By John Lachmann
DETROIT – During its eight-game winning streak, Miami had allowed a total of five goals.
But the RedHawks surrendered six in their CCHA Tournament semifinal at Joe Louis Arena, a 6-2 loss to Western Michigan on Friday.
It was Miami’s second-ever loss to WMU in the conference tournament, and the RedHawks’ eight-game winning streak was snapped.
Western Michigan scored three power play goals and another shorthanded, and the Broncos’ fifth goal came five seconds after a Miami penalty had expired.
Three power play goals equaled the most the RedHawks have allowed in a game this season. Northern Michigan also tallied three goals on the man advantage in 12 chances on Dec. 3.
WMU’s Greg Squires scored on a 3-on-1 just under eight minutes into the game, and the Broncos made it 2-0 when J.J. Crew went in alone on Miami senior goalie Connor Knapp shorthanded and beat him on the glove side with 2:40 left in the opening period.
But Miami answered 50 seconds later as senior defenseman Chris Wideman wristed a puck that was tipped into the net by junior forward Reilly Smith to cut the deficit to one.
Squires was left alone in front of the net for a power play goal just 2:07 into the second period that he roofed on a sprawling Knapp off a rebound shot to make it 3-1.
A shot by Western Michigan’s Luke Witkowski hit the stick of teammate Will Kessel and beat Knapp on the blocker side to give the Broncos a three-goal lead with 10:13 remaining in the middle stanza.
Smith scored again when senior defenseman Cameron Schilling skated behind the WMU net and fed a pass through the crease to Smith for a shorthanded one-timer with 9:14 left in the third period to give Miami life.
But Kessel snapped a one-timer from Justin Kovacs by Reichard from in front of the net 29 seconds later to re-establish the Broncos’ three-goal lead.
WMU iced the game less than three minutes later on a one-timer by Matt Tennyson.
It was the most goals Miami has allowed this season and the highest total surrendered since Jan. 21, 2011.
Kessel finished with two goals and an assist, and Squires also netted two goals. Squires had six goals this season entering Friday and Kessel four.
Miami, which is currently tied for eighth in the PairWise with Denver and Boston University, will play Bowling Green in the third-place game at 3:30 on Saturday.
ANALYSIS: It seemed like everything that Miami had done wrong in the first half of the season resurfaced on Friday.
The RedHawks’ goaltending was suspect, the defense committed countless turnovers and did not play their positions, several players took dumb, undisciplined penalties and the offense did not create enough scoring chances.
On WMU’s first goal, Wideman made a bad play along the boards, which was compounded by freshman forward Blake Coleman jumping off the boards and heading the wrong way and junior Curtis McKenzie not skating back to play defense, creating a 3-on-1.
On the Broncos’ second goal, a Western Michigan clearing attempt took a high hop over RedHawks senior defenseman Cameron Schilling, and while it would have been a tough play for Schilling to keep it in, it was still very possible for a blue liner being heavily scouted by the pros.
Smith’s goal that made it 2-1 was unbelievable. Wideman’s pass to him was not the greatest, but Smith was still able to redirect to puck to keep Miami in the game, albeit briefly.
All four Miami penalty killers – seniors Patrick Tiesling, Matt Tomassoni, Will Weber and junior Stephen Spinell – were within three feet of each other on the side of the net when Squires made it 3-1. Knapp made his job easier by diving at the puck, giving Squires the entire net to shoot at.
And the RedHawks did not adequately defend the lane when Kessel tipped home his second goal of the night.
The fifth goal has to be credited to Kovacs and Kessel. Miami senior Trent Vogelhuber had Kessel guarded, but Kovacs made an excellent pass and Kessel was somehow able to get the one-timer pass Reichard.
Reichard was a bit slow reacting on the sixth WMU goal, which came on the power play.
Miami was a bit undisciplined and was outplayed by Western Michigan overall, but for referees Mark Wilkins and Brian Aaron to allow Western Michigan eight straight power plays to finish the game, including two minute-plus 5-on-3s, is beyond comprehension.
This is the paragraph when I say that Western Michigan was the better team on Friday. Clearly. The Broncos deserved to win. It wasn’t even close.
That said, the fact that these two are allowed to officiate a CCHA semifinal is laughable. This pair has absolutely no idea how to call a game of this magnitude, and proved that yet again on Friday.
Miami freshman Jimmy Mullin was sticked in the throat in the final seconds of the first period, yet all four officials chose to ignore that. Tomassoni’s penalty for hitting a player in the neutral zone in just baffling, as he had just gotten rid of the puck and the senior laid into him with his