BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — It doesn’t get any better than this.
Two nationally-ranked teams with near-equal statistics, both fighting for respect. In the end, it was Ferris State that came away with a hard-fought 4-2 win over Ohio State in an intense, fast-paced game.
Derek Nesbitt tallied the winning goal late in the second to lift the Bulldogs (10-3-0, 8-1-0 CCHA).
Ferris’ Mike Kinnie drew first blood in the contest at 1:31. With the Bulldogs up a man, Matt York passed the puck to Kinnie, alone to the left of OSU goaltender Mike Betz. Kinnie wristed a shot past the diving goaltender to make it 1-0 in favor of Ferris.
The power-play goal was the first allowed by the Buckeyes in 23 chances over five games.
Ohio State (8-3-1, 5-1-1 CCHA) answered at 6:13. R.J. Umberger found himself all alone in front of Ferris State goaltender Mike Brown; Dan Knapp passed the puck to Umberger, who one-timed it past Brown to tie the game 1-1.
Dave Steckel then put OSU up 2-1 at 12:15. Brown made a glove save off Paul Caponigri, but the puck slipped out of his glove and Steckel backhanded it into the open net.
Ferris State tied the score again at 14:06 when Phil Lewandowski wristed a shot to the top left corner past Betz to make it 2-2.
“I thought the game could have been 6-5 after that first period,” Bulldog coach Bob Daniels said. “Ohio State really carried the play the first 10 minutes of the game. I thought we were very fortunate to come out of that period tied 2-2.”
Both teams buckled down and played more conservatively in the second and third periods, and the game became more intense as the checking and physical play picked up.
Ferris State scored the lone goal of the second period — the eventual game winner — at 15:41 off a tic-tac-toe passing play. Jeff Legue passed the puck to Chris Kunitz, who fed Nesbitt in the wheelhouse as he slapped a shot past the sprawling goaltender.
The third period picked up right where the second left off, with more checking, a quickening pace, and key stops from both netminders.
With that in mind, in a game of inches, a bounce can make all the difference. Nesbitt got that bounce at 18:02 of the third period to give the Bulldogs a two-goal cushion. Nesbitt tried a centering pass from behind the net that hit the heel of Betz’s stick and trickled into the net behind him to make it 4-2.
“That was a very fortunate bounce, and that is what you need sometimes to beat excellent teams like Ohio State,” Daniels said. “It was a very fast, intense, and physical game. I expect Ohio State to come out harder tomorrow night.”
Betz had 29 saves for OSU, Brown 31 for Ferris.
Ferris State — which remained atop the CCHA with the win — and Ohio State play one more time on Saturday in Big Rapids.