At the beginning of this season, the media and coaches both picked Ferris State to finish ninth of the 12 teams in the CCHA.

Now, a little more than one month into the season, the Bulldogs find themselves tied with Miami for the league lead at 12 points. Ferris State is the only team with a perfect conference record at 6-0-0.

“Every year we’ve been voted ninth,” Ferris State senior forward Chris Kunitz said. “We wanted to be a great team right from the start of the season.”

After going 15-20-1 last season and losing its first game of this season to Saint Cloud State, Ferris State had won eight straight – its best run since 1990 – before losing to Wayne State last Saturday. The Bulldogs outscored their opponents 44-10 during that streak.

Kunitz, who was the CCHA’s top scorer last year, and who leads the league with 19 points in six conference games this year, attributes the strong start to the Bulldogs’ offseason conditioning. Kunitz gained 10 pounds without increasing his body fat.

“We really wanted to be better conditioned going into this year,” Kunitz said. “And a big thing is our leadership and making the underclassmen follow us seniors.”

One of those underclassmen is sophomore goalie Mike Brown, who ranks sixth in the nation with a 1.70 GAA.

“Obviously the coaching staff and players are depending on me to play better than last year,” said Brown, who was named to the conference’s all-rookie team last year.

Although the Bulldogs aren’t shocked by their own success, other coaches are surprised to see Ferris State jump eight spots from where it was expected to be.

“I know (Ferris State coach) Bob Daniels was excited about the fact he had the leading scorer in the league returning,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “When they get into the meat and potatoes of the schedule, are they still going to survive? Well, they’ve got off to a great start. I wouldn’t have predicted it, but I can see why.”

Guess who’s back?: Just eight days after he was suspended for academic reasons, Michigan sophomore Milan Gajic returned to practice yesterday. The forward could make his return to competition after missing last weekend’s games against Bowling Green.

“We’re not ruling him out, but he’s made significant strides,” Berenson said. “It’s amazing what a little motivation can do for you.”

Also getting back on the ice this weekend was forward Jason Ryznar, who has been out for all but two games this year with shoulder injuries. The sophomore is not guaranteed to play this weekend, but his return would be welcomed, as the Wolverines were bitten by the injury bug again last weekend. Forwards Jed Ortmeyer and Dwight Helminen both came out of this weekend’s games against Bowling Green with knee problems. And while Helminen (hyper-extended left knee) could be back as early as today, Ortmeyer is out for 4-6 weeks with a torn MCL in his left knee.

“Losing Jed is a big disappointment, but we’ve got a lot of good players and it just means everyone’s got to pick it up a bit,” Ryznar said. “When I come back I need to bring a physical presence. I definitely wish I could have been in there (Saturday night).”

Ryznar alluded to Saturday’s 1-1 tie with Bowling Green, in which 22 penalties and multiple scuffles all took place in the first two periods.

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