Inside some of the key storylines from Ferris State’s 3-1 win over Union.
DEFENSIVE DEPTH LIFTS BULLDOGS
By James V. Dowd
Ferris State coach Bob Daniels described facing off against Union in the national semifinal game as being like looking in the mirror. Both teams are hard-nosed, play nearly flawless defense and have overcome the obstacles facing small schools to emerge as two of the nation’s top teams this season.
If there’s one thing that differentiated the two on paper, it was the play of Union’s most prolific line this year. That trio of Jeremy Welsh, Daniel Carr and Josh Jooris amassed a combined 54 goals and 110 points in the 40 games prior to the Frozen Four.
“They’re just too big and too strong,” Daniels said. “And so we also wanted to make sure we followed the puck, if you will, so when Welsh or that line headed in the offensive zone, rather than relying on a man-on-man type defense with them, we tried to send two players right at the puck to limit our exposure with them in zone.”
Neutralizing that line and Union’s prolific power play became a focal point for Ferris State, especially on a night where they were designated the visiting team and they wouldn’t have the ability to match lines. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, defensive depth is one of coach Bob Daniels’ top assets this year.
Being able to use his top two pairings, senior Chad Billins and sophomore Scott Czarnowczan followed by senior Brett Wysopal and freshman Jason Binkley, interchangeably proved to be difference, as the Bulldogs limited Union’s fearsome trio to a single second period goal in Ferris State’s 3-1 victory.
Wysopal and Binkley, in particular, often found themselves out there against Welsh’s line consistently and made up for Carr’s goal by limiting the number of chances that got through to goaltender Taylor Nelson for the rest of the night.
“I’ve been a defensive defenseman this year, that’s kind of the role that I’ve had,” Wysopal said. “I like playing against other teams’ top lines, and I got a few blocks in the first period and a few against (Welsh). It’s a challenge, he’s a heck of a player and I know he likes to shoot a lot. He got one off of my foot my foot pretty good.”
Daniels took note of those efforts and praised the senior for his gritty play after the game.
“There are a lot of teams that would like (Wysopal) on their number-one pairing in the country because of how well he plays defensively and he’s really a warrior,” Daniels said. “For us to have him in our second pairing is really a bonus for us. Because of the fact that now with the rules on icing, you can’t change players, people that watch that game very closely, every single time we had an icing the Welsh line came out. So you would get a group of our players tired and so you could never guarantee who you’re going to have on the ice, and then to have Brett Wysopal to be able to run out after Czarnowczan and Billins is a luxury a lot of teams would like to have.”
In the end the result was a prototypical Ferris State victory that sent the Bulldogs to prepare for their first-ever national championship game – the type of contest where depth and grit, especially on defense, are always keys to victory.
UNION’S KEYS TAKEN AWAY
By Joe Gladziszewski
When you’re game-planning to stop Union, one of the first bulletpoints on the game plan is to stay out of the penalty box. The Dutchmen power play is one of the best of the country and entered the game at 24.3 percent, ranked fourth nationally.
Neither team was penalized in the first period, and Union committed two infractions in the second. The Dutchmen went on the power play for the first time with 15:30 remaining in the third period when the game was tied 1-1. That turned out to be Union’s only power play in the game and that was cut short when Union’s Josh Jooris was called for a high-sticking minor with 37 seconds left in the man advantage. A team that scored 46 power-play goals on the season was unable to get one in the biggest game of the year.
“We thought maybe we’d get a call eventually,” Union senior captain Nolan Julseth-White said. “We thought we’d try to lean on the refs about the hooking and what not, and we’re not putting anything on the refs. You can’t expect those to come. You’ve got to go out there and earn calls and earn opportunities and we didn’t do that tonight,” Julseth-White said.
It was just one of the areas that Union typically excels at that didn’t go its way in the national semifinal. Some of the things that Ferris State does particularly well are similar to Union’s way of playing, but whereas Union likes to possess the puck and get speed in transition, this game tended to favor loose puck battles and races into open space.
“They play a pretty similar style to ourselves. We didn’t take care of the puck like we normally do and I think we got outhit tonight as well. We kind of got away from our game,” Julseth-White said. “I didn’t think our talk level was there tonight, especially when guys were going to battles for the puck I think we could have done a better job.”
It was the fourth year in a row that Union can characterize the completed season as the best in the program’s Division I history, and wrapped up in the month of April for the first time. While the elements of the game that Union has used to build its program into one of national prominence didn’t go in the team’s favor on Thursday night in Tampa, those are the types of things that have helped build sustainable excellence in Schenectady.