FSU begins WCHA slate

Bulldogs seeking consistency in league opener against Alabama-Huntsville

BIG RAPIDS — Ferris State hockey coach Bob Daniels is approaching this weekend’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association debut like any other conference opener.

OFFENSIVE FACTOR: Ferris State forward Justin DeMartino has been productive in the early part of the season, scoring two goals and three assists through five games. (Pioneer file photo)

OFFENSIVE FACTOR: Ferris State forward Justin DeMartino has been productive in the early part of the season, scoring two goals and three assists through five games. (Pioneer file photo)

Despite Friday’s start of the inaugural season in the reconfigured league, the Bulldogs share the same level of anticipation as any conference opener despite a new conference foe on tap in Alabama-Huntsville. The puck will drop for both games at the Van Braun Center in Huntsville, Ala., starting at 8:07 p.m. before the two teams meet at the same time on Saturday.

“It’s no different for me, individually, than any other year in terms of excitement level,” Daniels said. “The nonconference games are important, but there is a little extra importance that comes with the conference. Hopefully our pursuit of the (WCHA) playoffs will add a little more urgency to the league schedule ahead.”

Ferris State (3-2) enters league play with optimism given its level of talent and depth, but Daniels said the team is in the process of shuffling its lines to maximize the talent that has included a widespread mix of contributors from veterans to freshmen. The offensive attack also has made room for FSU defensemen Brandon Anselmini, who saw action at forward last weekend and sophomore Sean O’Rourke, who has made the move up front.

While Anselmini’s move is temporary, Daniels said it does add to the Bulldogs’ flexibility within the lineup to get as many good players on the ice as possible at both positions.

“We’ve moved (Anselmini) back to defense and we like that he has that versatility because that gives us options,” he said. “That’s something you want when you can only bring 22 players on the road. If we have players that can be effective in both roles, it’s almost stretching the amount of players that we can have.”

Even with the versatility the Bulldogs have shown, including a freshman class that continues to impress, Daniels is hoping for even more productivity from some of his more experienced players.

While FSU’s top five scorers in the early going are either juniors or seniors (Garrett Thompson, Justin Buzzeo, Justin DeMartino, Scott Czarnowczan and Cory Kane), Daniels believes they are capable of even more as the stakes have been raised going into conference play.

“Looking at the different personnel I can’t say anything’s been resolved,” he said. “The numbers have been good in individual games, but not quite where we want it to be. We’re looking for a level of consistency.

“Garrett Thompson is obviously someone (who has stood out),” he continued. “Some of the returners like DeMartino, Thompson and Buzzeo have played well, but we’re looking for a more consistent performance from them. I really like our defensive corps., but I’d probably also like to see more consistency from them.”

The Bulldogs will face an Alabama-Huntsville team that has struggled mightily to start the season at 0-4. The Chargers have lost games 9-1 to Northeastern and 6-1 to Bemidji State, while having a much greater level of success on the following night against those teams with a switch at goaltender to Carmine Guerriero. The Chargers have fared much better, allowing just 1.91 goals per game with a .942 save percentage.

Daniels said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Guerriero on both nights for the Chargers during the two-game set.

“My gut is we’ll see him on both nights,” he said. “That’s a pretty good team and those are good numbers (from Guerriero) that shows this team can win games. I think they’re going to continue to get stronger as the season goes.”

The Chargers haven’t shown it yet in the nonconference schedule, getting outscored 19-4 in four games this season. The team has converted on just 3-of-27 power-play opportunities leading to some of the team’s offensive struggles.

Daniels said the blue line imposes some tests, however, making Alabama-Huntsville a formidable opponent.

“The strength of their team is that they have a pretty stingy defense. They are rarely caught in odd-man rushes and they always have two defensemen and a forward back there.”

Daniels would like to see some more punch on the power-play this weekend while continuing to display the level of discipline the team has shown early in the season.

“We’re looking for consistency on the power-play and continuing to have a strong penalty kill,” he said. “We’re looking for discipline and we’ve done really well with that. We’ve stayed out of the box and I’d like to see that continue. I’d like to see see some top end performances from our leaders and have them lead the way this weekend.”

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