March 21, 2003
CCHA Semifinals

Small-market Ferris State reaches big game

Other Tournament Coverage

By Mike Eidelbes

DETROIT – If Ferris State was a major league baseball team, they'd be the Minnesota Twins.

No, CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos hasn't tried to contract the small-market Bulldogs. But while Michigan and Michigan State – and even Ohio State and Notre Dame – are battling over the junior hockey equivalents of Alex Rodriguez and Pedro Martinez, Ferris State grabs a Torii Hunter here, a Corey Koskie there and watches them grow.

Ferris State 4,
Northern Michigan 2
Team Goal Str
Time Assists

First Period

1-FS Chris Kunitz (31) EV
5:25 Unassisted
2-FS Chris Kunitz (32) EV
11:49 J. Legue, J. Scherlinck
Second Period
1-NM Jamie Milam (4) PP
3:47 J. Alen
2-NM Chris Gobert (15) EV
10:51 A. Contois, T. Harrison
3-FS Jeff Legue (23) EV
18:04 C. Kunitz, D. Nesbitt
Third Period
4-FS Phil Lewandowski (14) EV
7:45 Unassisted
NM: Craig Kowalski, 58:59, 41 saves, 4 GA
FS: Mike Brown, 60:00, 29 saves, 2 GA
Penalties: NM 4/8; FS 5/10
Power Plays: NM 1-3; FS 0-3
Attendance: 12,967

"We're not a big-time school," said Daniels. "But at the same token, we're a lot bigger than people realize."

Take a look at Daniels' roster. There wasn't one National Hockey League draft pick in the Bulldog lineup Friday. Conference player of the year and Hobey Baker Award finalist Chris Kunitz is an unrestricted free agent. So is first team all-league goaltender Mike Brown. Same with forwards Jeff Legue and Derek Nesbitt, who've combined for 101 points on the year.

"When you come in, there's a select few guys that have to step into that role," said senior forward Phil Lewandowski, who scored the Bulldogs' fourth goal Friday. "Chis was always a good player in juniors. He wasn't necessarily a top scorer the whole time. But he took the bull by the horns because we needed a guy to score.

"It's been different because Coach (Daniels) couldn't really recruit guys. But lately the way they've been going out, they've been getting guys who can play."

The similarities don't end there. Like the Twins, the Bulldogs are well schooled in the fundamentals. They're very good in their own end. They have an uncanny ability to control the play down low in the offensive zone. They don't force the issue. The forecheck with commitment and tenacity. They get quality special teams play. They know their system and, more importantly, they apply what they have to do.

"We know how to execute (our systems)," Lewandowski said. "So, yeah, we are pretty smart. I don't know if we're the smartest, but we play our roles really well."

There's no question that, because of their small-school status, out-of-nowhere rise to the top of the conference standings and pluck, Ferris State has become the darling of the fans without an attachment to any of the other teams in the field. Not suprisingly, that suits the Bulldogs just fine. But don't think they're approaching Saturday's championship match with an "aw, shucks" attitude.

"No (Ferris State) team has ever done anything like this in the past," Lewandowski said. "We've never won a CCHA championship. We've only been here twice in the last 12 years.

"We're gonna win it. It's unacceptable if we don't."

Michigan 3,
Ohio State 0
Team Goal Str
Time Assists

First Period

No Scoring
Second Period
1-UM Dwight Helminen (14) EV
8:06 E. Nystrom, D. Richmond
2-UM Dwight Helminen (15) EV
10:43 J.J. Swistak
Third Period
3-UM Dwight Helminen (16) SH
9:37 N. Martens
OS: Mike Betz, 60:00, 21 saves, 3 GA
UM: Al Montoya, 60:00, 31 saves, 0 GA
Penalties: OS 14/36; UM 12/24
Power Plays: OS 0-5; UM 0-7
Attendance: 12,967


Michigan coach Red Berenson said he was worried about Dwight Helminen before tonight's game against Ohio State. After all, the sophomore center had played six career games at Joe Louis Arena and never scored a point.

