By Rich Palzewic
UNLIKELY GOAL-SCORER BOOSTS FERRIS STATE
Ferris State 2, Denver 1 | Box Score
GREEN BAY, Wis.—Simon Denis picked a good time to score his first goal of the season for Ferris State.
Denis’ goal 2:54 into the second period proved to be the game-winner for the Bulldogs, who hung on for a 2-1 victory over Denver in the first NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal game at the Resch Center Friday.
“We feel very blessed and privileged to be moving forward,” said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels. “I felt like we played a fairly strong game and it was a fairly typical game with how we play in our defensive zone. When we made mistakes, I thought (goalie) Taylor Nelson was more than up to the task.
“There were times where we weren’t playing very well, but I think that was because we haven’t played enough games lately. We’ve only played three in the last three weeks. I think it worked against Denver playing so many games in so few days, but it worked against us the other way. We were a bit sloppy at times. I thought as the game went on we improved and we’ll be better on (Saturday).”
Ferris State (24-11-5), making its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2003, will now try to secure its first Frozen Four berth.
“It’s very special,” Nelson said. “It’s great that we’re in this spot, but we want to win the next one, too. It’s special for the program that we won the first one here, but we want to keep going.”
For Denver (25-14-4), it was another disappointing end to an otherwise successful season, one in which injuries took a toll.
“[Ferris State] played a very good game and took advantage of a few of our miscues and their goaltender was very good,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “I thought it was an exciting game. … That’s about the best spin I can put on the outcome.”
The Bulldogs’ Aaron Schmit had the first real legitimate scoring opportunity of the game two minutes into the second period. Schmit went in alone on Denver goalie Sam Brittain but was denied by the sophomore netminder to keep the game scoreless. Minutes later, Jordie Johnston, Ferris State’s leading scorer, notched his 19th goals of the season, taking a nifty backhand pass from Garrett Thompson in front of the DU net and burying the shot to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead 4:30 into the period.
Denis’ goal made it 2-0 early in the second.
“It’s hard to believe that we get to this stage of the year and he just scored his first goal of the season,” Daniels said of Denis. “He had 12 assists coming in so he’s definitely an offensive defenseman. He came off shoulder surgery in the summer and was way behind in terms of strength and conditioning.”
Denver’s Drew Shore scored at the 5:22 mark of the third period to pull the Pioneers within one. A frantic final five minutes of the game peaked when the Pioneers pulled Brittain with a little more than two minutes remaining and had plenty of quality chances, but couldn’t pull off its second first-round comeback in as many years at the Midwest Regional—DU rallied to beat Western Michigan in the opening round in Green Bay last season.
The Pioneers did have an apparent goal waved off about five minutes into the second period after a quick whistle from the referee nullified the tally.
CORNELL KNOCKS OFF TOP-SEEDED MICHIGAN
Cornell 3, Michigan 2 (OT) | Box Score
It’s a good thing for Cornell University that hockey goals are reviewable.
The Big Red used the momentum from a disallowed goal on their way to a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over Michigan in the second NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal game on Friday night.
Rodger Craig scored the overtime winner 3:35 into the extra period after the Big Red failed to hold a 2-1 lead with just over four minutes remaining in regulation.
Cornell (19-8-7) will take on Ferris State in the Midwest Regional championship Saturday. The Big Red and Bulldogs haven’t played since 1998.
“It’s obviously a great win for us,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “Right off the bat we get scored on twice in the first minute and 20 seconds of the game, and then the five-on-threes (Michigan power plays) we killed off later were huge. It was disappointing to give up the lead, but to come back in overtime to win it is great. I was really proud of the guys and shows the character of our team.”
“It gives us a chance to move on to (Saturday) and hopefully onto to Florida,” said Craig of his game-winning goal. “Everyone put in a great effort and it’s nice to come out on top.”
Michigan (24-13-4) was making its record 22nd consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and 35th overall.
“I like the way our team started off obviously,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “The goal that was disallowed was obviously a factor in the game, but give Cornell credit and they got back into the game. Their special teams were a factor. Their first two goals were on the power play and short-handed and then they kept us off the board (on the power play).”
