Friday, February 29, 2008

Know Your Opponent: Ferris State Bulldogs

The subject of my interview for this edition of Know Your Opponent works in Ferris State's athletic department. He's a big Michigan fan, however, as you'll see later in the interview. So, as with my interviewee who talked about Miami, he can provide a unique perspective on this weekend's games.

1) First off, thanks for helping us out with Miami. I figured Ferris would grab at least a point in that series since you guys are tough at home. I even thought they could steal a win. Didn't see a sweep coming. What the heck happened? You guys were 1-4-3 over eight games and then you go 3-0-1 against ND and Miami. Seriously though, what were you guys able to do against Miami to take them down? Were the Bulldogs scoring ugly goals, doing the hard work around the boards, crashing the net, or was it more run and gun? By the box scores they look like they were pretty different games. Ferris jumped on em Friday and then kind of hung on for dear life on Saturday with Miami peppering them. We're kind of a similar team to Miami, so that series is probably pretty relevant to this weekend.

The Miami weekend was very strange for Ferris' standards. The first game Miami started Effinger instead of Zatkoff. As a result Ferris was up 3-0 due to 3 soft goals on Effinger's part in the first 6 or 7 minutes. After that Zatkoff came in, Miami battled back, but any team that goes up 3-0 at home is hard to beat. Miami also killed themselves by allowing 2 PP goals in the 3rd, which resulted in the game winning goal.

Game 2 was all goaltending. You could tell Miami was very pissed off, and played much better, but Pat Nagle stood on his head, and had 37 saves in a 3-1 win. Both goals Zatkoff let in he had no chance, one was a breakaway, and the other he had a lot of traffic. The 3rd goal was a empty netter. FSU is like MSU if you get in those low scoring games they have a chance to slowly take you down.

2) What style are you guys playing this year? I honestly can't say I've seen Ferris a single time. By the looks of it (31st in offense, 11th in defense) you're getting by more on your goaltending/defense than the offense. Do you not really have the personnel to be an offensive team or is it more style of play than anything? I assume you've seen Michigan a few times this year (correct me if I'm wrong). Any thoughts on where Michigan will have an advantage, or are there any areas that you think FSU just might have the edge?

FSU is built from the net out. In my opinion their style is similar to MSU's. They do not have the personnel on offense to be able try and get in shootout with some teams. Scoring 6 on Miami was a fluke. U-M will definitely have a advantage on FSU with their speed. The whole defensive unit is very strong, but while watching them this year if you have a fast line you should get your chances. Porter/Kolarik would have been killer for FSU. Earlier this season I remember Crowder's line (MSU) giving them problems all night long because of his lines speed. Another advantage U-M will have is obviously their depth. Can't really say FSU has any clear cut advantage, but they are strong in low scoring games.

3) Tell me a little bit about your offense. What forwards should we look out for? Anyone in particular especially fun to watch?

Ferris does not have a single player on offense that makes you say "Wow!" You have to watch several of their games to start to appreciate any of their forwards. Cody Chupp is team leader in points, and is an extremely hard worker on both sides of the ice. He keeps improving every game. Another is Brendan Connolly (2nd in points). He probably has the best set of hands on the team, and is above average for speed, but he lacks size. Scoring for Ferris is like picking a name out of a hat. Anyone could do it at anytime. It could be Miller, Riley, Lewicki, Chupp, Connolly, or anyone else. In my opinion 2 younger guys are steeping up as of late, and that is Fillinger, and Menke. Fillinger's stats aren't showing it, but he has had some great chances.

4) Defensively, do you have a checking line that we'll expect to see against our top line, or does Daniels like to go more strength against strength? Who's on the top D pairing?

I don't think you will see a special line to go up against Porter's line. Most of the forwards are solid two way players. I expect Chupp's line to play the most against it though. Not sure who will be on Chupp's line this weekend, but good chance it's Miller/Menke. Lewicki is also a good defensive forward so he may be one against the top lines. I think Daniels will be playing pure defensive hockey, and just wait for a potential break/scoring chance.

The top defensive pairing was 3 year captain Adam Welch, and Scott Wietecha, but Welch is out for the year with a knee injury he suffered against LSSU. Now you will see a mix of Wietecha, Redmond, Case, Jorgensen, and Spezia. All these guys are above average. Non are pro prospects, or Jack Johnson hitters, but they all work their tail off when out there, and it shows. Wietecha is a freshmen, and I think he has a bright future. He plays every situation.

5) When I think Ferris/Michigan, I'm thinking there'll be some hard hits, some goonery, and some scrums after the whistle. Any "goons" or really good hitters?

You will definitely see some rough hockey/scrums. They are 3rd in the CCHA in PIMs. No real goons on the team, or heavy hitters, but they play chippy and physical.

