Preseason Top 16: #10 Ferris State
The Bulldogs had a dream season last year, winning the CCHA regular season title and advancing to the program's first Frozen Four. The Bulldogs defeated Union in the semifinals before losing to Boston College in the national championship game.
It was the best of times….
It has to be the first Frozen Four win in the history of the program. Union controlled play in much of the first two periods, but Ferris State made the most of their chances, scoring three unanswered goals to win it. The key goal came when Troy Grosenick gave up a rare easy rebound that was capitalized on by Kyle Bonis to give the Bulldogs the lead which they would not relinquish.
It was the worst of times…
The Bulldogs scuffled early in the CCHA playoffs, as the top seed suffered a shocking upset to 11th seeded Bowling Green, losing two overtime games in their best of three opening round series.
The Coach - Bob Daniels (Michigan State '82)
Daniels was last season's deserved winner of the ACHA D1 national coach of the year award. This will be his 21st year in charge of the Bulldogs and is the school's all time winningest head coach. He was also the CCHA head coach of the year last season and was the national coach of the year in 2003 as well.
Notable Current NHL Alumni
Players to watch
The Bulldogs made their bones defensively last year, allowing 2.19 goals per game, tied for sixth nationally. At the core of that was the play of Taylor Nelson and CJ Motte in net. Nelson, who graduated, played over twice as many minutes as Motte, but Motte's .925 save percentage was better than Nelson's, which ranked 18th in the country, by a point. He probably won't be that good with his projected increase in workload, but expect Ferris to once again allow very few goals.
The Bulldogs' leading scorer is gone, but they still return three skaters who scored double digit goals and five who had more than 20 points. Kyle Bonis, who had that big goal in the Frozen Four, leads all Ferris returners with 19 goals scored. After scoring 10 goals in 36 games as a Sophomore, Travis Ouellette scored 9 in 42 games as a Junior. He will provide some Senior leadership but also is a good candidate for a bit of a bounceback season.
Garrett Thompson is another of a growing number of players who came from the NAHL to have very successful D1 hockey careers. He played in 18 games as a Freshman, scoring 4 goals, and almost tripled his goal output last season and surpassing his previous career high in January 14th.
Defensively the Bulldogs return just three regulars, so there will perhaps be some growing pains early, but the forwards all are capable two way players which should help a young defensive corps.
To reinforce the depth along the blue line, Ferris State is bringing in four defensemen this fall, all of whom figure to get playing time. Connor Schmidt provided a lot of physicality along the blueline for Des Moines (USHL) last year despite standing at just 5'10", 180 lbs. Sean O'Rourke had 46 points in 48 games for Fairbanks (NAHL) last year and went to multiple Robertson Cup finals with the team. He will be 21 when his Freshman season begins and should adapt well to the college game.
To replace Nelson in net, Ferris is bringing in Charles Williams, who struggled in his first USHL go around with Des Moines (thanks in part to a knee injury), but after a year in the NAHL he found his game in Lincoln, posting a .907 save percentage with the Stars.
Up front the top recruit is probably Matt Robertson, who had 47 goals last year with Smiths Falls.
Non conference series to watch:
Ferris State plays in just two regular season nonconference series, the second of which comes when they host Mercyhurst. The Lakers struggled to both score (2.77 per) and stop (2.90 allowed) goals last year, and should be a great opener to break in some younger talent.
No school has made a return to the national championship game since Boston College did it in 2008, so the odds are stacked against Ferris State. They still have a good nucleus back from last year's team and with the toughest part of life in the CCHA - scoring goals - seemingly taken care of, they should have a good chance at being a Frozen Four threat yet again.