In what can only be described as a season to forget, Miami’s run to the inaugural NCHC title game will at least provide a silver lining to an otherwise dismal year. In the end, Miami tried valiantly to salvage the season over the past two weekends, but ultimately it was Miami’s lack of consistency, tight defense and, at times, leadership that was its undoing.
Never was Miami’s inconsistency more apparent than tonight, which was a reminder of how the team played for much of the year. The squad seemed disinterested and was certainly not the team we saw a night before against North Dakota. As a result, the Pioneers seized upon Miami’s uncertainty and took a 2-0 lead into the locker room after the first period.
In his postgame press conference, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi addressed Miami’s lack of energy at the start of the game.
“We had no energy. Our guys came out flat. I guess that’s my fault. I’ll take full blame for that. That was unacceptable in the championship game so that’s on me.”
As Miami began to find their legs, they erased the two goal deficit by netting two of their own in the second but Miami would fall victim to its own inconsistency as mistakes they avoided last night crept back into their game.
“I thought at 2-2 we were going to get some momentum then they come out in the 3rd period, we make a couple mistakes, they score a couple of goals. Really just indicative of our year, said Blasi. Every time we made a mistake it cost us. But, our guys battled hard. Whatever we had in the tank, that’s what we did.”
So, it goes that Miami made things interesting late as Anthony Louis (who made the all-Tournament team) scored his second goal of the night with just 90 ticks left and Miami even had a couple good chances to tie the game 6-on-5. Louis will be a big part of the program moving forward and his surge down the stretch makes you feel good about the offense even if Riley Barber or others leave early.
“He’s (Louis) one of those guys that we’re going to make sure he’s at a high level next year. He’s got to play consistent. He’s an 18 year old young kid that’s going be better. He’s going to be one of our go-to guys and we’ll get him ready to go.”
Blasi was asked about his goaltender, Ryan McKay, who while allowing a soft goal, probably played well enough to win.
“Ryan (McKay) and Jay (Williams) need to be better. They had a great freshman campaign but as sophomores they let off the gas a little bit and we’ve got to regain that. I think there’s a lot to work with in our locker room. I don’t think there’s any panic in the locker room, but we’ve got to get to work.”
So, as this year concludes, we’re left to wonder about next year much earlier than we’re used to in these parts. The NCAA tournament will start next week without Miami for the first time since the ’04-’05 season.
Thinking ahead, Blasi concluded, “I think we have something to work with. We got a lot of work to do in certain areas and we’re going to address those things. Actually we’ve already addressed some of those issues. We’ve got some youth that needs to learn how to work, how to compete at a high level and that’s on us as a coaching staff and we’ll begin the teaching here in a week. I saw some things I think our team is capable of doing. Obviously we’re capable of playing with anybody. Anybody in this league is. This is a tough league. You have to come every night. You have to play every night. We’ve got a lot of work to do, there’s no question about it. You can’t finish last in the league and try to make a run at the the end. I thought our guys did as good a job as they could. We needed that kind of consistency in January and February and we didn’t have it.”
“I take full blame for the entire year, actually, and we’ll get better. I can guarantee that.”
Well, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good and in the 2nd period, Miami got two HUGE breaks that led directly to two goals. So, it all comes down to this. Whomever digs deepest and wins the third period will claim the hardware and the ticket to the dance next weekend.
Some second period observations and stats:
- Cody Murphy has been all over the place. He has easily been Miami’s hardest working skater. He leads Miami in SOG with 3.
- Ryan McKay seemed to regain his composure and is playing the puck much more effectively.
- Sean Kuraly’s goal was of the “seeing eye” variety and perhaps surprised Brittain. The goaltenders are now even in allowing bad ones.
- Miami really shut down Denver in the 2nd and kept them to the outside.
- Anthony Louis now has a goal in his last three games and 11 on the year.
- Denver was really clutching and grabbing, and getting away with it. Miami was having difficulty entering the zone, but with the two markers, sometimes it’s good to be lucky.
Third period hockey for all the marbles. Let’s do this, boys!
Well, that was an ugly period of play with Miami looking tentative and unsure of themselves and completely unlike the team we saw last night that took it to UND. Here are a few initial thoughts and stats.
- Riley Barber’s early penalty was a foolish slash from behind and led to DU’s first goal late on their first powerplay.
- Miami looks incredibly tentative and almost disinterested.
- Ryan McKay is not on his game tonight. He’s fighting the puck and had another puck slip past after hitting him in the chest. That’s happened several times this year and can’t happen in a big game such as this.
- Miami did a fairly good job keeping DU to the outside, but they need McKay to pick it up and offensively, the RedHawks need to drive to the net and get traffic in front of Brittain. When they did that, they had success generating chances in the first period.
