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NCHC Frozen Face Off: Miami Denver

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Matt Christians

Miami's speed and transition game was too much for Denver's defense to handle as the RedHawks got goals from six different players en route to a 6-3 win over the Pioneers in the semifinals of the NCHC Frozen Face Off.

Riley Barber opened the scoring at 14:15 of the first period with a 2-on-1 goal in transition. Will Butcher evened the score for Denver a minute and a half later when his shot through traffic beat a screened Jay Williams for the goal. But Miami would continue to use their speed to pour the pressure on Denver, getting a goal from Anthony Louis to close out the first period, then getting second period goals from Cody Murphy and Austin Czarnik to extend their lead to 4-1.

Denver would cut it to a one-goal game in the third period, but a sweet move by Anthony Louis to set up Louie Belpedio for a goal to give Miami some insurance. Alex Gacek tacked on an empty-netter to bring the game to its' final score.

Miami advances to tomorrow evening's championship game against St. Cloud State, while Denver will play North Dakota in tomorrow afternoon's consolation game.

Fancy Stats

Shots on goal: MU: 16-5-8-29   DU: 8-10-7-25

Even strength shot attempts: MU: 21-12-11-44    DU: 14-16-17-47

Prime scoring area chances:  MU: 5- 7-7-19   DU: 8-7-8-23

What do the numbers tell us?

Not enough. The possession stats look fairly equal, but what they don't show is the high quality of some of Miami's scoring chances off the numerous odd-man rushes they created tonight. Denver gave up way too many 2-on-1s and that ended up being the difference in the game.

Game Notes:

-Miami's speed in transition was a problem for Denver all night. They capitalized on turnovers at their own blue line and turned them into quality scoring chances the other way. Denver doesn't have a very physical defense to begin with, and they got caught taking some chances on the offensive end that turned into breaks going the other way for Miami. Miami is a team built to take advantage of mistakes like that.

-What a tremendous effort by Blake Coleman on the backcheck on Miami's third goal. Denver had a great 4-on-2 scoring chance where they maybe overpassed the puck, and Coleman got back, knocked the puck away, and created a two-on-one the other way to set-up a goal.

-I still question if Joey LaLeggia is 100% after a lower body injury held him out of Denver's final regular season game. It was a very rough night for the Hobey Baker finalist on the defensive end, and with literally nothing to play for tomorrow afternoon, it will be interesting to see if he takes the day off to get ready for the NCAA tournament.

-Denver has gone with a two-goalie platoon for most of the season alternating Evan Cowley and Tanner Jaillet. Cowley got the start tonight but gave up three goals and was pulled in favor of Jaillet. None of the three were soft goals, but at some point, you'd like to see your goalie make a big save to bail your team out of a mistake once in a while. Jaillet came in and was solid in relief, including making a couple saves in the third period to keep the game close. Jaillet might have the inside track on starting Denver's NCAA Tournament game.

-Intensity was fairly low in this game with not much fan support for either side and the building attendance gradually shrinking as the game progressed. Kind of an odd situation to play in, but credit to Miami for winding a way to have their jump tonight. Both teams looked worthy of their top-10 rankings tonight and should be contenders next week in the NCAA Tournament.

Final Scoring

First Period

14:15 Riley Barber from Matthew Caito (4-on-4) 1-0 Miami

Joyaux forced a turnover in the Miami end and passed the puck to Barber who had a two-on-one from his own blue line in. Coming down the right wing, Barber slowed up at the hash marks and cut towards the center of the ice. Cowley got a piece of his high wrist shot, but not enough as it deflected into the net.

17:27 Will Butcher from Josiah Didier 1-1 tie

Butcher took a slap shot from the right point through heavy traffic that went into the net. No chance for goalie Jay Williams, who never saw the puck as it entered the net.

18:59 Anthony Louis from Austin Czarnik and Matthew Caito 2-1 Miami

Louis entered the Denver zone on the left wing at full speed. He skated around a Denver defender cleanly and cut to the front of the net where he slipped the puck between the legs of Cowley.

Second Period

4:53 Cody Murphy from Blake Coleman 3-1 Miami

Denver had a 4-on-2 in the Miami end, but Coleman made a tremendous effort on the backcheck to break up the play. He got the puck up to Murphy who counter-attacked with a 2-on-1. Murphy kept the puck on the left wing and fired a low wrist shot to the glove side of Cowley for the goal.

18:26 Austin Czarnik from Kevin Morris 4-1 Miami

Czarnik won the puck at the right boards and skated the puck out to the hash marks, then took it back towards the goal line and towards the net, where he put it in. You need the video to get full appreciation.

18:52 Dan Doremus unassisted (power play) 4-2 Miami

Dan Doremus found a loose puck in front of the net. He jabbed at it once and Williams made the save, but got his own rebound and put it back into the net for the goal.

Third Period

6:05 Trevor Moore from Danton Heinen and Dan Doremus 4-3 Miami

Doremus won the puck behind the net and passed it out to Heinen in front of the net. Heinen passed on an open shot and instead opted to slide the puck over to Moore for an easy goal into the open net.

9:38 Louie Belpedio from Anthony Louis and Kevin Morris 5-3 Miami

Belpedio made a nice deke around a Denver defender at the top of the right circle, skated towards the goal line then fired a blind backhand pass across the ice to Louie Belpedio who was wide open for the one-time goal.