By Bob Hunt

Daily Sports Writer

BIG RAPIDS – After Michigan spotted Ferris State two goals to at the outset on Friday night, Michigan coach Red Berenson admitted that if the Wolverines did the same thing Saturday they would have a long road back.

Well, Michigan didn’t just give up two goals. It gave up four.

The Wolverines came out on Saturday night with a chance at sharing first place in the CCHA. Instead they gave up four goals in the first 22 minutes and ended up falling to the league-leading Bulldogs 4-3.

Michigan’s comeback bid looked promising after Jeff Tambellini’s broken-stick dribbler squeezed past Ferris State goaltender Mike Brown’s legs to put the Wolverines within one with 14:35 left in the game.

“Our team really felt they were going to win this game,” Berenson said. “Even when they were down.”

But Michigan’s chances were stymied when it committed two penalties in the final five minutes.

Andrew Ebbett received a hooking penalty for taking down Ferris State’s leading scorer, Chris Kunitz, and just minutes later, forward Jason Ryznar literally tackled Kunitz again for a roughing penalty, leaving Michigan a man down for the rest of the game.

“It’s a killer for them to have to sit for two minutes without having their full team out there and not going full blast,” Kunitz said. “Just for us to work hard and to get the penalties means we’re doing a lot.”

The loss severely diminishes Michigan’s chances of repeating its CCHA regular season title. While Michigan (12-5-1 CCHA, 18-7-1 overall) has two games-in-hand on Ferris State (14-5-1, 19-8-1), the Bulldogs have a much easier schedule down the stretch.

The Wolverines have to play against Michigan State, and their easiest series on paper is at Nebraska-Omaha, one of the hardest places to play in the league. Ferris State, however, has just one team with a winning record, Western Michigan, on its schedule.

We definitely put ourselves behind the eight ball,” Michigan senior captain Jed Ortmeyer said. “But we like a challenge. We definitely got one right now. (But) this race isn’t over with yet.”

Ferris State jumped out in front 1:19 in when Kunitz scored his third of four goals on the weekend, as he beat Michigan goaltender Al Montoya above his left shoulder while skating into the middle of the zone. Then just over two minutes later, Jeff Legue deflected a Kunitz shot between Montoya’s legs. That gave the Bulldogs’ top line two goals against Michigan’s top line of Tambellini, Ortmeyer and John Shouneyia in its first two shifts.

“We had some mental breakdowns, and they were able to capitalize,” Ortmeyer said.

Kunitz lit the lamp again when he received a pass that was cycled to him after Eric Nystrom lost the puck at the Michigan end. He shot a slow roller that went through Montoya’s legs. The score then became 4-0 early in the second, as Simon Mangos put the puck between Montoya and the near post on a Bulldog three-on-one break.

“They weren’t great scoring chances, but the puck was going to the net,” Berenson said.

Michigan started to control play for the remainder of the second period, outshooting the Bulldogs 11-5.

The Wolverines finally broke through when Ebbett dished the puck off to Tambellini, who found freshman Brandon Kalenecki on the near side right in front to tap it in. Then on the powerplay, Brandon Rogers received a pass from Danny Richmond and beat Brown top shelf.

Michigan had its chances early in the third, but Ferris State took back the game, the series and possibly the first league title for any team other than Michigan or Michigan State since 1996. The Wolverines’ penalties took themselves out of a comeback. Ferris State’s initial goal rush was too much to overcome.

“I don’t know if we were quite ready for it, or if we were a little too comfortable,” Ortmeyer said. “But it’s definitely tough spotting a team four goals and trying to come back.”

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