- Denver blocked 3 Miami shots in the first period.
- Faceoff wins were even at 9 apiece.
You know what they say, a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. Let’s hope that’s the case tonight as Miami will need to come from behind to claim the trophy and continue this late season run.
If at the beginning of the season you said that Miami and Denver would play for the first ever NCHC tournament championship, no one would have been surprised. However, if the same question were posed about a month ago, it would certainly have elicited curious looks.
But, that’s how quickly a season can change.
Eighth seeded Miami will face sixth seeded Denver with the winner earning both a championship trophy and a trip to the NCAA tournament. With St. Cloud firmly in the field and Miami or Denver earning an automatic bid, the NCHC will have at least two teams represented. But, if North Dakota can rebound and defeat Western Michigan in today’s third place game, UND may have a shot to get in if they get help.
If Miami prevails tonight, that would mean playing in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati where the RedHawks are the host institution. After a regular season that saw Miami finish last in their new conference, the magnitude of their current four-game winning streak was not lost on head coach Enrico Blasi.
“I was thinking on the bench, you know, sometimes you got to have a little bit of faith in your team. About a month ago, I don’t think any of you guys would have picked us to be here in this position. I always say everything happens for a reason. Guys stayed with each other. They played hard. They practiced hard. They stayed positive and we’re going to the championship game tomorrow night.”
Miami has gone 2-2 against Denver this year and has had a pretty good run of success against the Pioneers over recent years. With the way the RedHawks are playing, nothing would surprise me. And, if the Miami team that showed up last night against North Dakota is there tonight, I think it’s reasonable to believe Miami will live to play on next weekend in Cincinnati. If not, at least this late season run breathed some life into an otherwise lackluster season.
Rise and Prevail! Let’s do this!
Enrico Blasi, Blake Coleman and Austin Czarnik address the media following Miami’s 3-0 victory over North Dakota.
In their most complete game of the season, at precisely the right time, the Miami RedHawks defeated North Dakota 3-0 tonight at Target Center. With one more victory, Miami will qualify for the NCAA tournament where they would be the #4 seed in Cincinnati. Imagine that, a home game in the NCAA tournament sits as a reward for persevering through a tough season. Regardless of how they got here, Miami is truly improving every day and is now a threat to make a serious run if all continues to go well.
With the win, the RedHawks were able to gain a measure of revenge and satisfaction after sustaining a 9-2 drubbing at the hands of UND in Grand Forks in February. Thinking back to that game and then looking at this Miami team tonight, you wouldn’t believe they are the same squad. A commitment to team defense. Timely scoring from the prime scoring areas. Going to the hard area of the ice and sticking up for teammates. A true team victory tonight.
After the game, junior forward Blake Coleman addressed the 9-2 loss by saying, “It wasn’t really something we talked about much, to be honest. We just, we focused on the process. Games happen like that. It was a low point but the way we’ve responded has been incredible and we’re looking to keep this journey going.”
With the victory, the journey does indeed continue for at least one more game as Miami advances to the first ever NCHC championship game where they will face the Denver Pioneers who advanced by knocking off Western Michigan 4-3 in a hard-fought game.
In the first period, Miami used their speed to its advantage and came out flying.
Riley Barber, Sean Kuraly and Anthony Louis were particularly effective as the RedHawks denied space and time to UND. But as the period wore on, UND started to push back winning puck battles and picking up the physical play. Head coach Enrico Blasi said that he was pleased with the overall effort from his team in keeping UND to the outside which would be a theme throughout the game.
After a penalty to UND’s Andrew Panzarella at 9:58 of the first period, Miami would take advantage of its first powerplay of the night as Blake Coleman found the back of the net spinning and firing a wrist shot that beat UND goalie Zane Gothberg top shelf. Coleman had several good chances on the man advantage but capitalized on a great keep in by Matt Caito off a poor clearing attempt, and the puck came right to Coleman who, in his words, “just closed my eyes and put it on net.”
As second period began, both teams seemed sluggish.
There was significant attention to defense by Miami with Ben Paulides leading the charge and captain Austin Czarnik shadowing UND’s Mark MacMillan mercilessly. Czarnik was effective in limiting MacMillan’s chances on UND’s top line and took him out of the game. UND carried the play after the ten minute mark and tilted the ice in its favor. But, sophomore netminder Ryan McKay made some key saves and the Miami defense bailed him out a few times by clearing rebounds as UND pushed for the equalizer. In earning the shutout, McKay made 32 saves and was praised by his coach. Said, head coach Enrico Blasi, “When McKay is on you can hear him barking. He was barking again tonight. Most of the time we have no idea what he’s saying. But he’s barking and that means he’s in the game.”
