By Harrison Schwarz, Staff Writer
Winning this weekend's series meant home-ice advantage for the Miami University hockey team in the first round of the conference playoffs, but MU dropped both games, claiming the tournament No. 5 seed.
Miami (15-16-3, 9-13-2-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) fell to University of Minnesota-Duluth (15-14-5, 11-10-3-1 NCHC) 5-0 Friday night and 3-1 Saturday night in Duluth, Minn. Duluth clinched the fourth and final home-ice tournament spot with the win Friday.
"We didn't do what we went to Duluth to do," senior center and team captain Sean Kuraly said. "But the good news is we have another chance. You have to let it go and move on."
After a slow start to the season, the RedHawks put themselves in NCAA tournament contention with a strong second half, going 10-7-1. But, the only way the team will reach the NCAA tournament now is if it wins the NCHC playoffs, as all conference champions receive a bid to the national contest.
"This weekend didn't go well," head coach Rico Blasi said. "Next weekend is a new season."
The 'Hawks face UMD next weekend in Duluth the first round of the NCHC tournament.
"Our only focus right now is being the best we can be this week in practice and preparing," Kuraly said. "We are looking forward to the challenge and realize it is do or die."
UMD controlled the first game on Friday almost completely from the opening faceoff until the final whistle.
Sophomore forward Dominic Toninato scored from the top of the crease after gathering a rebound off a shot from freshman forward Adam Johnson 5:05 into the first period.
Miami's best scoring opportunity came four minutes later, when freshman right-winger Jack Roslovic forced a turnover and passed to Kuraly, whose shot from between the circles was blocked by UMD sophomore goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo.
UMD scored its next two goals in the second period and two more in the third.
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The Bulldogs outshot the RedHawks 20-9 in the last two periods and held an overall 27-20 advantage in shots on goal. Miami did not score on its lone power play, and Duluth went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
In net, senior goaltender Jay Williams stopped 19 of 22 shots. Freshman goaltender Evan McCarthy subbed in for the final 9:39 and saved three of five shots. It was McCarthy's first collegiate appearance.
Saturday's game was a more even matchup.
The Bulldogs got on the board 6:44 into the first period when senior defenseman Willie Corrin scored from the left side of the slot.
Both teams went on a scoring hiatus until 18:13 into the second period. Kuraly fed a pass to Roslovic, who was streaking down the wing and, in turn, fed freshman left-winger Kiefer Sherwood on the left side of the net. Sherwood hit a one-timer from a sharp angle into the back of the net to tie the game 1-1.
Two and a half minutes into the third period, senior forward Charlie Sampair fired a shot just inside the near post to put UMD back up, 2-1.
The 'Hawks pulled Williams from the net for a sixth skater, but the Bulldogs scored an empty-net goal with 16 seconds remaining.
Both teams totaled 21 shots on goal, and ten of Miami's shots came in the third period. The RedHawks went 0-for-3 on the power play while killing off both Bulldog man advantages. Williams made 18 saves.
MU and UMD meet in a best-of-three NCHC playoff series next weekend in Duluth.