Through the Looking Glass
Coaches, Broadcasters Give Their Take on the National Championship Game
by Mike Machnik/CHN Senior Editor
TAMPA, Fla. To analyze Saturday's NCAA championship game between Ferris State and Boston College, College Hockey News went right to the source. We talked to radio broadcasters from both teams, as well as Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, who faced both teams this season.
Ken Hodge is a Boston College hockey alum and NHL veteran who has been color analyst on Eagle broadcasts for many years.
"Ferris State plays a suffocating type defense, they don't give you a lot of opportunities, so you're going to have to create opportunities, somehow, some way," said Hodge.
"Speed is going to be a big key for BC. Ferris State played a neutral zone type trap, almost giving you the middle of the ice and saying, 'OK, try now to beat us.' Can you use that speed, can you use your patience, can you get the pucks deep? That's going to be a big key for Boston College.
"I don't think you can run and gun with BC. I don't think there's a team left — well, there's only two left now — that can run and gun with BC. We saw it last night. Minnesota tried to run and gun a little bit, but they didn't capitalize on their opportunities. BC was opportunistic, and that's why they won the game.
"In terms of teams BC has played already that I'd compare (Ferris) to, I would say Merrimack. They've got a good goaltender, which is exactly what Merrimack had. Not as deep offensively as some teams BC has played this year. They've got some big defensemen, some mobile defensemen as well, some big forwards, and that's something that BC will have to deal with."
Keys to the game for BC:
"Getting pucks deep and using your speed," said Hodge. "They're going to try to clog up that neutral zone and not give BC an opportunity to get their feet going. If you can move your feet and get pucks deep, that's how you're going to be successful.
"[Defensively], it's not just the six defensemen, it's the forwards as well. Johnny Gaudreau was backchecking last night. You see it, but you don't see it all the time like that. The guys are really being responsible in the defensive zone. That's one of the things in this streak, is that they're all playing well defensively.
"I was listening to Tommy Cross last night talk about the mistakes they made, trying to clean them up and play a better game — and I thought, '6 to 1? Really?' But that's the way that they've been. That's the mentality of this team."
Dom Hennig is the voice of Ferris State hockey. His brother, Nate, is a Ferris alum and played for the Bulldogs from 2007-11.
"I think that Ferris has the small, quick guys whereas Minnesota had the bigger guys that were slower," Hennig said. "What Ferris State does well is they get in the sneaky, grimy areas and it's fun to watch. The game last night, there was a shot from the point by (Ferris State defenseman Brett) Wysopal, (forward Kyle) Bonis was in front of the net by himself — where were Union's guys at the time? And we know how good Union is. Ferris knows how to sneak away and get in that perfect area to get that rebound.
"I watched that BC-Minnesota game last night, and I'm very impressed. It's basically a National Hockey League team that Ferris has to play (Saturday). But the good thing about Ferris is, it isn't one goal scorer. Yes, Jordie Johnston leads the team with 20 goals, and Kyle Bonis has 19 goals, but almost every game this year, when they get four or five goals, there's four or five different goal scorers. That's what's going to need to happen tomorrow. It can't be the Jordie Johnston or Kyle Bonis show."
Keys for Ferris:
"One of the things that Ferris needs to do better than Boston College is block more shots," Hennig said. "I know Boston College blocked a lot of shots last night versus Minnesota, but Ferris needs to block more.
"The second thing — Ferris has been great in the face-off circle all season long, but these last three games of the NCAA tournament, they haven't done quite that well. So they need to do better in the face-off circle, block more shots, get in front of the net, get in the grimy areas and clean up the garbage in front of the net.
"On top of that, goaltender Taylor Nelson needs to have his A game. He can't have his B game, even his A- game — he needs to have his A game. And I think he knows that.
"Union was very good on the quick transition, especially in the neutral zone, and Ferris handled that pretty well. I think they're going to do the exact same thing against Boston College.
"Ferris doesn't really get that many shots, but the ones they do get, they score. Quality shots. They don't get the most shots, but when they get the shots, they make the most of them.
"Hopefully it's a low scoring game. That's the key, keep close to Boston College in the score category. When it's a low-scoring game, Ferris State comes out on top."
Kevin Sneddon's Vermont Catamounts were the last team to beat Ferris State, 4-2, in the Catamount Cup in Burlington (Dec. 30) before the Bulldogs embarked on a 15-game unbeaten streak. Vermont also played BC three times during the Eagles' current 18-game win streak, losing on Feb. 10 (6-1) in Burlington and on March 2-3 in Chestnut Hill (5-1, 4-0).
"(Ferris is) much better now than when we played them," Sneddon said.
"You can tell they're excellent with their discipline, their systems, their structure. We saw that against Union.
"They're comfortable in their own skin, comfortable with one-goal games. They know how to win those close games. The goaltending has been a key for them. There is consistency there.
"They are well-coached. Bob (Daniels) does a great job keeping things light, and not allowing them to be stressed.
"They just have to be themselves. If they try to be something they're not, they will get into trouble.
"You're only going to get a few chances and have to make the most out of them."
On Boston College:
"(Milner's) just confident right now," said Sneddon. "He's got a great team in front of him, but there's a reason they're having so much success — you can't get here without great goaltending. He's thriving under pressure situations right now.
"Everyone says they get all the talent, but what Jerry does is, he gets great players to buy into a team-first mentality. You can get all the best players and have a lot of problems. But he does a great job blending the team, and getting guys to play their roles. They have three lines that are explosive, and the fourth line knows what their job is. ... Getting all the top players in the country to play well together — he's mastered it.
"You have to take care of the puck. You have to take care of the puck in the offensive zone (too). Their defensemen are big and tough, they can make plays — I thought Dumoulin was amazing (against Minnesota). They're gritty enough to play against strong teams, and skilled enough to play with anyone."
Adam Wodon contributed to this story.