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NCAA Midwest regional: Ferris State wins one for the CCHA, GLIAC, DII and new WCHA
March 25, 2012 - Matt Wellens
ASHWAUBENON — For now, Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels is happy to carry the CCHA banner into Tampa, Fla. for the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four, just as he did in 2003 when the Bulldogs made their first ever NCAA tournament appearance.
But whether Daniels knows it or not, he and the Bulldogs are representing more than just the CCHA.
Ferris State, whose only other NCAA tournament appearance was in 2003, will march into Tampa not only with some sunscreen after a cold and cloudy Michigan winter, but the hopes of an entire fraternity of small schools attempting to make it among the powers of NCAA Division I college hockey.
If you think I’m being a little over-dramatic, making the Bulldogs accomplishment more than what it is, just take to the word of social media to read posts like these, mostly from fans in towns like Marquette, Big Rapids, Mankato and Bowling Green:
The Bulldogs’ program doesn’t have the facilities, the resources in recruiting, the luxury on the road, the media exposure in their home town of Big Rapids or the financial support that you’ll find at Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Boston College, just to name a few.
That sounds like a lot of schools you find in NCAA Division II, the GLIAC and come 2013-14, the new WCHA.
That’s Northern Michigan, that’s Michigan Tech, that’s Lake Superior State and that’s the Bulldogs’ opponent in the national semifinals in two weeks: Union — a small Division III school in Schenectady, New York
made up of just over 2,000 undergraduates.
“There are a lot of similarities between them and Union,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said. “The size of the rink, a lot of disadvantages on a grander scheme when you look at it.
“There are a lot of programs that have the pick of the litter with recruits, have the best facilities in the world and its hard to get to the Frozen Four.”
The 2012 Frozen Four is set to look a lot like the summer of 2011 in college hockey, with the big schools on one side — Minnesota, Boston College, North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth will battle Sunday for the final two tickets to Tampa — and the small schools — Union and Ferris State — on the other.
Only this time, Ferris State will not go overlooked as it did this summer when it finally was offered a spot in the new WCHA.
This time, the Bulldogs are in the national spotlight, and you can’t blame the rest of the little guys for living vicariously through Daniels and the Dawgs, whether they care or not.
“We’ve always been a proud member of the CCHA,” Daniels said.
“We’re proud to carry the CCHA banner forward. We welcome that. In terms of the realignment, it is what it is. It’s going to happen. It was something that once the Big Ten hit that special number of six teams it was inevitable. We’re really proud to be joining that group in the WCHA when the time comes.”
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Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels, left, and senior defenseman Chad Billins, right, share a moment during a press conference following the NCAA Division I hockey Midwest Regional Championship at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon, Wis. (Journal photo by Matt Wellens)