TAMPA, Fla. — When Boston College scored a little over three minutes into Saturday’s national championship game, the Eagles were doing just what everyone expected them to do — including Ferris State.
“We play enough skilled teams to know that they’re going to score goals,” said senior forward Jordie Johnston. “We just accept that. There’s going to be goals in a hockey game. Neither team can win if they don’t score. We had — what? — 55 minutes left in the game, and guys just realized that it wasn’t the end of the game.
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Two minutes later, the Bulldogs answered with Garrett Thompson’s goal from Andy Huff and Travis Ouellette. This was Ferris State hockey, fueled by the kind of loyalty seen in the team’s canine mascot.
All season long, this Ferris State team has relied on loyalty to keep an even temperament in the locker room and on the bench. That even temperament has helped the Bulldogs rebound after a bad showing at midseason in Vermont’s Catamount Cup and in the CCHA playoffs when No. 1 Ferris State was eliminated by No. 11 Bowling Green.
“There’s a lot of talk in the room about believing in one another,” said senior goaltender Taylor Nelson, “just trusting that the guy next to you is going to go out and deliver. That’s the way it’s been for us all season. It’s just that feeling that we get playing with one another; we just know guys are going to respond.”
After the Bulldogs responded, the Eagles scored again on a power play to make it 2-1 after one period, but at the end of the scoreless second period, the shots were even at 22 and the underdog Bulldogs were very much in this game.
“I was kind of buoyed by the first period and I felt good after the second,” said coach Bob Daniels. “It was our kind of game. It was defensive hockey, it was a one-goal game, and we’re comfortable in that situation.
“I felt really confident going out for the third. I think it was about the eight-minute mark and I thought, ‘This is perfect. We’re going to get one, and then we’re going to get another one.’”
They didn’t get that next one, but neither did they let Boston College run away with it — and they never let up for a moment.
“We knew that there might be a time that we might be down a goal or two, but we never got down,” said Johnston. “If we could keep making them battle and battle and battle, we could take advantage of that because we kind of break down the will of other teams. That’s what we tried to do all year, and we just hoped that we could do that tonight. We did get our chances and unfortunately we didn’t score, but I think we played our game pretty much throughout the whole game.”
Daniels said that the steadiness of the team stems from the upperclassmen. “You take it from the classroom to how they approach everything,” said Daniels. “It’s never boisterous, it’s never loud. It’s just matter-of-fact and they kind of hold each other accountable and really no one wants the attention very much.”
When the game was over and the loss was in the books, the Bulldogs were proud of their effort. “We had our chances, too,” said Daniels. “That’s why I don’t feel so bad. I’ll probably lose a little sleep over this, but I won’t over the performance. Just the outcome.”
“I’m happy with how everyone played and I’m proud of all the guys,” said Johnston.
“We’re happy with our season,” said senior captain Chad Billins. “We’re not going to hang our heads or anything like that.”