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Sunday, March 23, 2014

FSU secures NCAA bid despite loss in finals

By Tom Morelli/Ferris State Beat Writer

There's no shame in losing, especially when you have the clout that Ferris State has amassed throughout the season.

The Bulldogs bounced past Alaska Anchorage in the WCHA semifinals with a 5-4 overtime win, before being ousted by Minnesota State 4-1 in the championship game.

But the loss comes without consequence, as Ferris State's overall record of 28-10-3 and WCHA regular season title was enough to merit a spot amongst the 16 teams vying for the NCAA Championship.

In their journey to make it to the NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs first had to cross paths with the Seawolves in Friday's semifinal, whom they previously beat twice during the regular season.

Ferris State however found out quickly that this was no walk in the park, after seeing their 2-0 lead in the first disappear with four consecutive goals by Alaska Anchorage by the midpoint of the following period.

Senior forward Garrett Thompson helped spark the Bulldogs' comeback at 12:50, scoring his team-high 16th goal of the campaign courtesy of a 2-on-1 situation. Earning helpers on that play were Justin Buzzeo and Scott Czarnowczan.

Less than three minutes later, another senior came through in the clutch for Ferris State, with Andy Huff finding the back of the net for the game-tying goal.

The Bulldogs needed just 2:38 seconds of the overtime session to finish the job, which came courtesy of a Gerald Mayhew shot from between the faceoff circles that trickled past Seawolves' netminder Chris Kamal.

Goaltender C.J. Motte finished with 34 saves for Ferris State, while Rob Gunderson surrendered four goals on 12 shots for Alaska Anchorage in the first two periods before being pulled. In his 23:38 seconds of relief duty, Kamal had 10 stops to his credit.

Saturday's tournament final was a much tougher challenge for the Bulldogs, who found themselves in a 2-0 hole against the Mavericks after just 20 minutes of action.

It wasn't until the final minute of the second frame that Ferris State responded, thanks to Mayhew's diving effort from outside the crease that cut the deficit in half. Helping to set-up the scoring play were Cory Kane and Huff.

Any chance of a Bulldog comeback was put to rest in the third period, as Brett Knowles notched an insurance goal at the 8:38 mark, followed by Teddy Blueger's empty-netter with four seconds remaining.

Motte (27-8-3) held a narrow edge over counterpart Cole Huggins in the saves department, 28-25.

Mayhew was the only Ferris State player named to the WCHA Final Five All-Tournament Team, joining the likes of Minnesota State's Bryce Gervais, Brett Stern, Blueger and Huggins (tournament MVP).

Up next for the Bulldogs is a first-round draw in the Midwest Regional against Colgate on March 28 at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. The winner of that game will face either North Dakota or Wisconsin the following night in the regional final.

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