Jonathan Daniel

Miami hockey in the NCAA tournament for the 8th straight year

The RedHawks look to get back to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2010. They are the number two seed in the Toledo regional, along with #1 Notre Dame, #3 Minnesota State-Mankato, and #4 St. Cloud State.

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Miami falls to St. Cloud 4-1 in regional final

Miami was unable to get much of anything going in the third period, and an empty-net goal with less than one second left for the Huskies put the final score at 4-1. It's a disappointing end for Miami, who had their season ended by a non-Hockey East team for the first time in forever.

St. Cloud rode the momentum from yesterday's 5-1 beatdown of Notre Dame and, while they didn't control play as much today, they were very opportunistic and made their chances count. Miami was unable to do the same, and while the teams finished with 21 shots each, you kept feeling like a barrage was coming for Miami, but it never did. Miami's chances throughout the game seemed sporadic, and the times when Miami did have sustained pressure in the St. Cloud zone, shooting lanes were limited, and Ryan Faragher seemed to see everything clearly in net for the Huskies. On Miami's goal, there wasn't really anything Faragher could have done, and he was perfect for the rest of the game.

It's not all bad news for the RedHawks, as they were a team that probably overachieved this season. They had 11 freshmen, many who played huge roles for the team, including the goaltending tandem of Ryan McKay and Jay Williams and CCHA Rookie of the Year Riley Barber. If sophomore and CCHA Player of the Year Austin Czarnik doesn't bolt for the pros, the team will return many of their key cogs. They also have a strong recruiting class coming in next year, highlighted by Johnny Wingels, brother of former RedHawk and current San Jose Shark Tommy Wingels.

These two tournament games will provide some great experience for this young team, but making a return trip to the tournament might be tougher next year. Miami will be joining the NCHC, a new eight-team conference featuring traditional powers North Dakota, Denver, and these same Huskies. With no more "soft" weekends against teams like Lake Superior State and (heh) Michigan State, every weekend will be a dogfight for the RedHawks. Miami's loss also marks the end of the CCHA, which is disbanding as all of its teams are moving elsewhere. (See you guys, college hockey has conference realignment issues, too!)

So while Miami will obviously be frustrated with tonight's loss, the future is bright, and the road to Philadelphia 2014 starts now.

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Miami beats Minnesota State 4-0 in first round

After a scoreless first period in which Miami looked clearly like the second-best team on the ice, the RedHawks came out ready to play in the second and controlled the game from then on. In my preview, I noted that Minnesota State would likely try to shut down Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber, which, for the most part they were able to do, meaning the RedHawks needed some secondary scoring. They got just that from the usual sources.

A little over halfway through the second period, a Barber penalty expired and he came out of the box to turn a 2-on-1 into a 3-on-1, and some fancy passing between he and Czarnik led to a goal by senior Curtis McKenzie. They carried the 1-0 lead into the third, where they added to it just over two minutes in. Senior Marc Hagel, a Princeton transfer, scored the second goal on a beautiful feed from Blake Coleman. Cody Murphy would add a third halfway through the period, and Max Cook sealed the game with an empty-netter.

McKenzie's goal would prove to be all that Miami needed, as Ryan McKay bounced back from a horrendous outing in the CCHA semifinals to post his fourth shutout of the season. After getting a little puck luck early on in the first period when the Mavericks hit two posts, he was solid and well-positioned the rest of the way, looking like the goalie that led the nation in GAA.

It wasn't all good news for Miami, who lost sophomore Jimmy Mullin in the first period after a knee-to-knee collision with MSU's Evan Mosey. Mosey was given a major penalty and a game misconduct, but the RedHawks were unable to do anything on the five minute power play. Mullin's status for tomorrow has not been confirmed, but I wouldn't expect him to play.

Miami will now play St. Cloud State for a spot in the Frozen Four tomorrow at 4 eastern. The Huskies dominated Notre Dame, 5-1, in the first semifinal of the day. They were clearly the hungrier team, and Notre Dame looked as though they expected to win the game just by showing up.

The win was St. Cloud's second-ever tournament win, as they will be looking for their first Frozen Four trip in program history. Their coach, Bob Motzko, was an assistant at Miami in the early 90s, coaching current RedHawk coach Enrico Blasi while he was a player there.

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