Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ferris State Set to Clinch CCHA Crown

There's something to be said for starting off strong. That, and for laying low.

With all the annual talk of Michigan, Miami, Notre Dame, and even an improved Michigan State, it's Ferris State that now stands at 16-6-4 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, six points ahead of second-place Michigan. The Bulldogs need just one point against Western Michigan this weekend to clinch the CCHA regular-season title outright, having already copped at least a share of this year's crown.

It's FSU's first CCHA title since 2002-03, when it also made the NCAA Tournament for the first and only time to date. The Bulldogs swept Lake Superior State in the CCHA Tournament's first round and topped Northern Michigan in the semifinals that spring, only to fall to Michigan in the championship contest. FSU then defeated North Dakota and fell to defending national champion Minnesota in the NCAA West Regional in Minneapolis to finish the campaign with a best-ever 31-10-4 overall mark.

The Bulldog names back then featured Chris Kunitz up front and Mike Brown in goal. Now it's Jordie Johnston (16 goals, 31 points) and Taylor Nelson (17-4-2, 2.07 GAA) leading the way for Ferris (22-8-4), which is also fourth in the current Pairwise Rankings. FSU won nine of its first 11 games overall this season, and five of its first seven conference outings, en route to winding up where it is now.

The one constant nine years later is head coach Bob Daniels, now in his 20th season behind the bench in Big Rapids, Mich., with 330 wins and counting to his credit at helm of the Bulldogs. No. 331 would be particularly sweet if it came this weekend.

"We’re excited that we have a share of the title, but at the same time we don’t want to share it. We want to have this thing out­right,” said Nelson to the Ferris State Torch. “We’re really excited for this upcom­ing week­end, and we want to win it all.”

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