BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — Ferris State still has a perfect record in playoff games played at home. Derek Nesbitt netted a goal and three assists while Mike Brown made 31 saves to lead the Bulldogs over Lake Superior State 6-1.
Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels was quick to comment about the score. “It was not a 6-1 game,” Daniels said. “Lake Superior State deserved a much better fate. We started pressing right away and we really made key mistakes. The score was not indicative of how the game was played. We played sloppy.”
Lake Superior State came out with a defensive game on their minds. Only sending in one forechecker and leaving the rest back proved to work as the period went on. The Bulldogs’ frustration was starting to show through until 11:22 of the first period when Trevor Large scored to make it 1-0. Nick Scheible carried the puck into the zone and dished it off to Large who backhanded a shot that went off goaltender Matt Violin’s glove and landed behind him.
Throughout the rest of the first and into the second period, both teams had their chances but had them spoiled by the goaltenders at each end. The Bulldogs lit the lamp at 9:45 to take a 2-0 lead. Chris Kunitz and Troy Milam cycled the puck at the points and passed the puck to a wide open Nesbitt who rifled a one time shot past Violin. Jeff Legue kept the Bulldogs rolling at 14:04. Nesbitt fed Legue who broke into the zone on a two on one. Legue took a slapshot that found its way past Violin and picked the far side of the net to make it 3-0.
Lake Superior State would not go away. With the Lakers really pressing, Brown continued to make the saves and keep them scoreless until 19:00 of the second period. With the Lakers on a five-on-three power play, Jon Booras took the pass from Chris Peterson and roofed the puck over Brown to make it 3-1.
“Mike was really on his game tonight,” Daniels said. “There wasn’t anything he could have done about that shot that went in. He was smothering lose pucks and wasn’t giving up many rebounds. When he did give up a rebound, it was off to the side and away from the net.”
Ferris State took advantage of its opportunities in the third period. Matt York stopped a clearing attempt and passed the puck to the left side behind the net to Mike Kinnie. With Violin slightly out of his crease, Kinnie just wristed the puck toward the net and it went off the goaltender and into the net to make it 4-1 at 7:35. Kevin Caudill capitalized at 14:17 to make it 5-1. With Brett Smith and Derrick McIver working hard in the offensive zone, Caudill found the puck on the doorstep and wristed a shot that found its way past Violin. Kunitz added a power play goal from the point at 19:29 to complete the scoring. It was his first goal in four games.
“It really wasn’t one of Chris’ better games,” Daniels said. “He is still so important to our club. He plays in every situation, and there are times I may overuse him because he is so versatile. He may not have scored many goals, but he still picks up key assists which are just as valuable.”
Mike Brown tried to put into words what it was like playing his first home ice playoff game. “I was a little excited at first,” Brown said. “After about five minutes, I relaxed a bit and then a little later it felt like a regular season game.”
Frank Anzalone was not totally unhappy with his team’s effort. “Lake Superior played a pretty good game and lost 6-1,” Anzalone said. “Some of our players, I won’t use the word quit, got brain dead out there. We had a game plan to play defensive and there are some people that just forgot that.
“We gave Ferris State a couple opportunities and they capitalized on them. I don’t think that Matt Violin played poorly, but there were some shots that he should have saved. Overall, we have let the program slide,” said Anzalone. “We have to find the kids that want to beat the teams like Ferris and develop them. Right now, not everyone on this team is like that.”
Both coaches had simple game plans for tomorrow night. “Play better tomorrow, that is the key,” Daniels said.
“Play hard, try hard, play smart,” Anzalone said.
Face off is at 7:05 at Ewigleben Ice Arena for game two of this best-of-three series.