No. 7 Ferris State begins WCHA title defense against Michigan Tech

Bulldogs set for WCHA home opener against Michigan Tech this weekend

BIG RAPIDS — After it took all 28 conference games for the Ferris State hockey team to come away with the MacNaughton Cup as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) regular season champions last season, the No. 7 Bulldogs (2-1, 0-0-0 WCHA) will begin their title defense with their first WCHA series of 2014-15 against Michigan Tech (2-0-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) this Friday and Saturday.

ON THE BOARDS: Ferris State’s Gerald Mayhew skates the puck up along the boards during an exhibition match earlier this season. The No.7 Bulldogs will begin the defense of their 2013-14 Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) regular-season title this weekend in FSU’s conference opener against Michigan Tech. (Pioneer file photo)

ON THE BOARDS: Ferris State’s Gerald Mayhew skates the puck up along the boards during an exhibition match earlier this season. The No.7 Bulldogs will begin the defense of their 2013-14 Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) regular-season title this weekend in FSU’s conference opener against Michigan Tech. (Pioneer file photo)

Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said it was a grind from start to finish of the conference schedule last season and if the early success of the WCHA’s teams in nonconference play is any indication, with WCHA teams sporting a national-best 15-11-1 mark to start the season, this season should be no different based on the top-to-bottom strength of the conference.

“I think the conference will be different in this respect in that I think we’re going to be top-heavier than we were last season,” Daniels said. “I look at Michigan Tech, ourselves, Bowling Green, Minnesota State and (Alaska and Alaska Anchorage) and if you look at our conference’s nonconference record, it’s really good.

“I thought last year, it was a grind because of the parity of the league, but I think it’s a grind this year because the parity is high-parity,” he continued. “I think this year, our top five or six teams in the conference are as strong as anybody in the country and it’s great.”

The Bulldogs come into this weekend’s series at Ewigleben Ice Arena on the heels of a split with St. Lawrence on the road last weekend, with FSU pulling out a 3-2 overtime victory on Friday before falling 2-0 on Saturday.

Daniels said he thought his team played “a good, solid game” in all areas on Friday against the Saints, but was left looking for more from his team on Saturday, especially on the offensive end.

“The concerns I have coming out of last weekend looking at both games is I’m still concerned about our ability to generate offense,” he said. “We’re going to fool with lines a little bit and we won’t be going status-quo. We’re going to mix those up a little bit. There’s some different things we can do to get to that point where we can generate some offense, but it might just take some time.”

Daniels also said he’d like to see improvement from his forwards on the defensive end, but one thing he was impressed with was the play of the line featuring freshmen forwards Andrew Dorantes, Andrew Mayer and Mitch Maloney in last Friday’s win over the Saints.

Andrew Dorantes has earned ice time for his ability to win faceoffs, with him showcasing that ability against the Saints by winning 14-of-22 faceoffs over the weekend.

“We used him both nights on the power play, specifically because he wins draws,” Daniels said of Dorantes. “Down the road, I think he could penalty kill for us and I think he’s a smart enough hockey player to do it, but the thing is it’s too much too soon.

“We’ll let him chew on the power play for the time being, but it’s such a big thing for us if we can start with possession of the puck. I think there are some good things coming down the road for him.”

While FSU is looking to get its offense going this weekend, they might have to speed up the process to keep up with a Michigan Tech team that has had nine different players account for the team’s 10 goals. The Huskies also come into this weekend feeling fresh after not playing a game since a season-opening sweep of Lake Superior State on Oct. 4-5.

“They’re really deep at forward and it’s a veteran team,” Daniels said of the Huskies. “It’s probably as good of a collection of forwards as we’ve seen this year. Our problem going into the weekend is they have a lot of different directions they can score at you. You can’t just shut down one player. This is going to be a really good opener for us.”

Both games this weekend are scheduled for 7:07 p.m. starts.

Leave a Reply