The Old Dog is breathing again after the Huskies’ past weekend playoff series against Ferris State. In case you missed it, Tech took both games 3-2 — and both games were decided in sudden death overtime.
And that made it four straight overtime wins against the Bulldogs in just 16 days. And in the week in between these two series, Tech also lost an overtime game to Minnesota State. 6 games, 5 overtime results.
Oh my. Or something like that — after censoring what the Old Dog really said.
How It Went Down
Friday night, Tech jumped to a 1-0 advantage on an early second period goal by Logan Ganie, who’s been red-hot since cracking the lineup about a month ago. But FSU tied it later in the 2nd stanza, and then took the lead five and half minutes into the third period. Tommy Parrottino knotted the score just over five minutes later with a powerplay marker, and the rest of the third period was scoreless. Finally, 2:28 into overtime, Logan Pietila scored to give the Huskies the first victory in the best of three series.
With the Bulldogs facing the end of their season, Saturday’s tilt was more of the same. Logan Pietila staked Tech to the lead halfway through the first period, but there was no more scoring until the 5:28 mark of the third period, when Jake Crespi put another on the board for the Huskies on a rare penalty shot.
You might have thought that would’ve been it — but you would have been wrong. FSU scored less than a minute later on a long rebound, and then got another with a bit less than 6 minutes remaining to again tie the game 2-2.
The rest of regulation and the first overtime period were nerve-wracking and it was becoming clear that both teams were starting to feel the fatigue of playing that many minutes of utterly intense hockey. Nevertheless, Them Dogs clearly had the pressure on most of that time, outshooting Ferris 20-8 in the first overtime period.
Mercifully for the Old Dog (it was almost exactly one year earlier when the Old Dog had a heart attack while waiting for the start of a big game, and this one was a heart-pounding game), Parker Saretsky, who had not scored a goal since the first game of the season against Wisconsin, blasted one home from just in front of the crease on a great setup by Ganie. This came after Crespi managed to prevent the puck from leaving the zone and then poking it behind the net, where Ganie dug it out and made the play.
Another 3-2 overtime win. Another chance to breathe easy.
Beyond the Scoring
In truth, it was hard to watch these games. Tech really, really, really needed to sweep this series, not only to stay alive in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs, but to hold on to their Pairwise ranking and assure the Huskies of a spot in the NCAA tournament.
The Huskies performed well, but Ferris, who ended their season with an 11-24-1 mark, played almost perfect playoff hockey. They stuck to their counter-attacking system, got excellent goaltending, and, as has happened so often this season, when Tech made a mistake in their own end, or the puck bounced oddly, the Bulldogs managed to capitalize and score. For the weekend, the Huskies outshot Ferris by huge margin, 104-51, yet the FSU players were indeed Bulldogs who would not quit.
The crew from Big Rapids deserves a huge amount of credit for the improvement they made this year. In my preseason CCHA assessment, I said this about the Bulldogs — who only won once the previous season: “It won’t be easy for Ferris this season. There’s no way to sugar coat that.” And while it wasn’t easy, Ferris State was an extremely tough opponent for any team in the second half of the season and should fare much better next year.
When The Ice Chips Cleared on Sunday
The rest of the CCHA playoff games were interesting, too. #1 ranked Minnesota State labored in their first game against St. Thomas before scoring a late disputed goal to win. On Saturday, the Mavericks clobbered the Tommies and advanced.
The other two series went to a third game. Northern Michigan won on Sunday in a crazy game in Sault Ste. Marie against Lake Superior State. It was a vicious series, with plenty of penalties and bad blood all around, and the Lakers had more chances to take the third game to overtime than I could count but just couldn’t find the tying goal. In the last quarterfinal, Bemidji State snuffed out Bowling Green in a very close checking game that was much like the first two they played.
That means that NMU will travel to Mankato to play the Mavs while the Huskies will host Bemidji State. The new CCHA format this year dictates that the semifinals will be one and done affairs — as will the final game.
Meanwhile, in the Pairwise rankings, the Huskies moved up to the tenth slot, thanks to a number of games that fell their way. Ohio State lost their opening B1G playoff series to underdog Penn State, UMass was unexpectedly swept by Boston College in the final regular season series for both teams, and Minnesota-Duluth split with St. Cloud State. More importantly, in College Hockey News’ predictive Pairwise Probability Matrix, Tech now has a 99.9% chance of being selected for the NCAA Tournament — the Big Skate.
There are still a few scenarios, all rather improbable, that could leave the Huskies on the outside looking in, but the real question now is whether Them Dogs can get a 3 rather than a 4 seed. Of course, if MTU could win their next two games and take the Mason Cup as playoff champs of the CCHA, that will guarantee a spot in the NCAAs and solidify a #3 seed, or, depending on how things go, even a #2 seed (but that’s a long shot at this point). That would give Coach Joe Shawhan and his staff the ‘last change’ in the opening round, a small advantage but an edge nonetheless. Moreover, with the minor differences that separate tournament teams, not to mention the Huskies’ seeming destiny to play overtime every time, that might be worthwhile.
There’s only one way to do that — just win, baby.