MINNEAPOLIS — In a nailbiter Friday night, Ferris State brought the nation’s second-ranked team, host Minnesota, to the wire before losing a 3-2 decision in the first round of the Mariucci Classic.
Jeff Taffe scored two goals for Minnesota, while defenseman Paul Martin had the third as the favored Gophers hung on to reach the tournament’s title game.
“We had to work for the win tonight. Our offense was dysfunctional — Ferris had a lot to do with that,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “The puck just seemed to find Paul, and Jeff made a couple great plays.”
Despite outshooting Ferris 14-7 in the opening stanza, Minnesota failed to put the puck in the net as the period ended scoreless. The Bulldogs clogged the passing lanes and took away second chances, while freshman netminder Mike Brown made numerous quality saves to keep the Gophers off the scoreboard.
“He gave us the opportunity to win. If he had not played well in the first we could have been down by two or three goals,” said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels.
Minnesota’s defense was even stingier, allowing only seven perimeter shots to reach net.
The pace quickened in the second period. The Gophers started on the man advantage, but the Bulldogs got the goal, scoring on a two-on-one rush one second after the FSU penalty had expired.
Freshman Derek Nesbitt redirected the puck past Minnesota netminder Adam Hauser at 1:34 of the period. The play was set up by a baseline pass from Derrick McIver that eluded Minnesota defenseman Jordon Leopold.
Minnesota countered with on a great individual effort from Taffe at 6:07. Picking up the loose puck along the wall, Taffe eluded two defenders on his way to finding Brown’s five-hole.
The teams traded power plays before Ferris State scored another goal on another two-on-one rush, this time McIver on an outlet pass from Phil Lewandowski. Leopold was again the lone defender back as Lewandowski’s pass found McIver two strides by.
“McIver gets it done through hard work and effort,” said Daniels on his winger’s two-point night.
Ferris entered the third with a 2-1 lead. Minnesota tied the score at the 4:04 of the third on a one-timer by Martin. The puck came squirting out of a scrum on the boards to an all-alone Martin.
The teams traded odd-man rushes for five minutes as momentum tried to find a team. It finally did at 8:42, favoring Minnesota in the form of a power-play goal.
Ferris had held the Gophers 0-for-3 with the extra attacker to that point in the game, but Minnesota’s nationally second-ranked power-play unit would not be shut out as Taffe notched his second goal of the game on a slot shot at 9:11.
The excitement grew when Minnesota’s Nick Angell took a crosschecking penalty at 17:36 of the third. Both teams where already short one skater and Daniels pulled Brown, setting up a five-on-three empty-net scramble with under three minutes left.
With three seconds left and the Ferris State net still empty, the Bulldogs had one last chance on a six-on-five faceoff to Hauser’s right. Minnesota won control of the draw to win the game.
“Ferris is going to win a lot of games this year… We have to play better to win tomorrow night.” said Lucia.
Minnesota will take on Providence in the title game of the tournament Saturday, while Ferris State plays Western Michigan.