Bulldogs ready for break

Ferris State looking to heal with bye week before heading to Michigan

BIG RAPIDS – Let the scoreboard watching begin.

Ferris State’s hockey team has entered its bye week in a tie for fourth place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, temporarily taking a break from the jockeying for a first round bye in the conference playoffs.

First things first, FSU coach Bob Daniels said following his team’s 4-3 win over Bowling Green on Saturday: It’s time to rest.

The Bulldogs have gone through a stretch of physical series beginning with split on the road against Notre Dame, followed by the two-game confrontation with Western Michigan before splitting with the Falcons over the weekend.

BYE TIME: Ferris State forward Garrett Thompson makes his way down the ice against Bowling Green over the weekend. The Bulldogs split during the series with the Falcons, leaving FSU in a tie for fourth place in the CCHA standings. (Pioneer photo/Martin Slagter)

“I don’t even want to see the guys around the rink until Wednesday,” Daniels said. “We want to give them a few days off from everything and then bring them back. I thought a year ago the breaks really did our team a world of good.”

The 2012-13 Bulldogs have suffered more than their share of injuries, with senior center Matthew Kirzinger, defensemen Scott Czarnowczan and Travis White and forward TJ Schlueter all missing a significant portion of the season with a variety of injuries.

Daniels noted the bye will be important in not only helping players recover from injuries, but allowing those that have been called upon to contribute despite playing with nagging ailments a chance to be off their feet for a couple of days.

“We needed a bye week,” he said. “This is a team that really has to work hard for our wins. The series against Notre Dame was very physical for us, and then Western Michigan was very physical. We’ve kind of gone through the last few weeks with a lot of injuries. There are the guys that are in the stands, but there are also a lot of guys that are playing hurt right now, just because they have been pressed into service.”

There is no question the players are looking forward to a couple of days off after playing every weekend since Dec. 28-29.

Senior forward Eric Alexander said he hopes the break will do more than simply heal some injuries before FSU takes on Michigan on March 1 and 2 at Yost Ice Arena.

“I’m going to enjoy it, I’ve probably needed (a bye) for a while,” he said. “I’ve had an ankle injury which has been healing, but it still doesn’t heal all the way with games and practice. It definitely helps because it rejuvenates the team, especially so late in the season. Hopefully it kind of gives us our legs back and hopefully we get a couple of guys back.”

As for the present, all FSU and its fans can do is wait and see how things develop in the standings. FSU presently is tied for the fourth spot in the league standings with Ohio State, although the Buckeyes have two more contests than the Bulldogs on the CCHA schedule.

FSU leads sixth place Alaska by five points in the standings, while the Nanooks only have one remaining series left in CCHA play this weekend against last place Michigan State.

At this point, FSU must approach its series hoping to secure the No. 5 seed in the CCHA tournament, which would give the Bulldogs a first round bye and another week off. The best case scenario it seems would be a sweep of the Wolverines and a home series against Ohio State with a little help. Michigan could provide that help to FSU this weekend by beating the Buckeyes in a road series before OSU closes out the season on the road against CCHA-leading Miami.

How these scenarios play out is anyone’s guess, but Daniels said the focus must remain on securing a first round bye with hopes that things can fall into place for a No. 4 seed and a home series.

“Our goal coming back into the last weekend against Michigan is going to be doing everything we can to get that bye,” he said. “That’s very important, and hopefully a top four spot.”

FSU senior Kyle Bonis said despite the fact that the Wolverines have struggled this season – sitting in 10th place in the CCHA standings – the talent is always there in Ann Arbor.

“We put ourselves in a good position, but I’ve got a funny feeling that we’re going to have to take one, if not two against Michigan,” he said. “They’re going to be huge games for us. They’re Michigan – they’re a great team. Growing up that was the team you knew about in college hockey. They’ve got great defense and great players.”

Alexander noted that going into Yost Ice Arena and picking up wins is never an easy task for the Bulldogs, regardless of the Wolverines’ record this season.

I think going into Michigan is always a tough place to play, especially for our team it seems like. They’re a little bit down on their luck this year with wins and losses, but they’re always a tough team with top talent. They usually figure it out toward the end of the year, so it’s definitely going to be a hard series. Hopefully we can come in there and get two wins.”

Leave a Reply