MADISON, Wis. — All was right again in Ferris State’s world.
A day after allowing a season high for goals and shots on goal, the Bulldogs clamped down on defense, got some strong offensive performances and put together what they called a bounce-back victory.
Blair Riley scored and added an assist in the first period as No. 11 Ferris State took third place in the Badger Hockey Showdown with a 5-1 victory Sunday over Merrimack.
“We came to play tonight,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “You can’t erase last night, but at least it’s something we can build on moving forward.”
The Bulldogs’ defense was out of sync and its offense couldn’t get started in the final 20 minutes of a 6-1 semifinal loss to Yale, in which they allowed four goals.
However, Riley made sure they wouldn’t have a repeat early Sunday.
“None of the guys were pleased with the effort that we gave last night,” Riley said. “So we wanted to make sure we came back tonight and play a strong, 60-minute effort.”
Riley was central to Ferris’ first-period show of strength. He dropped the puck into the right circle for Cody Chupp, who blasted a shot past Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata for a 1-0 lead.
Ten minutes later, Riley did all the work himself, circling the back of the net and roofing a backhand shot when he got out front on the right side and found no Warriors skater to stop him.
“One of their [defensemen] backed off and the goalie was off the post a little bit, so I just tried to throw it on net,” Riley said. “I think it bounced off his arm and went in.”
Merrimack generated some offense in the second period, when it outshot the Bulldogs 8-6, but the emotion from a 5-4 loss to host Wisconsin a night earlier didn’t quite carry over.
The Warriors’ locker room door was closed until 34 minutes after the game ended, when coach Mark Dennehy declined to characterize the post-game conversation he had with his team.
“I don’t think I’ve been a part of too many teams that haven’t had to have a summit,” said Dennehy, whose team fell to 0-9 away from home this season. “That’s basically what it was.”
Dennehy wanted to use this tournament as a measuring stick for his team, but the results weren’t pleasing.
“It’s always disappointing when you don’t measure up,” he said.
Grafton, Wis., native Aaron Schmit, a sophomore defenseman playing only his fourth game of the season, scored his first collegiate goal in the second period for a 3-0 Bulldogs lead.
Schmit’s slap shot rang off the post and rebounded in front of the net, where it hit Merrimack defenseman Karl Stollery and redirected back into the goal.
The Warriors got some reward from a period in which they appeared to have the better of the play when Adam Ross sent home a wrist shot off a feed from Pat Kimball to cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Bulldogs restored their three-goal lead on a third-period power play when Justin Menke slammed home the rebound of a deflected shot.
Zach Redmond made it 5-1 with 3:03 remaining when he eluded one Merrimack skater at the blue line, then split two defenders in the slot to get off a wrist shot.
Ferris State’s Pat Nagle made 23 saves, giving the Bulldogs a stabilizer in their zone.
“He was very much in control of the game,” Daniels said.
Merrimack freshman Stephane Da Costa saw his point-scoring streak end at 11 games; it was the longest in the school’s Hockey East era, which dates to 1989.
The Warriors (7-10) still haven’t defeated a CCHA team since a 7-5 win over Miami on Oct. 12, 2001.
The Bulldogs (14-4-2), meanwhile, now face a stretch where they play at Notre Dame, at home against Miami and home-and-home against Michigan. Needless to say, getting back to their brand of hockey Sunday was critical.
“After snapping a 10-game unbeaten streak, to get some confidence going again and get everyone rolling [is big],” Riley said.