DETROIT — For fledgling Wayne State, there must be something about playing the CCHA. WSU’s frustration-filled season almost continued Friday night, as the Warriors were scoreless after 59 minutes with goalie Brett Bothwell pulled in the game’s waning moments. WSU appeared stymied by Ferris State after another tight-checking, defensive struggle.
But when Matt Krug’s hard slap shot through traffic found the back of the net with 28.5 seconds left in regulation, Wayne State finally pulled even. And when freshman Jared Katz buried a loose puck 1:42 into overtime, the Warriors skated off with an improbable 2-1 win at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.
The win was just WSU’s second in its last nine games, with both coming at the expense of the CCHA (Wayne State beat Western Michigan, 7-5, on Dec. 16).
“There’s a little more determination, maybe,” said WSU head coach Bill Wilkinson about playing the league. “You certainly want to put your good foot forward and show people you can compete at this level.”
Entering the contest, finding ways to win tight games had been more of a problem than strictly competing for the Warriors (5-16-0, 1-7-0 CHA). Krug, who called the win the season’s high point, said it was a relief to finally break through after several near-misses.
“It was a lot of hard work – the guys didn’t quit at all and just kept digging,” said Krug, who also credited forward Jason Bloomingburg for keying the game-tying play with a coast-to-coast rush, shot, and setup off the ensuing rebound.
“I was joking that any time a team lets me skate from our end to their end, get a shot, and then pass it, it’s probably bad news,” Bloomingburg said.
When Bloomingburg’s line was called again in overtime, the senior captain motivated WSU’s 5-foot-8 freshman forward. “I told (Katz) that our line was going to get it, and that if he was going to get it, he better beat me to it.”
Katz broke free from his defender as the puck squirted to the right of FSU goalie Mitch O’ Keefe – who made 28 saves in the loss – and banged home his fifth goal of the season and biggest to date of his young WSU career.
“It was a great goal for Katz,” Wilkinson said, “and Bloomer (Bloomingburg) made a terrific play on Matt’s goal, getting the puck back deep in his own zone.”
Ferris State’s late collapse gave Bothwell (23 saves) his first win in four starts and spoiled a solid effort from O’ Keefe and the Ferris defense. FSU (5-14-3, 3-10-2 CCHA) had taken a 1-0 lead on Aaron Lewicki’s rebound goal at 6:20 of the third.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” said FSU head coach Bob Daniels, “and maybe even more so because we had the lead late in the game and gave it up inside one minute to play.
“But I thought both teams did a good job of not allowing a lot of second-effort opportunities and clearing pucks away from the front of the net. A lot of shots were forced to the perimeter. I’d think we’d like to play the same way tomorrow, only generate a little more offense.”
The teams conclude the weekend nonconference series tonight at 7:05 p.m.