6) The goaltending...I assume we'll see both keepers this weekend since Nagle fared so well against Miami in the Saturday contest. Do they differ in style at all? O'Keefe has the better numbers, but Nagle is pretty solid as well despite some "freshman nights" from the looks of it. Do you prefer seeing one in net over the other? Does Nagle have the look of a future starter, or will you be keeping your fingers crossed that the new kid coming in next year is a stud?

U-M should see O'Keefe, and Nagle this weekend. O'Keefe has been great all year. Top 5 in GAA/Save% in the CCHA. I think he's one of the most underrated players in the CCHA this year. Until the last two weekends it looked like Nagle hit the freshmen wall and was finished, but won the 2nd Miami game on his own, and had a 2-1 victory over Bowling Green. I think Nagle can be a future CCHA star. He has been a winner every place he has went (NAHL/AAA National Champion, and ranked 4th best North American goalie according to INCH). With that said though I prefer O'Keefe between the pipes. He had a rough year last season, but turned it around, and is playing very confident. (Sounds familiar! -ed.) Both goalies are similar, both butterfly goalies. O'Keefe is bulkier and great at his positioning. Nagle is very quick side to side. I can't really pick out a weakness on him yet, because he plays 50/50.

I will also bring up Derek MacIntyre. He is a SJ draft pick, and started the final month of last season, and played great (going 7-3 last 10 starts). He has only started one game (a loss to Union), but since Ferris clinched home ice and it will be his final game in Big Rapids there could be a chance he plays. Mac has poor rebound control, and doesn't make himself big in the net. Also lets a lot of goals in down low. When he's on top of his game though he can play very well. He showed that by beating MSU last season. On the other hand, he let in 9 goals in at Yost last season. It's always hard to say what you will get with Mac.

7) What players throughout the CCHA have impressed you this season?

I enjoyed watching Ryan Jones this year, although I thought he acted like a jerk on the ice. Although his stats don't pop out at you I always thought Jeff LoVecchio from WMU was a good player too. Derek Whitmore (BG), and Justin Abdelkader/Crowder stuck out to me too when they visited. Saving the best for last is obviously Porter/Kolarik. Was at both days of the GLI, and loved watching them play.

8) Michigan's on spring break this weekend, so the number of students there Friday night will probably be pretty low. How bout you guys? Will the Dawg Pound be out in full force? You've been to games and Ferris, you've been to games at Yost. Which student section you taking? And how biased is the answer? (FTR, I've only been up there one time and I couldn't make out any of the chants since the glass blocked a lot of them and we were at the far end of the rink....I enjoyed it though!)

Sadly the Dog Pound will probably be half empty. Haven't sold out once this year, even when they were on CSTV. Only around 1,100 fans watched Miami fall. I'm taking Yost as best student section in the doubt about it. The only chant I enjoy by the FSU students is when a ref makes a bad call they chant "We want Shegos!" There has been a fall in attendance in the student section due to Ferris' president banning many of their chants, and kicking many people out of games. A large group of students wrote a big letter to the school, and complained. (This is definitely something that I haven't heard about. It looks like Ferris was more gung-ho about changing the chants than Michigan, though I haven't heard any talk about the student section at Yost this year, which is a really nice change. With it being Senior Night against the #1 team in the country, I gotta believe they pack em in this weekend. Then again, 1,100 against Miami is kind of sad. -ed.)

9) Anything else that we should know about you guys? Care to offer up a prediction on this weekend? Also....who ya rooting for?

Basically all you need to know is if they game is low scoring it benefits Ferris State. Nagle/O'Keefe can steal games. If U-M go can up 2-0 there is a 90% chance the game is over. I will be rooting for U-M. My whole one side of the family donates to the school, and has had season football tickets for 33 years. I would be disowned if I rooted against them! On top of that I've watched FSU beat Miami twice, and ND so I'm happy for the year! I am predicting a U-M sweep. I believe U-M got the message from Red after their loss to MSU, and Ferris will run out of gas after their great 3 week run. If Ferris gets any points it will probably be in Big Rapids. (No prediction out of me because things tend to not go so well when I offer one up, but I'd much prefer to just go ahead and get a win Friday night so there's no pressure Saturday. With the way we usually play up at Ferris, I really don't want Michigan to have to win there to clinch the title. -ed.)

Thanks again to my interviewee. I really enjoyed this interview and I think there was some good information about a team that I rarely get to see play. Then again, I'm not sure I'll get to see em this weekend either. No TV coverage (thanks BTN) Friday night, and I'll probably only pay to watch on B2Network Saturday night if the game means something in the standings. Might as well use that night as a way to build up some credits with the gf since the playoffs are coming!

Since there's no chance of archived video this weekend, I'll probably save the "Going Upstairs - MSU Weekend" for next week sometime. I finally fixed my laptop, which will drastically cut the amount of time it takes me to do those articles, but it needs a new network card before I can get online.

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