A year frozen in time

FSU hockey, upset of GVSU provide landmark moments in 2012

The year 2012 will be remembered by many in the Big Rapids community as the year Ferris State hockey broke through. The Bulldogs’ appearance in the 2012 NCAA title game along with the program’s second ever CCHA title thrust FSU into the national spotlight.

There was much more to 2012 than Bulldog hockey, however. FSU finished 15th nationally in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings, with successful campaigns from both basketball teams, the volleyball team and NCAA Division II nationals appearances for both men’s and women’s cross country teams.

Today, the Pioneer continues to count down the top stories from both Ferris State athletics and the prep ranks. Today we will look at Ferris State’s top five stories of the year, followed by the top high school stories to close out the week.

 5. A Change of Scenery

One made the jump from Division II to Division I. The other made the jump from coaching in the prep ranks to college. Following a successful 23-7 season, Ferris State women’s basketball coach Tracey Dorow chose to take the next step in her coaching career, accepting a job as the head coach at Valparaiso in Indiana.

That left the Bulldogs with its next leader in Colleen Lamoreaux-Tate, who had earned a reputation as one of the state’s best high school coaches. A veteran coach with 26 years of experience on the sidelines, she spent the last seven years as the varsity girls basketball coach at Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School where she’s guided the Cougars to a 167-19 cumulative record. Prior to that, she compiled a 185-45 record in 10 seasons at East Grand Rapids High School.

 4. What a run

What’s better than earning All-America honors? How about earning the distinction 11 times. Ferris State track and cross country did just that during the course of her career as a Bulldog, capping it off with a dominating senior campaign.

Muir concluded a stellar career as one of FSU’s most decorated student-athletes ever by taking second place in the 5,000 meters on the final day of competition at the 2012 NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships on May 26 in Pueblo, Colo. Her runner-up effort enabled her to claim All-America laurels for the 11th time in her collegiate career and the second time in the meet following a fourth-place national finish in the 10,000 meters.

For good measure, Muir also claimed Ferris State’s “Bulldog of the Year” award and narrowly missed out on making the British Olympic team in an unforgettable year.

 3. A Banner Season

In a town where Bulldog hockey reigns supreme, it seems almost comical that a CCHA title would garner the No. 3 spot on a year-end list. But this was no ordinary season for FSU.

After being picked to finish ninth in the CCHA in preseason polls, Ferris State’s hockey team spent its entire 2011-12 season earning respect – and eventually the program’s second ever Central Collegiate Hockey Association title.

The magical run saw FSU sport an incredible 15-game unbeaten streak, capped off with a 1-1 tie against Western Michigan that clinched the title. FSU coach Bob Daniels, who captured his second conference title as coach, said it was no easy feat.

“Of all the different championships, I think winning a league title might be the most difficult,” he said. “It’s hard to win in the playoffs, but this is a measure of excellence from October through February. That’s a long marathon.”

The marathon would go on to include an appearance in the NCAA title game for the first time in FSU athletics history, but the magic began during conference play.

 2. Sinking the Lakers

Tony Annese’s first season as Ferris State’s football coach certainly didn’t lack memorable moments. The Bulldogs’ offense churned out yards on the ground at will against some of the conference’s best defenses, picking up wins over Michigan Tech and Wayne State to help restore pride in the program.

None of those moments topped the Bulldogs hoisting the Anchore-Bone trophy on a Saturday evening inside Lubbers Stadium following a 40-24 win over rival Grand Valley State. FSU racked up 457 yards rushing in a dominating performance that saw the Bulldogs outscore the Lakers 40-7 after falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter.

TOCUHDOWN: Ferris State players celebrate a touchdown during their 40-24 win over the Lakers — their first over GVSU since 1999. (Courtesy photo)

It was FSU’s first win over GVSU since 1999, ending an 11-game losing streak in front of more than 13,000 fans. Annese, who finished 7-4 during his debut campaign, called the victory a gift to a fanbase starving for a little respect from the school down 131.

“I’m very pleased for our seniors, the alumni base and the Big Rapids community,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming, and they’ve felt the pain from our interactions with Grand Valley in the past in football. To me, the seniors and the entire team gave the alumni base a huge gift I hope they appreciate. Who would’ve thought that in the first sellout of Lubbers Stadium in a long time that you would hear chants of ‘FSU’ and nothing else in the fourth quarter?”

 1. Frozen in Time

Prior to the 2011-12 season, Ferris State’s hockey program was remembered for a couple things outside of the Big Rapids community: Chris Kunitz and its 2002-03 CCHA championship season. A group of 26 overachievers and four coaches changed all of that in 2012 with a run that defied expectations in every way imaginable. The Bulldogs were one win away from college hockey’s crowning achievement.

Eight months later, the Bulldogs’ 4-1 loss to Boston College in the NCAA title game doesn’t sting as much as it did in April. In fact the whole run still feels like a dream.

FREEZE FRAME: Ferris State hockey players celebrate winning the Midwest Regional, earning a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four. (Courtesy photo)

The 2011-12 Bulldogs will go down as the most successful hockey team in FSU history to date, capturing the CCHA regular season title for the second time ever – their first since 2002-03.

FSU would then pick up three straight NCAA tournament wins, capturing the NCAA Midwest Regional, before their ultimate victory – A 3-1 win over Union in the Frozen Four national semifinal. It was FSU’s first Frozen Four appearance, garnering headlines from countless major news outlets across the country.

The season turned relative unknowns like Chad Billins, Taylor Nelson and Jordie Johnston into household names in the college hockey landscape, and immortalized many others along the way in Big Rapids lore (take your bow Kyle Bonis, Matthew Kirzinger, Aaron Schmit, Scott Czarnowczan, Derek Graham, Brett Wysopal, Travis Ouellette, Garrett Thompson etc.).

In a season that earned the Ferris State hockey program mounds of respect and praise, FSU coach Bob Daniels said he would remember the team as one that always found a way to raise the bar, no matter how big the stage.

“I think it will give us confidence moving forward that we can be successful on a national stage and with that, hopefully we’ll continue to grow,” Daniels said following the loss to Boston College. “It was hard to get emotional (after the game) because the kids have taken us to such heights for so long, it’s almost drained the emotion out of me. I just told them that I look forward to, I think in 10 years, maybe a reunion at a hall of fame induction for this team.”

 

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