Miami ends BSU’s title dreams

By DJ Powers

The clock struck twelve for college hockey’s Cinderella story as Bemidji State’s magical run came to an end at the hands of the Miami RedHawks in the first of two Frozen Four semi-final games on Thursday.

It’s unbelievable winning, first in Minnesota and then coming out here,” said Miami sophomore Carter Camper on advancing to Saturday night’s National Championship game. “To be able to play in front of 16 or 17,000 people in such a great arena and having the opportunity to play for a National Championship is something that you dream about.”

Sophomore Tommy Wingels (SJ) tallied two goals and an assist to lead Miami to the 4-1 win to advance to Saturday’s night National Championship game to face the winner of the second semi-final game between Boston University and Vermont.

I played with Vermont’s goalie Rob Madore last year and I love him to death,” Miami freshman defenseman Will Weber (CBJ) said of the possibility of facing his former teammate. “The funny thing about this is that we actually talked about this last year and kind of jokingly told each other that we would face one another in next year’s finals. (Laughs) So it’s kind of funny that we may actually get that chance. So a chance like that would be pretty cool.”

It didn’t take the RedHawks very long to establish their presence in the game. The aggressive forechecking and stifling defense that Miami is so well known for was evident throughout the game, especially in the latter two periods.

The opening stanza concluded with neither team scoring, but sophomore Matt Dalton was starting to display some of the acrobatic moves in goal that helped to get the Beavers to the Frozen Four, by making several key saves to keep Miami off of the board.

In the first period, he made some very nice saves on us,” said Miami senior Justin Mercier (COL) on facing and trying to solve Dalton. “We knew that if we played Miami hockey that we were going to keep getting chances. As long as we were able to capitalize on those chances, which is what we did, then we put ourselves in a good position to win.”

Both teams did an excellent job of pressuring the puck carriers throughout the game.

Miami would get on the board first at the 3:56 mark of the second period when Wingels launched a shot from just outside of the left faceoff circle. Dalton appeared to have been screened by fellow sophomore Andy Miele in front.

The RedHawks would extend their lead at the 8:35 mark on a two-on-one play with Wingels making a nice feed to freshman Alden Hirschfeld, who finishes the play to put the RedHawks up 2-0.

Bemidji State would answer at the 9:45 mark on the power play. With Miele off on a hooking call, the Beavers went to work. It began with a nice set up and feed by senior Matt Francis to sophomore linemate Matt Read, who was Johnny-on-the-spot to the loose puck when freshman Cody Reichard couldn’t control the puck for Miami.

Immediately after the Beavers goal, the RedHawks put the pressure back on Bemidji State, and it would pay off at the 10:46 mark when senior Bill Loupee snuck in behind Dalton on the near side and tucked in the loose puck that had bounced off of the back of Dalton’s leg pad for the score. Loupee’s tally restored Miami’s two-goal lead. Freshman Will Weber (CBJ) drew the lone assist.

About midway through the period, Miami would get into some penalty trouble, giving the suddenly surging Bemidji State power play to get going once again.

One of the Beavers’ best chances of the latter half of the second period came with just under a minute left when freshman defenseman Brad Hunt rifled a shot right into Reichard’s breadbasket. The RedHawks goalie was able to contain the shot, refusing to give up a rebound.

When we got into the playoffs, Cody really stepped it up,” Mercier commented on the post-season performance of his goaltender Cody Reichard. “He and Connor (Knapp) are definitely the biggest reason why we are where we are. You have to have spectacular goaltending to win championships and I think we have that in both Cody and Connor.”

The Beavers came out some early jump and desperation to start the third period, but Miami’s aggressive forecheck and stifling defense has proven to be quite effective throughout the game of slowing Bemidji State’s pace.

Despite having given up three goals, Dalton has been nothing short of stellar between the pipes for the Beavers.

One of the best chances for Bemidji State to cut into Miami’s lead occurred at about the three-minute mark of the period when Francis was able to go in on a partial breakaway. The RedHawks defender did a really nice job of staying with Francis and taking the puck off of his stick.

About midway through the period, Miami begins to put on some excellent sustained pressure, putting the Bemidji State on their heels a bit. In the latter stages of the period, the RedHawks continued to dominate territorially, dictating play and keeping as much of the play in the Bemidji State zone as possible.

One of Bemidji State’s best chance in the latter stages of the final period occurred at about the 16:15 mark when freshman defenseman Brad Hunt’s shot in close was stopped by Reichard amid a mass of humanity in front of the Miami net.

With roughly two minutes left in regulation time and down by a pair of goals, Bemidji State pulled Dalton for the extra attacker.

Then at the 17:52 mark, Wingels put the frosting on the cake on an empty-netter for his second tally of the game to make it 4-1 Miami. The goal came as a result of a great individual effort by Wingels when he managed to beat the Beavers defender before depositing the puck into the open net.

When the final buzzer sounded, the scene on the two benches summed it all up – the jubilant RedHawks bench and the dejected Bemidji State bench.

They had a great run there and are a great team,” said Weber (CBJ) on facing and having just defeated Bemidji State. “For us to be able to beat them was a huge confidence boost.”

We saw why they’re here and it’s not a fluke at all,” added Camper about having played Bemidji State. “They came out and they were flying. They were finishing every hit and getting opportunities. But we were able to capitalize on our chances. So it’s definitely not a fluke that they were able to make it here.”

The Miami RedHawks will make their first ever National Championship game appearance in the program’s 31-year history on Saturday night.