March 25, 2012 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Feels Like the First Time

Because It Is ... Ferris Reaches First Frozen Four

by Greg Bates/Special to CHN

GREEN BAY, Wis. — It's a feeling the current Ferris State players have never felt. It's a feeling that no Ferris State player who has laced up their skates since the program entered Division I hockey in 1979 has ever felt. It's a feeling of realizing a goal and advancing to the Frozen Four.

Ferris State used two third-period goals and held off a late flurry by Cornell to win the Midwest Regional championship game, 2-1, Saturday night at the Resch Center.

The closest Ferris State (25-11-5) had gotten in program history to advancing to the Frozen Four was in 2002-03 when the team lost in the regional championship game.

"Coming in as a freshman to Ferris State University, there's, I guess you could say, memorabilia of the 02-03 team hung up on the walls and the dressing room, hung up on the walls in the arena facility and the weight room," Ferris State senior goalie Taylor Nelson said, "and to say that we overcame or surpassed what they had done that season is pretty special.”

It's been a historic season for the Bulldogs in many ways. Ferris State made it to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in the program's history.

The Bulldogs, the second seed in the regional, wouldn't be in this position if it didn't kill off six penalties, including a five-minute major early in the third period. With the game tied at 1, Ferris State chewed up Cornell's extended man advantage and 12 seconds after the penalty expired, Jordie Johnston notched the game-winning goal by beating a sprawling Cornell goalie Andy Iles on the back end of a 2-on-1.

"It was just a great play," Johnston said. "I think it was Kaner (Cory Kane) along the boards kind of made a nice chip out and Andy Huff picked up the puck and I just kind of looked up and realized there was only one D-man back there, so I just tried to get up the ice as quick as I could. It was near the end of my shift and I was getting a little tired, but Andy avoided the D-man and made a beautiful pass to me and I just kind of held onto the puck a little bit and then put it in the empty net. It was a good feeling.”

It was a good feeling for all the Ferris State players. There were just 13 minutes, 6 seconds left in the game, and the Bulldogs were inching closer to the Frozen Four.

"It was to be expected, at least from our standpoint, it was probably going to come down to a one-goal game, maybe 3-2, 2-1, maybe an overtime game," Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. "For us the game kind of played out the way we expected. I don't think there was an awful lot of scoring chances for either team, but both teams pride themselves on playing well defensively. From that standpoint, I think it was mission accomplished."

The Bulldogs clamped down on defense the final half of the third period as Nelson made 10 of his 22 saves in the last 20 minutes.

"(Cornell) did start pushing a lot towards the end of the game and they were good all night," Ferris State senior defenseman Chad Billins said. "We didn't really want to change our gameplan — we knew we had to make the simple plays and still block shots and do the little things that got us through the game with the lead. ... We did feel a little pressure, but I'm happy with how the guys responded."

Ferris State may not be the most fun team to watch in college hockey, but the Ferris State players are only concerned about one thing.

"We'll play any style we have to get the win and it wasn't pretty at all times tonight, but, when it came down to it, we did what we had to do to win," Johnston said.

Ferris State is now looking ahead to playing in April for the first time ever. The Bulldogs will take on Union, which won the East Regional, April 5 in Tampa, Fla. The Ferris State players said they have some unfinished business.

"We achieved a goal here tonight, getting to the Frozen Four, but we're not satisfied with just being there,” Nelson said. "We're going to look for two more wins."

Added Johnston: "We won't get too excited about this, there's still more to do."

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