Ferris State Hockey Eyes CCHA Title

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Ferris State hockey eyes CCHA title

Bob Daniels now knows how it feels to sit atop the college hockey world.

No, Ferris State hasn’t won the national championship, but Daniels — now in his 20th season behind the bench — has the Bulldogs ranked No. 1 in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.

The Bulldogs are unbeaten (9-0-3) since January and can clinch the CCHA regular-season title with a sweep of last-place Bowling Green this weekend in Big Rapids, coupled with a Western Michigan loss at Lake Superior State.

It is the first time in school history the Bulldogs have been ranked No. 1. They are followed, in the USCHO.com poll, by Boston University, Boston College, defending national champion Minnesota Duluth and Michigan.

"It’s a really good feeling," said Daniels of the No. 1 ranking. "We’re all excited. It (a CCHA title) would mean a great deal to the university, certainly the hockey program. We’re trying to duplicate the (CCHA title) effort of the 02-03 team. That would validate what we’ve done in the past and propel us as a strong program in the college hockey world."

Yes, the Bulldogs have become the big story in college hockey after getting picked to finish ninth in the CCHA in the preseason league coaches poll. They are getting the job done defensively, limiting opponents to 2.19 goals per game, led by senior goaltender Taylor Nelson (15-4-2, 2.18 goals-against, .923 save percentage) and freshman C.J. Motte (5-4-2, 1.97, .926) of St. Clair.

Nelson was at his best this past weekend, turning aside 58 of 59 shots in a sweep (3-0, 5-1) of Notre Dame.

"It starts really with the goaltending we’ve received from our senior Taylor Nelson, who has been outstanding all year long, and our freshman (Motte) has done equally well when he’s played," Daniels said. "You don’t have to worry about mistakes when you have good goaltending.

"We have played a lot of close games (five one-goal games during recent 12-game stretch). There’s a great deal of confidence that we’ll come out on top in those close games."

Senior Jordie Johnston (16 goals) and junior Kyle Bonis (15 goals) are having strong seasons to lead the Bulldogs offensively.

"We really don’t have a top line," Daniels said. "We have three lines, depending on who’s humming, and it’s tough for opponents to come in say, ‘We’ll be fine if we shut down this line or this player.’"

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