>RedHawks 1, Adversity 0
>They never trailed. The RedHawks defeated No. 1 seed Denver 4-2 on Friday afternoon, punching their ticket to the quarter-finals of the NCAA Tournament. Miami jumped out to a quick lead in the first period, when senior Justin Mercier made a nice toe-drag and fired a wrist shot past Denver goaltender Marc Cheverie. It was the 50th of his Miami career. As time ticked down in the first period, the RedHawks struck again. This time, it was Alden Hirschfeld, netting his fourth goal of the season. The result? 2-0 Miami, end of the first period.
They never trailed.
The second period was much of the same. Uptempo, with the ‘Hawks seeming to take advantage of Denver’s defense and Olympic size ice surface and solid puck moving ability. They seemed to get behind the defense frequently on this day and their hard work paid off. Miami struck early again. Bill Loupee potted his second goal of the season, now giving the Red & White three goal lead. Denver finally found the scoreboard late in the second, when Joe Colborne deflected a shot past Miami goaltender Cody Reichard. It was a power-play tally that cut the Miami lead to two. Momentum was high on the Denver bench. They were…back in it, one could argue, but the momentum went the other way. A great effort by the hard working Andy Miele gave MU it’s fourth goal of the contest on a controversial play. Denver argued that the puck went out of play, hitting the netting above the glass behind the goal. Miele stuck with the play and buried the puck, despite the Pioneer protest. The goal stood after a short conference by the officiating crew, and the Miami lead was once again three goals. 4-1 Miami, end of the second period.
They never trailed.
Denver would score the only goal of the third period, when the returning Tyler Bozak scored another power play tally for the Pioneers. This was a curious decision by Denver bench boss George Gwozdecky, as he pulled goaltender Cheverie in favor of the extra attacker with around six minutes left in regulation. It was a 5 on 4 Denver advantage, with Miami’s Vincent LoVerde and DU’s Brandon Vossberg serving co-incidental minors. The move paid off and Denver once again only trailed by two. That’s the way it would end after some big saves late by Reichard, Miami found itself advaning in the NCAA tournament to take on the winner of the nightcap game- Minnesota-Duluth vs. Princeton.
They never trailed.
This game was Miami hockey. This looked like the team that we saw in the first half of the season, which is a very good sign. One issue of concern, was the powerplay. 0 for 5. Have to capitalize on man-advantage chances, but with the offense running like a well-oiled machine and the defense carrying it’s share of the load, things worked out for the better. Gwozdecky said after the game that coaching against Rico was “a little bit like coaching against your son.” I’m sure that even in defeat, Rico made “dad” proud. What a classy guy George Gwozdecky is. He is still revered by many in the Miami community and will forever be.
This program has been here before…the regional finals. Never, in the soon to be storied history of Miami hockey has the team been past this stage. Teams with guys named Jones, Martinez, and Zatkoff didn’t make it past the quarter finals. This young Miami team, with no true nationally recognized “superstars” has a chance to do something great. Once again, we are one win away from the Frozen Four. Is this the year the chips get cashed in? We’ll know in 24 hours from now.
Looking ahead to tomorrow night, the RedHawks have a very tough test, once again. They’ll face a very good, very solid, University of Minnesota-Duluth squad. These guys are unreal. They’ve won five games in a row, after scoring twice in the last minute of regulation (including the game tying goal with 0.8 seconds left) and then netting the OT winner to defeat Princeton on Friday night. In my opinion, this is the hottest team in the country right now. They bring the third best power play in Division I hockey and a very good netminder, in Alex Stalock to the contest. These two teams are very similar…both play a very fast paced game, have a share of small forwards, and move the puck very well. It is, however, a home game for the Bulldogs. Not literally, of course, but the distance from Duluth to Minneapolis…2 hours, 20 minutes. Oxford to Minneapolis? 11 hours, 16 minutes.
If Miami plays “Miami hockey” (see: 3/27 vs. Denver), things will take care of themselves and the RedHawks will be D.C. bound. Expect a tough contest, folks. We’re one win away. One.
Go RedHawks. The puck drops at 9:00pm ET on ESPNU.