Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's ice hockey program is well-represented in postseason playoff action on the professional level as a total of eight former Bulldogs remain alive with their respective teams in two of pro hockey's top leagues.
A total of five former FSU skaters are involved in the 2014 American Hockey League's (AHL) Calder Cup Playoffs, including the reigning AHL Coach of the Year in former Bulldog goaltender and assistant coach Jeff Blashill, who's the current head coach of the defending Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids Griffins. They presently are tied 2-2 in the AHL Western Conference
Semifinals with the Texas Stars heading into Friday (May 16) night's game five showdown at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. The final two games, if needed, will be played on Sunday (May 18) and Monday (May 19) at Texas.
Meanwhile, ex-Bulldog forward Cory Kane, who recently led the Bulldogs to the NCAA Elite Eight and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Regular-Season Championship as a collegiate senior this past season, also remains active in the AHL Playoffs with the Providence Bruins. They trail Wilkes-Barre Scranton 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals entering Friday's game four at home. They will also host game five on Saturday (May 17) with the remaining two games on the road, if needed, on Monday and Wednesday (May 21) of next week.
A pair of former Bulldogs are competing on the other side of the AHL's Eastern Conference Semifinals as both defenseman Zach Redmond and right wing Blair Riley are skating for the St. John's IceCaps, who hold a 3-2 lead over the Norfolk Admirals in the best-of-seven series. They will have a chance to close out the series at home on Friday evening with the deciding game seven, if needed, set for Saturday on home ice. Redmond skated earlier this season in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the parent Winnipeg Jets after making one of professional hockey's greatest comebacks a year ago following a potential career-ending and life-threatening injury.
Yet another former Bulldog is competing in the other half of the Western Conference Semifinals in forward Derek Nesbitt, who's with the Chicago Wolves and gives FSU at least one representative in all four of the semifinal series' in the AHL Playoffs. Nesbitt and the Wolves trail Toronto 3-0 and need a win on the road Friday night in game four to keep the series alive. If needed, game five would be played Saturday at Toronto with games six and seven set for Chicago on Monday and Wednesday of next week.
Along with the five past Bulldog standouts still alive in the AHL Playoffs, Ferris State also has three others still competing in the East Coast Hockey League's (ECHL) Kelly Cup Playoffs as FSU has a representative on three of the four remaining teams.
Recent Bulldog defenseman Brett Wysopal, who helped Ferris State to its first-ever NCAA Frozen Four appearance and a berth in the national championship game during his senior campaign two seasons ago, remains in action with the Cincinnati Cyclones, who open a best-of-seven series in the ECHL's Eastern Conference finals against the Greenville Road Warriors at home on Monday night at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati. They topped the Fort Wayne Komets in six games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
One of Wysopal's opponents in the ECHL Eastern Conference Semifinals will be a former Bulldog teammate in forward Jordie Johnston, who was also a member and the leading scorer on FSU's historic Frozen Four team in 2012. He helped the Greenville Road Warriors to a victory over the Wheeling Nailers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in six games.
Finally, former Bulldog winger Brendan Connolly will take part in the ECHL's Western Conference Finals against the Bakersfield Condors. They open their series on Friday night as well at home in Alaska. The Aces topped the Idaho Steelheads in five games in the Western Conference Semifinals to advance in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
A record number of more than 20 former Ferris State skaters signed new professional contracts a year ago in the offseason with FSU well-represented in nearly every professional league across North America and beyond.
Four former Bulldogs skated in the National Hockey League this campaign, including past standout Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh Penguins), a two-time Stanley Cup Champion who earned NHL First-Team All-Star honors a year ago before helping Canada to the Olympic Gold Medal this winter. In addition to Kunitz, former Bulldogs Chad Billins (Calgary Flames), Greg Rallo (Florida Panthers) along with Zach Redmond (Winnipeg Jets) also saw time on pro hockey's biggest stage during the 2013-14 season.