BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — Friday night, Nebraska-Omaha just couldn’t keep up with Ferris State’s powerful offense.
The Bulldogs broke the game open with three goals in the final period to clinch a 5-0 victory at home. Coupled with losses by Michigan and Ohio State, the win means that Ferris State can clinch a share of the league title with a victory on Saturday night.
The win did not come easy, though.
Ferris State came out flying at the start. UNO goaltender Dan Ellis frustrated the Bulldog offense as he stopped Chris Kunitz on a breakaway, but that wouldn’t stop Ferris State from scoring. While on the power play at 3:18, the Bulldogs got on the board as Chris Kunitz deflected a shot from the point by Derek Nesbitt. The puck bounced between the legs of Ellis to give Ferris a 1-0 lead.
The game then turned into a goaltenders’ duel. With Ellis making key stops at one end of the ice, Ferris netminder Mike Brown was showing his skills at the other end.
The second period started where the first left off. At the 7:00 mark, Ferris State was awarded a 5-on-3 power play but could not convert. Ellis gloved the only shot on the power play, a diving stop on Jeff Legue.
“As the game progressed, it looked as if Dan Ellis was going to dominate the game,” Bulldog coach Bob Daniels said. “I knew Mike Brown had to do the same thing, especially after we couldn’t convert on that 5-on-3 power play.”
A quick strike in the final seconds of the second period gave the momentum back to Ferris State. Troy Milam unleashed a shot from the point that Ellis stopped, but the rebound came right out to Simon Mangos. Ellis rolled over with his stick to stop the shot, but Mangos deked to the right and backhanded it in to make it 2-0 at 19:49.
The third period was all Ferris State. With the Bulldogs cycling the puck on the power play in the offensive zone, Matt York chipped in a rebound goal off a shot from Phil Lewandowski at 6:22 to make it 3-0.
Kunitz got his second goal and third point of the game while on the power play at 8:09 to make it 4-0. Legue made a cross-ice pass to Kunitz, who rifled a one-timer that found the back of the net.
Brett Smith chipped in an unassisted goal at 18:09 to make it 5-0.
“Brett Smith is such a key part to this team,” Daniels said. “It isn’t the goals that he scores, but we will take them as they come. What is more important is the energy and hard work he shows on every shift. He also has incredible speed which he showed tonight on the goal he scored.”
The Bulldog defense was as stingy as they could get. Nebraska Omaha got its chances, but Brown was there at every opportunity. Most of the Mavericks’ chances came from the point or were unobstructed shots that were easily stopped by Brown.
“Mike is such a competitor,” Daniels said. “Some goalies when screened will just accept it and just hope the puck hits them when the shot comes. Mike comes out and finds a way to see the puck and the oncoming shot.”
Daniels carried the message about Ohio State and Michigan losing to the locker room, but there was no celebration.
“I suppose after we win it there will be a little celebration,” Daniels said. “This team is just so level-headed, and they know the job isn’t done yet. There are three games to go.”
“It is an accomplishment to achieve what we have done so far this year,” Kunitz agreed. “However, we still have more to accomplish.”
Ferris State will try to at least win a share of the CCHA title when it faces Nebraska Omaha again on Saturday in Big Rapids, Mich.