bulldogs are playing in the Badger Showdown! The Ferris State Bulldogs are playing in the Badger Showdown!
That makes everything right. FSU claimed the Badger Showdown crown in 2003 and 2004; the 2003 title helped solidify their reputation as Defenders of the Realm, the go-to CCHA team in interconference play.
So, what sayeth head coach Bob Daniels? “We had an awful lot of firepower returning last year and we do again this year, but we struggled offensively last year and I think the reason is the number of players that had sub-par years. The answers to the offensive difficulties lie within our locker room right now.”
Oh, what a party pooper! He is, unfortunately, correct. In 2007-08, four underclassmen — sophomores Cody Chupp and Blair Riley, and freshmen Justin Menke and Mike Fillinger — accounted for 44 of FSU’s 109 total goals. Last season, those four gents scored 20 of FSU’s 90 overall markers. The only returning player to have significantly improved his offensive game from 2007-08 to last season is Andrew Lewicki, who went from four goals two years ago to 10 last year as a junior.
“If those guys return to form,” said Daniels,” I think our offensive difficulties can be behind us.”
The Bulldogs always have a respectable showing, always challenge top-tier opponents, and nearly always have at least two of four cylinders clicking. Last year, the offense, defense and special teams were average at best, and the only thing really going for the team was the tandem of Pat Nagle and Taylor Nelson in net. However, a tag-team goalie effort isn’t Daniels’ style.
“If both play great, that’s terrific and we will split them,” said Daniels, “but we are committed to playing with one goaltender that gives us the best chance to win.” Daniels is looking for the veteran defense “to be the strength” of the FSU squad, but given how last year’s veteran offense performed, he qualified that the Bulldog blue line looks strong “on paper.”
It’s a big shout out for the Ferris State veterans to, as the kids like to say, man up. Daniels said that the newcomers have “the potential to contribute,” but added, “If the veterans play well, it will be tough for our freshmen to get special teams opportunities.”
That could be a big if. Did I mention the Badger Showdown?