BIG RAPIDS, Mich. - The nationally fifth-ranked Ferris State University men's ice hockey team moved back into sole possession of first place again in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) standings as the Bulldogs skated to a 4-2 victory over third-place Alaska Anchorage in Friday's (Feb. 21) weekend series' opener inside the Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids.
Ferris State, which entered the weekend tied with Minnesota State atop the league standings but owning two games in hand on the Mavericks, picked up two points with the win. FSU currently has 36 points with five games remaining on its regular-season slate while MSU owns 34 points and has only four games left. The Mavericks are idle this weekend.
The Bulldogs picked up their 22nd victory of the season and improved to 11-1-1 on home ice this campaign by beating the Seawolves in the first matchup between the two teams since 1988. FSU struck twice in the first period to build a two-goal lead and added a single goal in each of the final two frames in earning the triumph.
Ferris State opened the scoring before a crowd of more than 2,000 fans on a stormy night with a power-play goal from junior forward Justin Buzzeo at 11:37 of the opening frame. His 11th goal of the year was assisted by junior defenseman Jason Binkley and freshman forward Kyle Schempp as they tallied their 17th and 14th helpers of the year, respectively.
The Bulldogs struck again with an even-strength tally from sophomore Kenny Babinski a little over six minutes later as he found the back of the net following a key offensive zone faceoff win to give FSU a 2-0 edge. His unassisted goal at 17:55 helped Ferris State take a two-goal lead into the first intermission.
Alaska Anchorage answered early in the second frame when Jordan Kwas picked up his 12th goal of the season on the power play off assists from Quinn Sproule and Blake Tatchell at 2:56 of the middle period.
However, Ferris State responded quickly with sophomore defenseman Brandon Anselmini scoring on a big shot only 4:47 into the second stanza. His goal was assisted by junior forward Dom Panetta, who tallied his fifth helper this season, along with Binkley as he notched his second point of the night and 18th assist of the year.
The Bulldogs' 3-1 edge stood up until late in the final period when freshman forward Gerald Mayhew helped seal the victory with his third goal of the campaign at 18:23 of the third. Both senior forwards Cory Kane and Andy Huff were credited with assists as they attained their eighth and ninth assists of the season, respectively.
Finally, Alaska Anchorage added another unassisted goal from Andrew Pettit only 16 seconds later as he scored his fourth goal of the year at 18:39, but time ran out in the end for the Seawolves as the Bulldogs prevailed.
Ferris State received a 29-save performance in net from junior goaltender CJ Motte, who improved to 21-5-3 overall in net this season and remains one of the nation's top performers in total victories and winning percentage. He had seven stops in the initial period followed by 10 in the second and 12 in the third.
Meanwhile, Alaska Anchorage's Chris Kamal made 33 saves with 10 in the first, nine in the second and 14 in the final frame, but allowed all four Bulldog goals. He dropped to 6-5-1 this year with the setback.
The contest was filled with penalties as the Bulldogs were called 12 times for 24 minutes in the box and UAA was whistled for 11 penalties totaling 25 minutes. Ferris State finished one-of-six with the man-advantage while the Seawolves netted a one-of-five showing.
Overall, Ferris State held a 37-31 edge in total shots for the night, including a game-high 15 in the third and final period of action.
With the victory, the Bulldogs improved to 22-7-3 on the season and 17-4-2 in league action. Alaska Anchorage fell to 15-12-4 and 11-10-4 in league play.
Prior to Friday's contest, the two teams had not met since a 1988 regular-season series in Big Rapids. FSU improved to 2-1-1 overall with the win in the all-time series.
The two teams will square off against each other again on Saturday (Feb. 22) night in the weekend finale at the Ewigleben Ice Arena. Puck drop is set for 7:07 p.m. (ET) and the contest is officially sold out, which will represent the Bulldogs' 15th sellout since the second half of the historic 2011-12 campaign and the fourth in the last six games since the New Year. The "Dawg Pound" student section has also sold out each of the last 46 home consecutive home contests heading into Saturday's game.
Presently, Ferris State ranks as one of the nation's top three teams on home ice this year as FSU has compiled a 11-1-1 mark to date in the facility this campaign and has not lost a WCHA matchup at home. Currently, FSU's 22 wins overall are second in the country and the Bulldogs also have the nation's fourth-best winning percentage (.734).
This weekend's league home series represents one of the final two home weekends for the Bulldogs in the regular-season prior to the WCHA Playoffs. FSU will also host Lake Superior State in its final two regular-season outings on March 7-8 during "Senior Weekend" in Big Rapids with a special "Buy One, Get One Free" promotional offer available while supplies last.
Additionally, FSU has already clinched home ice for the opening round of the WCHA Playoffs. Ferris State will host an opponent to be determined in a best-of-three series set for March 14-16 with the winner advancing to the WCHA Final Five Championship on March 21-22 at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.
Tickets for both the final regular-season series along with the first round of the WCHA Playoffs are currently on sale now and can be purchased thru the FSU Athletics Ticket Office, online at StarTickets.com or by calling 1-800-585-3737. For additional information, please visit FerrisStateBulldogs.com or call 231-591-2888.