The 31-8-1 Huskies begin play in the 2016 NCAA Ice Hockey tournament vs another set of Bulldogs at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul this Saturday. They’ll take on the Ferris State University Bulldogs (Big Rapids, MI) 19-14-6 who finished fourth in the WCHA this season. This will be the Bulldogs fourth NCAA appearance and third in the last five years. The Bulldogs won the Midwest Regional in 2011-12 and advanced to the Frozen Four Championship game. They are the only WCHA school in the NCAA tournament this season. The Bulldogs finished the season with a Pairwise of #30 having to win their conference tournament to get the automatic qualifier to earn the right to face SCSU. The Bulldogs are the 4th seed in the West Regional. Against common opponents this season, Ferris has a record of 7-3-3 and SCSU is 6-0-0.
HEAD TO HEAD
These schools have a limited history of head to head competition. This will mark the ninth time the two squads have met with the all-time series dead even at 3-3-2. The teams last met in Big Rapids, MI on October 10th and 11th 2002 with the Huskies winning the Friday game by a 2-1 score and Ferris rebounding for a 6-3 win the following evening. FSU is 2-1-1 at home and 1-2-1 on the road vs the Huskies.
The Ferris State Bulldogs knocked off #15 ranked Minnesota State University Mankato 2-1 in Grand Rapids, MI to capture the Broadmoor Trophy as champions of the WCHA Final Five. The Bulldogs fell behind 1-0 early in the contest but tied the game on a power play goal by Brandon Anselmini at 14:55 of the first period and won it on a penalty shot by Gerald Mayhew with 26 seconds left in period two. In a strong defensive effort by the Bulldogs, they limited the Mavericks to a total of 14 shots on goal for the entire game. Earlier in the weekend, the Bulldogs defeated regular season WCHA champions Michigan Tech in another strong defensive/goaltending effort in a 1-0 shutout.
The #2 PWR Huskies also won their league post-season tournament snapping Denver University’s eleven-game winning streak on Friday in a 4-2 win and UMD’s seven-game win streak on Saturday in a 3-1 victory. First-year forward Mikey Eyssimont was the weekend hero being named MVP of the tournament after a three-goal weekend. Charlie Lindgren and Ethan Prow were also named to the all-tournament team after strong weekend performances. On Friday, the Huskies forged to a 3-1 lead and then held off a Denver third period surge in the 4-2 final. On Saturday, UMD took an early 1-0 lead but a two-goal performance by Eyssimont in period two was all that was needed in the 3-1 win for the Frozen Faceoff Trophy.
FERRIS STATE UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
Led by long-time coach Bob Daniels, one of the “good guys” in College hockey, the Bulldogs were five games over .500 for the season at 19-14-5 but finished strong during the stretch run having to win their way into the NCAA tournament. Despite being 8-5 since February 1, things really came together for the Bulldogs in March going 6-1 and clamping down defensively vs WCHA powers Michigan Tech and MSU-Mankato allowing only three goals in two games in the WCHA Final Five. They are not impressing anyone with their strength of schedule ranking of #43 or Pairwise of #30 but you can throw that out the window at tournament time. Nor, will they blow you away with many of their other statistics – goals per game 2.67 (#29), goals allowed per game 2.54 (#23) or power play 14.8% (#45). However, the penalty kill at 85.7% (#11) will most likely be tested by SCSU considering the Bulldogs do spend some time in the penalty box averaging almost 12 minutes per game.
Offensively, this not a scary bunch although Gerald Mayhew has scored an impressive 14 goals this season to add to his 22 assists and 36 points. Others in the offensive mix are Chad McDonald (10-15-25), first-year forward Corey Mackin (9-14-23), a talented 50 goal scorer from the BCHL who was named WCHA Rookie of the Year and Kyle Schemp (8-15-23). The power play has had its struggles converting less than 15% of its opportunities.
