“For the most part I thought we did a really good job, it might have been the best game we’ve played all year, and we lost” -Mel Pearson
In a series of games where breakaways and outnumbered rushes were a little too common for both sides, goaltending turned out to be the deciding factor last weekend. Jamie Phillips had 30 saves Friday night when the Ferris State Bulldogs opened up their final series with Michigan Tech at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. None of the saves more important than the thirtieth when an untimely turnover at the Huskies blue line let Bulldogs’ Gerald Mayhew take the puck up the ice uncontested. Phillips kicked his left leg out to stop a blistering shot with less than a minute remaining in the overtime period.
The rebound made its way to C.J. Eick who quickly sent it up to Tyler Heinonen. Heinonen in turn fed the puck up to the blue line where Malcom Gould was making a breakaway up the ice. Gould looked to make a pass to Eick, who with his tremendous speed, was now alongside Gould. At the last second a defenseman was making his way over. With 47.1 seconds remaining, Gould decided to fire the puck on Ferris netminder Charles Williams for the game winning goal. “Jamie made that big save and we were lucky to turn it around the other way. After I got that phenomenal pass from Heinonen I was kind of thinking (to) pass the whole way to Eick, I saw him open up and then the D-man kind of came right at me at the last minute. I didn’t have much of a pass anymore so I thought I’ll just shoot it. I just kind of got lucky.” Said Gould.
The Huskies opened the game, skating hard and controlling the puck very well. Only 7 seconds into the game Brent Baltus crossed into the Ferris zone to take a long shot on Williams. Eick and Heinonen both had great shots in the opening minutes but Williams continued to stop the onslaught.
Ferris State dumped the puck into the Tech zone, with Jamie back behind the net to collect the puck on the boards. The puck hit a seam in the boards and bounced in front of the goal where Bulldog VanWormer was able to tap the puck into the open net to take a 1-0 lead at 8:17. The Bulldogs struck again when a shot by FSU defenseman Matt Robertson rebounded off of Phillips pad right back to Robertson who was able to lift the puck over an outstretched Phillips. Heinonen made the first cut into the score when he weaved his way through three Bulldog defenders to get to the front of the net where his shot rebounded off of FSU defenseman Zach Dorer to find an empty backside to the net at 18:04. Unfortunately the Bulldogs struck right back when a turnover allowed FSU to regain a two goal lead going into the locker room.
“I think we had a good start, I liked our game. The first 10 minutes I thought we were the better team. We put a lot of pressure on them and created some quality scoring chances and turnovers. We had a chance to regroup in the locker room and push the reset button” said Huskies head coach Mel Pearson.
Tech came out strong in the second period scoring two quick goals. First, Alex Gillies fired a hard wrist shot that made it past Williams to bring the Huskies within one. Twenty seven seconds later Eick launched a wrister which appeared like it would be stopped, when Joel L’Esperance tipped the puck over Williams’ glove to tie the game three apiece. The Bulldogs took the lead again before heading off the ice.
With the third period beginning, the Bulldogs came out with intensity, where Phillips kept the Huskies in the game. The Huskies answered again equalizing the score at 5:33 when Matt Roy sent a laser through traffic from the point that ended up being his first career goal. “It was funny because I didn’t know if Gillies tipped it in front,” said Roy. “I am just glad it went in and I could help the team out.”
“It was frantic out there” said Pearson. “They’re a hard team to play against, if they get any pressure they just flip it, they overload an area putting a lot of pressure on the defense. We found a way to hang in there and a way to win the game.”
After their great performance Friday night, the Huskies came out and played a much better game Saturday, despite missing star forward Alex Petan due to an injury the previous night. Ferris however, found a way to win the game 3-2. Goalie Darren Smith who had sat out Friday night made a great performance and ended the night with 36 saves.
“I thought we came out well, played with a lot more jump during the game and created more scoring opportunities than last night [Friday]. I thought we had an all-around better game tonight” said Pearson. “Unfortunately the scoreboard didn’t indicate that. I thought we carried the play in the third period, I give their goalie a ton of credit, he was the start of the game.”
In stark contrast to Friday’s game which had zero penalties, the Bulldogs took advantage of the very first power play of the night after Reid Sturros was whistled for slashing. Sturros would be the one to strike back and tie the game. At 16:02 a hard shot to the backboards by Roy was kicked across to a waiting Sturros who was able to bury the biscuit into the wide open net. “I took a couple of bad penalties in the first and they scored on one of them. It was nice to get it back there on the power play” Sturros said of his equalizing goal.
The Huskies took the lead in the second when Patrick Anderson found Max Vallis ahead of the slot. Vallis turned and sent a terrific backhand on net through three defenders and past Smith to take the first regulation lead of the weekend. Later in the second the Bulldogs evened the score at 16:16, when FSU blue-liner Simon Dennis wristed a shot past Phillips who was screened by traffic in front of the net.
The Huskies came out into the third period and created a lot of great scoring opportunities. With 34 total shots attempted and 18 on net, Smith, who should henceforth be known as the wall, was waiting to stop every chance he was afforded. With only 1:21 remaining the Bulldogs notched the game winner and left Tech with two highly coveted WCHA points.
“For the most part I thought we did a really good job, it might have been the best game we’ve played all year, and we lost” said Pearson. “We competed, and we had great effort. When you go through the lineup there aren’t any players you can say had a bad game, it was just a couple breaks and bounces and that’s the game.”