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Third place is the charm

MU earns NCAA No. 2 seed after CCHA finish

By Tom Downey
On March 19, 2012

Following a 6-2 loss to Western Michigan University in the semifinals of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Tournament, the RedHawks bounced back with a 3-1 victory over Bowling Green State University (BGSU) to take third place in the tournament. This marks the third time in school history the Red and White finished third, taking third in 2004 and 2010 as well.

The RedHawks earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will play in the East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn. against No. 3 seed University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

"Playing in the CCHA prepares you pretty good for the NCAA Tourney," Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. "We've played a tough league schedule. We'll take a week to prepare ourselves mentally and physically and we'll see what happens."

Junior forward Reilly Smith continued his dominant play with three goals and two assists over the weekend, scoring two against Western Michigan and one against BGSU, marking the sixth time this year he has had three or more points. He is currently on a 10-game point streak.

His performance earned him a spot on the CCHA All-Tournament team for the second straight year. Smith, also a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award given to the best player in Division I collegiate hockey, has scored 30 goals on the year.

"We had a different mindset against Bowling Green," Smith said. "We focused on slowing the puck down and making Bowling Green come to us then finding the open man. Yesterday [against Western Michigan] we were forcing the puck too much. We're happy with the result."

Freshman forward Austin Czarnik tied a career-high with three assists against Bowling Green, extending his point streak to a career-high six games.

"When you've got a guy like Reilly on your team he can change the momentum of the game," Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. "When Reilly is making plays with Czarnik, it just spreads to the rest of the team."

Freshman forward Alex Wideman and senior defenseman Chris Wideman both scored against Bowling Green, marking the first time the brothers have notched a goal in the same game.

Junior defenseman Joe Hartman also scored against BGSU, his first goal of the year. His goal came with just half a second left in the first period.

In the loss to eventual CCHA champion Western Michigan, Miami fell behind early and was never able to recover. The RedHawks were also whistled for 11 penalties in the contest.

Senior goalie Connor Knapp entered the game without giving up an even strength goal in his last seven games but gave up four goals before being pulled in favor of senior goalie Cody Reichard.

"I don't blame Connor one bit," Blasi said. "Every time we got a little bit close they did a nice job of scoring right away and really deflating us. Western deserved to win. They were the better team."

Reichard gave up two goals after entering for Knapp, one of which came on a power play.

Reichard also got the start against Bowling Green, his first start since Feb. 11 against The University of Alabama-Huntsville. He played all 60 minutes for the first time since Jan. 28 against Northern Michigan University and only gave up one goal against the Falcons.

The 'Hawks travel to Bridgeport to face UMass-Lowell in their first round matchup 6:30 p.m. Friday, and fans can watch the game on ESPNU.


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