Miami is officially locked into a No. 5 seed for the NCHC Tournament, meaning it will not play any more games at Cady Arena this season.
The RedHawks fell, 5-0 at Minnesota-Duluth on Friday, ensuring that they will return to the Bulldogs’ home rink next weekend to open conference tournament play with a best-of-3 series.
A wrister from the blue line pinballed to Dominic Toninato, who was wide open at the side of the net and slammed the puck home to open the scoring just 5:05 into the contest.
That ended Miami senior goalie Jay Williams’ shutout streak at 153:57 after the senior became the first goalie in team history to record a two-game weekend shutout vs. Colorado College last week.
A bad line change led to an odd-man rush, with Brenden Kotyk finishing at the top of the crease with 10:41 left in the second period.
With 54 seconds left in the middle stanza, Neal Pionk, who was left wide open in the slot, backhanded one over Williams to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to three.
Williams was pulled with about 10 minutes remaining, and freshman Evan McCarthy saw his first varsity action in a Miami uniform.
He was greeted rudely by UMD (14-14-5), however, with Karson Kuhlman beating him on the short side with 6:24 to play in regulation.
With 58 seconds to play, Kyle Osterberg scored to push the deficit to five.
The RedHawks (15-15-3) had won four of their previous five on the road and were 9-3 in their last 12 games.
Miami is now three points behind the Bulldogs in the conference standings but would lose the tiebreaker, meaning UMD has locked up that crucial final home spot for the first round of the conference tournament.
The RedHawks cannot drop lower than fifth either, as Nebraska-Omaha is six points back of them.
Miami’s PairWise ranking also took a hit, as the team fell to 23rd. The RedHawks would likely need to improve to 13 to ensure an NCAA Tournament berth, a tall task considering their next three or four games will be in Duluth before they would face even stiffer competition in the Frozen Faceoff.
It now appears likely Miami’s only shot to qualify for the national tournament would be to win the NCHC Tournament, which it did in 2014-15.
The RedHawks and UMD wrap up their weekend series at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday.