MADISON, Wis. — Ferris State went through the first half of the season as one of the pleasant surprises in college hockey, picked for a low finish but instead building a strong record.
From a stout penalty kill to solid goaltending to a dependable defense, none of it came through in the first game after the holiday break.
Sean Backman scored twice in No. 9 Yale’s 6-1 victory over No. 11 Ferris State on Saturday in the opening round of the Badger Hockey Showdown.
Yale scored twice on the power play and thrust a season high for goals and shots allowed (41) on Ferris State.
“We knew we were going to have to get a lot of shots on him tonight in order to win the game,” Backman said. “We did as best as we could to get the puck to the net and try to get some traffic.”
Yale improved on its nation-leading offense with a four-goal third period that handed Ferris State its first loss in 11 games, ending the nation’s longest unbeaten streak.
“We try to push the tempo for 60 minutes,” Yale coach Keith Allain said, “and I think sometimes if you’re successful in doing that, eventually you’re going to get an opportunity.”
It was Ferris State’s first loss in five tries at the Showdown. The Bulldogs (13-4-2) won championships in 2003 and 2004.
They entered Saturday’s game ranked second nationally in both team defense and penalty kill, but neither lived up to the billing.
Backman broke a 1-1 tie late in the second period with a power-play goal from a sharp angle after a no-look pass from Andrew Miller.
“Any time you convert on a power play in order to go up going into the end of the period, it’s going to give you momentum going into the third,” Backman said.
Yale added a second straight power-play goal early in the third on a stroke of good luck or a bad bounce, depending on which bench you were asking.
About to fight off a check just after crossing the blue line, Denny Kearney sent a no-look dump-in on Ferris State goaltender Taylor Nelson, who had the puck bounce over his glove and through his legs.
“Really, it’s a one-goal game and we’re fine, and I think when that went in early in the third, that’s where I noticed the [game] change,” said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels, whose team fell to 0-3 this season when allowing multiple power-play goals. “I was disappointed, though, in our response to that goal.”
Yale (8-3-2) jumped ahead in a fast-paced, physical first period when leading scorer Brian O’Neill got his stick in the way of a Jimmy Martin slap shot and changed its direction enough to beat Nelson.
A nice pass from Blair Riley behind the net set up Ferris State’s Casey Haines for the equalizer just over two minutes later.
Riley drew two Yale skaters and sent a pass past another to Haines, whose quick stickwork put the puck into the roof of the net.
After gaining some separation late in the second and early in the third, Yale kept the foot on the gas, getting a second goal from Backman when he fired a slap shot on a one-on-three rush and beat Nelson under the arm.
“I’m not one to turn down a shot,” Backman said.
After a 2-2-2 start, Yale — which also got third-period goals from Broc Little and Chad Ziegler — has won six of its last seven games.