The contest was the RedHawks’ (12-19-3, 6-17-1-1 National Collegiate Hockey) and Pioneers’ (16-14-6, 10-11-3-2 NCHC) regular season finales before next weekend’s NCHC Tournament starts.
One night after playing a fast-paced first period, both defenses slowed the game down early on. The Pioneers and RedHawks combined for only three shots (2-1 Denver) over the first six minutes of play with neither team finding the net.
McKay came up big midway through the first when he moved deftly to his left to stop Matt Marcinew on a 2-on-1 rush. The sophomore was in the zone during the opening 20 minutes of play, finishing with 12 saves. Denver turned up the pressure late in the period and fired the final eight shots on goal. On one particular shift, the Pioneers got the puck to the middle and fired several point blank shots that McKay stood tall on. His best save in the sequence came when he calmly slid to his right to keep Grant Arnold from putting in a rebound. Denver outshot Miami 12-5 in the first, but McKay’s stellar play between the pipes kept the game scoreless at intermission.
Play was delayed with 15:08 left in the second after Riley Barber crashed into the net and the puck went over the goal line. The net came loose, but officials spent a few minutes looking at the play before ruling no goal to keep the game scoreless.
DU drew the game’s first power play with 12:58 to play in the second period, but MU stood tall and allowed only one shot on goal in a successful penalty kill. The Red and White got on the board with 7:21 remaining in the frame when Coleman tipped Trevor Hamilton’s point shot past Sam Brittain for his 17th goal of the season and his seventh in the past six games. Austin Czarnik also notched an assist on the goal that gave Miami its first lead of the weekend at 1-0.
The RedHawks’ advantage was short lived as Zac Larraza corralled a loose puck off a blocked shot and wristed it in to tie it up 37 seconds later. After pinning MU in its defensive zone, DU earned another power play with 5:08 left in the second. The Pioneers held possession in the offensive end the majority of the power play, but two McKay saves and a pair of blocked shots kept DU off the board. Miami outshot Denver 15-14 in the middle stanza, but the teams skated into the locker rooms deadlocked in a 1-1 tie.
Miami out aggressively in the third, taking six of the first seven shots in the period. Max Cook’s work behind the DU net brought the puck into the middle for a pair of shots that Brittain stopped. A few moments later, Coleman made a bid for his second by skating from the right wing and moving the puck into the middle for a shot that Brittain gloved.
Miami put a puck in the net with 15:41 to play, but it was waved off because it was knocked in with a glove. With the game still tied, Marcinew got behind the defense for a breakaway that McKay shut down.
With 7:33 gone by in the frame, Coleman blocked David Makowski’s shot and skated in for a breakaway. He roofed a backhand shot for his second of the evening to put MU ahead 2-1.
The next few shifts saw the RedHawks tilt the ice in the Pioneers’ end. Riley Barber had two golden opportunities in particular. Immediately after Coleman’s goal, Barber fired one off the cross bar at a sharp angle. The sophomore forward found space in a two-on-one a few minutes later and his shot was shrugged off by Brittain to force the puck just over the net. Anthony Louis found the loose puck off that shot and brought it back in front for a couple chances that Brittain again stopped.
In perhaps its finest third period of the year, MU outshot DU 24-7. Even so, the RedHawks clung to the one-goal lead late in the period. The Pioneers pulled Brittain for an extra attacker with 1:24 remaining and held the puck in the offensive zone for the majority of that time. Miami stayed disciplined and cut off the shooting lanes to force Denver to the outside. McKay made the saves he needed to through traffic and Czarnik corralled a loose puck and dumped it out of the zone to relieve the pressure in the waning seconds, allowing the Red and White to hold on for the win.
A season-high 24 shots in the third period gave Miami a 44-33 edge in shots for the game. Neither power play converted in the game as DU went 0-for-2 while MU finished 0-for-1 with the man advantage. McKay turned away 32 of 33 shots while Brittain made 42 saves for Denver. With an assist, Czarnik tied Chris Bergeron, Derek Edwardson, Greg Hogeboom and Matt Christie for 28th in Miami history with 120 career points. Coleman has scored eight of MU’s last 10 goals and has four multi-goal games in the six games he’s played since he returned to the lineup on Feb. 21.
Miami opens up the inaugural NCHC Tournament as the eight seed on Friday when it travels to regular season champion St. Cloud State to open a best-of-three series. Friday’s contest begins at 8:37 p.m. ET while the games on Saturday and Sunday (if necessary) begin at 8:07 p.m. ET.