By Stefan Kubus –
The Ferris State Bulldogs’ fate rested in the hands of their third period special teams. And did they ever serve them well.
The Bulldogs – propelled by a relentless penalty kill – hung on to defeat the Cornell Big Red 2-1 in the Northeast regional final, sending them to their first Frozen Four appearance in program history.
The first period saw Ferris State take its turn with the man advantage, having three opportunities, but to no avail. Things would remain scoreless after the first frame.
Cornell would then have the opportunity to turn the tables early in the second, getting four straight power plays starting just two minutes into the period. The Bulldogs came out and proved their special teams were ready on both ends, killing off all four penalties to keep things deadlocked at zero.
But it was a Cornell penalty with 40 seconds left in the second period that would help turn things Ferris State’s way.
With a 1:23 power play to start the final period, and just 11 seconds in, Traverse City native Garrett Thompson capitalized to put the Bulldogs on the board first. Assists went to Matthew Kirzinger and Jordie Johnston.
Shortly after, however, the Big Red would respond on a Dustin Mowrey equalizer, tying things at one aside.
Ferris State’s TJ Schuleter took a five minute hitting-from-behind major penalty less than two minutes into the period. Not a great way to respond after a goal. But the aftermath would turn out to be a huge momentum shift in favor of Ferris State.
They say you have to make your own breaks sometime, and the Bulldogs did just that by killing off the major penalty.
Right as Howell native Andy Huff stepped out of the box for serving the Schuleter major, he broke in on a 2-on-1, fed Johnston, who easily buried a goal in the gaping twine for a 2-1 Bulldogs lead and his second point of the night.
From there, First Team All-CCHA senior goaltender Taylor Nelson would keep the ship steady amidst a barrage of Cornell attempts.
A late penalty by Cornell all but wrapped things up for the Bulldogs, as they hung on for the victory, despite being outshot 23-21.
With that victory, Ferris State is now headed to its first Frozen Four in school history, where it will face off against the Union Dutchmen at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa Bay.