Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's ice hockey team is headed to Grand Rapids and Van Andel Arena for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Final Five Championship after a memorable and thrilling double-overtime triumph over Bemidji State on Saturday (March 15) night at FSU's Ewigleben Ice Arena.
The nationally sixth-ranked Bulldogs trailed 2-1 late in regulation of their first-round home playoff series, but pulled the goalie for the extra skater to score the game-tying goal with only 45 seconds left to play. Following 20 minutes of scoreless action in the first extra period, the Bulldogs finally won the game in short-handed fashion on a shot from the point by senior captain Scott Czarnowczan 5:15 into the second overtime period.
The game-winner capped an exciting night of action that featured a lengthy stoppage late in the opening period due to broken glass and eventually resulted in what is believed to be the longest game ever played inside the Ewigleben Ice Arena as the playoff contest lasted more than 85 minutes.
The victory came on the heels of an impressive 8-0 shutout over the Beavers in game one on Friday night and the sweep lifts FSU into the WCHA semifinals set for Friday, March 21, at Van Andel Arena. Top-seeded Ferris State will square off against the lowest remaining seed in the evening game at 7:07 p.m. (ET) with the winner advancing to Saturday (March) night's title game. FSU's opponent will not be known until after a late deciding game three in Alaska tonight.
The Bulldogs, who captured the WCHA Regular-Season Championship, completed their home season in Big Rapids unbeaten against WCHA opposition (15-0-1) and improved their nation-leading victory total to 27-9-3 overall. The 27 wins are the second-most single season wins in school history.
Ferris State picked up right where it left off on Friday night as the Bulldogs scored only 3:50 into game two on a shot that went five-hole from sophomore defenseman Brandon Anselmini. It was his fifth goal of the campaign and assisted by junior defenseman Jason Binkley along with junior forward Justin Buzzeo as they notched their 20th and 17th helpers of the year, respectively.
Late in the opening period, with 5:23 remaining on the clock, Bulldog senior Cory Kane was knocked to the ice behind the Beavers' goal and his skate caught the glass behind the net and shattered it all over the ice. The stoppage resulted in an early intermission as the two teams headed back to the locker room and the remaining time left in the first frame was contested prior to the start of the second period.
Bemidji State came out of the locker room energized and tied up the contest only 1:17 into the second period on Phil Brewer's second goal of the season. His goal came on a shot that zipped past Bulldog junior goaltender CJ Motte and was assisted by Cory Ward.
The Beavers then took their first lead of the weekend exactly five minutes later when Nate Arentz tallied his sixth goal of the year at 6:17 off assists from Radoslav Illo and Brendan Harms. The goal gave BSU a 2-1 edge heading into the final period.
In the third stanza, neither team was able to find the net and the score stood until the final minute. FSU pulled Motte from goal with a little over a minute to play in favor of the extra skater and the Bulldogs capitalized soon after. Sophomore forward Matt Robertson deflected a shot from out front by freshman defenseman Ryan Lowney into the net for his 12th goal of the campaign to tie the contest up with only 45 seconds to play. Lowney earned the first assist for his 12th of the year and fellow freshman Chad McDonald picked up his 11th helper on the game-tying goal.
Following regulation, the two teams took a 15-minute intermission and battled for 20 scoreless minutes again. FSU had eight shots to five for the Beavers in the first extra session but could not put the puck in the net and both teams went back to the locker room again for another 15-minute break.
Finally, in the second extra frame, after a penalty was called on the Bulldogs' Buzzeo and FSU went short-handed, Ferris State eventually recorded the game-winner as Czarnowczan rifled a shot past Bemidji State goaltender Jesse Wilkins for his sixth goal of the year, lifting FSU to the first-round sweep. Junior defenseman Travis White and senior forward Garrett Thompson both picked up assists as the crowd erupted.
Overall, Ferris State held a 41-36 edge in total shots, which included all five shots from either team in the second overtime period. FSU was called for five penalties totaling 10 minutes and the Beavers were whistled six times for 12 minutes in the box, but neither squad could capitalize with the man-advantage as FSU went 0-of-4 and Bemidji State was 0-of-3 for the night.
Motte made 34 saves in net for the Bulldogs as he ran his record to 26-7-3 on the year and picked up his 46th career victory, which ranks second all-time on Ferris State's career list. Meanwhile, Wilkins totaled 38 saves in dropping to 3-8-3 on the year.
The triumph was FSU's fifth in six meetings against the Beavers this season as Bemidji State wrapped up the 2013-14 campaign with a 10-21-7 overall record. FSU also improved to 15-2 all-time in postseason home contests at the Ewigleben Ice Arena where Ferris State finished with a 16-1-1 record in all contests this season.
The Bulldogs, who won the WCHA in their debut season in the conference, will advance to the conference tournament semifinals. It will mark FSU's fifth-trip ever to the semifinals of a league tournament as Ferris State previously advanced to the CCHA Semifinals four times.
Bulldog fans wanting to follow Ferris State to Grand Rapids and buy tickets for the WCHA Final Five Championship at Van Andel Arena can purchase tickets thru one of the following methods, using the discount code "BULLDOGS" to receive a special ticket price. They can be bought online at www.VanAndelArena.com/groupsales (type Bulldogs into the discount code box), by calling Van Andel Arena starting on Monday at 616-742-6185 (mention Bulldogs) or by visiting the Van Andel Box Office in person and mentioning "Bulldogs" at the ticket window. Processing fees of $3 may apply to online and phone orders, which both end on Friday at noon.
Ferris State students will be able to purchase tickets thru the FSU Athletics Ticket Office in person starting this Monday night at 6 p.m. (ET). Two options are available for students including a bus package with a reserved game ticket and tshirt for $20 or a seperate option with only the reserved ticket for $20. No phone orders will be accepted and students must show a valid ID card. The bus package will leave on Friday at 4:30 p.m. and the first 100 who signup for the bus on Monday evening will also receive another FREE ride on Saturday if the Bulldogs win.
For additional ticket information, please call (231) 591-2888 or visit FerrisStateBulldogs.com. Stay tuned for additional information regarding the WCHA Championship and official semifinal matchups.