While McKay barked, Miami and UND continued their battle with neither team giving much.
But, the game turned on a simple play when with 30 seconds left in the second period, UND was called for icing and rather than sitting on the one goal lead, Blasi sent out the number one line with a twist. With the faceoff to the right of Gothberg, junior Blake Coleman took the draw winning it cleanly to Austin Czarnik who carried the puck between the circles and fired a wrist shot back against his body beating Gothberg high.
Miami was then able to carry the momentum of the late goal into the third period and took the play to UND. Unlike the first two periods where it could be argued that UND had the better of most of the play, Miami dominated the third period culminating with yet another wrister from between the circles when at 6:13 of the period, freshman Anthony Louis took the drama out of the outcome and gave Miami a 3-0 lead.
Tomorrow night, Miami will face Denver, a team they’ve beaten twice this year. They will face arguably the best goaltender in the league in Sam Brittain and in order to advance to the NCAA tourney, will need to continue to commit to defense and get scoring from throughout the lineup.
The puck drops at 7:38 PM CST and will be televised on CBS Sports Network. Greg Waddell will have the Miami call on Miami All-Access as well.
With a goal in the final minute of the 2nd period, Miami takes a 2-0 lead into the 3rd period of the second semifinal here in Minneapolis.
Thoughts after 2:
- The first 10 minutes of the period were largely throw-away. Neither team really did much.
- UND dominated the second half of the period until about the 17 minute mark when Miami began to find its legs.
- UND iced the puck with 30 seconds left and you just had a feeling that giving the Coleman/Czarnik line a chance might be bad for UND. And, it was.
- Ben Paulides picked up the physical game in the 2nd period playing the heavy for a team without a lot of it.
- Austin Czarnik has been outstanding shadowing UND’s Mark MacMillan everywhere including behind the net tonight. He will have skated a full marathon and then some following the completion of this game.
- Alex Gacek has also been throwing the body despite his rather small size.
- Miami began to allow too much space, and accordingly, odd man rushes to UND in the second half of the period. However, they have played the most responsible game I have seen them play in a long while. Can they keep it up in the 3rd?
- Matt Caito has now blocked 4 shots tonight and Miami has blocked 14 overall. UND has blocked 10.
- Coleman (5) and Barber (4) lead Miami in SOG.
- Both Miami goals have come from the same spot on the ice — right between the circles in the premium zone. UND did not get a shot on goal in the 2nd period from that location. Miami did a terrific job keeping the UND shots to the outside. They must continue doing it.
- They are showing the damn BU highlights on the big screen. Please stop.
Let’s see if the boys can finish. Go RedHawks!
Thoughts from the first period…
- Miami came out flying using their speed and quickness to create separation from UND who is a physically bigger team.
- The Barber/Kuraly/Louis line especially early was very good as they used that speed well.
- Barber looks a little lost right now. He seems to be fighting the puck but has still been effective, especially in the neutral zone.
- Ryan McKay looks very sharp thus far tonight making a couple difficult saves and keeping an eye on the crazy bounces off the boards and glass.
- Blake Coleman was all over during Miami’s second power play. He had three quality chances cashing in on the last one as he recovered a poor UND clearing opportunity, spun and fired a wrister that beat Gothberg high.
- UND began to impose their will late in the period picking up the hitting and winning battles for loose pucks and along the walls. Miami will have to hold strong and roll their lines to avoid fatigue against UND.
- SOG favor UND 14-9 with Blake Coleman getting credit for four of those. UND attempted 28 shots in the period to Miami’s 19.
- Miami has already blocked 8 shots tonight with Caito and C. Joyaux getting two each.
- Miami leads in faceoffs won with a 14-8 margin. Czarnik was 5-2 with Kuraly at 5-4.
- Overall, Miami actually looked competent defensively and backchecked fairly well. They will have to keep that commitment up throughout the night in order to prevail.
Here are the lines for tonight’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff against North Dakota.
Blake Coleman — Austin Czarnik — Cody Murphy
Anthony Louis — Sean Kuraly — Riley Barber
Max Cook — Justin Greenberg — Alex Gacek
Alex Wideman — Kevin Morris — John Doherty
Chris Joyaux — Matthew Caito
Matt Joyaux — Ben Paulides
Trevor Hamilton – Michael Mooney
Drake Caggiula — Mark MacMillan — Michael Parks
Brendan O’Donnell — Rocco Grimaldi — Luke Johnson
Stephane Pattyn — Connor Gaarder — Derek Rodwell
Bryn Chyzyk — Colten St. Clair — Andrew Panzarella
Dillon Simpson — Jordan Schmaltz
Nick Mattson — Paul LaDue
Keaton Thompson — Troy Stecher