MINNEAPOLIS — The Ferris State Bulldogs haven’t won many games so far this season. And after Friday’s 1-1 tie with the Massachusetts Minutemen. FSU didn’t add a win to their resume.
But it sure felt like it.
After 65 minutes of punchless hockey in the offensive end for both teams, Ferris State (4-11-3 overall, 2-8-2 CCHA) capitalized on three of its first four shootout attempts to move into the championship game of the Dodge Holiday Classic at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
“We were on the short end of the stick last year [at the Denver Cup],” said Bulldogs forward Matt Verdone. “It wasn’t a lack of effort on anybody’s part, it was really the same situation. This year, we were just lucky to net a few.”
Both teams could muster only a handful of quality scoring chances in the opening period, as Ferris State aided by a pair of power plays out shot Massachusetts (8-5-3 overall, 5-4-2 HEA) by a 12-9 margin. UMass did have the best opportunity, however.
With three minutes to go in the period, UMass stormed the Bulldog net and FSU netminder Mitch O’Keefe lost the puck in the scramble. The puck deflected like a pinball from one side of the net to the other. At one point, the puck even hit the crossbar, but the Minutemen played the puck with a high stick and the opportunity to score was lost.
“We can handle that [not scoring on power plays] because we have been doing that all year,” said FSU head coach Bob Daniels. “But it is unsettling.”
“It was a typical game post-Christmas,” said UMass head coach Don Cahoon. “I think both teams will look at the game tape and see some things to they could have improved on.”
It wasn’t until deep into the second frame that the game’s first goal was finally scored, and it was Ferris State who struck first.
Verdone gained control of the puck and led a 2-on-1 short-handed attack across the UMass blue line. His slap shot went over the outstretched glove of Jon Quick at 14:07 to stake the Bulldogs to a 1-0 lead. The goal was Verdone’s fourth this season, as Chris Zarb and Jim Jorgensen added assists.
“I missed a few opportunities earlier in the game, and its been like that pretty much the entire year,” Verdone said. “Finally I got the nice little bounce.”
But as their nickname implies, it took just over a minute for UMass to respond.
Senior Mark Matheson picked up a loose puck in front of the Ferris State net and slid a wrister past O’Keefe at 15:33. Kevin Jarman earned the only helper and the game headed to the third period tied at one apiece.
The third period was a lot like the first, with few quality scoring opportunities and one huge save. This time it was Quick, who made a sprawling leg save on a Bulldog 2-on-1 attempt with just under 10 minutes to play in regulation.
It was another leg save by Quick in the overtime that sent the game into a five-player shootout.
Ferris State started the shootout by bagging three-of-four, while UMass missed on its first three attempts.
“I would rather play it out until the end, but you are forced to have shootouts in these tournaments,” Daniels said. “We lost last year, so I definitely know how UMass feels.”
Ferris State will take on Minnesota for the championship; UMass will faceoff against Alabama-Huntsville.