Ferris State has offensive improvement in mind

Past predictors

Ferris State tends to run in the middle of the pack, and last season was no exception. In spite of first-team All-American goaltender Pat Nagle, the Bulldogs finished in fifth place — just one step above where the media picked them and two steps ahead of what the CCHA coaches predicted.

It is something to have the nation’s fifth-best defense, as FSU did a year ago, allowing 2.21 goals per game. It something else, however, to have the 47th-best offense in the nation, averaging less than 2.5 goals per outing.

Bulldogs coach Bob Daniels is looking to shore up an offense that boasted one 10-goal scorer with more production from junior wingers Eric Alexander and Kyle Bonis.

“Their defensive prowess they have shown, and they can play both ends of the rink very well,” said Daniels. “But we are going to ask them to step up and be a little bit more selfish, if you will, and get on the score sheet more. We think they have the ability to do it so we are going to press them to be a little more offensive minded this year.”

Good omens

Gone are Nagle and Zach Redmond, the defenseman who had a monster senior season last year, but Daniels is confident that senior Taylor Nelson can provide stability for the blue line from the Bulldogs net.

“He split time for a year and half with Pat Nagle,” said Daniels. “If you look at his numbers, they are not too dissimilar to Pat’s numbers. [Nelson] ranks third all-time in save percentage and goals against average in the Ferris hockey program history so it’s not like the cupboard’s bare.

“We are putting in Taylor. If anything, it kind of hurt Taylor a year ago when he only played four games and I think his confidence was shaken by that. We feel pretty comfortable in net and he is going to be pushed by C.J. Motte as well, a freshman.”

What spells doom?

“A year ago we led the nation in penalty kill,” said Daniels. “It’s something we take great pride in but now we have really rolled over some key components. I think that is the area that it may show up in the most.”

How much of last year’s solid defense was Nagle and a blue line led by Redmond? That’s something that remains to be seen.

Daniels is fond of reminding the media at the start of every season that one of his favorite questions of his own team is, “Where are the goals going to come from?” This year, Daniels didn’t remind anyone of his perennial question — because those goals didn’t materialize last season, as they seem to in so many other campaigns. If the Bulldogs can’t find the net this year, it may be a very long season, indeed.

About the Bulldogs

2010-11 overall record: 18-16-5

2010-11 CCHA record: 12-12-4-3 (fifth)

2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): ninth

Key losses: Forwards Mike Embach and Mike Fillinger; defensemen Zach Redmond and Scott Wietecha; goaltender Pat Nagle

Players to watch: Forwards Travis Ouelette and Matthew Kirzinger; defenseman Brett Wysopal; goaltender Taylor Nelson

Impact rookie: Goaltender C.J. Motte

Why the Bulldogs will finish higher than the coaches poll: This team has the potential to build on last season with its remaining talent, especially if the goal is solidified.

Why the Bulldogs will finish lower than the coaches poll: This team has the potential to prove that those key players from a year ago were the ones who made it all work.