FSU faces familiar challenge against Lakers

BIG RAPIDS — Ferris State and its opponent this weekend, Lake Superior State, are off to fast starts this season, and Bulldog coach Bob Daniels couldn’t be happier.

Daniels isn’t just excited to see the FSU hockey team off to an 8-2 start (4-2-0 in the CCHA). He’s also happy to see the Lakers coming to Ewigleben Ice Arena today with an identical 8-2 record, ranked 11th in the country going into the two-game set.

“To have two teams with strong hockey traditions potentially battling it out for the lead in the CCHA, it’s awesome,” Daniels said. “These are very similar teams. (LSSU) has two lines that are really good offensively, so they’re going to get scoring from a variety of different contributors.”

Both teams rely heavily on solid defensive play and strong goaltending, Daniels said, making this weekend’s series all the more intriguing.

The Lakers (8-2-0, 5-1-0) have gotten off to a fast start the same way the Bulldogs have, Daniels said, making execution a key in determining which team will end the weekend atop the CCHA standings.

“If you look at their team, it’s a carbon copy of ours,” he said. “They get good scoring from their defensemen and excellent goaltending.

“We’re more focused on what we want to do,” he added. “Nothing changes in terms of preparation from Lake Superior State. Our systems are very close, which is going to make disciplined play the most important factor.”

The Bulldogs are back on track after picking up a pair of road wins against Bowling Green — a series that saw FSU pick up its play on both offense and defense with 4-0 and 5-3 wins against the Falcons.

Daniels credited the the defense and penalty kill for the team’s success against the Falcons.

“Taylor (Nelson) played very well for us both nights,” Daniels said. “Offensively, we didn’t necessarily have a ton of shots, but we had a lot of scoring chances. I think our offensive zone play was good. We did a nice job of grinding out our scoring chances.”

Nelson, who is 5-1 this season with a 2.00 goals against average, showed he was able to provide a strong performance in net on back-to-back nights, picking up both wins against the Falcons.

It was Nelson’s first experience playing on consecutive nights — a test he passed, Daniels said.

“What I really liked from his was that he was able to go back-to-back nights,” he said. “He started a little slow on Saturday, but I thought as the game went on he did a good job.”

Nelson said there wasn’t much of an adjustment period in playing back-to-back nights, with the help of his teammates.

“As a goaltender, you always want to play — you want to get into a rhythm,” he said. “My attitude is that you prepare like you’re going to play in every game. It was only the third time in my career that I played back-to-back nights, but I think you’re always ready for that.”

FSU will face a challenge in the opposing net in LSSU’s Kevin Kapalka has a 7-2-0 record in net this season, surrendering 2.1 goals per game.

He’ll get plenty of help from forwards Nick McParland (six goals, three assists) and Kyle Jean (five goals, four assists), both of whom are instrumental to LSSU’s success, Daniels said, adding that the Lakers have plenty of other scoring options.

There’s not one guy that you look to shut down,” he said.

That’s going to make limiting turnovers a key in getting wins this weekend, Daniels said.

Nelson said with two teams that share so many attributes, a win or loss might come down to which team is more physical.

“Any time you have similar teams, it’s going to be a physical, hard-hitting hockey game,” he said. “As long as we are able to force turnovers on defense and put pucks on net, we’ll be fine.”

“I’d like to see us contiue to play well on the penalty kill,” he said. “I’d also like to see our neutral zone play on offense improve. We’ve been sloppy with the puck and having turnovers, giving the opposition prime scoring chances. If we’re strong with the neutral zone, I like our chances.”

Both games will begin at 7:05 p.m. A special silent auction, which will be held in conjunction with the Detroit Red Wings. Proceeds from the silent auction will be used to help provide relief for current Big Rapids High School hockey head coach Tim Blashill, Katrina Wray and her two sons, who sustained a severe fire to their home in mid-October and lost many possessions. In addition to serving as the BRHS coach, Blashill also currently works as the FSU Ice Arena’s program and pro shop coordinator.

 

 

 

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