BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — Some things never change.
For the third year in a row in Big Rapids, the Bulldogs and Wolverines battled to overtime. The previous two years, Ferris State won; this year would be different as the teams played to a 3-3 tie.
The game tying goal was scored in the second period when the pesky Bulldogs just would not go away. Spezia put the puck on net, but the rebound came out to Matt Verdone. With Sauer down, Verdone chipped the puck over the sprawling goaltender to tie the game 3-3 at 18:47.
Both coaches had similar things to say.
“Ferris is a really good team,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “They skated really hard and really worked hard in their zone. I thought we played well on the road today. We generated some quality scoring chances, and just missed on a few of them.”
“I thought both teams played well,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “Both teams generated really good scoring opportunities, and both teams worked hard. I just wish we got a few more scoring chances in overtime, but I thought we played well.”
The game was living up to its billing as the first period wore on. Both teams had their opportunities, but both goaltenders stood tall. The Bulldogs were awarded the first power play opportunity, but couldn’t manage a shot on goal through the tough Michigan defense. Both teams seemed content to wait for their opportunities and not press for anything early.
Alex Spezia drew first blood for the Bulldogs at 16:09 of the first period. Mark Bomersback drew two defenders and passed it to an open Spezia who buried the puck past Billy Sauer to make it 1-0.
Michigan had to only look to their assistant captain, Brandon Kaleniecki, for motivation. Michigan answered back at 18:03 of the first period while on their first power play opportunity. Kaleniecki was all alone at the far side of the net and took the pass from Chad Kolarik.
Before Mitch O’Keefe could slide over, Kaleniecki buried the puck in the open net to tie the game. Kaleniecki put Michigan on top in the dying seconds of the period when he won the faceoff, and broke in all alone on the Ferris goaltender. Kaleniecki beat O’Keefe to the far side with a great wrist shot at 19:51 to make it 2-1 Michigan.
“That goal was a heartbreaker,” Daniels said. “I knew we had to score the next goal because going down by two goals to a tough Michigan team is really hard to come back from.”
The Wolverines came out with guns blazing in the second period, but just couldn’t bury their chances. In the first five minutes of the period, they missed three wide open net opportunities. Ferris State picked it up a notch and put some shots on net. Sauer easily turned aside each chance while his defense kept the chances to the outside.
Ferris State tied the game at 7:29 while on their second power play of the game. The shot by Dan Reidel went off Sauer, but Eric Vesely was on the doorstep to put the puck home while on his knees to tie the game 2-2.
Sometimes all you need is a little luck if your set plays aren’t working right and that is what the Wolverines got. Michigan threw the puck into the zone and it went off the back boards and hit O’Keefe in the back of the pad. With the puck lying in the crease, Ferris tried to clear it, but Travis Turnbull was there to put the puck into the open net to make it 3-2.
“I knew after we scored that third goal that O’Keefe got more confident,” Daniels said. “I just saw it in him and the way his demeanor changed when that goal was scored. He did a very good job in net tonight.”
The third period featured very few chances by both teams as the defense limited a bulk of the opportunities to the outside. At the midpoint of the period, both teams grew a little more tentative, not wanting to give up a chance that may be the difference in the game. Kolarik got the first good chance to put the Wolverines on top at 11:04 off a giveaway by the Bulldog defense. Kolarik deked left and tried a backhand shot, but O’Keefe was there to make the save.
“If I had to select one player that played exceptionally well, I would say Adam Welch,” Daniels said. “He logs so much ice time it’s unbelievable. He was always back to make the right play. He was exceptional.”