Ferris State hopes to continue upset run against Minnesota State in CCHA semifinals
The Bulldogs, the sixth-seeded team in the Mason Cup playoffs, face the defending champion Mavericks on Saturday.
Minnesota State has been in the semifinals every year Ferris State and the Mavericks have been in the same conference. For the Bulldogs, however, this is just their fourth time since the conference realignment in 2013.
As the only team that had a road series last weekend, Ferris State avoided an extra day away from home by joining the rest of the winning teams on Saturday with series sweeps. The sixth-seeded Bulldogs took care of third-seeded Bowling Green while the top-seeded and No. 13-ranked Mavericks put an end to Lake Superior State’s season.
“I think anytime you get these rest days right now they’re crucial,” said Ferris State associate head coach Drew Famulak. “It’s not just the physical part, it’s the mental.”
The defending Mason Cup champion Minnesota State hosts the Bulldogs at 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings said both teams know enough about each other, it's simply time to drop the puck.
"We're just looking forward to Saturday getting here," Hastings said.
The Mavericks are 12-7-0 at home this season and while Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said keeping the crowd in check will be important for the Bulldogs. Minnesota State senior defenseman Ryan Sandelin said they're hoping for more Mayo magic if they need it.
“The more experience you have in close games, especially in this building, that’s going to bode well for us," Sandelin said, "and I think you’ve seen that in a couple tight games here at home, whether it be last minute or last couple minutes, we’ve found a way to come out on top.”
The teams split this season, with sweeps by the road team each series. While Minnesota State is 12-7-1 at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center, the Bulldogs’ duo of 2-1 and 3-2 wins in early December was the first time since 2015 the Mavericks have been swept at home.
“I think you do take bits and pieces, but that’s a long time ago,” Famulak said. “They’re an unbelievable team, both offensively and defensively. We’ve got to maintain their power play. Their power play is very, very good.”
That power play is converting 27.8% of its chances, the second-best in Division I. The fuel in that power play is junior forward David Silye, who has 11 power-play goals. The Mavericks also are the best face-off team, winning 59.8% on the dot.
Even as the losses mounted (eventually five) to end the regular season, Ferris State bounced back to win a pair of one-goal games against struggling Bowling Green last weekend in the playoff opener.
Last month, Ferris State goaltender Noah Giesbrecht was in net for 12 of Northern Michigan's 17 goals — goals that Daniels said shouldn't all be pinned on him — but since then the sophomore is coming off a 71-save performance in the sweep over Bowling Green.
"They put some numbers on him," Daniels said Friday after the team arrived in Mankato, recalling that series with the Wildcats. "I think like any team, you have your ups and downs throughout the course of the year and that was probably a low point for us."
"About Noah's game, beyond the fact that he's talented and he's got the right personality to be a good goaltender, and be a good goaltender in big games. He doesn't let a lot rattle him."
Ferris State senior defenseman Brenden MacLaren said getting through the quarterfinals was huge for Ferris State (14-18-4). In the three seasons prior, the Bulldogs combined for 19 wins, including a 1-23-1 record in 2020-21.
"Especially for guys in my class going through the hard times struggling, not getting many wins and then finally make it my fourth year here," the co-captain said. "It's very special. It means the world to all of us."
Minnesota State is 12th in the PairWise Rankings, which try to mimic the criteria used by the NCAA committee to pick the field. While the conference playoff champion earns an automatic berth in the NCAA field of 16, according to PairWise Probability Matrix , the Mavericks have a 78% chance of making the field without winning the Mason Cup.
It’s certainly a more difficult road this time around. A year ago, Minnesota State was the top-ranked team in the country and would have made the field regardless of winning the Mason Cup Championship — which they did anyway in a 2-1 overtime fiasco against Bemidji State at Mayo .
After the best two-out-of-three series, it comes down to single-game elimination the rest of the way.
“I think it works to our advantage, you never know,” Giesbrecht said. “We’re obviously underdogs going into this series.”
Both team’s goaltenders come in on a high note. Rancier has a season-low 1.80 goals against average. Last week, Giesbrecht continued to elevate his postseason game. He has a 2-1-0 record and a .946 save percentage in three playoff starts and earned CCHA Goaltender of the Week honors after the quarterfinal sweep of Bowling Green.
“I think we just have to do what we’re doing right now,” Giesbrecht said. “What we did at Bowling Green was play solid defensively … just keep everything the same and work off of it and good things happen.”
- Records: MSU 23-12-1, FS 14-18-4
- Goals leader: MSU (David Silye 22), FS (Jason Brancheau 13)
- Points leader: MSU (Silye 37), FS (Brancheau 13)
- PP%: MSU 27.6% (second in nation), FS 13.4%
- PK%: MSU 83.2%, FS 78.7%
- Prediction: Minnesota State 4-2