KALAMAZOO, Mich — Dominant goaltending, aggressive play in the open ice and a good transition game proved to be the difference for Ferris State Bulldogs, who knocked off Western Michigan, 2-1 in this early-season CCHA battle.
The game for FSU was its first conference game of the season, and WMU was coming off a huge win over then the number-three Michigan State Spartans.
The Bulldogs (3-2 overall, 1-0 CCHA) got the scoring started quickly at 4:22 into the game as freshman left winger Casey Haines lit the red lamp for the first goal of the game. Cody Chupp and J.T. Dahlinger were given the assists on the goal.
“Number one, both goaltenders played very well tonight, but more importantly both teams played excellent on defense as well, which proved to be the difference in this one-goal game,” said FSU head coach Bob Daniels.
On the other side of the glass, WMU head coach Jim Culhane agreed that both teams played well, leaving both with chances.
“The difference in the game was they were able to capitalize on one of their scoring opportunities and unfortunately for us we were not able to do that,” Culhane said.
Bulldog goaltender Mitch O’Keefe was the reason the Broncos could not match the score. The sophomore made 25 saves in the game, 10 in the final period, as the Broncos were firing early and often at the FSU netminder.
To start the second period, the Bulldogs didn’t waste anytime to increase their one goal lead, as Chupp took the pass from the left wing right past Bronco goaltender Daniel Bellissimo, for a 2-0 Bulldog lead.
A couple of penalties later, sophomore defenseman Chris Frank slapped what was the Broncos lone goal of the night, past O’Keefe. The goal came off a rebound from center Paul Szczechura whose shot bounced right back to the approaching Frank. Left-winger Mike Lesperance was also given an assist on the play.
“I was just skating up and I really don’t do that too often, so I really had no idea what I was doing and just took a whack at the puck and luckily it went in,” Frank said.
After the goal, WMU (1-2 overall, 1-2 CCHA) seemed to take the game in hand, as the ‘Lawson Lunatics’ and the rest of the 2,782 screaming fans started to create a loud environment for the Bulldogs to handle.
“There was a period there right after they scored when the crowd came alive, and the team which played well all night long got a little extra dump of momentum on their side,” Daniels said. ” We got backed up on our heels a little bit, I don’t think we tightened up at all, I just think we were on our heels, and from that point allowed them to dictate the game for quite awhile.”
With so many scoring opportunities around the net, the Bronco skill players and forwards just couldn’t push the puck past the Bulldog goaltender.
“Our skill guys and forwards were doing a good job at putting pressure in the second and third periods at hammering around the puck around the net, and sometimes he just got lucky and other times he just ate the puck right up into his glove,” Frank said.
Culhane agreed with Frank about liking his teams will and determination throughout the game tonight, and during the season we will be in a lot of one and two goal games.
“The offense is generating chances, but were the type of team that is not going to come out and score six or seven goals on a given night, we are going to play a lot of one and two games this year,” Culhane said.
Bellissimo and the Broncos’ penalty killing team again held the Bulldogs to just four shots on the power play in six different power play situations. Throughout the game, the Bronco netminder blocked 24 of 26 Bulldog shots fired at him.
The Broncos travel up to Big Rapids for another game with the FSU on Saturday night, and on both sides it is looking to be more of the same kind of play with only minor adjustments being made.
“Saturday’s game should be more of the same as tonight, both teams making just minor adjustments, no big changes seem to be necessary,” Daniels said. “We are going to look at our faceoffs, and try to improve on them.”
The two teams will faceoff again Saturday in Big Rapids at 7:05 p.m. before both teams hit the road next weekend. The Broncos will travel to Nebraska to take on Nebraska-Omaha and FSU will travel to Alaska.