KALAMAZOO, Mich. — For the second straight night against the Western Michigan Broncos, the Ferris State Bulldogs crashed the net, out-chancing the Broncos in Lawson Ice Arena en route to a 3-2 victory and weekend sweep over WMU.
Both teams came out strong, and the first several minutes of hockey was back and forth as the Bulldogs and Broncos delivered hits left and right.
“I thought we started real well tonight,” said Broncos’ coach Jim Culhane. “We lost some momentum in the first period with some penalties, and we had to kill those penalties, and they took the early momentum in the game to take a 3-1 lead into the third period. But, the effort we put forth in the third period is the effort this team needs to be able to sustain for 60 minutes of hockey.”
It was an intense, electrifying game, as the Broncos were looking for that game-tying goal with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
About halfway through the final period, freshman winger Travis Paeth broke free inside the Bulldogs zone, as senior Mike Lesperance gave defenseman Nathan Ansell a pass, and he cleared the puck through the zone up to Paeth, who was by himself, putting the puck away past freshman netminder Pat Nagle.
“It feels pretty good to get the monkey off my back; it has been awhile since I scored, but it would have been really nice if we would have been able to pull out the victory,” Paeth said.
In the third period, the Broncos were forced to play with five defensemen because of an injury to sophomore Kevin O’Connor, and it seemed with that injury the Brown and Gold turned the intensity up, and got that second goal of the night.
“O’Connor went down there, and we knew we were rolling five D and we stepped it up,” said goaltender Riley Gill. “It was like a light switch, and it was pretty cool to watch it happen for me, and we need to play like that for the rest of the season.”
Before the Broncos drew within a goal in the third period, FSU was able to build their lead throughout the game in hopes of completing the weekend sweep.
“I thought we did play strong in the start of the game,” FSU coach Bob Daniels said. “A matter of fact, I felt very comfortable until WMU scored their second goal; from that moment on, it felt like they carried the play from the eight minute mark to the end of the game. I felt like we played very well until that moment, and then we kind of just held on to the victory.”
The Bulldogs opened up the scoring at the 7:44 mark of the opening period right after they killed a Broncos power play. Junior Evan Case chipped the puck from the Bulldogs’ zone ahead to junior Brendan Connolly, who found himself one-on-one with Broncos’ freshman Max Campbell, and he fired a shot right past sophomore Riley Gill.
Taking the one goal lead into the first intermission, the Bulldogs came out strong in the second period as they got an early power play opportunity, but they were unable to capitalize on the man-advantage as Gill made some big saves, keeping WMU within one goal for much of the game.
“I thought the goaltending was very strong all weekend long from both teams,” Daniels said. “From Riley Gill for the Broncos, and Nagle and junior Mitch OKeefe for us, Gill and Nagle played real good games tonight.”
FSU gained a 2-0 lead a little over the halfway mark in the period when Broncos’ defenseman Jonathan Lupa skated back to collect the loose puck in the zone. Junior Justin Lewandowski stole the puck off Lupa’s stick, skated in all alone against Gill, and beat the sophomore netminder with a wrister stick side.
Despite the two goal deficit, the Broncos kept fighting throughout and were able to cut the lead to one when sophomore Cam Watson broke free during a Broncos power play at the 14:30 mark. Watson took a chip pass from junior Dave Krisky to score his sixth goal of the season against the Bulldogs’ freshman netminder.
With just 23 seconds remaining in the middle period, FSU regained their two-goal lead. The Bulldogs stormed the net and freshman Zach Redmond banged in their third goal of the night. Gill had fallen down during the Bulldogs’ offensive rush, and despite his attempt to stretch his stick across the crease, the freshman defenseman was able to find the back of the net.
“I think we started out slow both nights, and that really hurt us,” Paeth said. “We got better gradually, but we were just in a hole from the start and we just couldn’t catch up.”
“They had a lot of shots on net and that kept me in the game a little bit, but it was mostly just average play for me tonight,” Gill said. “They had a couple of easy goals and as a goalie you would like those back, but you just have to give 100 percent and see what happens.”
WMU will host a non-conference opponent in Wayne State next Friday and Saturday, as they move into Christmas Break, while FSU will play a home and home series with Michigan State next weekend.