TAMPA, Fla. — At the beginning of every season, Ferris State coach Bob Daniels is very positive about his team’s chances in the CCHA, but at the start of every season he says the same thing. Daniels is never certain where the offense will come from.
This season, he has his answer: It can come from anywhere, and it can come from places where it hasn’t come from before.
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“We had a chance to see him play in Traverse City,” Daniels said, “and he’s always been a scorer. We were concerned about his skating. He’s had a history of scoring goals since he was 14 or 15 years old, and we asked him to walk on, which is kind of interesting.
“When he first came, like a lot of kids, I think he had to learn to play defense first and then the offense followed.”
Bonis’ linemates include freshman winger T.J. Schlueter and senior center Derek Graham, and the trio is responsible for 32 of FSU’s 80 goals. All seven of Graham’s goals have come in the second half of the season — including three in the Bulldogs’ CCHA playoff series against Bowling Green.
“Derek Graham was a forward that came to us and because of his lack of size, he had difficulty finding ways to score,” said Daniels. “We moved him to defense because of his skill level. After two years of playing defense and battling in front of goals, we just moved him back to center and he took those traits to center and now he’s doing well offensively.
“That was a group that we didn’t count on [for goals] coming into the season.”
Senior Aaron Schmit, who had the tying goal and empty netter Thursday, is a right winger who has seen his time on the blue line as well. His two goals bring his season total to eight; he had seven last year and one between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Three of Schmit’s goals both this year and last were on the power play.
Then there’s senior captain and defenseman Chad Billins, with seven goals this season — five on the power play. Billins had 10 in his first three years at FSU.
“You look at Chad Billins,” said Daniels, “and he was always overshadowed and rightfully so by Zach Redmond, but Chad has always been an offensive force on the blue line.” Redmond was a standout defenseman for the Bulldogs from 2007 to 2011.
“But Chad’s always been an offensive force on the blue line,” said Daniels, “and now with kind of him being the go-to guy offensively on the point, he’s getting the recognition he deserves.”
Bonis’ game-winning goal was a pick-up of senior defenseman Brett Wysopal’s hard shot from the left circle. Union goaltender Troy Grosenick stopped the shot but couldn’t slide fast enough to defend against Bonis’ shot from the bottom of the right circle. It was Bonis’ first goal in the NCAA tournament and his fourth in 11 games. It was Wysopal’s 11th assist of the season.
“It was a great shot by ‘Sops,’” said Bonis. “It’s something we work on a lot in practice and things like that.” It was Wysopal’s 11th assist of the season.
“But when it went in,” said Bonis, “it was quite a feeling when it did.”