Making a power play

Bulldogs climbing CCHA standings in midst of six game unbeaten streak

BIG RAPIDS — Taking five out of six points in a weekend series against the leader in the conference standings is likely to put a smile on any coach’s face.

Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said his Bulldogs’ 1-0-1 weekend against No. 5 Ohio State was satisfying not only in terms of the CCHA standings, but in how his team picked up the points.

Solid goaltending, combined with a breakthrough in power play production were critical in elevating the Bulldogs (15-8-3, 9-6-3) to fifth place in the CCHA — just four points out of first place.

CELEBRATION: Ferris State’s Kyle Bonis celebrates a goal against Alaska in recent hockey action at Ewigleben Ice Arena. Bonis and the Bulldogs are undefeated in their last six contests, sitting at fifth place in the CCHA standings. (Pioneer file photo)

“I thought it was a great series in terms of taking five out of six points, but also in the way we played,” Daniels said. “Areas that had been giving us heartburn like the power play and penalty kill both showed signs of improvement. We scored four power play goals on the weekend and only gave up one.”

The Bulldogs finished the weekend 4-for-11 on power play opportunities, including three goals with the man advantage on Friday. FSU also limited the Buckeyes’ strong power play to just 1-of-12 on the weekend.

Defenseman and senior captain Chad Billins said picking up points on the road will be critical for the Bulldogs, who have set their sights on Michigan State, who visits Ewigleben Ice Arena on Friday and Saturday.

Billins played a critical role in the Bulldogs’ success over the weekend and is playing some of his best hockey as of late. He currently ranks second in the CCHA in scoring among

defensemen.

“It was an exciting series, and it was huge in terms of the standings,” he said. “Even a

shootout point could be the difference between something like first and second place.”

FSU continues to get consistent goaltending as the season winds down — a fact that has not been lost on Daniels.

Senior Taylor Nelson and freshman CJ Motte both came up Big against OSU.

“They’ve both played exceedingly well,” Daniels said. “CJ’s game tailed off as the bi-product of his performance in practice, because he wasn’t used to performing throughout an entire year, which I think wore him down mentally. He had a great two weeks of practice, which earned him another start against Ohio State. He showed that he had earned that chance.”

Nelson, Daniels said, has been performing at a high level as well, going undefeated in his last five starts.

“Taylor has played really well,” he said. “He hasn’t been getting shutouts or anything, but he’s been doing what’s most important for a goaltender, which is beating the goalie at the other end of the rink.”

With 10 games remaining in the regular season, Billins said the Bulldogs have set their sights on finishing strong and earning an advantageous spot in the postseason.

“We want to make it to (Joe Louis Ice Arena),” Billins said, referring to the final four of the CCHA tournament. “A league title isn’t out of the question, either, with us being bunched in with everyone. We made it to the Joe my sophomore year, and with this team … maybe we can go a little further.”

Daniels said the senior leadership of players like Billins, Nelson, Jordie Johnston and Tommy Hill will play a big part in whether the Bulldogs can continue their winning ways.

“I’ve learned that this late in the season, our senior leadership is excellent,” he said. “They’re leading the way, and the credit goes to the seniors, who have been taking it in the direction that we have. I feel like we’re in good hands with that class.”

Ferris State takes on Michigan State at 7:05 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Ewigleben Ice Arena.

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