COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ferris State Bulldogs finished their regular season with a 3-1 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes Friday, helped by a pair of goals in the final two minutes of regulation.
Ferris State needed help to get the first round bye. The Bulldogs got their assistance thanks to a strange bedfellow. With Michigan’s 3-2 win over Northern Michigan Friday, the Bulldogs clinched a first round bye in the CCHA playoffs, which begin next weekend.
“We’re rooting for certain teams we normally don’t root for,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “Absolutely huge (to get the first round bye). To win a round in this league this year is going to be very difficult. If you look at how close all the teams are, realistically from Michigan State up to Western (Michigan), the margin of difference is minuscule.”
“We have a couple guys with bumps and bruises so it can’t hurt (to have the first round bye); we just have to approach it the right way,” Ferris State forward Kyle Bonis said.
Finishing in the top five also allows Ferris State to avoid seeing the top three teams in the CCHA before the tournament finishes in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
“To take on probably a Miami, Michigan, or Notre Dame on the road in the second round would be a big mountain to climb to get to Joe Louis (Arena),” Daniels said. “This is a much easier avenue if we can get fourth or fifth and a take a bye. That gives you a chance to win the whole league championship.”
Ferris State will play either Western Michigan or Northern Michigan in the quarterfinal round. If Western Michigan loses to Notre Dame Saturday, the Bulldogs will host the quarterfinal matchup in two weeks.
With Ohio State’s loss, the Buckeyes finish ninth in the CCHA and will face either Lake Superior State or Alaska on the road. Had the Buckeyes won Friday, they would have hosted a first round matchup.
“Maybe you can look at it the other way is that you can go on the road and get focused,” Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said. “You can spin that anyway you want it. At some point, you have to get on the road and win.”
Bonis notched the game-winner with 1:58 left in regulation as he made a nice effort skating toward the net and going with a top-shelf backhander over OSU goalie Cal Heeter.
“Their ‘D’ went over and Heeter kind of cheated over too, so I thought if I made a decent shot on net, it would have a chance to go in,” Bonis said.
“The last five minutes or so we carried the play,” Daniels said. “We hit the post off an offensive zone faceoff. I thought we were full marks for the win by how we played the last 10 minutes of the game.”
After a scoreless first period, Ferris State caught a break which eventually helped the Bulldogs gain the game’s first goal midway through the second. Ohio State’s Devon Krogh skated with Ferris State’s Chad Billins into the end boards. Billins lost his balance as Krogh finished his check into the back of Billins. Billins was pushed into the boards head first, and Krogh was charged for a major penalty and a game disqualification.
Ferris State converted on the ensuing five minute power play, as Travis Ouellette scored his sixth of the season as his wrister from the left circle slipped under the glove of Heeter. The Bulldogs finished 1-for-4 on the power-play.
“It is tough to comment on the situation with penalties and referees,” Osiecki said. “Obviously, it had a lot of influence on the game both last night and tonight. We did a heck of a job killing penalties. We spent a lot of energy. The first two periods, we spent over half of one period killing penalties. That is a lot of hockey you’re playing short-handed.”
Ohio State responded midway through the third to tie the game at one as Buckeyes defenseman Chris Reed’s centering pass found Sergio Somma in the slot, who buried the puck through the five hole of Bulldogs goalie Pat Nagle.
Mike Fillinger added an insurance goal at 19:08 of the third, depositing the puck into Ohio State’s empty net.
Ohio State had to finish the game with four defensemen. After Krogh went out, Curtis Gedig was unable to finish the game due to injury.
“We were trying to keep our shifts short,” Reed said. “Just try to stay fresh. I didn’t feel that bad. We worked pretty hard this year to stay in shape.”