ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Forget Michigan-Michigan State; there’s a new top rivalry in the CCHA.
Ferris State and Michigan and their high-powered offenses delivered Friday night.
It was wild. It was outrageous. It had everything a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup could deliver — high-speed action, intense hitting, lots of scoring — even some trash talk between Michigan goaltender Al Montoya and Ferris sniper Chris Kunitz.
If fans wanted offense, they got it. The finally tally went Michigan’s way, 6-4, but the scorekeepers could barely keep up with all the red lights.
“That’s my kind of hockey,” said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels of the run-and-gun feel. “It’s a lot more fun for the crowd.”
But it wasn’t so much fun for the Bulldogs, who took a 2-0 first-period lead, remained in the game after the Wolverines dominated the second period and had a chance to tie the game when Michigan went ahead 5-4.
“It was pretty wide open,” Daniels said. “The goalies were pretty much left out to dry.”
The Wolverines thought Montoya was especially left out to fend for himself. Ferris State played rough with the 17-year old freshman goaltender all night.
“You have to rely on the officials,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “This isn’t target practice on the goalie. … You don’t see us running at their goalie.”
In the first period, Ferris State’s hot start cooled off when Montoya flopped to the ice, apparently hurt. With Montoya down for several minutes, Michigan used the timeout to regroup. The Wolverines tied the game minutes later.
“It was a chance for everyone to realize we had to get more involved mentally and physically,” Berenson said.
The Bulldogs’ Kunitz wasn’t as thrilled, calling Montoya “a crybaby.”
“He embellishes it a lot — if he’s going to be a crybaby, so be it,” Kunitz said of Montoya, who went down several times, prompting Michigan trainer Rick Bancroft to come onto the ice.
Montoya snickered when he heard Kunitz’s comments. He called the attacks “the worst” he’s ever experienced and said he embellished nothing.
“No, not at all,” he said. “The referees basically let me know that they were going to take care of me because they saw the guys coming after me from the start.”
Montoya said it was Ferris’ goal to go after him. “For the most part,” he said. “They were pummeling me. But let them do it. We’ll show them on the scoreboard.”
The series continues Saturday with Michigan (18-6-1, 12-4-1 CCHA) just two points behind Ferris (18-8-1, 13-5-1) in the league standings.
But by the look of Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer, who let out a loud sigh as he walked to the bus bound for Big Rapids, it seems the teams already used enough energy for two games.
Kunitz, a Hobey Baker candidate and the No. 3 scorer in the nation, scored twice for the Bulldogs and earned the respect of the Wolverines.
“Kunitz is a big-time player,” Berenson said. “He could’ve had four goals.”
This week, Ferris began a Hobey campaign for Kunitz, marketing him as “the top dog” and “the nation’s most complete player.”
Michigan center Milan Gajic, who struggled to learn to play on the defensive end finally put together a complete game. He scored twice, both times from the open left slot, and added an assist on Andy Burnes’ crucial first-period goal.
“I didn’t see it coming — it’s about time,” Berenson said.
Jeff Tambellini also scored twice for the Wolverines.
Daniels thought Ferris had a good chance to win the game when, 24 seconds after Michigan took a 5-3 lead, Simon Mangos scored to make it 5-4.
The game then was decided in a three-minute span of the third period. First, Michigan killed off a Danny Richmond penalty. Then, Trevor Large beat the Michigan defense and, on a breakaway, hit the crossbar, inches away from the game-tying goal. Seconds later, Ortmeyer took a sprawling swipe at the puck at midice while being taken down by Large. The puck dribbled to a waiting Tambellini, who slapped it in the upper left of the net for a 6-4 Michigan lead.
The Wolverines outshot Ferris 37-22.