GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With less than 10 minutes of regulation remaining in a gritty game where neither team had much room, Ferris State senior Kenny Babinski shot the puck and hoped for the best.
His ninth goal of the season at 11:15 in the third gave the fourth-seed Bulldogs enough to beat No. 1 Michigan Tech 1-0 and advance to Saturday’s WCHA Final Five championship game against Minnesota State.
See the tournament bracket and get links to schedules and stories at WCHA Playoff Central.
“Tech is a great opponent. Mel [Pearson] has done a terrific job leading them toward the MacNaughton Cup and I congratulate them on that. We feel fortunate to move forward. I’m proud of that and proud of our players.”
In his third shutout of the season, freshman Darren Smith had 30 saves for the Bulldogs, while senior Jamie Phillips stopped 32 of 33 for the Huskies. Ferris State had the edge in power plays — including 1:06 of a five-on-three edge to start the second period — but neither team could score with the man advantage.
In the end, it was what Babinski called a lucky shot that made the difference. Midway through the third, Ferris State was dominating in puck possession and cycling down low when Babinski’s linemate, Andrew Dorantes, fished the puck out from the corner and fed Babinski for his one-timer.
“I actually was up pretty high in the zone,” said Babinski. “I could see that Drew had seen me before he even got to the puck and just feathered it onto my stick and I was lucky enough to get one on net. I think it was tipped by one of their defensemen, but it was just a good play overall.”
Throughout the contest, the Bulldogs boxed out and stymied the Michigan Tech scorers, limiting the chances of a team that had one of the top 10 offenses in the nation.
“I thought they played a real gritty, good game,” said Michigan Tech coach Pearson. “When you don’t score, you’re not going to win many hockey games. I just thought they did a real good job of not letting us get in and going in the offensive zone. They did a great job killing penalties. The few chances we had, I thought Darren Smith played excellent.”
Babinski said that as the game continued, the Bulldogs remained positive about their chances to score because they were getting opportunities.
“I think we were all still pretty confident,” he said. “They’re a tough team. There were a lot of goals scored between us in the regular season, but I think a lot of their chances … were from the outside or shots blocked. I think we were all really confident.”
Ferris State (18-14-6) faces Minnesota State at 6 p.m. EDT Saturday, with the winner capturing the Broadmoor Trophy and advancing to the NCAA tournament. Neither the Bulldogs nor the Mavericks will advance to the NCAA tourney without the WCHA autobid.
The loss ended the season for the Huskies (23-9-5), who were on the PairWise bubble entering the weekend.
“I just really want to thank our seniors,” said Pearson. “Five years ago, we won four games. They’ve done a great job bringing this program forward. They’ve brought this program back into the national picture and even though we didn’t get the result we wanted tonight, I’m just real proud of them.”