In a performance that was a reminder of their first half struggles, the Miami RedHawks squandered a chance to make school history and dropped their CCHA seminfinal game 6-2 to Western Michigan at Joe Louis Arena.
The RedHawks were outplayed in virtually every facet of the game and the defensive breakdowns that led to several Bronco goals were eerily reminiscent of their struggles in the first half of the season as senior netminder Connor Knapp was routinely left hung out to dry. The most egregious defensive breakdown occurred perhaps on Western’s first goal when Garrett Haar led a 3-on-1 rush up the left wing that was so badly misplayed by freshman defensemen Ben Paulides, it left me wondering if he did more to hurt the cause than help Knapp in that situation. Greg Squires capitalized on an easy pass to beat Knapp top shelf with a redirection after Paulides left his feet, abandoned the slot shooter and simply slid past Haar who centered a perfect pass to Squires for a goal that set the tone.
Frankly, there isn’t much else to talk about.
Miami allowed a shorthanded goal, three powerplay goals and played nothing like the team we’d seen down the stretch. The team looked disinterested and Western took Miami’s physical, on the edge game, and threw it in the RedHawks’ faces. They were clearly more motivated and more aggressive than Miami who simply seemed flat and unmotivated. It was the best I’ve ever seen a Western Michigan team play. Junior forward Reilly Smith was the lone bright spot as his Hobey campaign is hitting its stride. Smith netted both of Miami’s goals and now has a career best 29 (he had 28 last year playing with Hobey Baker Award winner Andy Miele).
The RedHawks will try to salvage something out of this CCHA championship weekend when they take on Chris Bergeron and Bowling Green in today’s consolation game at 3:30pm EDT. Honestly, I can easily see Miami losing this game as they have little to play for, weren’t interested when they did, and I suspect the Falcons will try to send a message that their late season run wasn’t a fluke. BG, despite their double OT loss to Michigan last night, wants to prove they’ll be back and better than ever in the CCHA’s final season.
The good news is that Miami is safely in the NCAA tournament. Get right after yesterday’s disaster and move on. There’s still a national championship out there for the RedHawks to claim…if they want it.