Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's ice hockey team opened its final Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) regular-season series versus rival Western Michigan on Friday (Feb. 1) night, but suffered a 3-1 setback against the nationally sixth-ranked Broncos before a crowd of 2,122 fans at the Ewigleben Ice Arena.
The league-leading Broncos scored the first goal of the night at 6:46 of the opening period when Colton Hargrove's shot from the left circle went off Bulldog sophomore goaltender CJ Motte's right pad. WMU's Ben Warda made the pass to register his seventh assist of the year on Hargrove's sixth goal of the campaign.
However, the Bulldogs struck back on a power-play opportunity at 11:49 of the opening frame as junior wing Garrett Thompson netted his 10th goal of the season when the puck hit the crossbar and found the net after on a shot from the high slot to tie the game at a goal apiece. Sophomore wing Justin Buzzeo made the initial pass from the top of the left circle for his fifth helper of the season to sophomore defenseman Jason Binkley who earned his team-best 15th assist of the season on the feed to Thompson.
Western Michigan answered quickly though under a minute later at 12:50 Western when Trevor Elias tallied his fourth goal of the year on a two-on-one opportunity. He notched the puck from the slot near the top of the left circle after Nolan LaPorte initially intercepted the puck and picked up the assist for his first of the campaign.
The Broncos took a 3-1 advantage when Dane Walters scored from the bottom of the left circle on the power-play at 13:51 of the second period. Chase Balisy, from the point, fed the puck to Shane Berschbach at the right circle who then made the pass to Walters. It was Walters' 12th goal of the season.
Motte made a total of 25 saves and played the entire 60 minutes in net for the Bulldogs while Frank Slubowski made 15 saves for the Broncos in 59:48 minutes of action to earn second star honors. The Broncos led the shots by a count of 28-16 for the night as FSU was limited to only seven total shots over the final two periods of play.
FSU had 10 penalties for the night for a total of 20 minutes and WMU had six penalties for a total of 12 minutes. The Bulldogs scored one goal on three power-plays while the Broncos found the back of the net on one out of six man-advantage opportunities.
With the loss, the Bulldogs dropped to 13-11-3 overall along with 11-9-1 in the CCHA. Meanwhile, the Broncos improved to a conference-best 17-6-4 overall record and now holds a 13-4-2 (1) record in the CCHA.
Ferris State had won six of its last eight games, including four of the previous five overall, prior to the setback in the series opener. The win was the third for the Broncos this season against the Bulldogs after two wins in Kalamazoo back in December.
The two teams will square off again on Saturday (Feb. 2) night at 7:05 p.m. (ET) in the series' finale at the Ewigleben Ice Arena. The contest will wrap up a rivalry tripleheader inside the Ewigleben Sports Complex as the Bulldog men's and women's basketball teams entertain rival Grand Valley State starting at 1 p.m. (ET).
Limited tickets remain for Saturday's contest and can be purchased by calling (231) 591-2888 or online at StarTickets.com. The FSU Athletics Ticket Office will open on Saturday at 12 p.m. and remain open thru game time. Tickets can also be bought by calling 1-800-585-3737 or visit FerrisStateBulldogs.com for more information.
In addition to Saturday's series' finale, tickets are also on sale for the Bulldogs' final regular-season home contests in two weeks (Feb. 15-16) against Bowling Green State in Big Rapids. The BGSU series will represent the Bulldogs' final two CCHA regular-season games at home and the final contest on Feb. 16 will serve as FSU's annual "Senior Night" game with Fox Sports Detroit set to broadcast the contest live as part of "Hockey Day In Michigan" coverage beginning at 5:05 p.m. (ET).