By Harrison Schwarz, Staff Writer
The RedHawks will have to wait until next season to get back to the NCAA tournament.
The Miami University hockey team's season came to an end after suffering a sweep to No. 20 University of Minnesota-Duluth (17-14-5, 11-10-3 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) in the first round of the NCHC Tournament. In the best-of-three series, the Red and White lost Friday's game 5-4 and lost Saturday's game 3-1.
Head coach Rico Blasi said he is disappointed for the departing seniors, but knows every season can't be great.
"We didn't play our best hockey," Blasi said. "Duluth played well and executed on their chances. Disappointing - no doubt about it. We all take responsibility for it. [It's] not the Miami hockey standard, and it starts with me. I can assure you the commitment level will be renewed. For our seniors, I'm proud of them. Two championships in four years - that's pretty good."
After winning the NCHC postseason title and earning a first seed in the Frozen Four Playoffs during the 2014-2015 season, Miami (15-18-3, 9-13-2 NCHC) underperformed this year.
"Obviously, we are extremely disappointed," team captain and senior forward Sean Kuraly said. "That goes without saying. We fell short of the standard that has been set before us and what we have worked to uphold for the last four years. Give credit to Duluth. They are playing their best hockey at the right time."
The 'Hawks missed a big opportunity in the first game by not taking advantage of a 4-2 lead at the end of the second period.
The Bulldogs were first on the board, taking a 1-0 lead just 4:32 into the game. MU freshman forward Zach LaValle tied the game up at 1-1 after scoring from a sharp angle below the right circle 12:18 into the first period.
With another UMD goal in between, Miami scored three goals in the second period. Freshman forward Ryan Siroky scored on a turnover 4:11 into the period, junior forward Anthony Louis scored on a breakaway 10:17 into the second and sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio scored 3:01 later on the power play to make the game 4-2.
After a UMD power play goal, the Bulldogs retook the lead 12:29 into the final stanza. Matching minors at the 11:55 mark led to 4-on-4 hockey, and UMD's Carson Saucy scored his team's fifth goal in transition.
In the second game, the Bulldogs took control from the start, scoring the first three goals.
The RedHawks generated just 16 shots on goal on the night, and their only goal came with 2:48 left in regulation. After a 2-on-1 rush, freshman forward Jack Roslovic fed senior forward Kevin Morris for a back door goal.
Though the Brotherhood underperformed this season, the team hopes the experience will allow younger players to learn and grow. Freshmen skaters accounted for 36 percent of the team's overall points.
"I'm proud of the all the work and resilience we showed in the second half of a tough season. It just ended up not being enough," Kuraly said. "I know this year will make for an even stronger Miami hockey team next season."