Every weekday from May 23-June 3, we will be looking back at the top-10 moments from the 2015-16 WCHA season. Up next on our countdown is
Moment #3: From Fourth Seed to Broadmoor Trophy Champion
Ferris State has enjoyed a great deal of success during the outstanding 24-year tenure of head coach Bob Daniels a run that has continued during the Bulldogs' first three seasons in the WCHA. FSU again enjoyed a solid regular season in 2015-16, earning at least two points in all but one league series and finishing fourth in the standings to capture home-ice advantage for the WCHA quarterfinals. Still, with a rookie netminder and a tough road ahead, one would not be faulted on the eve of the WCHA playoffs for failing to predict that Ferris State was two weeks away from achieving a program first.
The Bulldogs, however, were about to embark on a magical March journey. In fact, Ferris State went from the fourth seed in the WCHA playoffs to winning its first-ever conference tournament championship (CCHA or WCHA), going 4-0 and knocking off both MacNaughton Cup co-champions en route to capturing what would become the league's last Final Five crown.
Daniels' team booked its third-straight trip to the Final Five with a quarterfinal round sweep of visiting Northern Michigan at Ewigleben Ice Arena. The Bulldogs got a tie-breaking, power-play goal from Kyle Schempp with less than eight minutes to play in regulation to win the opener, 3-2. A pair of power-play strikes from Gerald Mayhew 37 seconds apart in the third period erased a 2-1 deficit and propelled FSU to a 5-2, series-clinching win in Game Two.
After dispatching the Wildcats, Ferris State travelled about 60 miles southeast to Grand Rapids, Mich. and the Van Andel Arena site of the 2016 WCHA Final Five. In front of an energized, bi-partisan crowd, the Bulldogs began their run through the league's regular season co-champions with a thrilling, 1-0 victory over tournament top-seed Michigan Tech in the second semifinal. FSU's freshman goaltender, Darren Smith (30 saves), out-dueled Tech senior Jamie Phillips (32 stops), while the Bulldogs' Kenny Babinski scored on a slap shot from the top of the slot with 8:45 remaining for the game's lone goal.
The next night, the Bulldogs used a second-period penalty shot goal by Mayhew and a staunch defensive effort to defeat Minnesota State, 2-1 and hoist the Broadmoor Trophy. Mayhew's tournament-winning goal came on a nifty move before going top shelf to convert the penalty shot, while FSU out-shot the Mavericks by a 28-14 margin. Brandon Anselmini also scored for FSU, tying the game 1-1 with a first-period, power-play marker.
Smith, named the Final Five Most Valuable Player, played every minute in the Ferris State net and shone in the playoff spotlight. The rookie allowed just five goals during the WCHA postseason, finishing with a perfect 4-0 record, a 1.25 goals-against average, one shutout, 91 saves and a .948 save percentage.
FSU's triumph also marked the first time since realignment that a team that finished lower than first or second in the regular season standings won the WCHA's playoff title.
Top-10 Moments from the 2015-16 WCHA Season
10: Century Club
9: WCHA Alumni Find Professional Success
8: 20 Minutes for the Ages
7: Desert Hockey Classic Champions
6: Defiel Stands Tall
5: WCHA is Live on ASN
4: MacNaughton Cup Comes Home, and Stays Put