TOLEDO, Ohio – Making its eighth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the second-seeded Miami University hockey team downed third-seeded Minnesota State, 4-0, in the first round Saturday afternoon at the Huntington Center in the Midwest Regional Semifinal.
The fifth-ranked RedHawks (25-11-5) turned it on in the final two frames, as senior forwards Curtis McKenzie and Marc Hagel, junior forward Max Cook and sophomore forward Cody Murphy all found the back of the net. Additionally, sophomore forwards Blake Coleman and Austin Czarnik tallied two assists apiece while Murphy and Cook also added a helper for a two-point night.
“It’s pretty nice to get a win in the tournament again,” McKenzie said. “I thought Steven Spinell and Joe Hartman have done a good job trying to lead the team. I think everyone else did a great job as well. We have a lot of young guys in our lineup and a lot of energy going on, so I think we held our emotions pretty well and it’s great to get that first win.”
The eighth-ranked Mavericks (24-14-3) were held scoreless for the first time this year, as Miami freshman goaltender Ryan McKay tallied 20 saves. The RedHawks’ suburb defense, which recorded 28 blocked shots, helped the team earn its first NCAA Tournament shutout in school history.
Both squads battled in the opening period, but neither was able to capitalize on its scoring chances despite several power play opportunities. Minnesota State finished 0-for-4 with the man-advantage, while Miami was 0-for-1, with the lone power play a five-minute major.
“The game could have gone either way (after the first),” MU coach Enrico Blasi said. “Ryan made some nice saves in the first, they hit a couple of posts.”
The RedHawks opened the scoring with 8:56 left in the second on a 3-on-1 breakout. Czarnik took the puck up the right side and dished it to freshman forward Riley Barber, who had just stepped out of the penalty box. Barber quickly went back to Czarnik, who found McKenzie trailing near the far post. The Golden, B.C. native beat MSU goalie Stephon Williams on a top-shelf backhand shot, which was his 11th goal of the season.
“I look up and Czarnik’s taking off, Barber’s coming out of the box, so I just tried to get on my horse,” McKenzie said. “Czarnik gave me a nice pass right at my skate, and somehow I got it up over the goalie.”
Miami improved to 21-2-1 this season when scoring first this season with the win.
Coleman helped put the ‘Hawks up 2-0 2:30 into the third period, as he beat two Maverick defenseman and found Hagel for a one-timer at the far post after a feed through the crease. The Hamilton, Ont. native has six goals on the year, while Murphy also earned an assist on the play.
The RedHawks padded their lead midway through the final frame, scoring one of their three third-period goals. After several hacks at the puck, which was lingering in front of the net, Murphy netted his 11th score of the season chipping it over a sprawled out Williams.
Miami then sealed the win with 58 seconds to go, as Cook scored on the empty net. The goal was the Frankfort, Ill. native’s fourth of the season.
With the win, the RedHawks advance to the Midwest Regional Final where they will face St. Cloud State on Sunday at 4 p.m. The Huskies defeated Notre Dame, 5-1, in Saturday’s early semifinal. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
“They’re the WCHA regular-season champion, that’s all I need to say about St. Cloud,” Blasi said. “They played great against Notre Dame. I got the chance to watch the second and third periods and they dominated. I thought Notre Dame tried to push there at the end, but they just kept coming.”
Miami has moved on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament five times in program history now with its last trip coming in 2010.