When the buzzer sounded on Michigan”s 5-4 loss at Ferris State last season, the Wolverines and Bulldogs cleared their respective benches and duked it out like prize-fighters.
Michigan goaltender Kevin O”Malley who replaced starter Josh Blackburn after he gave up five goals in the first two periods rushed to center ice and met opposing goaltender Vince Owen for some one-on-one.
“Everybody grabbed a man, and I just went right toward Owen,” O”Malley said. “Things went pretty well right at the beginning, but then their guy jumped in and threw me off him. That”s emotion and you have to do what you have to do.”
“We had to protect our teammates, and things got kind of ugly,” Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer explained.
The best revenge for the Bulldogs” stunning upset of then-No. 3 Michigan would be for Michigan to steal a victory in Ewigleben Ice Arena this time around.
“The best way to get back at somebody is to beat them on the scoreboard,” sophomore forward Joe Kautz said. “Hopefully we”ll get four points (in the standings), and that”s the best way of kicking somebody in the ass.”
But leaving this weekend”s home-and-home series with two victories will be easier said than done for the 13th-ranked Wolverines (4-3-1 CCHA, 6-5-1 overall), who are currently nestled in the middle of the CCHA one point behind Ferris State (5-5-1, 7-5-1).
A major factor in tonight”s matchup will be Michigan”s reaction to one of the rowdiest crowds in the conference. “The Dawg Pound,” Ferris State”s student section, will hold nothing back when the Wolverines visit Big Rapids.
“It”s an intense place, a smaller barn, but it gets loud,” Kautz said. “They love their team, so everybody gets into it. It”s even louder than (Yost Arena), which is amazing to think about. It”s nuts there.”
Said O”Malley: “At Ferris State right now it”s “Michigan week.” If we aren”t ready to play in a game like (tonight”s), then we”re in the wrong sport.”
The Bulldogs are currently in third place in the CCHA, and were extremely impressive in last weekend”s 7-2 victory at Nebraska-Omaha. Coach Bob Daniels” team has surprised opponents with its offensive firepower, provided by the top two scorers in the conference senior Rob Collins (20 points) and junior Chris Kunitz (16 points).
“Ferris is a scary team,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “You look at who they”ve played and what they”ve done, and they”re scary.”
Ferris State has turned over a new leaf during the past year. The Bulldogs have become an open, fast-skating team, as opposed to their physical style of past seasons, and that is what has been tough to handle for their opponents thus far.
“They used to be a grinding team, but now they can skate,” Berenson said. “They”re an honest, two-way team that can play with anybody now. If they”re having their best game they”re going to beat anyone in this league.”
The Wolverines plan to use their depth to thwart the Bulldogs” explosiveness, and are counting on some players who have been quiet this season to step it up.
Michigan”s next four games will be crucial to its hopes for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid and its standing in the conference. After facing the Bulldogs this weekend, the Wolverines travel to Miami for a two-game series next weekend. With winter break on the horizon, Michigan knows the time to make a move is now.