With both teams’ destinies already decided, one might think Saturday’s game between Ferris State and Bowling Green would have had little meaning.
However, Ferris State had the most to lose on the national scene, due to the Bulldogs’ modest standing in the PairWise Rankings. And after surrendering the first two goals, the Bulldogs battled back to a 4-3 victory.
The story of the game was senior goaltender Matt Swanson’s first career start. The Bulldogs wanted to make it memorable, but the Falcons had other plans. Mark Wires got Bowling Green on the board at 6:29 off a slapshot from the left faceoff circle that went between the legs of Swanson to make it 1-0.
Next, Mike Falk increased the lead 2-0 at 7:27 while on the power play. Brian Escobedo passed the puck over to Falk, who sent a one timer to the back of the net.
Ferris State battled back to tie the game. At 10:38, Mike Kinnie intercepted a pass and broke in alone on Falcon goaltender Tyler Masters. Kinnie deked left and backhanded the puck past over the diving goaltender to make it 2-1.
Barely a minute later, Kevin Caudill scored on a deflection off a shot from Simon Mangos at 11:54 to tie the game 2-2.
“I really didn’t say anything to the team,” FSU head coach Bob Daniels said. “They just dug deep and found a way to tie the game. After that, the game really tightened up.”
Bowling Green had a majority of the shots through the second period and into the third, and both teams had numerous chances. Swanson made the first two big stops of the third period off a breakaway and a two-on-one chance. Masters answered with strong saves of his own on the doorstep, robbing Mangos and Phil Lewandowski.
Both teams successfully killed five-on-three power plays to keep the score tied.
Derek Nesbitt provided two key goals in the third period, the first at 8:40 on a three-on-one. Meyer sent a tape-to-tape pass to Nesbitt, who roofed a shot over Masters to make it 3-2. Nesbitt scored again on another odd-man rush. This time, it was Hobey Baker candidate Chris Kunitz who sent a perfect pass to Nesbitt, who tapped the puck past the sprawling goaltender to make it 4-2.
With Masters pulled and on the power play, Kevin Bieksa scored at 19:44 to bring the Falcons within one. That was as close as they would get.
Swanson was satisfied with his first performance. “This start meant a lot to me and the team really wanted me to do well and get me a win,” he said.
Said Daniels, “It was a tight game, but frustrating at the same time. That is really all I can say about it. Swanson did play very well, that much I can say. I am sure he wants that first goal back, but he really regrouped and put together a solid game. No doubt about it that I am confident in his abilities.”
Ferris State now hosts Lake Superior State next weekend.
“I am glad we are not playing Bowling Green,” said Daniels, “but I wish we could get a bye or something and avoid the whole first round. Obviously that isn’t going to happen, so we have to be ready for next weekend.”
Bowling Green travels to Yost next weekend to play Michigan in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.