NCAA DI Men's Hockey

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Miami Vs. FSU; St. Cloud Vs. St. Thomas

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Miami Vs. FSU; St. Cloud Vs. St. Thomas

Two CCHA powers in Miami (OH) and Ferris State clash on Saturday, while recently promoted St. Thomas plays powerhouse St. Cloud on Sunday.

Oct 1, 2021 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA Reasons To Watch: Miami Vs. FSU; St. Cloud Vs. St. Thomas

There are two CCHA matchups this weekend on FloHockey, and both contain plenty of reasons to watch. 

Miami Vs. Ferris State

Two CCHA powers from a prior era resume their rivalry in Big Rapids for the first time since 2012, when both schools made the NCAA tournament. Much has changed for both schools in the subsequent decade. 

There are college hockey news outlets who now dismiss Ferris outright, poo-pooing the program with nary a Div-I victory last season, but that’s a superficial take. Anyone who saw Bob Daniels’ Bulldogs battle Frozen Four-bound Minnesota State four times last year knows Ferris shouldn’t be trivialized. Even in March, when most squads would have quit after a season of unrewarded struggle, Ferris gave the powerhouse Mavericks fits up in Mankato before finally succumbing in the conference quarterfinals.

What To Watch For: 

  • The Ferris power play, who clicked at just a shade below 20% last year, 23rd in the national rankings, and their best numbers in a decade. Returning sophomore Mitch Deelstra will get lots of PP minutes. It bears watching how many touches and looks he gets while searching for seams in the Miami PK. 
  • The fitness level of Ferris. Last season was a nightmare for Ferris based on how COVID torpedoed any semblance of training and practice for the Bulldog student-athletes. According to an official Ferris statement, the club has put up record-conditioning testing numbers since hunkering down in August.
  • The recruiting class; among the six freshmen donning the red and gold game jerseys for the first time Saturday is USHL standout Bradley Marek, a 6’3” center who hails from Big Rapids. Having a local stud stay close to home is a winning formula both on the ice and in the stands. 

The Cullen Factor

This weekend’s series in Big Rapids features a return of sorts by first team all-conference defenseman Will Cullen, who just transferred to Miami from Bowling Green. FloHockey fans are familiar with Cullen’s offensive gifts, a defender who can generate and finish offensive chances either by himself or in concert with teammates. If not for the COVID-generated logjam, Cullen would be playing pro-hockey right now. Instead, he transferred to the elite NCHC conference. He is a rare talent, a player who generated Hobey Award consideration last season. FloHockey fans will get two games to see his game-breaking skill, speed and strength once again.

No. 2 St. Cloud Vs. St. Thomas

On Sunday, FloHockey fans get to see the “before” images of the St. Thomas Tommies foray into Div-I play. The “after” version will take a year or two, when supreme coach Rico Blasi hopes to transform his Tommies into CCHA contenders. 

St. Thomas is diving into the deep end, taking on NCHC power and national finalist St. Cloud Sunday evening, in an NHL venue no less. For the hockey fan who always wondered how an elite Div-III squad would fare against Div-I iron, the game will provide a partial example, as nine players from last year’s St. Thomas club will take on the loaded Huskies, last seen at the Frozen Four.

Blasi has supplemented his Div-III core with 11 experienced transfers and seven true freshmen. It’s essentially an experiment in building from the ground up by one of hockey’s master class coaches, with NHL lighting, cameras and replays to record their historic home opener. The spectacle begins at 5:30 ET Sunday from the Excel Center in St. Paul. Every fan with even the mildest curiosity about what Blasi is building in his new hockey laboratory would be wise to tune in.