>Coming into the NCAA Tournament, the Miami University men’s hockey team had one thing on it’s mind- redemption. After nearly winning the 2009 Division 1 Championship last April, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion to Boston University, the RedHawks were looking to get back to the “Frozen Four” almost a year later. Having earned the number one overall seed, Miami drew a first round matchup with the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers and never looked back, advancing to the regional finals on Saturday with a 2-1 win in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
In the first period, Miami came out running like a well-oiled machine, playing the physical, skilled, and defensively sound brand of hockey that kept them at the top of the major polls all season long. The scoring chances were numerous for the red & white, but good shot blocking and a few big saves from UAH goaltender Cameron Talbot kept the game tied in the opening minutes.
Unhappy with his team’s performance on the powerplay, Miami bench boss Enrico Blasi changed his strategy on the man advantage. Good coaching, combined with the Chargers’ inability to stay out of the penalty box ended the stalemate midway through the first period. Miami junior Carter Camper, who was”camped” behind the Alabama-Huntsville goal, made a perfect feed to the front of the net and found freshman Curtis McKenzie waiting at the top of the crease to bury the one-timer. The powerplay tally was McKenzie’s sixth goal of the season and first of the tournament. It was the only marker in the first period.
After the first twenty minutes, it was much of the same. Alabama-Huntsville continued the march to the penalty box, giving the RedHawks a few key chances to add to the lead. They did just that. Curtis McKenzie carried the puck into the offensive zone along the right half wall and threw it in front of the net. The pass found the stick blade of Miami defenseman Cameron Schilling, who awkwardly lifted the puck into the air and watched as it fluttered over goaltender Talbot to put his team up 2-0. Like the first goal, this was scored on the powerplay and was Schilling’s fourth of the season.
The same tempo seen in the first 40 minutes carried over into the third period. Miami held onto its two-goal lead for 19:22 of the final stanza. A late penalty on Miami’s Chris Wideman with 2:24 remaining put the Chargers on the powerplay. A lazer of a shot by UAH defenseman Brennan Barker found the twine over the right shoulder of Miami goaltender Cody Reichard and the lead was cut to one with just 38.3 seconds remaining in regulation, but it wasn’t enough, as Miami defeated Alabama-Huntsville 2-1 and outshot the visitors from the Yellowhammer State 38-17.
The RedHawks will face the University of Michigan Sunday night at 8pm, with the winner advancing to the NCAA Frozen Four in Detroit, Michigan. Michigan defeated Bemidji State 5-1 on Saturday evening to advance. Miami was 2-1 against the Wolverines this season, with both wins coming at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor.