By John Lachmann
Miami's hopes for a second Mason Cup in the final season of the CCHA were dashed in an 8:07 span of the second period.
Michigan scored four times in that timeframe, including three goals in just 2:11 as the Wolverines beat Miami, 6-2 in a CCHA Tournament semifinal at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday.
The first period was scoreless with both teams generating eight shots and both hitting a post.
But Michigan's Andrew Copp took a feed from Kevin Lynch on a shorthanded 2-on-1 break and pitchforked the puck through the five hole of Miami freshman goalie Ryan McKay in the fourth minute of the second period.
The game fell apart for Miami midway through that stanza.
With 10:38 remaining in that frame, Copp slammed home a one-time pass from defenseman Jacob Trouba at the side of net to make it 2-0.
Luke Moffatt skated between the faceoff circles and ripped home a feed from A.J. Treais 1:28 later.
Then Alex Guptill slid a pass through the top of the crease to Treais, who buried a wrister 43 seconds after the third goal to extend the lead to four.
McKay was lifted in favor of freshman Jay Williams, and Miami seemed to settle down.
The RedHawks trimmed the lead to three when sophomore forward Austin Czarnik won an offensive zone faceoff and slipped a later pass through the crease to freshman forward Sean Kuraly, who poked it home with 2:46 remaining in Miami's nightmare period.
But Guptill made it 5-1 when he took a pass at the edge of the faceoff circle, knocked it up from his skate to hit stick and batted it past Williams on the power play 55 seconds into the final period.
RedHawks senior forward Curtis McKenzie made a great move to backhand the puck past Wolverines goalie Steve Racine off a backhand pass from Czarnik from the corner, but Guptill scored again, tipping home a puck that hit the skate of Kevin Lynch with 7:46 remaining.
Miami finishes 0-6 vs. Michigan all-time in the CCHA Tournament and will await Sunday night's selection show to see who, when and where it will play in the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan will face Notre Dame in the title game on Sunday, needing to win to get into the tournament.
The RedHawks had not allowed more than four goals in any game this season, and the last time they allowed six goals was – coincidentally – in the CCHA semifinal last season vs. Western Michigan at Joe Louis Arena.
McKay stopped 12-of-16 shots and Williams was 9-for-11.
Czarnik finished with two assists, giving him five points in his last three games.
Guptill tallied two goals and an assist, Copp scored two goals and Lynch picked up three helpers.
ANALYSIS: For the second straight season Miami was blown out in this round of the CCHAs, coming off it lone Mason Cup in 2011.
It really appears that scouting is catching up to the RedHawks defensively, and they must make adjustments if they want to succeed in the NCAA Tournament.
After playing tight defense pretty much all season, opponents have found it way too easy to find open players to pass to in the offensive zone in recent weeks, starting with the series opener vs. Ohio State.
Miami coach Enrico Blasi has done a fantastic job of turning a group of 18 freshmen and sophomores into a national contender, but this will be a difficult week for his staff because clearly opponents have figured out a way to solve the RedHawks' previously impenetrable defensive corps.
It's not like Miami will be playing any more bottom dwellers the rest of this season, so pure skill and speed won't be enough to win games if its D gives teams open lanes regularly in the offensive zone.
And Coach Enrico Blasi should've called time out after the third goal. Would it have made a difference in the outcome? Probably not, but everyone watching the game knew who was going to score the next goal. Pulling McKay after the fourth was the right move, although it had to be more to send a message to the team than a comment on his netminding.
Blasi has been reluctant to call his time out in big games in the past, and especially with a young team like this one, sometimes the game needs to be slowed down.
On the first goal—It was written here last week as well: Freshman forward Alex Gacek is fun to watch, has lots of speed and should be an excellent offensive contributor the next three-plus years, but he should not be essentially the second defenseman on the power play at this point.
Miami gave up a shorthanded goal vs. Michigan State because he turned the puck over at the blue line, and Saturday he was at the top of the faceoff circle while senior defenseman Steven Spinell had no one to pass to and Michigan cut off his lanes.
Spinell – who does deserve some blame on this goal – had
his wrister toward the net blocked, and the extra forward jumped up and had Gacek beaten by a mile.
On the second goal—Copp was wide open at the side of the net. Miami freshman defenseman Matthew Caito hit him hard as he entered the zone, but after the hit everyone followed the puck toward the middle of the ice and forgot about Copp.
That could've been Caito's assignment initially (he's the left D), but it's unclear if someone else was supposed to pick him up. Spinell and Caito were talking to each other after the puck went in.
On the third goal—It looked like senior defenseman Garrett Kennedy sprawled out to try to knock the puck away from Treais but missed, and he hit Moffatt in stride. Czarnik was a step behind Moffatt as he skated through the middle.
On the fourth goal—Freshman Chris Joyaux got beaten by Guptill, creating a 2-on-1 and a high-percentage wrister that obviously went in.
On the fifth goal—It was a remarkable power play goal and Kennedy couldn't get in front of Guptill in time.
On the sixth goal—Again, Lynch was left wide open. Joyaux was skating up ice and Lynch snuck in behind him, had the puck hit his skate and Guptill knocked it in. A little unlucky for Miami but when you leave guys open that close bad things happen.
The positives? Kuraly has really stepped his game up and is hopefully giving a glimpse of what we're going to see for the rest of his Miami career.
Czarnik was more aggressive on faceoffs. He has struggled in the circle this season but he got kicked out a couple of times and other times just powered his way past the opposing center with momentum and the puck.
Oh yeah, and no more Joe Louis Arena. The folks there have always been nice there but the location is obviously a huge home-ice advantage for the Michigan teams and Miami always seems to have bad things happen there, with the exception of 2011.
FORWARDS: C. Miami outshot Michigan, 35-27 and hung with the Wolverines in terms of puck possession in the zone most of the game, an area U-M usually dominates in these matchups.
McKenzie took a bad penalty but he also scored a sweet goal, so that cancels out the minor.
Overall Czarnik played a great game and was arguably the best RedHawk on the ice.
DEFENSEMEN: F. This was the worst game this unit has played all season by far. The specifics were pretty much outlined above.
GOALTENDING: C-. Maybe this is a generous mark, but there's not one goal one could point to and say "that's McKay's/Williams' fault".
McKay had zero chance on two goals, and he could've smelled Copp's breath when he scored the first goal through the five hole with no other white sweaters in sight.
It would've taken a remarkable save to stop the pass through the top of the crease wrister.
And McKay made some good saves in the first period.
Williams really didn't do anything wrong on either of his. The first was on an amazing shot and the second one hit the skate of a wide-open player and caromed to a teammate. Pretty unlucky for the goalie.
LINEUP CHANGES: Maybe, just maybe, one could make the case that McKay was a little tired after playing 3-in-3 last weekend, but he'll have a week to rest after playing just half of a game this weekend and should be between the pipes in the NCAAs.
Sophomore forward Blake Coleman did return from his day-to-day lower body injury. His lower body appeared to just fine in this game. Junior Bryon Paulazzo was scratched after filling in for Coleman last Saturday and Sunday vs. Michigan State.