BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — Maybe the second time is the charm.
After scoring the first four goals of the game, Ferris State held onto the lead this time. Chris Kunitz buried two to lead the Bulldogs over Michigan 4-3 in front of a sellout crowd at Ewigleben Ice Arena.
“The thoughts of the game last night were in the back of our heads,” Bulldog coach Bob Daniels said. “We knew we had to keep the pressure up because the transition game of the Wolverines are so explosive.”
Michigan unleashed 19 shots on goal the first period, but the goaltending of Mike Brown kept the Wolverines at bay. The best chance came in the middle of the period on a two-on-one opportunity. Jeff Tambellini took the pass and found himself all alone with only Brown to beat. Tambellini attempted to go upstairs, but Brown stood his ground and gloved the puck out of midair.
Instead, the Bulldogs took control early as Kunitz wristed a shot top corner over the glove of goaltender Al Montoya to take a 1-0 lead at 1:19. Jeff Legue kept the fans on their feet by scoring again at 3:50 to make it 2-0. The shot went low and Montoya went to fall on the puck, but it squirted free and Legue was there to bury it.
Kunitz netted his second goal of the night at 11:44 to take a 3-0 lead. Simon Mangos passed the puck over to Kunitz, who wristed it blocker side of Montoya.
Michigan came out in the second period to beat Brown, but the first four shots on the FSU goaltender were not effective. Brett Smith then intercepted the puck and went down with Mangos on a two-on-one. Mangos took the pass from Smith and went upstairs over a diving Montoya to make it 4-0 at 1:36.
The ice then shifted dramatically. Montoya, after allowing four goals on 11 shots, righted the ship and the Wolverines embarked on another possible comeback. Brandon Kaleniecki finally found a way to get the Wolverines on the board at 7:32. Tambellini centered the puck to Kaleniecki, who beat Brown to the stick side to make it 4-1. Brandon Rogers scored at 11:59 while on the power play as he unleashed a shot from the point that had eyes and deflected past Brown to make it 4-2.
In the third, the Bulldogs kicked into desperation mode, but even when a team is playing desperately, elite players find a way to score. Brandon Rogers intercepted a pass in the offensive zone and wristed a shot toward the net. It went off of Tambellini’s skate and into the net to make it 4-3 at 5:25.
With the ice beginning to melt from the heat the sell out crowd was generating, the players on both sides were finding a lot more bouncing pucks and the speed of the game slowing down. Ferris State generated offense and got it schances, but Montoya was there to keep the game close.
But the comeback attempt fell short when Michigan took a critical penalty at 18:43 of the third. The frustrated Wolverines pleaded with the referee, but the pleas fell on deaf ears.
“It was a big win. All division wins are huge and in the end, it is just two points. Keeping that four-point lead over Michigan is huge,” Daniels said.
Kunitz’s thoughts on Montoya were unchanged from Friday night. “He should have had the first shot I had on net,” Kunitz said, attributing his success to the team around him. “I knew when Rob Collins graduated, I had to bring it up a notch. ‘Course, it really helps when you play with a team like this and linemates like Legue.”
Of the Hobey Baker, Kunitz said. “That is an individual award. I would much rather set my sights on the CCHA title or something along those lines. I do think about it, though, and it is flattering.”