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'Hawks advance to conference championship

By Justin Maskulinski
On March 22, 2014

Miami University continued their hot streak Friday night as they advanced to the Frozen Faceoff Final after a 3-0 win over No. 11 University of North Dakota.

"I don't think any of us are privileged to what's going to happen in the future. You've just got to go through the journey, and sometimes you got through some good times and sometimes you go through some tough times. What you learn in those tough times is probably the most important thing in life," Rico Blasi said. 

The eighth seeded RedHawks will take on the sixth seeded University of Denver (19-15-6) at 8:38 p.m. Saturday with a National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) tournament crown and an NCAA Tournament berth on the line.

Miami netminder Ryan McKay talked to CBS Sports after his 32 save shutout.

"We executed our systems," McKay said. "We got some bounces tonight, we actually got quite a few bounces, but we'll take those anyway we can get them, like any team would. The biggest thing was we executed, and we executed really well."

The 'Hawks (15-19-3) killed off a cross checking penalty called on sophomore defenseman Chris Joyaux 6:33 into the first period.

North Dakota (22-13-3) went on to the penalty kill 9:58 into the period and they were unsuccessful.

Miami junior forward Blake Coleman's hot streak continued as he put the 'Hawks up 1-0 thanks to a zone saving pass by sophomore defenseman Matt Caito.

"[Caito] just did a nice job keeping that puck in. We had a lot of pressure at the end of that power play and I just closed my eyes and put it on net," Coleman said. 

The 'Hawks killed off another penalty at the 7:04 mark. Sophomore Riley Barber was the guilty party, as he was sent to the sin bin for holding.

Shortly after, sophomore goaltender Ryan McKay robbed a North Dakota skater after he eluded the Miami defense and had a point blank attempt.

The 'Hawks led 1-0 after the first 20 minutes. UND led 14-9 in the shots on goal department.

The second period began with the same physical, fast-pace seen in the first.

At the 6:21 mark of the second period McKay drew a penalty for his team as North Dakota was called for goaltender interference. North Dakota killed-off the penalty with ease.

The RedHawks' junior forward Cody Murphy was called for hooking at the 9:58 mark and the 'Hawks killed the penalty.

With 5:58 remaining, UND entered the Miami zone on a three-on-two rush, and junior forward Mark MacMillan had a wide open net to shoot at but found the crossbar, allowing the 'Hawks to hold on to their one goal lead.

Junior captain forward Austin Czarnik sniped his way onto the score sheet with a laser to the top left corner after UND iced the puck.

Csarnik spoke highly of Coleman's return to the team and the spark it created. 

"It was huge. He's a key part of our offense obviously, as you saw tonight. Everyone was really excited for him to come back and he's a big boost for our team," he said.

The snipe put the RedHawks up 2-0 with 20 minutes left in regulation.

Coleman talked to CBS Sports during the intermission.

"The team's got a spark under them," Coleman said. "We've just been rolling. We've got four lines that can play and all four lines are playing hard. Everybody's just doing their part right now."

Coleman's words were confirmed by the 'Hawks in the third period.

With 13:47 left in the third period, Barber skated around the offensive zone and found freshman forward Anthony Louis, who put the RedHawks up 3-0.

The physical play picked up after the RedHawks' third goal, and the 'Hawks found themselves on the penalty kill with 11:09 left in the third period. Kuraly was called for slashing.

Kuraly was on the wrong end of a bone-crunching hit with five minutes remaining in the game. Both teams were involved in some extra-curricular activities that resulted in a two minute UND power play.

North Dakota pulled their goaltender when the power play began and kept him pulled for the remainder of the game, but the 'Hawks kept UND off of the board and secured their spot in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff Final.

"I'm really excited and proud of our team. Not because we won tonight, but because of the way they've gone through this little journey. It's not easy. We're a better team for it and now we've got to play tomorrow night for a championship," Blasi said. 

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