Photo by Lauren Olsen, Photography Editor
By Grace Remington, Staff Writer
Western Michigan University's five-goal second period gave the Broncos another chance at continuing their postseason hopes after taking game two of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament quarterfinals Saturday night. WMU downed Miami 7-5 to force a deciding third game in this weekend's best-of-three series.
"They executed better than we did tonight," head coach Enrico Blasi said. "We gave them some pretty good chances and they capitalized on it. That's the story of the game."
The RedHawks came out strong in the first period, outshooting WMU 15-7. It marked the first time in four games Miami had outshot an opponent in the first frame.
Like Friday night, the 'Hawks were the first on the board after a goal from junior right winger Riley Barber 2:24 into the game. Freshman forward Frederik Tiffels responded at the 12:11 mark with a shorthanded goal on a one-on-one breakaway to tie the contest at 1-1.
WMU took the lead less than two minutes into the second frame with another Tiffels score. Junior forward Nolan LaPorte struck less than a minute later to extend the Broncos' lead to 3-1.
Miami and Western Michigan traded strikes for the remainder of the period. Senior center Austin Czarnik began the back-and-forth play on a power play slap shot at the 8:28 mark. WMU responded a little over a minute later when junior forward Colton Hargrove fought through a scramble near the net and tapped the puck past MU junior goaltender Ryan McKay. Czarnik struck next, prompting a WMU goalie change. Junior Lukas Hafner was pulled from the Bronco net in favor of senior Frank Slubowski.
Sophomore forward Kyle Novak put WMU on the board again with a power play goal at the 14:46 mark. It was then Miami's turn for a goalie switch, as junior Jay Williams subbed in for McKay. Sophomore defenseman Chris Deines closed out the middle stanza with a tally that gave the Broncos a 6-3 lead.
"We started off the game well," Blasi said. "But then we didn't manage the puck well and gave them an opportunity to get back in the game. Give them credit. I thought they outplayed us in terms of executing, making plays around the net and finishing off on their chances. We didn't do that."
The RedHawks opted to pull Williams for a sixth skater with over four minutes left in the final period. The effort proved fruitful, as junior forward Sean Kuraly and senior forward Blake Coleman each added a goal to cut the deficit to 6-5 with 23 seconds remaining. However, senior forward Will Kessel sealed the victory for the Broncos on an empty net goal.
Coleman's one goal and one assist on the night make him the 50th player in Miami history to reach 100 career points.
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MU outshot WMU 49-25 overall. The RedHawks were 1 for 5 on the power play, while the Broncos were 1 for 4 on theirs.
"Their defensemen did a good job keeping us to the outside," Blasi said. "We didn't really get second chances. Their goaltender played well when we did have clear-cut shots on net. Whoever was in net for them made the big save."
The winner-take-all game is set for 7:05 p.m. Sunday in Steve "Coach" Cady Arena.
"It's game seven tomorrow," Blasi said. "Just like when you were a little kid, you go out and play and see what happens."