FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Was it just a matter of spending too much time in the penalty box, or was this game a lesson in how statistics can be deceiving?
No. 1 Miami, dominant in so many ways this season, has not threatened much on the power play in the second half of the season. Alabama-Huntsville, the No. 16 seed overall in this year’s field, had the fourth-best penalty kill in the nation coming into the Midwest Regional.
Yet, the RedHawks beat the Chargers 2-1 in the Midwest Regional semifinals with two power-play markers.
“I’m not a big believer in statistics,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “That’s for you guys to figure out. What we care about is timely goals. Tonight, we had two power-play goals, and that’s the difference in the game.”
Coming into Saturday’s game Miami had the eighth-best offense in the country, averaging 3.44 goals per game. The RedHawks power play, however, was the 36th-best man advantage in the nation, converting at just 17.1 percent and keeping company with the likes of Minnesota, Dartmouth, Ohio State — teams that did not make it into this year’s NCAA tournament.
Since the start of the calendar year, the RedHawks have seriously struggled with the extra man, converting at just 14.2 percent (18-of-127).
Conversely, the Chargers had the 18th-best defense in the nation, allowing 2.72 goals per game, but UAH had the fourth-best penalty kill in the nation (.871), in large part because of the play of junior goaltender Cameron Talbot and his seventh-best .927 save percentage.
Even with the PK odds in Huntsville’s favor, giving the RedHawks nine tries with the man advantage was pressing the proverbial luck.
“When we weren’t good out there, it was because of them,” UAH coach Danton Cole said. “Nine power plays isn’t what we drew up there. They’re dangerous and they do good things and they keep putting the puck at the net and they keep coming at you.
“If they keep getting on the wrong side of us and we take some penalties, it’s to their credit. We didn’t want to get into a nine-power play game.”
With four penalty kills in the first period, the Chargers found themselves having to rotate guys into the PK that they’d reserve for other roles. The result for UAH was a bench that looked a step behind for long stretches of the game.
“We had to run [Andrew] Coburn and [Mattie] Jarvinen and some power-play and offensive guys out there a little bit too much in that situation,” said Cole.
For the RedHawks, it wasn’t just a matter of capitalizing twice on the power play to win the game; it was who scored that mattered. Freshman Curtis McKenzie’s goal to open the scoring for Miami was his first power-play tally of the year. Sophomore Cameron Schilling’s game-winner was his second PP goal.
“We have a lot of skill on our power play and there are guys who are not on the power play who can be on the power play,” said Blasi. “It’s just a matter of executing and being ready to go.
“This time of the year, when you’re going hard to the net, good things will happen. It’s a fortunate bounce for us.”
That Miami didn’t score five-on-five in this contest was another statistical anomaly. The last game in which the only RedHawks scoring came in the power play was a 1-1 tie with Alaska Jan. 22.
“Alabama played hard the whole night and they’re good defensively and blocked a lot of shots,” said McKenzie. “On the power play we were able to execute where we didn’t have that success five-on-five that we’d like to.”
Then there’s that pesky stat that puts Miami near the top of the nation in another category: penalty minutes. Coming into Saturday’s game, the RedHawks were second in the nation in PIMs, averaging 19.9 per game. Huntsville was 41st, averaging 12.7 minutes per game.
Saturday, Miami had 12 minutes to Alabama-Huntsville’s 20.