Grand Rapids, Mich. - The nationally fourth-ranked Ferris State University men's ice hockey team's quest to claim in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Final Five Championship at Van Andel Arena fell short on Saturday (March 22) night as second-seeded Minnesota State recorded a 4-1 win over the Bulldogs in the title contest.
The Mavericks scored a pair of first period goals to take the early edge and added a key third-period goal before an empty-netter in the closing seconds sealed the win. With the victory, the Mavericks claimed the Broadmoor Trophy along with the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the outcome of Saturday night's title game, the Bulldogs are virtually assured of making the NCAA Tournament when official selections are announced in a live televised broadcast on Sunday at noon on ESPNU. FSU will hold a "Selection Show" watch party at Buffalo Wild Wings in Big Rapids beginning at 11 a.m. (ET).
In Saturday night's title contest, which an announced crowd of nearly 4,000 fans on hand, the Mavericks jumped out first in the third meeting between the league's top two teams this season. After a scoreless first nine minutes, MSU scored the game's first goal on a shot from Michael Huntebrinker at 9:13 of the first frame. His second goal of the year was assisted by Zach Lehrke and Jean-Paul Lafontaine, who eached notched their 20th helpers of the campaign.
Minnesota State then added a second first-period goal at 13:50 when Brett Stern ringed in a shot for his first goal of the year. It was assisted by Teddy Blueger and Casey Nelson. Blueger recorded his 21st assist with Nelson posting his fourth as the Mavericks headed to the locker room with a 2-0 edge after 20 minutes of action.
After a nearly scoreless second period, Ferris State finally scored its first goal of the night at 19:14 of the second period to trim the margin back to a single goal after two frames.
Freshman Gerald Mayhew notched his third goal of the weekend on a diving shot near the net for his seventh goal of the campaign to bring the largly-Bulldog crowd back to life. A pair of seniors in forwards Andy Huff and Cory Kane earned the assists, which were their 12th and 17th of the year, respectively.
The Bulldogs had opportunities early in the third period, but could produce the game-tying lamplighter before the Mavericks pushed their lead back to two goals with a key marker recorded by Brett Knowles at 8:38 of the final stanza. His first goal this season was aided by Blueger, who registered his 22nd assist of the campaign and his second of the night.
Blueger then picked up his third point of the evening with only four seconds to play on an empty-netter as the Bulldogs pulled junior goaltender CJ Motte for the extra skater. Matt Leitner earned his 32nd assist this year on the final MSU goal.
The win was Minnesota State's third of the season in as many matchups against the Bulldogs, who fell to 28-10-3 on the year. The 28 wins are the most in the country and the second-most single season victories in school history.
The Mavericks improved to 26-13-1 this year by winning the league tourney title game over Ferris State, which claimed this year's WCHA Regular-Season Championship by a single point over the Mavericks. Prior to the season, MSU was picked first and the Bulldogs second in the preseason polls.
Overall, Minnesota State held a 32-26 edge in total shots for the game, including a contest-best 13 shots in period one. The Bulldogs had nine shots in the first 20 minutes to go with 11 in the second and six in the final period of action.
Both teams were called for four penalties totaling eight minutes apice, but neither could capitalize with the extra skater in three tries each.
Motte, who holds the most wins in the nation for a goaltender this season and is one of 10 national finalists for the Hobey Baker Award presented to college hockey's top player, fell to 27-8-3 this year despite coming up with 28 saves. MSU freshman Cole Huggins improved his mark to 21-7-1 with the win after making 25 saves.
Saturday night's title game appearance in the Bulldogs' debut season in the WCHA represented FSU's first trip to a conference title game since facing Michigan in the CCHA Championship Game in 2003 at Joe Louis Arena.
Six players were named to the WCHA Final Five All-Tournament Team, including FSU's Mayhew.
If selected as anticipated, Ferris State will be making its third NCAA Tournament appearance in the program's history this year. The Bulldogs' 2002-03 team earned the program's first-ever berth and was among the national tourney's final eight teams before FSU's 2011-12 squad won the Midwest Regional Championship and reached the national championship game at the NCAA Frozen Four for the first time two seasons ago.
The 2014 NCAA Men's Division 1 Ice Hockey Championship tournament will open next weekend (March 28-30) with four regionals. On Friday and Saturday, the NCAA East Regional will be held at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., while the NCAA Midwest Regional will be played at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. Meanwhile, on Saturday and Sunday, the NCAA Northeast Regional will be held at DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., and the NCAA West Regional will be at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
The four regional winners will then advance to the 2014 NCAA Men's Frozen Four to be contested Thursday, April 10, and Saturday, April 12, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.
ESPNU is available on DirectTV channel 208, DISH Network channel 141, and available on many cable systems (check your local listings).