Ferris State coach Bob Daniels hopes the effects of winning a holiday tournament don’t wear off so fast this time around.
Jeff Legue scored two goals, including one that broke a 3-3 tie in the third period as Ferris State became the first visiting team to win back-to-back Badger Hockey Showdown titles with a 5-3 victory over No. 4 Wisconsin in Saturday’s championship game.
After beating the Badgers to win the title last season, the roll the Bulldogs were on faded away after about a month, Daniels said.
“Now our goal is to find a way to use this as a springboard to keep on playing well,” said Daniels, whose team is 6-2-2 in its last 10 games. “Even though our record’s still on the wrong side of .500 (8-10-2), we have been playing very well over the last 10 games.”
Legue, who scored three goals in the tournament, was named the most valuable player.
He put Ferris State ahead 4-3 on the Bulldogs’ third goal of the game off a Wisconsin turnover. Zac Pearson stole a pass by Wisconsin’s Robbie Earl and found Legue open in the left faceoff circle. Legue fired a shot through Wisconsin goaltender Bernd Bruckler’s pads for his team-leading 14th goal of the season.
Legue described his teammates as being ecstatic and disbelieving about what they had accomplished. But why, considering it was a repeat of last year’s performance?
“Just being underestimated, I guess, throughout the tournament,” Legue said. “Everybody knew it was hard work that would come out on top, and each individual guy stepped up tonight, including our goaltender, Mike Brown, who’s been there all season for us.”
Brown made 18 saves but faced only four shots on goal by the Badgers in the third period. Pearson and Derek Nesbitt each had a goal and an assist for the Bulldogs (8-10-2), who improved to 4-0 all-time in the tournament and extended their season-long unbeaten streak to five games (4-0-1).
Matt Ford scored twice for Wisconsin (13-6-1), which was denied in its effort for a ninth title in the 16th annual event.
The Bulldogs had a 42-21 advantage in shots on goal. Bruckler stopped 37 shots.
Nick Scheible scored just over two minutes after Legue’s tiebreaking goal to give the Bulldogs a 5-3 lead and the momentum they had earlier in the game.
They used three goals in a span of 4:14 in the first period — two off Wisconsin turnovers — to take control early. Legue put the Bulldogs ahead 1-0 after a giveaway by Wisconsin defenseman Tom Gilbert kept the puck in the Badgers’ zone.
Nesbitt scored a power-play goal to double the lead and Pearson made it 3-0 when he put away a shot off a pass from linemate Matt Verdone, who stole the puck from Badgers defenseman Joe Piskula at the Ferris State blue line.
Citing a tennis reference, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves chalked up his team’s loss to unforced errors.
“When you have a game like that, this is what happens,” he said. “We turned the puck over all night and it cost us.”
Wisconsin managed to pull back into a tie in the second period thanks to a Ferris State turnover and a pair of power-play goals.
Bulldogs defenseman Joe Van Culin misfired on a clearing pass, and Ford scored off a pass from Joe Pavelski to cut the Badgers’ deficit to 3-1. Ford scored again, on a power play, later in the second period to make it 3-2. Brown made saves on Gilbert’s shot and Ryan MacMurchy’s rebound, but couldn’t stop another rebound chance by Ford from the left side.
MacMurchy made it 3-3 on the Badgers’ next power play, sweeping in a loose puck after a John Funk shot was deflected to the left side of the net.
All-tournament team: The all-tournament team included Legue, Nesbitt and Ford at forward; Mike Grenzy of Clarkson and Matt York of Ferris State on defense; and Brown as the goaltender.