The way the game started off for Cornell, it was a minor miracle things turned out as they did. The Wolverines scored just 1:11 into the game on a Luke Glendening goal and had another one taken off the board seconds later on goalie interference after it was reviewed by the referee. The Big Red immediately called their timeout after the apparent second goal only two minutes into the game. After weathering the early storm, Cornell’s special teams took over from there. The Big Red scored on the power play halfway through the first period (John McCarron) and short-handed just 40 seconds into the second period on a Joakim Ryan goal to go up 2-1 after two.
Several key moments in the game took place in the last five minutes of the middle period. Cornell’s Armand De Swardt was given a five-minute major penalty – and a game misconduct – for contact to the head with 5:08 left in the period. Moments after Michigan’s power play began, Lee Moffie took a penalty for the Wolverines to nullify the power play temporarily.
Once Michigan’s power play resumed, Cornell’s Locke Jillson was awarded a penalty shot after he was hooked from behind on a scoring chance, but was denied by Wolverines’ goalie Shawn Hunwick to keep the score at 2-1. Moments later, the Big Red took another penalty, but Michigan failed to score on the ensuing 5-on-3 power play.
Michigan carried play for most of the evening, out-shooting the Big Red 33-24 on the night, but couldn’t crack Cornell goalie Andy Iles, who had 31 saves.
The Big Red were 1-for-3 on the power play and killed off all seven Michigan penalties.
Cornell is looking to make the Midwest Regional championship game more memorable than the last time they were at the Resch Center in 2006. On that occasion, they lost a 1-0 triple overtime thriller to the Wisconsin Badgers in front of a sold-out arena. Wisconsin went on to win the national championship that year.
SEEN AND HEARD AT THE RESCH CENTER
• For the second year in a row, the Midwest Regional was hosted by Michigan Tech University at the Resch Center. And for the second year in a row, the Wisconsin Badgers didn’t make the NCAA tournament. Who would have guessed that the Badgers would miss out on the Regional two years in a row? In 2006 Wisconsin beat Cornell 1-0 in triple overtime in the Midwest Regional championship before a sold-out crowd at the Resch on its way to the national championship.
• There were three former Green Bay Gamblers represented at the regional. Three of the four teams had ties to the highly successful United States Hockey League team that plays its home games at the Resch. Michigan’s Travis Lynch (2009-11) played for Green Bay, as did Ferris’ Scott Czarnowczan (2009-10) and Denver defenseman David Makowski (2008-10). All three were an integral part in the Gamblers’ Clark Cup championship in 2010. Makowski has been out since December 31 (22 games) with an undisclosed upper-body injury and didn’t even make to the trip to Green Bay.
• Michigan coach Red Berenson on the Wolverines playing in Green Bay. “We thought that we’d be in one of the western regionals; either in Minnesota or in Green Bay and to us it didn’t matter. You can’t pick your opponents this time of year and you can’t pick your location. I’ve always said that the regionals should afford your fans a chance to go to the game and Green Bay was probably the closest we could get.”
• The Ferris State, Michigan and Cornell pep bands made the trip to Green Bay.
To the Ferris State defense, which smothered the Pioneers for most of the night and out shot them 34-25. The great defense by the Bulldogs made their CCHA quarterfinal loss to Bowling Green seem even more improbable after they lost a three-goal lead in the deciding game.
To the Cornell Big Red for weathering an early storm against the Wolverines. Cornell could have been down 2-0, 90 seconds into the game, but a disallowed goal kept it at 1-0. The last time Cornell was at the Resch Center in 2006, they lost a 1-0 triple overtime thriller to Wisconsin in front of a sold-out arena.
Wisconsin’s absence definitely hurt attendance. Unlike last year when you could definitely feel North Dakota’s presence with its fans, there was none of that this year.
INCH’s THREE STARS OF THE NIGHT
3. Simon Denis, Ferris State: Denis picked a good time for his first goal of the season. He came into the contest with 12 assists but his goal was the difference in the Bulldogs 2-1 victory over the Pioneers.
2. Taylor Nelson, Ferris State: The Bulldogs’ net minder was stellar in goal, stopping 24 of the 25 shots he saw. In a frantic last two minutes of the game where the Pioneers pulled their goalie and got an extra skater, Nelson swatted away a few golden opportunities from Denver.
1. Rodger Craig, Cornell: Craig scored his second goal of the year 3:35 into the overtime period to lead the Big Red past the Wolverines.
Ferris State and Cornell will play for the Midwest Regional championship on Saturday night. The two haven’t played since 1998.