Miami blanks N. Dakota in NCHC semifinal

RedHawks to face Denver in conference final

By John Lachmann
Twitter: @rednblackhawks

MINNEAPOLIS – The last time Miami and North Dakota played, UND scored nine times in the most lopsided loss the RedHawks have suffered under Coach Enrico Blasi.

On Friday, Miami held North Dakota scoreless for its first shutout since Nov. 15 in 3-0 win over UND in a semifinal of the inaugural Frozen Faceoff at Target Center on Friday.

The win extends RedHawks’ improbable run in the NCHC Tournament and could ruin North Dakota’s chances of advancing.

That’s significant because North Dakota (22-13-3) has qualified for the NCAA Tournament 11 times, tops in Division I, and Miami is second with eight straight berths.

Junior forward Blake Coleman was injured during the series in Grand Forks and said that was not a major motivational factor in this game.

"(That game) wasn't something we talked about much," Coleman said. "We just weren't focused on the process, and games happen like that. That was a low point, but obviously the way we've responded has been incredible."

And this was just the second time in school history the RedHawks beat UND. North Dakota held a 5-1-1 all-time advantage over Miami and won three of four this regular season. The RedHawks won at Cady Arena, 6-2 on Oct. 19.

Coleman opened the scoring when he whipped a wrist shot through the glove of North Dakota goalie off a feed by sophomore defenseman Matthew Caito.

UND had its chances in the first period, firing 14 shots on goal compared to eight for the RedHawks, but sophomore goalie Ryan McKay stopped them all, including a point-blank one-timer off a feed from behind the net to the slot.

Scoring chances were limited for both teams in the second period, but Miami junior center Austin Czarnik snapped a wrister just under the crossbar on an offensive zone faceoff win from Coleman with 27 seconds remaining.

A centering feed from behind the net by sophomore forward Riley Barber to forward Anthony Louis found the freshman alone in the slot, and he wristed it home with 13:47 remaining to make it 3-0.

McKay finished with 32 saves en route to collecting his fourth shutout of the season, but he gave the credit for his strong play to his team.

"You've got to realize it's a team game and what they do in front of me is just as important as what I do," McKay said.

It was McKay's sixth straight game between the pipes for the RedHawks. In a season that has seen him struggle at times, McKay looked more composed in Miami's series-clinching game at St. Cloud State than he had in a long time and he carried that momentum with him in this game.

"I think when McKay's on, you can hear him barking, and he was barking again tonight," Blasi said. "Most of the time we have no idea what he's saying, but he's barking, so that means he's in the game and that puts everybody else at attention as well."

Coleman finished with a goal and an assist and was the only Miami player with multiple points. He has nine goals and two helpers in nine games since returning from an upper-body injury.

"He's a key part of out offense, which you saw tonight obviously, so getting him back -- everyone was really exciting for him to come back -- and he's a big boost for our team and we need him," Czarnik said.

The RedHawks (15-19-3) will face sixth-seeded Denver in the title game at 8:38 p.m. on Saturday. The winner clinches a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The teams split their season series, 2-2 with each team going 1-1 in its home rink.

Even with Miami riding a season-best four-game winning streak, the RedHawks must win Saturday to earn a spot in the NCAAs.

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