TAMPA — Ferris State was the only school that recruited Kyle Bonis, and even the Bulldogs had enough questions about his ability that they asked him to walk on.
Little did coach Bob Daniels know then that three years later Bonis would be on the top line and collect the go-ahead goal late in the third period Thursday to give Ferris State its first opportunity to play for a national title with a 3-1 victory over Union in a Frozen Four semifinal game at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"So we have a walk-on that scores 20-plus goals on the year. That's terrific," Daniels said. "The things we were worried about, his skating, weren't there."
Bonis' goal at the 15:17 mark of the third period broke a 1-1 tie. Senior defenseman Brett Wysopal, who also took an unusual route to Ferris State when he transferred from Colorado College, let a wrist shot fly from the left faceoff circle. Union goalie Troy Grosenick blocked it, but a long rebound went right to Bonis, who was waiting on Grosenick's glove-hand side. Bonis put it past him as he was transitioning to the other side of the net.
"It wasn't a good shot, I'll tell you that," Wysopal said of his attempt. "I just got him in the right spot and was just praying that it wouldn't be out of reach for Bonis."
"When it finally went in, I was obviously really excited," Bonis said. "But I looked up at the clock and realized we still had 4:30 left to go."
In a change from earlier in the year, Daniels said the Bulldogs (26-11-5) didn't just wait for the clock to tick down. Ferris State added an insurance goal with 55 seconds left when Aaron Schmit took immediate advantage of Union's decision to pull Grosenick and play with an empty net.
That goal, Schmit's second of the game, was Ferris State's third straight.
Union (26-8-7) had opened the scoring in the second period, finding the first hole in a game featuring two teams known for their defense.
"There was a lot of nerves early on in the game. The puck was jumping off everyone's stick," Wysopal said.
The Dutchmen came out to a 6-2 shot advantage after the intermission. Union put one past goalie Taylor Nelson at the 7:56 mark when a Jeremy Welsh slap shot from the top slot near the blue line was redirected off Daniel Carr and into the net.
Ferris State tied it later in the period, as Schmit put in a close-range shot in the waning seconds of a power play. That was the score until Bonis, the former walk-on with questionable skating, came up with the rebound goal in the third.