Berenson's concerns were unfounded. Helminen scored all three Wolverine goals, including a shorthanded marker late in the third period, to propel Michigan to Saturday's CCHA title game.

"It's a great feeling," Helminen, a native of Brighton, Mich., said following his three-goal performance. "You don't really go into the game expecting that to happen. Some nights it's on, some nights it's off."

Helminen speaks from experience. He snapped a five-game goalless streak with a pair of tallies in last weekend's CCHA first-round playoff series against Bowling Green and now has five markers in his last three games.

"The kid played a heckuva game," Ohio State coach John Markell said. "He put the shots where he needed to."

Tonight's Three Stars
3. Mike Brown, Ferris State
The sophomore goaltender made the play of the game against NMU with a spectacular toe save on the Wildcats' Chris Gobert to thwart a three-on-one scoring chance. Moments later, Lewandowski scored a highlight-reel goal of his own to give the Bulldogs a two-goal lead.
2. Dwight Helminen, Michigan
We raved about his efforts on the penalty kill in our CCHA season recap when we named him one of our breakthrough players. He made our words stand up by notching a hat trick – the first of his career – against Ohio State. The third goal was scored during a Buckeye power play.
1. Chris Kunitz, Ferris State
With two goals and an assist against Northern Michigan, he posts the top single-season point total (32-41—73) in Bulldog history.


• Friday's game marked the final installment of Milam Bowl III, pitting Ferris State senior defenseman Troy Milam against Northern Michigan rookie rearguard Jamie Milam. Troy emerged with a 2-1 edge, as the Bulldogs won today's match after splitting the lone regular season series between the two teams. Jamie did score the Wildcats' first goal of the game, a power play tally 3:47 into the second period. Troy was on the ice for that marker.

"My mom told me she hoped we would win and Jamie would score a goal," Troy Milam admitted following the game. "I guess she's a happy woman."

• Watching the proceedings from a different perspective was Jeff Jackson. The former Lake Superior State bench boss, who was relieved of his coaching duties with the Ontario Hockey League's Guelph Storm, is scouting for the New York Islanders.

• Count Ohio State coach John Markell among the believers in the "less me, more we" philosophy. The Buckeyes' sweaters are sans nameplates, a subtle reminder to players that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the one on the back.

• An Ohio State player has never won the Hobey, but they've had a few Heisman winners over the years. In fact, one of them was at Friday's game at Joe Louis Arena. Archie Griffin, who won the award twice while playing for the Buckeyes, is in Detroit with the OSU icers. He's now an assistant athletics director at the school.

• Overheard in the JLA media room after the announcement that Scott Titus and Chris Olsgard would be the players representing Ohio State at the post-game press conference: "Olsgard? They must still be looking for Umberger."


Northern Michigan goaltender Craig Kowalski. One night after facing a barrage in a quarterfinal win over Michigan State, the junior stopped 41 shots against Ferris State Friday.

Michigan's penalty-killing unit, a wily, aggressive group that stymied the Ohio State power play, keeping the Buckeyes on their heels and challenging every pass.

Ohio State and Michigan, for the chippiness exhibited during the second semifinal game. There's nothing wrong with hard-nosed, physical play, but the stickwork, rabbit punches and running of the goaltenders – especially Michigan's Al Montoya – was unnecessary.

OSU's R.J. Umberger. The Hobey Baker finalist was absolutely invisible against the Wolverines.


Naturally, tomorrow's major storyline is whether Ferris State can beat Michigan and follow its CCHA regular season championship with its first-ever Mason Cup. Perhaps more intriguing, however, is the impact Northern Michigan can have on the NCAA Tournament should they down Ohio State in the league's newly-reinstated third-place game. Wildcat coach Walt Kyle told reporters during his post-game press conference that affecting their opponent's seeding – or potentially knocking them out of the playoffs – is definitely a motivating factor for his team.

About Us
| Advertiser Info | Site Map | Privacy Policy
© 2003 Inside College Hockey, Inc., All Rights Reserved