TAMPA, Fla. – Through 42 games this season, Ferris State has blocked 498 shots. Taking one for the team? Try taking 79 for the team. That’s how many times senior defenseman Brett Wysopal has deliberately put himself into the line of fire this season, nearly 16 percent of the team’s total blocked shots.
“The blocked shots, getting in lanes,” said Wysopal, “there’s nothing more frustrating than coming down and seeing that same guy block shots over and over and over.”
In Thursday’s 3-1 semifinal win over Union, shot blocking was key to helping the Bulldogs overcome their initial one-goal deficit. Through a nervous and scoreless first period, FSU blocked only two shots. After they settled down in the second, the Bulldogs blocked seven more and by the end of the game, they’d blocked 20. Wysopal said that getting back to business as usual helped Ferris State come from behind.
“You cheer a lot on the bench when you see a guy laying down and sacrificing his body to block a shot,” said Chad Billins, senior defenseman and captain — and blocker of more than 50 shots himself. “It does help with the momentum and we were happy to finally to get to a normal game in the second period.”
It’s not just the defensemen who sacrifice themselves for the greater Ferris State good. Senior forward Derek Graham has 30. Junior forward Matthew Kirzinger — one-third of FSU’s top-scoring line — has stopped 23.
“Matt Kirzinger would eat pucks if he could,” said senior goaltender Taylor Nelson.
Given the way the Bulldogs throw themselves into their work, it’s surprising that they aren’t injured more in their efforts. Wysopal remembers many of the times he was hit by the puck this season, especially one that caught him in the, um, lower body.
“That still hurts,” joked Wysopal. “That one was bruised for about four days. It was uncomfortable to say the least in practice the following week.”