GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — After jumping out 2-0 early in the first period, Ferris State watched as Alaska-Anchorage scored four unanswered to take a 4-2 lead by the middle of the second period.
But goals by Garrett Thompson and Andy Huff evened the game before the second was over, and after a scoreless third period, Gerald Mayhew’s second goal of the game gave the Bulldogs a 5-4 overtime win to advance Ferris State to Saturday’s WCHA championship game against Minnesota State.
See the tournament bracket and get links to schedules and stories at WCHA Playoff Central.
“Weird” may be the best adjective to describe this one. Mayhew’s first goal of the night, on the power play at 4:41 in the first, was the Bulldogs’ first shot on goal, a crash-the-net score with Mayhew trailing to pick up Cory Kane’s centering pass. Justin Buzzeo made it 2-0 at 6:31 with Ferris State’s third shot on goal.
Two minutes later, Alaska-Anchorage captain Brett Cameron — buzzing the whole first period — put the Seawolves on the board and the period ended 2-1, with the Seawolves outshooting Ferris State 13-4.
The teams combined for five goals in the second, with the first three scored by the Seawolves before the 12-minute mark. Then the Bulldogs scored two quick ones of their own to make it 4-4 at the end of two but could generate little in the third in spite of that momentum because — in part — they were recovering from a flu bug that went through the team last week.
“We jumped out to a 2-0 lead and I didn’t think we were playing poorly, but I didn’t think we were playing that well,” said Daniels. “We had a fortuitous bounce, scored a power-play goal and then from there, I thought we hibernated for about a period there until we fell behind 4-2. You get a sense as a coach — you know your team pretty well by the time you hit this mark of the year — I guess we didn’t have any energy on the bench.
“I thought we were taking shortcuts in the game, things that the few times this year when we weren’t playing well for whatever reason, we brought that game. You could sense it. You could tell we weren’t locked in.”
Daniels took some of the blame for that himself, saying that even though his team had the experience of having played in a national championship game and that the Bulldogs never panicked, he and the coaching staff shortened the bench to go with three lines instead of four, something that contributed to the team’s overall fatigue.
Daniels said that Andy Huff, who had the equalizer at 15:29 in the second when he tipped in Jason Binkley’s shot from the right circle, was instrumental in turning things around for the Bulldogs late in the game.
“I thought Andy Huff had a couple of really good shifts, and I thought that was uplifting,” said Daniels. “Maybe we had the last five minutes of the third, we had a couple of really good opportunities off of faceoffs, and then in overtime obviously we scored the faceoff goal, but it was a highly unusual game from the standpoint that we built the lead that maybe it came too easy and we weren’t playing that well and then we didn’t kick it in until we fell behind by two goals.”
For his part, Seawolves’ coach Matt Thomas credited his team with a well-played game.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of our team for the way we came out and competed against the No. 3 team in the nation, the No. 1 team in our conference,” said Thomas. “I don’t want to take anything away from Ferris State because I thought they played a heck of a game, too, but I thought we played well enough to win the hockey game.”
“You go down 2-0 and you look for a response, and we got a goal,” said Seawolves senior forward Matt Bailey. “We believed the whole time that we’re a good team and we know when we’re playing our systems right, we can beat anyone in this country. We got a little momentum and a couple of key contributions from all four lines.”
The Seawolves finish their season with a record of 18-15-4. Ferris State (27-9-3) faces Minnesota State for the Broadmoor Trophy at 7 p.m. EDT Saturday. The Mavericks swept the Bulldogs in Mankato Jan. 17-18, outscoring Ferris State 10-5 in the process.