EAST LANSING, Mich. — Sooner or later Michigan State is going to stop scheduling Ferris State on Tuesday nights. Last season, the two teams played both of their games on Tuesday and the Bulldogs took three of four points from the Spartans.
This time, FSU shed a two-goal deficit in 1:43 of the third period, earning a 2-2 tie with the sixth-ranked Spartans.
“I’m not sure that’s a bad tie, said MSU coach Rick Comley. “You knew coming in that the energy was going to be a major problem. They were rested and fresh (having last weekend off) and we had one day following a tough Michigan weekend. As a coach, I’ll take the point.”
“It was a good tie because we were behind. It would have been bad if they caught up, but being on the road and coming from behind we’ll take it,” said FSU coach Bob Daniels.
Junior captain Adam Welch started the Bulldogs’ comeback at 6:02 of the final frame. Eric Vesely sent a pass from the end boards to Welch, who one-timed the puck to the back of the net from the top of the right circle.
Just seconds later, MSU freshman Mike Ratchuk was whistled for interference, putting Ferris on the power play.
“I think that whole string of penalties was committed by freshmen. You can’t take four penalties that were totally avoidable to give them life,” said Comley.
The opportunistic Bulldogs capitalized on their chance, scoring the equalizer on a beautiful passing play. Chris Zarb fired a pass from the left point to Dan Reidel in the right faceoff circle. Reidel then threaded a diagonal pass of his own to Zac Pearson at the left post for the game-tying goal.
“That was a really nice pass by Reidel, but I got a good push over there and I almost got my toe on it. If (Pearson) didn’t get all of it, I would have had a good chance to stop it,” said MSU netminder Jeff Lerg.
Both teams exchanged power plays late in the game, including an MSU opportunity for the last 1:40 of regulation and a brief carry-over into the extra session, but neither team mustered much a threat.
“I felt both teams kind of shot themselves in the foot,” said Daniels. “Most of the time when you take bad penalties at times like that they end up in the back of the net. I felt fortunate that we were able to get out of it.”
Ferris had the best chance to net the game-winner in overtime, but it evaporated as quickly as it materialized. A botched Tyler Howells clearing attempt put would have put a Ferris forward in all alone, but the Bulldog overskated the puck after sticking it down.
“A couple of upperclassmen (on defense) just aren’t playing the way that they are capable of playing,” said Comley. “They are trying to make too much happen. We almost gave up a breakaway in overtime by trying to force a pass instead of making a nice, easy outlet pass up the boards. Sometimes you can be guilty of trying to do too much.”
All in all, the Bulldogs executed their game plan to perfection. “They like a defensive game but they try to take advantage of other teams’ mistakes,” said Lerg. “They like to throw the puck to the net from anywhere and look for guys in front for tips and rebounds.”
On the Spartan side of the scoresheet, a couple of Tims were largely responsible for MSU’s scoring. Tim Kennedy put the Spartans on the board in the second period by tapping home a power-play goal from down low.
In the final minute of the period, Kennedy then stole a puck at the blue line, keeping the play alive for Tim Crowder, who eventually wove his way through Ferris’ defense before beating Mitch O’Keefe with a low wrist shot.
Both teams trudged through a scoreless first frame in which the Bulldogs held a decided shot advantage, 10-4, but were unable to solve Jeff Lerg.
“I thought it was my best 60 minutes of the year,” said Lerg. “I’ve had times where I played a good period or good parts of periods but couldn’t put a game together. It was probably the most comfortable I’ve felt all year.”
He finished with 29 saves on 31 shots, including several key stops on the penalty kill in the third period.
O’Keefe was largely untested but made the 20 saves necessary to limit the Spartans to two goals.
Both teams will look to rest up, avoid the disruption of a midweek game, and come ready to play on Friday at 7:05 in Big Rapids.