PITTSBURGH - Despite firing its most shots on goal in four seasons, the No. 5 Miami hockey could not solve Robert Morris netminder Eric Levine and the Colonials held off the RedHawks for a 1-0 win in the inaugural Three Rivers Classic championship game Saturday night at CONSOL Energy Center. Miami (12-4-4), which beat Ohio State, 1-0, in Friday's semifinal, was shut out for the third time this year, while RMU (9-4-2) pitched back-to-back shutouts to earn the tournament title.
The RedHawks sent a season-high 51 shots on target, their most since taking 58 against Army Jan. 3, 2009, while limiting the Colonials to just 21. Levine, who finished with 99 saves on the weekend after a 48-save shutout against Penn State Friday, stopped each Miami shot, however, en route to tournament MVP honors. RedHawk senior captain and defenseman Steven Spinell and freshman defenseman Matthew Caito each joined Levine on the Three Rivers Classic All-Tournament Team.
"You have to take your hat off to their goaltender, he played great tonight," Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said. "In tight games like that, hopefully we'll be in a lot down the stretch, you just have to match that. We broke down for one second and they were able to score a goal and that can't happen when you're playing against a hot goaltender."
Miami came out much more aggressive than Friday night, firing 18 shots to RMU's six in the opening 20 minutes after totaling 12 shots over the first two periods combined the previous night. The RedHawks had multiple scoring chances on their lone power play of the stanza and sophomore forward Jimmy Mullin used some nifty stickwork to create another chance later but Levine was up to the task each time to keep the game scoreless after one period.
The second period was full of penalties and special teams as the sides combined for seven infractions. Miami had four power plays in the middle 20 minutes, and created several more chances, but Levine was there to deny each one. RMU garnered three man advantages of their own, including a pair of 5-on-3 power plays for over 1:45 each time, both of which the RedHawks were able to kill, including one in the opening minutes of the second stanza. During the second two-man advantage, the Colonials hit the post with less than 11 minutes remaining in the frame, but the second period ended like Friday's game, knotted at 0-0.
With 12:06 remaining in the third, Robert Morris broke the deadlock when Brandon Denham batted a bouncing puck in front of the net past freshman goaltender Ryan McKay to put the Colonials up 1-0. Tyler Hinds centered to Denham in front of the crease where his initial shot was deflected and popped up but he finished the second chance for his first career goal.
Miami earned two more power play chances over the final 10 minutes of the contest, including one with 1:40 remaining, but Levine held strong and denied each RedHawk attempt. Miami pulled McKay, who finished with 20 saves, in the final minute for a 6-on-4 advantage but the 'Hawks were unable to generate another opportunity and fell by the one-goal margin.
The RedHawks finished 0-for-7 on the power play while firing 14 shots on the man advantages. Miami killed all five RMU power plays, including the two 5-on-3 advantages, and has now killed 18 straight penalties dating back to Dec. 8.
Mullin finished with a game-high nine shots on goal while classmate Blake Coleman blasted seven.
The RedHawks are off next weekend before hitting the road again to resume CCHA action at Northern Michigan, Jan. 11-12. Puck drop is set for 7:35 p.m. both nights at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Mich. Miami beat and tied the Wildcats in Oxford, Nov. 9-10, taking five of six points in the CCHA series.