Ferris skates past Notre Dame, 4-1

Bulldogs take opening game of home-and-home series

BIG RAPIDS — It was a game the Ferris State hockey team needed badly — and they played like it, skating to an impressive 4-1 win over Notre Dame on Friday.

The Bulldogs (11-5-1, 7-5-1) dominated play through two periods in gaining a 3-0 lead, before the action got chippy in the final period. The Bulldogs’ Matthew Kirzinger came up big against the Irish, finishing with a goal and two assists in an effort that pleased Ferris State coach Bob Daniels.

UP THE ICE: Ferris State's Eric Alexander tries to skate around a Notre Dame defender during Friday night's hockey contest. (Pioneer photo/Martin Slagter)

The win comes at a good time for the Bulldogs, who had lost three of their last four contests.

“I thought the game had the tenacity of two teams that had been swept the previous weekend,” he said. “That fed some of the emotion of the game. It got fairly chippy, which was the sign of an awful lot of passion.”

The two teams combined for 22 penalties on the night, with Ferris State collecting 12 and Notre Dame 10. The Bulldogs Aaron Schmit received a game disqualification, while Notre Dame’s Stephen Johns got a game misconduct for his hit on FSU’s Eric Alexander.

The penalties didn’t take away from the win, Daniels said.

Ferris State simply played better than the Fighting Irish, who looked uninspired through two periods.

“I didn’t anticipate that,” Daniels said of the rough third period where the teams combined for 15 penalties. “It was disappointing to see it get like that. That was an important win, though, for us to stop the skid.”

The Bulldogs also got a solid performance in net from goaltender Taylor Nelson, who made critical stops during the penalty kill in keeping Notre Dame off the scoreboard. Nelson finished with 28 saves on 29 Fighting Irish shots.

“Taylor deserves a great deal of credit,” Daniels said. “Notre Dame is very strong around the net, so you can’t leave pucks around the net. I thought he did a good job (of preventing that).”

Nelson made a big stop on a Nick Larson shot with nine minutes remaining in the first period when the Irish had a 2-on-1 breakaway.

Ferris State countered with the game’s first goal with 8:19 remaining on a rebound in front of the net by Andy Huff. The goal was assisted by Chald Billins and gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead that lasted through the first period.

FSU had an opportunity to increase the lead early in the second period when Eric Alexander made a nice move to get past a Notre Dame defender. He flipped the puck to freshman T.J. Schlueter, but he was unable to convert in front of the net.

Notre Dame threatened to even up the game on the power play, but the Bulldogs instead took advantage of a golden opportunity. A loose puck came out of Notre Dame’s offensive zone into Matthew Kirzinger’s possession. The junior made his way down the ice on a 2-on-1.

Kirzinger faked out goaltender Mike Johnson, putting on a pretty move that allowed him to stuff the puck into the net unattended with 12:51 remaining in the second to make it 2-0. The goal was Kirzinger’s third of the season.

Kirzinger said crisp passing by the Bulldogs was a big factor in the win.

“We just needed to keep our feet moving in the offensive zone,” he said. “Good passes make it so much easier for us to attack the net.”

Notre Dame had a chance to get on the scoreboard a few minutes later on a 5-on-3 but the Bulldogs’ penalty kill, which struggled last weekend against Western Michigan, proved clutch in killing off both penalties.

Ferris State continued to pour it on offensively with 3:05 remaining in the second. Derek Graham found Kirzinger on a nice pass, who spotted Kyle Bonis. Bonis flipped the shot through the five-hole to make it 3-0.

Both teams scored once in a third period filled with aggressive hits and rough play. Notre Dame scored first just seconds after Schmit’s disqualification on a goal by Sam Calabrese.

Ferris countered with a power play goal of its own when Jordie Johnston slipped it past Johnson on a pass from Travis Ouellette that was on the money. Chad Billins also assisted on the goal — his second of the night.

Daniels stressed the importance of special teams coming into the home-and-home series, and was satisfied with half of the equation on Friday. the Bulldogs were 1-for-6 with the man advantage, while stopping the Irish (0-for-5) from scoring on the power play.

“I would say as far as the penalty kill, it was mission accomplished,” he said. “The power play is still a work in progress.”

Notre Dame hosts Ferris State at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

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