Brotherhood's Frozen Four run falls just short
It was win or go home in the NCAA Midwest Regional finals this weekend in Toledo, Ohio, and the No. 2 seed Miami University men's ice hockey team did the latter. After a 4-0 rout of Minnesota State University Saturday night, the RedHawks couldn't find a way past fourth-seeded St. Cloud State University, who beat the Red and White 4-1 to advance to the Frozen Four.
"Coach Motzko did a great job of preparing his guys, and they did a great job," Miami Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. They took over in the second period and we just didn't have an answer for it ... in the end, they were just up for the task, and they deserve to be where they are."
The No. 5 RedHawks, who finished the year 25-12-5, qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the eighth straight year. They took the ice at the Huntington Center Saturday night against an opponent that had not been shut out all year, but Miami did just that to the red-hot Mavericks, topping them 4-0. Senior forward Curtis McKenzie opened the scoring for the 'Hawks, capitalizing on one-touch passes from freshman and sophomore linemates Riley Barber and Austin Czarnik during a 3-on-1 rush with 8:56 left in the second period.
Senior forward Marc Hagel and sophomore forward Cody Murphy each grabbed a goal in the third period, and junior forward Max Cook finished with an empty net shot to finish off Minnesota State 4-0. Freshman goaltender Ryan McKay recorded 20 saves in his fourth shutout of the year, and the first NCAA Tournament shutout in Miami history. The RedHawks also recorded 28 blocked shots in the victory.
"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."
Sunday's game saw a much quicker start for Miami, as they outplayed St. Cloud State for the majority of the first frame. Even though the RedHawks outshot the Huskies 9-6, freshman forward Joey Benik of St. Cloud ripped a wrist shot past the blocker of McKay to put his team up 1-0 just five minutes into the contest. Miami responded by hitting two pipes in a 20-second span, but could not get the puck past sophomore goaltender Ryan Faragher.
The second period contained more of the same for the Brotherhood, though Coleman did find the back of the net on a powerplay near the halfway mark of the game. The Huskies scored twice, though, and once in the third period on an empty net with less than a second left, ending the RedHawks' season with a 4-1 loss.
Coleman and senior captain Steven Spinell were named to the All-Midwest Regional Team. McKay managed 18 saves on 21 shots. Though the season didn't end the way Miami may have wanted, Blasi reminded members of the media that his team had more than its share of success this year, including the last ever Central Collegiate Hockey Association Regular Season Championship.
"I'm extremely proud of them, and they've done a heck of a job," Blasi said. "We have a statement in our locker room, 'you leave the program better than you found it,' and guess what? They left the program better than they found it. I'm extremely proud of this group."
With the season over, the RedHawks will prepare to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in its inaugural season next fall.
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