March 14, 1998
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Ferris State came into Munn Ice Arena for their CCHA first-round series having lost to the Spartans three times during the season by a score of 19-4. But this was the playoffs, and the Bulldogs proved that the term "second season" means something. They gave Michigan State all it could handle in two games that came down to the final seconds. Still, through timely offense, a dominating defense and the best goaltender in the nation, Michigan State was able to escape with two tight victories over Ferris State and advance to the CCHA semifinals.
The top-seeded Spartans will meet either Notre Dame or Northern Michigan -- the lowest remaining seed, pending the result of tomorrow's Notre Dame-Michigan game -- in the first semifinal at Joe Louis Arena next Friday at 5 p.m.
Senior center Sean Berens got things rolling with his NCAA-leading 35th goal of the season at the 2:57 mark on a two-on-one with Damon Whitten. "Kevin O'Keefe made a nice play at the blue line to get the puck to me," Berens said, "and Damon Whitten gave me an option to look the goalie off. I put the shot low on the blocker side, and those pucks are going in for me this year."
Berens, an All-America candidate, leads the nation in three offensive categories: goals, power-play goals and game-winning goals. Freshman right wing Andrew Bogle built the Spartan lead to 2-0, finishing a pretty set-up from junior left wing Mark Loeding. Junior center Mike York extended his point-scoring streak to 10 games with an assist on the play as well.
The scoring died in the second period, much as it did Friday night, with Vince Owen playing well in the Ferris State nets and Chad Alban doing the same for Michigan State. As Ferris continued to mount offensive pressure, Alban turned aside several quality scoring chances.
"It's to the point now where it isn't even a big save," Berens said. "It's just another save. Chad makes it so easy that it's an unbelievable advantage for us to have him back there."
Ferris State did manage to score in a wild finish, as Brian McCullough converted with 1:06 remaining and Owen pulled for an extra attacker. The chances didn't end there, as the Bulldogs continued to apply pressure. Alban stopped a few Ferris opportunities, and one hit the post before the puck was cleared out of the zone.
"It was sort of a crazy ending," senior defenseman and captain Tyler Harlton said. "The last five minutes were the same story as the rest of the weekend -- Chad Alban was the difference." From here, it's on to "the Joe" as the Spartans pursue a white banner to bookend the green one already hanging at Munn Arena for the regular-season title.
"It's up to the seniors to let the rest of the guys know how tough it is, especially with one-game series the rest of the way," Harlton said.
Ohio State and Northern Michigan have already secured berths at Joe Louis; either Notre Dame or Michigan will also make the trip.
"This is going to be one of the most diverse groups we have ever had down there," Berens said. "There are going to be two or three teams that haven't been there in a while, and that makes it tough because you know they are going to work hard."