Union, Ferris State Goes Down to Wild 3rd Period
by Mike Machnik/CHN Senior Editor
TAMPA, Fla. For Ferris State, the third period has been the difference. Not only in the Bulldogs' 3-1 NCAA semifinal win over Union, but all year.
Through 42 games, FSU has scored 53 of its 123 goals during the final 20 minutes of play. The Bulldogs are +5 and +8 in the first and second periods, respectively.
After Thursday's win over Union, they are now a remarkable +22 in the third period, when the game is often on the line — just as the season was on the line in the semis.
Tied 1-1 going into the third, the Bulldogs kept working and trying to wear the Dutchmen down. It led to two power plays, and even though Ferris didn't score, the Bulldogs kept the pressure on and eventually got the difference maker with 4 minutes, 43 seconds to play off the stick of Kyle Bonis.
"That's what we've been preaching all season long, especially against Union, with Troy Grosenick," said Aaron Schmit, who scored two goals including a power play goal and an empty netter. "We knew it was going to be 1-1, 2-2. And we've played in those games before.
"With six minutes left, I told the team, 'They haven't been in a position before, where they've been losing this late in a game.' We've been here before with a lead, especially the past two games in the Midwest Regional.
"I think we wore them down. Our line was preaching, with Eric Alexander and Cory Kane, we're all big bodies, if we wear down those D, they're going to be tired. Give our skilled guys more chances. And then Kyle got that second goal (the game winner).
"But it was just a matter of wearing them down. I didn't face any pressure in front, getting to rebounds. I don't know whether that was them being tired. But it is what it is," Schmit said.
"I think (being in close games) helped us mature over the season," said coach Bob Daniels. "Like a lot of teams, when you get to that point — we lost a few during the course of the season. Those leave deep scars.
"But one thing winning teams do, they learn how to handle those moments. I think our team has learned now — it doesn't mean we're not capable of stubbing our toe, but we have learned as a group how to close out those games.
"There was a shift right before we scored where we maintained an awful lot of puck possession. It was Matt Kirzinger's line, with Billins and Czarnowczan on defense, it almost looked like a power play.
"I thought that was a real pivotal moment, in that it brought a lot of confidence and almost a second wind to our bench. And then it was the very next shift where we scored.
"It's funny, it's a team with really no superstars, a team with a lot of different stars that show up on different nights," Daniels said.
"It's the trademark of our team," said Schmit. "Someone's going to step up, someone's going to score. (Thursday night) it happened to be me and Kyle. (Saturday night), it could be, Cory Kane and Andy Huff.
"We believe somebody's going to step up. It's kind of nice, knowing if we just play our game, somebody's going to get an opportunity."
And now they have an opportunity to play for a championship.