The NCHC's last seed in the playoffs isn't ready to go home just yet. Blake Coleman continued his impressive play since returning from injury late in the season and goalie Ryan McKay was rock solid, leading Miami to a 3-0 win over North Dakota in the semifinals of the NCHC Frozen Face-off. The RedHawks will advance to the Frozen Face-off championship game tomorrow evening to face Denver, with the winner advancing to the NCAA tournament, and the loser ending their season.
Coleman got the scoring started for Miami at 11:24 of the first period when he picked up the puck off a turnover in the North Dakota zone and fired a spinning shot past Zane Gothberg. Miami held that 1-0 lead until late in the second period when Austin Czarnik's wrist shot with 26.6 remaining gave Miami a 2-0 lead. Anthony Louis would add a third goal in the final period, and despite some heavy North Dakota pressure, including playing the final 4:30 without a goalie, North Dakota could not get a puck past McKay to get on the scoreboard.
McKay finished the evening with 32 saves for the shutout, and got some help when North Dakota missed the net on a few shots they would surely like back.
North Dakota's loss, combined with wins by Ohio State, New Hampshire, and Colgate elsewhere around the country, take North Dakota's destiny out of their hands in regards to the NCAA tournament. North Dakota needs a win in the third place game tomorrow against Western Michigan to have any sort of shot, and then would need help with a few other positive results around the country to continue their season.
Meanwhile, after a disappointing season with a last place conference finish, Miami looks to be one of the hottest teams in the country, rolling off a pair of wins against the NCHC regular season champion last weekend on the road, and then dominating second place North Dakota in what was essentially a North Dakota home game.
11:24- Blake Coleman from Matthew Caito 1-0 Miami
Caito made a nice play to hold the puck in the North Dakota zone at the blue line and chipped the puck forward to Coleman, who fired a spinning shot that beat Zane Gothberg.
19:33- Austin Czarnik from Blake Coleman 2-0 Miami
Off a face-off in the North Dakota zone, Coleman won a puck cleanly back to Czarnik who fired a high wrist shot over the blocker of Gothberg for the goal.
Anthony Louis from Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly 3-0 Miami
Barber fed the puck out of the corner to Louis in the slot. Louis fired a wrist shot over the glove of Gothberg.
- North Dakota could get nothing going offensively tonight. Looking at the shot charts, this game reminds me a lot of the last North Dakota game I covered, when they lost at St. Cloud. North Dakota was largely held to the perimeter. In the final two periods, North Dakota attempted 46 shots. 41 of those shots came on the perimeter, and just five came inside the prime scoring area. That's simply not going to work against a goalie that was locked in like Ryan McKay was tonight. North Dakota tried to rattle him a little by getting traffic to the front of the net, and being physical with McKay when possible, but it didn't do much good.
-North Dakota's best chance of the night, which ended up being a real game-changer came in the second period when Drake Caggiula found Mark McMillan on a 3-on-2 rush, and McMillan put the puck off the post with a gaping net to shoot at. CJ Fogler has a Gif of the play:
That would have tied the game at one, and really changed the tenor of the game. As it was, North Dakota couldn't really get anything going on Miami's defense.
-The other big turning point came late in the second period. Miami was content to take a 1-0 lead to the locker room in the final minute of the second period, with their third line on the ice. But when North Dakota iced the puck with under 30 seconds left in the period, Miami put their top line back out on the ice, and with that extra opportunity, Blake Coleman won a face-off back to Austin Czarnik who fired a shot over Zane Gothberg's shoulder to take a big 2-0 lead. Miami had been very strong on faceoffs in the offensive zone in that second period, and was finally able to make North Dakota pay for one.
-With Blake Coleman back in the lineup, Miami's top two lines are starting to look as dangerous as any top two lines in college hockey. If they pull off one more upset tomorrow night against Denver, they are going to be one very scary fourth seed to play against in the NCAA tournament.