Brotherhood barrels Buckeyes to clinch final CCHA regular season title
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 00:03
It took all 28 matches of Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) play, but when all was said and done, the Miami University men’s hockey team was at the top of the standings with 59 points. It can now be said that in its final season of existence, the RedHawks were CCHA regular season champions.
Miami needed just one win to seal the first place finish, but Friday night proved tough. Nine RedHawks compiled 30 shots on goal, but it was not enough to find a way past senior goaltender Brady Hjelle, who earned a shutout in Ohio State’s 3-0 win.
As the rematch came into focus, it had all the earmarks of a classic. Miami needed a victory to assure the regular season title, and the last regular season game in CCHA game to ever be played at Goggin Ice Center was also Miami’s senior night. The elder RedHawks wasted no time making their presence felt, as senior forward Curtis McKenzie struck just 10 seconds into the first power play of the night.
“We weren’t too happy about last night’s power play,” McKenzie said of Friday’s 0-for-4 man-advantage efforts on Friday. “We just had to refocus tonight. Right away we got the opportunity to get the puck in front of the net, and we had to capitalize on it. It was nice getting one behind the goalie tonight right away.”
CCHA leading scorer Riley Barber added to his team’s lead halfway through the second period on a 4-on-4 chance as the freshman phenom danced his way through a pair of OSU defensemen.
“That was such a pretty goal,” McKenzie said, shaking his head as he recalled Barber’s strike. “I was going crazy in the penalty box.”
The Buckeyes wouldn’t go quietly however, as just minutes into the third period they were handed a 5-on-3 power play opportunity off of freshman forward Sean Kuraly’s major penalty. The RedHawks killed the penalty off to thunderous applause, after which sophomore forward Blake Coleman intercepted a pass and capitalized on the turnover, giving his team a commanding 3-0 lead.
Sophomore forward Cody Murphy would buried a laser of a shot with just under five minutes remaining in the game to seal the game.
The Buckeyes scored twice as the clock ticked away, but it wouldn’t matter. When the dust settled, Miami had earned its fourth CCHA regular season championship banner.
“Ohio State played great all weekend,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. “It feels good to win a championship, and obviously it’s a big deal. I’ve said it before that the regular season championship is a difficult one to win because you have to be good consistently for six months … if you’re fortunate enough to be in position to win one it’s pretty amazing.”
This is Blasi’s third league crown, and his first since the 2009-10 season. Being at the helm of such a young team, this one might have a special spot in the head coach’s heart.
“As far as this team is concerned, I don’t think anyone would have picked them to do anything,” Blasi said. “For them to set themselves up at the beginning of the year to just go out and play and have fun for each other, I’m so proud of them and the way they’ve conducted themselves. That’s season one, and now we’re getting ready for season two.”
As far as the players are concerned, this is just the beginning – and it all started with the mindset in the Miami locker room. At the beginning of the year, the team bought into the system that the coaching staff put in place, and it’s paying dividends now. But as Blasi is fond of reminding his team, there’s a lot of hockey left to be played. The concept of The Brotherhood is alive and well in Oxford, and that’s what makes the team so special in the eyes of its players.
“That’s why we play so hard for each other,” Barber said. “All of us just love each other so much. It’s kind of cliché to say you love your brother but it really is true.”
Miami will have two weeks of practice before its second round entry in the CCHA tournament, thanks to a first round bye. The best of three series will be held March 15-17 at the Goggin Ice Center, against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.