Defensively, They are led by senior Brandon Anselmini (2-14-16) +8 and Simon Denis (7-7-14) -1. But, the strength as of late and in the playoffs has been first-year goaltender, Darren Smith who was named MVP of the WCHA Final Five after only allowing one goal in two games. For the season, Smith has put up some outstanding numbers including a 2.15 GAA and .923 SV%.
Expect it to be defense first for the Bulldogs who have a scoring margin of only five goals – 104 scored vs 99 allowed.
ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY HUSKIES
The Huskies continue to excel in nearly every statistical category including the offense – 4.28 GPG (2nd in the country) defense – 2.13 GAPG (10th) and Power Play – 28.9% (2nd). Even the penalty kill that was struggling for the first half of the season has become a strength – maybe outshining the power play only allowing two goals in 39 opponent opportunities since February 1 (94.8%). The Huskies goal differential is currently +84 (168/84).
Offensively, Kalle Kossila is tied for 5th in NCAA scoring with 52 points. Senior, Ethan Prow, leads all defensemen in the country in scoring with 8-29-37. Five seniors, Benik, Kossila, Murray, Morley and Prow have combined for 210 of the squads 474 points (44%). Sophomores Judd Peterson, Blake Winiecki and Patrick Russell have combined for 87 points. First-year forwards Mikey Eyssimont, Patrick Newell and Robby Jackson have combined for 70 points and have become key components of the SCSU offensive machine.
The defense of the Huskies is anchored by senior Ethan Prow who has also added to the offense with 8 goals and 29 assists and a +32 rating. And, he’s doing this with only 2 penalty minutes all season. He’s backed up by a solid core of young defenseman including sophomore, Nathan Widman (+21), Jimmy Schuldt (+34), Will Borgen (+18) and Jon Lizotte (+10). Junior Niklas Nevalainen has been a key defensive and offensive component to this unit with 23 points in 38 games and a +18 ranking. The Huskies are ranked 10th nationally in team defense allowing 2.13 GPG. The penalty kill has become a strength ranked 26th at 82.4% but ony allowing two goals in the last 39 opportunities. As always, SCSU is one of the least penalized teams in the country currently ranked 59th out of 60 teams.
First-year defenseman, Jimmy Schuldt and Will Borgen were both recently named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team. Senior defenseman Ethan Prow and junior goaltender Charlie Lindgren were named to the All NCHC first team and Joey Benik and Kalle Kossila to the second team.
At the recent NCHC Awards Banquet Ethan Prow was named NCHC Player of the Year, Defenseman of the Year and Offensive Defenseman of the Year. Charlie Lindgren was named NCHC Goaltender of the Year.
Based on their play in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. MIkey Eyssimont was named tournament MVP and Charlie Lindgren and Ethan Prow were named to the all-tourney team.
Charlie Lindgren’s exemplary play continues compiling a 30-8-1 record with a .927 SV% and 2.05 GAA. His 5 shutouts rank him 6th in the country in that category and 30 wins the most of any goaltender in college hockey.
This game is a contrast in styles. Ferris will approach this contest with the same focus as the WCHA Final Five – puck possession, strong defense, tight gap coverage and limiting the Huskies potent offense from gaining any traction in the Ferris defensive zone. The Bulldogs know they can’t run and gun with the SCSU offense and they’ll do their best to keep this a low scoring affair. Special teams are a mismatch and despite a PK at 85% the Bulldogs are best served by staying out of the penalty box.
The dilemma for Ferris is how they’ll match lines. Depth is to the Huskies advantage as each line has the ability to put up offense. Also, as the home team, SCSU will have the benefit of last line change – a significant advantage. Both goaltenders are outstanding and we could see a goaltender duel on Saturday. All teams that are in this tournament are playing well this time of year so forget about the season records or records against common opponents.
Both teams have seasoned and experienced coaching staffs and game strategy should be fun to watch.
As always, all the pertinent links for this weekends games can be found HERE
Enjoy the games!