Photo by Lauren Olson, Photography Editor
By Grace Remington, For The Miami Student
Austin Czarnik's senior night was one to remember as he completed his first career hat trick to lead No. 5 Miami University hockey to a 6-3 win against No. 1 University of North Dakota Saturday night. The center's three goals on the night are more than his previous total of two all season.
"I'm grateful for it," Czarnik said. "It's been a long four years, a lot of ups and downs. To get that is just an honor. I'm so happy and I know all my teammates are. I'm just so happy we won tonight."
The victory clinches home ice advantage for the RedHawks (21-12-1, 14-9-1-1 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) in next weekend's opening round of the NCHC Playoffs. It also marks the first time Miami has defeated the No. 1 team in the country since 1997.
"It was certainly one of our goals for the year to make sure we were home for the playoffs," head coach Enrico Blasi said. "It's huge for us to host next week."
After North Dakota (25-7-3, 16-6-2 NCHC) secured the NCHC title in a 2-1 win Friday, a victory on Saturday became even more important for Miami's playoffs goals. University of Nebraska Omaha, University of Minnesota Duluth and University of Denver were vying for the remaining top three seeds in the tournament.
"We could have been a No. 5 seed playing a No. 4 team," Czarnik said. "So this is huge for us. We're happy about it and ready to move forward with it."
Junior forward Drake Caggiula struck early Friday to put UND up 1-0 2:43 into the first period. Senior forward Connor Gaarder extended the lead to 2-0 at the 19:04 in the second frame. A power play score from junior center Sean Kuraly put Miami within one goal midway into the second, but junior goaltender Zane McIntyre withstood the extra pressure from Miami. The RedHawks outshot North Dakota 44-27 overall, after being edged 11-5 in the first period.
"Coach said tomorrow's the biggest game of the year for us," Kuraly said Friday. "We're going to treat it like that and come in ready. We have to put this one behind us even though it hurts. It doesn't feel good … but if we want to win a championship, we have to be resilient."
Though North Dakota drew first blood Saturday, Czarnik and senior forward Blake Coleman put Miami up 3-1 less than three minutes into the second period. Another Czarnik goal and a tally from junior forward Riley Barber kept Miami ahead 5-3 1:44 into the second. An empty net goal from sophomore forward Anthony Louis with nine seconds left in the final frame sealed the victory.
North Dakota outshot Miami 34-29, marking the first time this season MU has won a game when allowing more shots on goal than attempting. The RedHawks were 1 for 6 on the power play and killed 3 of 4 UND man advantages. Junior netminder Ryan McKay improved to 4-0-1 in his last five starts after rejecting 31 of 34 shots.
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"This was an important game for us," Blasi said. "Our intensity tonight matched the intensity we played with last night, but this time we got the bounces."
The Brotherhood returns to the ice this weekend for a best-of-three series in the NCHC Quarterfinals against Western Michigan University. Puck drop is 7:05 p.m. Friday in Oxford.