Cincinnati, Ohio - One of the more memorable Ferris State University men's ice hockey campaigns came to an end on Saturday (March 29) night in the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship game at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the Bulldogs fell in double-overtime to North Dakota by a 2-1 score in an instant classic.
The two teams battled for more than 81 minutes before North Dakota scored the game-winner on Connor Gaardner's shot in front of the net in the second extra period. The loss denied the Bulldogs a second trip to the NCAA Frozen Four in three years as FSU fell a game short while concluding the year with a 29-11-3 overall record.
"First of all, I want congratulate North Dakota in winning tonight and playing a great game," said FSU head coach Bob Daniels. "But, I want to congratulate our players as well. They really played well, and, more importantly, it's been a great ride. I'm exceedingly proud and realize that we're going to look back and be appreciative of this year. Its a little painful right now, but I am very appreciative of the efforts of our team."
The Bulldogs, playing in the regional title game for the third time in school history, carried play much of the contest and held a decided advantage in total shots by a 45-26 count.
Following a scoreless opening frame, FSU struck first at 7:31 of the second period as senior forward Cory Kane notched his 14th goal of the campaign on a shot that skipped past North Dakota netminder Zane Gothberg. Fellow senior forward Andy Huff picked up his 14th assist of the year while junior goaltender CJ Motte was given credit for starting the attack for his fourth assist of the season.
However, North Dakota answered with 9:20 left in the middle frame on a power-play goal from Stephane Pattyn for his seventh of the season following a Bulldog tripping penalty. Both Paul LaDue and Nick Mattson earned the helpers, which were their 14th and 18th of the year, respectively.
The two teams battled thru a scoreless third period and another 20 minutes in the first overtime session with neither team able to find the back of the net. FSU held a decisive 44-25 edge in total shots thru the first 80 minutes of action and had 14 opportunities in the first extra session compared to only six for UND.
After the second overtime intermission, North Dakota finally ended the contest at 81:28 when Gaardner scored near the Bulldog net on a shot that just got by Motte, who was stellar in net for the Bulldogs all weekend in the NCAA Tournament. Paul LaDue and Mattson teamed up for assists on the game-winner as North Dakota reached the Frozen Four for the 20th time in school history.
Motte finished with 24 total saves in net for the Bulldogs, which included 12 in the opening period followed by four in the second, two in the third and six in the first extra 20 minutes of play. He claimed the game's third star for his efforts in the regional final.
Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the ice, Gothberg registered 44 total saves. He made eight in the first frame, nine in the second, 12 in the third and 14 in the first overtime. Both goalies had a single save in the second extra period before the contest came to an abrupt end for the Bulldogs.
Over the third period and overtime, the Bulldogs held a decisive 26-8 edge in total shots.
Overall, Kane notched a game-high 11 total shots in his final game for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs finished 0-of-5 with the man-advantage and limited North Dakota to only one power-play goal in six tries in the extra skater. Neither team had a power-play chance in overtime action. Both teams were called for six penalties totaling 12 minutes in the box.
The Bulldogs were making their third-ever regional title game appearance after winning their NCAA opener on Friday (March 28) with a 1-0 victory over Colgate at US Bank Arena. FSU also previously reached the Elite Eight in its first national tourney berth in 2002-03 before advancing to the Frozen Four and the NCAA Championship game two seasons ago in their second trip to the big dance.
The two teams were meeting for the first time since the 2003 NCAA Tournament in which FSU posted a 5-2 triumph in its first-ever game versus North Dakota in the West Regional at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. Ferris State fell to 1-6 all-time against UND with the loss.
The double-overtime contest for the Bulldogs was its second in the last two weeks and it marked the third extra period action for FSU in the last five games of the season.
The Bulldogs had three players chosen among the six named to the All-Tournament Team in the Midwest Regional, including Motte, Kane and senior captain Scott Czarnowczan. They were joined by North Dakota's Rocco Grimaldi, Connor Gaarder and Paul LaDue with Grimaldi tabbed as the Most Outstanding Player of the event.
Ferris State's 29 total wins this season represented the second-most seasonal victories in school history and this year's five-member senior class of Kane, Czarnowczan, Huff, Garrett Thompson and Justin DeMartino leave with the most wins (89) of any four-year class in school history.
This season, along with reaching the NCAA Tournament and the regional championship game, the Bulldogs also won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) in their debut season and finished as the runner-up in the WCHA Final Five Championship. Twenty-one of the Bulldogs' 26 roster players will be eligible to return next season.