Puck Preview: Ferris State

Submitted by Brian on March 23rd, 2012 at 1:30 PM

The final team in Green Bay this weekend. First round opponent Cornell was profiled a couple days ago; Denver yesterday. Doing the entire regional is not a jinx. It is a way to work out nervous energy. I told my wife that today was the first round of the hockey tournament and got a worried "oh" in response.

Oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap

Jason Cook, a member of Ferris State University's Rube Goldberg team the Underdogs, pauses from his work to give a high-five to Ferris State's mascot, Brutus the bulldog. The Underdogs, from Big Rapids, Mich., finished second today (Saturday, 4/3) in the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Lambert Fieldhouse. (Purdue News Service photo/Dave Umberger)

The Essentials 

WHAT Michigan(?) vs Ferris State(?)
WHERE Green Bay, heart of the CCHA
WHEN 9:30 Eastern Saturday
LINE College hockey lines, junkie?
Ferris and Denver play at 5:30 today if you'd like to check out a VERY HYPOTHETICAL second round opponent.

Ferris State

Record. 23-11-5, 16-7-5 CCHA. Ferris won the CCHA by four points despite winning just one of five shootouts. They were going to have a rumble with Michigan at the Joe for the top seed in Green Bay until two overtime losses to Bowling Green saw them shockingly dumped from the CCHA playoffs. Ferris got locked into a two seed as a result.

They achieved what they did mostly with defense. Ferris is a little bit better than average at putting pucks in the net (a hair under three goals per game is good for 21st) and is top ten at keeping them out (2.2, 10th). Their goal differential in the league was an impressive +18. Michigan (+25) and Miami (+19) did beat them out, but Ferris spread their goals out much more effectively than the mercurial Wolverines and Redhawks.

Previous meetings. Michigan's lone bright spot in their awful streak last fall was a sweep of the Bulldogs that looks inexplicable now. Michigan hammered the eventual league champions 5-2 and 4-0; they'd win one of their next nine games.

It makes even less sense when you dive into some of the ancillary stats, in which the teams were dead even. Shots were basically even over the weekend. On Friday both teams had two power play goals. On Saturday the teams combined to go 0/11 with a man advantage. Penalty kills were also even over both days.

The only stat separating the teams were goals, goals, goals. Taylor Nelson gave up five goals on 28 shots; backup CJ Motte got the Saturday game and gave up four on the same number. Hunwick's save percentage for the weekend was .962. Note that Michigan's seven goal advantage came entirely at even strength.

Common opponents. Too many to mention since Michigan and Ferris are conference-mates. At least for now. This is probably even; the Bulldogs may have won the league but the different league playoff runs bring that back to parity.


Ferris needs Matthew Kirzinger to produce if it expects to advance

Dangermen. Ferris State's scoring is a lot like Michigan's: a top line does most of the work and gets they get decent support from the second line. After that there is little. Ferris's scoring drops off a lot faster than Michigan's. CenterIce scouted them before the fall series:

Don't get me wrong these guys can play, but what I saw from the film was the inability to finish plays. Time after time I watched a Ferris forward stickhandle through miami defenders, or make the perfect pass only to miss the net. A lot of the goals scored were due to Miami being shorthanded or being to slow, or a shot from Bolivia. That being said we still have to respect the team who is 15th in team offense because they do have a lot of skill.

The top guys are all upperclassment in the same point range. Winger Matthew Kirzinger (10-22-32) is the setup guy for Kyle Bonis (18-11-29) and Jordie Johnston (18-15-33). The second line does a little bit of scoring, but five of Travis Ouellette's nine goals have come on the power play, as have three of Garrett Thompson's nine. They don't get much even strength production outside of the top three.

Senior defenseman Chad Billins is also a power play threat—he has 7-22-29 with five of those goals coming with a man advantage.

Defense. These guys are defenders first, second, and third. Billins gets that power play run and has an assist rate that indicates he's doing something more than picking up second assists; even so no FSU defender has more than two goals at even strength.

Elaborately-named Scott Czarnaowczan is the other guy on the top pairing with Billins; he was a nominee for the league's top defensive defenseman at the end of the year.


undeserving of first team all conference but still pretty good goalie clapclapclap

Goalie. Taylor Nelson was not better than Shawn Hunwick over the course of the season but he would have been a deserving second-team all conference selection with his .920 save percentage and 2.18 GAA. Freshman CJ Motte got a dozen games as well, but Bob Daniels isn't likely to go away from his senior unless things go pear-shaped.

As noted above, neither goalie had a good outing in Michigan's sweep early in the year.

Special teams. Your power plays per game:

Ferris Michigan
PP For / G 4.7 3.7
PP Ag / G 4.4 4.2
As has been the case for all teams not named Cornell, this preview will suggest that Michigan would like to play five on five the whole game. Ferris's power play is no great shakes (19.5, 24th) but is far superior to Michigan's. The penalty kills are about equal.

Michigan vs Those Guys, Hypothetically

Single elimination hockey. Is insane.

Usual statement about playing five on five a lot. Goes here.

Match Pateryn and Bennett with their big line. Michigan has last change and given the steep dropoff in even strength production they should try to get their best defensive lineup out there against Kirzinger/Bonis/Johnston. That is Pateryn plus some combination of defensive forwards.

Get the same goalie gap. The difference in Michigan's dominating sweep early in the year was almost entirely in net.

Grind it out. Ferris is a neutral-zone clogging, space-denying, odd-man-rush-prohibiting team of grit and sand that's gotten where they are despite a total lack of NHL draft picks. They will make whoever they play work for any chances they happen to get. Michigan will need guys like Guptill and Deblois and Brown and Glendening to win board battles if they want to get anywhere.

The Big Picture

Cornell first, of course. In the blessed event of a second-round game, Michigan must win or be thrown out the airlock.



March 23rd, 2012 at 2:16 PM ^

Somewhat related note, but I don't know where else to say it.

The National Championship game from last year is on ESPN U right now, and I am watching it because I apparently like to punish myself. All I can think about is how much I loved that team and it's seniors and how badly I wished they had won.

Hopefully this team, special in it's own right, can leave a similar legacy.