MADISON, Wis. — UMass Lowell spotted Ferris State a 4-0 lead just over 20 minutes into the contest, and the Bulldogs held on for a 7-4 win in the first game of the Badger Showdown at the Kohl Center.
“I thought UMass Lowell generated a lot of offensive chances early on because they gambled a lot,” said Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels. “If you watched the course of the game unfold though, because of that gambling it created two-on-ones or three-on-twos for us. It could have worked for or against UMass Lowell, as they were creating good pressure on us, but thankfully it worked in our favor.”
For UML, sophomore Danny O’Brien scored two goals and freshman Jake Pence added his first career points with two assists; however, it was not enough to complete a comeback,
“The first period was a little bizarre,” said UML head coach Blaise MacDonald. “I thought we actually played well in the first, put a lot of pressure on Ferris’ goaltender [Mike Brown], but you can see why he was an All-American last season.”
Ferris State notched the game’s first goal only 1:41 into the first frame. Forward Mike Kinnie rifled a shot at net from the top of the zone that junior netminder Chris Davidson got enough of to make the initial save. Davidson, however, could not find the puck in his pads, and as he turned his head to look behind him he witnessed the puck trickling for the goal line.
Making a diving attempt at the puck to prevent it from entering the cage, Davidson was not as quick as a streaking Zac Pearson for the Bulldogs, who scooped up the puck and put it home for a 1-0 Ferris lead.
Jeff Legue looked to make it 2-0 Bulldogs at 7:22, skating in from the left on a two-on-one opportunity with Mark Bomersback bringing in the puck from the right. Bomersback’s pass across the slot was just enough behind Legue to make the junior centerman take an extra second to collect the puck, giving Davidson just enough time to move across the crease and make the save.
Legue would not be denied a second time, though, putting his name on the scoresheet at 10:10 by ringing an unassisted shot off the far post from the right side faceoff dot for a 2-0 Ferris advantage.
The Bulldogs increased their lead to 3-0 just before the end of the period. Kinne picked up his second point of the night after he connected on a one-timer with a pass across the slot from Matt Verdone at 16:24.
UMass Lowell was not without opportunities of its own in the period, but solid goaltending from Brown prevented the River Hawks from scoring in the first. Brown stopped all 17 shots UML threw at him, while the Bulldogs scored on three of the 12 shots they had in the first frame, generating multiple odd-man rush opportunities.
“We gave up four two-on-one opportunities in the first period, and Ferris capitalized on three of them,” quipped MacDonald. “Needless to say that’s poor defensive transition and inability by defensemen to make proper plays. We had a few two-on-ones ourselves, but Ferris broke them up each time.”
Ferris State carried its momentum into the second period, scoring on the power play just seconds in. Derek Nesbitt one-timed a pass at the right point from Legue only 22 seconds into the period for a 4-0 advantage. UMass Lowell opted for a goaltending change after the tally, substituting sophomore Paul Mammola in.
The River Hawks finally broke onto the score sheet at 5:11 of the second. Sophomore Ben Walter banged home his own rebound down low on the left side. For Walter, it was his eighth power-play goal of the season, but first extra-attacker goal since November 1, and has only scored a total of two goals now during that time frame. Walter now leads the nation once again in power-play markers, with fellow Hockey East skaters Tony Voce and Thomas Pock shortly behind with seven power-play goals.
UML hasn’t had too much trouble scoring goals this season, however the last time the River Hawks scored was at 8:43 of the second period against Niagara on December 14, the last game for UML before the Badger Showdown. During the 56:28 between the two goals, the River Haws were outscored by a whopping 10-0 margin, giving up only one power-play goal.
Sophomore Danny O’Brien was credited with the next UML goal at 16:17 of the second, after his centering pass for classmate Brad King was intercepted and carried into the net by a Bulldog skater.
The River Hawks closed the gap to one goal less than a minute later. Sophomore Mark Pandolfo continued his recent hot scoring trend after tallying at 17:14. Taking a feed from senior Jerramie Domish , Pandolfo put the puck past Brown for his fifth goal in the last four outings, going 7-1-8 in the last eight.
Ferris State responded shortly after the third River Hawk goal, restoring its lead to two after Nesbitt rang a shot off the post at 17:50.
“In a game like this where it is either the moment defines you or you’re defined by the moment, clearly after we had closed it to 4-3 and we gave up a goal right on the next shift was not what we were looking to do,” said MacDonald. “We just needed a little more puck luck tonight.”
A back-and-forth third finally saw UML cut the lead back to one with O’Brien’s second goal of the game. Breaking into the Bulldog zone on a two-on-one, freshman Jason Tejchma sent a tape-to-tape pass across the slot to O’Brien on the right side of the ice. The sophomore winger roofed the puck from the right side face off dot at 11:33, making it 5-4 FSU.
It was the Bulldogs the rest of the way, as Kinnie added his second goal of the game at 15:48 after sliding into traffic in front with the puck continuing on into the net. Ferris State added an empty-net shorthanded goal at 19:00 to seal the win.
Brown made 34 saves in net for the Bulldogs, while Mammola stopped 11 and Davidson made nine saves through just over one period of work. Both teams saw some success on the power-play, with FSU going 1-for-3 with the man-advantage, while UML was 2-for-6.
Sunday UMass Lowell (7-8-3, 4-3-1 HE) will face the losing party in the Union-Wisconsin matchup, while Ferris State (7-8-2, 4-7-1 CCHA) advances to the championship game.