Know Your Foe: Ferris State University

The puck drops Thursday night at the Von Braun CenterPropst Arena. The Chargers’ opponent on both ends of this season are the Bulldogs of Ferris State University. As a service to you, the UAH Hockey fan, we present to you the first in a series: Know Your Foe.

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Ferris State University, usually called “Ferris” or “FSU”, was founded by Woodbridge Nathan Ferris in 1884 as the Big Rapids Industrial School. Ferris the man was a career educator, working at various levels in his home state of New York as well as in Illinois before moving back to Michigan, where he had briefly studied medicine at the University of Michigan. Later in life, Ferris was Michigan’s 28th governor as well as representing the Great Lakes State in the United States Senate.

Ferris the university started off as a private school, held entirely in Ferris’s hands until 1900, when some stock was sold to the public with the founder retaining a controlling interest. In 1943, alumni pushed the state of Michigan to purchase the school, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Harry Kelly. In 1949, the state accepted the school as a charitable gift—no doubt some CCHA/GLIAC foes use this as a joke—but before the school could come under state control, the two major buildings burned in a fire.

Photo credit: Will Nickelson

Ferris was co-educational from the start, which is certainly to be commended. Ferris has one of only 16 national colleges of optometry. The school had an enrollment of 13,865 as of February 2010. The school unfortunately has nothing to do with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

FSU is a member of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, joining the league in 1979. Since joining the league, the Bulldogs have only won the league title once: 2002-03, when Chris Kunitz netted 35-44–79 in 42 games and the Bulldogs had their best season ever, finishing 31-10-1 and making the NCAA tournament for the only time in school history. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Kunitz graduated after that season, and the team didn’t crack the 20-win plateau until last season, when Bob Daniels’s team went 21-13-6 and finished their season in the 3rd-place game in the CCHA tournament. In 2009-10, both the Bulldogs and Chargers finished their postseason play with 2-1 losses to the Miami Redhawks.

Okay, so we know a bit about the Bulldogs’ history. What history do they have with the Chargers? In the modern era—that is, since 1998-99, when Division II was abandoned by the NCAA and UAH moved up to Division I hockey again—the Chargers and Bulldogs have squared off three times. The first matchup came in that aforementioned 2002-03 season, as the Chargers shocked the then-eighth-ranked Bulldogs 5-4 in overtime in the first round of the UConn Ice Classic. I remember that game well, as I broadcast it on radio at the time. I remember the entire Bulldog team, especially Kunitz, growing increasingly frustrated as Scott Munroe shook off a bad five minutes to close the first period to stop 26 of 30 shots on the game. This year’s upperclassmen will remember the Chargers’ visit to Big Rapids in 2008-09, losing 4-2 (with an empty-netter to ice it) and 5-2.

Photo Credit: Terry Johnston

The 2010-11 edition of the Bulldogs is upperclass-heavy, but four of their top six scorers were lost to graduation, leaving senior Mike Embach as the leading forward scorer [9-11–20] and senior captain Zach Redmond [6-21–27] bringing points from the blue line. Pat Nagle [12-10-3, 2.13GAA, .923SV%] and Taylor Nelson [9-3-3, 2.49, .915] were both strong between the pipes for last season’s squad and return to again backstop their teammates this year.

How are they regarded? The coaches have the Bulldogs 7th in their preseason poll, and the media has them 6th. Redmond is a first-team preseason all-CCHA defenseman, and Nagle is second-team goaltender. All seems primed for a solid season, right? Well, maybe. There is the matter of that frustrating loss on Saturday night to Ontario Tech, losing 3-2 despite outshooting their foes 53-24. I’d caution any Charger fan to be wary of an exhibition game and drawing inferences from that one data point. If I were Bob Daniels, I wouldn’t have put the pedal to the metal knowing that my team would be traveling south to Alabama starting late Tuesday night.

The series promises to be a good one. Remember: puck drops at 7:05p.m. Thursday night and 7:05 p.m. on Friday night, not Friday/Saturday like normal.

Now you know your foe! See you at the rink.

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