BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — It was a great day to be a Bulldog Saturday. Ohio State lost, Michigan lost, and Ferris State gained ground on claiming its first CCHA title with a 2-1 victory over Western Michigan at Ewigleben Ice Arena.
“The way this game went, it should have been a 5-4 game,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “Both goaltenders were excellent tonight and they were the main reason why the game was this close.”
The first period started out with heavy pressure by the Bulldogs. It didn’t take them long to take the lead. At 1:49, Mike Kinnie wristed a shot that hit goaltender Mike Mantua in the helmet and then dropped next to him. Phil Lewandowski skated in untouched and poked the puck into the open net to make it 1-0.
From that point on, the game was called tightly. Both teams got their chances on the power play, but Western Michigan got a 5-on-3 opportunity early. Netminder Mike Brown, however, made two key stops and Ferris escaped unscathed.
The Bulldogs got a 5-on-3 of their own with less than three minutes left in the period, and Derek Nesbitt put Western in a two-goal hole at 18:20 off a tic-tac-toe passing play. With Chris Kunitz and Jeff Legue at the point passing the puck back and forth, Nesbitt made his way to the side of the net. Legue sent a tape-to-tape pass to Nesbitt, who slapped a shot past Mantua to make it 2-0.
The second period was more of the first as the penalties came early and often, preventing either team from getting into a rhythm. Ferris State had the first 5-on-3 chance in the period, but was unable to capitalize on Mantua. Likewise, Western had another of its own, but Brown was equal to the task.
When asked about the penalties, Daniels just shook his head.
“I was hoping you weren’t going to bring that up,” Daniels said. “The penalties really disrupted the flow of the game. Some players played too much, while others didn’t play enough. I am sure it was like that on both benches, though.”
The third period featured more opportunities by both teams on the power play. Shortly after a Western Michigan power play, when the teams were 4-on-4, the Broncos finally solved Brown. Dana Lattery broke in on a 2-on-1 chance and sent a pass to Andy Townsend, who chipped the puck past Brown to make it 2-1.
With time winding down, Western Michigan’s frustration started to show as Dave Cousineau took a five-minute major for checking from behind with less than six minutes to go. That incident was followed by two other Bronco penalties that resulted in two late two man-advantages for the Bulldogs, eliminating any chance of a WMU comeback.
Daniels felt fortunate to come out with a win.
“I never thought we would have to run the table the last six games,” he said. “The league is so competitive, and I know all three of the top teams would trip up at some time.”
The teams will play again on Sunday at 4 p.m. at Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich.