EAST LANSING, Mich. — Game 1 between Michigan State and Ferris State promised to be a wild one. These two teams have a history — although dominated by the Spartans — and the Bulldogs were in a position to play spoiler.
But with Spartan captain Jim Slater contributing two goals at key times, and despite the Bulldogs’ two comebacks from two-goal deficits, the Spartans took the 6-4 win in the opener of their CCHA series.
The Spartans seemed at times to have it in for themselves, with poor puck control and inconsistent defense, but the Bulldogs had the same problems, and the Bulldogs never gained the lead despite a pair of rallies.
The Spartans dominated the first period, not letting the Bulldogs get a shot on net until almost eight minutes in.
The Spartans also scored the prettiest goal of the evening, while on the power play and with the one-goal lead. Defenseman Joe Markusen sent the puck behind the Ferris net, and it slid out to the right side of the net, where Drew Miller was standing. Miller snatched up the rebound and sent it home over Ferris goaltender Mike Brown’s right shoulder.
That lead was erased in the second, however, as the Bulldogs fought back. Freshman defenseman Joe Van Culin and senior defenseman Simon Mangos each found a way to get the puck past Spartan netminder Dominic Vicari just 13 seconds apart.
“It was nice to get the two right in a row, and give our guys credit because when you’re down two, sometimes you can say, ‘Oh, here we go again,’ and that didn’t occur. Then we got down two again, at 4-2, and came back and tied it, so the guys kept plugging along and putting their best foot forward, so I’m excited about that, but disappointed with the loss,” Bulldog coach Bob Daniels said.
The first of Slater’s big goals came just under six minutes after the Ferris offensive barrage.
After finding himself one of two Spartans against a lone Ferris defenseman, Slater skated up the middle of the ice, while freshman Tommy Goebel carried the puck into the Ferris zone. The defenseman covering the rush moved, and Goebel passed to Slater, all alone in the slot, and Slater sent the puck five-hole to regain the lead.
Goebel scored a goal of his own early in the third, and the Bulldogs brought themselves even again, as junior forward Jeff Legue and sophomore forward Greg Rallo both scored.
Enter Slater with important goal number two of the evening. The puck deflected off his face mask, and Slater (or rather his face mask) put the Spartans up on the Bulldogs for the third time of the evening.
“Goebel just threw it to the front, I got a little tip on it, and then Brown made a good save, and it hit me right in the face and dropped right in the net. Using your head,” Slater joked.
“It was bizarre, wasn’t it?” Spartan coach Rick Comley said. “The thing you fear going in is an emotional letdown after last week (when the Spartans played Michigan). … Tonight, you come out, and the building is half-full, you’re flat, and you get up two-nothing, and you didn’t have to even earn it, really.”
“It’s disappointing,” Daniels said. “It was a sloppy game, for both sides. Neither team really controlled the puck all that well. This game would have been big to get, but I thought we didn’t play very well at all in the first, and got our legs under us and played much better in the second and third. I think we were very tentative when we came out in the first period.”
“They came fighting back,” Comley said. “I thought Dom [Vicari] struggled like crazy, all night long, but fought through it, and so I thought it was a learning experience for him. Ferris played hard — they did what they had to do. I thought we were very average, but I don’t want to discredit what they’re doing, because I thought they worked hard.
“They’re the kind of team that you have to play hard against, or you’re going to have some problems, so they gave us fits, but, bottom line is, you got a playoff win.”