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College Hockey:
Western Michigan has all the answers on special teams

— When your penalty kill is ranked sixth in the nation, you can get away with undisciplined penalties in most games. That was not the case Friday as Miami got hammered in special teams and suffered a 6-2 loss to Western Michigan.

The RedHawks had a lot of confidence in their penalty kill going into the CCHA Championship semifinal, having killed 10 of the 11 power plays they faced against Michigan State in the quarterfinals.

It’s funny how things can change just in one game. The RedHawks gave up three power-play goals to the Broncos.

The RedHawks committed 11 penalties in the game, and Miami coach Enrico Blasi said Western was the better team Friday night.

“We have to be more disciplined and concentrate more on playing five-on-five,” Blasi said. “We need to change something. I’m not blaming [goaltender] Connor [Knapp] one bit.”

On the other hand, Western Michigan was ranked 19th in the nation on the power play and showed why. The Broncos got plenty of opportunities and they didn’t let the RedHawks get any kind of flow in the game. Western Michigan got out to such a good start that Blasi pulled Knapp.

Western Michigan was 3-for-5 on the power play in a sweep of Lake Superior State in the quarterfinals, giving it the league’s top postseason success rate.

Even when Western Michigan gave up a penalty, it still made the game uncomfortable for Miami as the RedHawks went 0-for-3 on the power play. On Miami’s first power play Western came out aggressive and cashed in on a short-handed chance by J.J. Crew that completely swung the momentum of the game in the Broncos’ favor.

Western Michigan coach Andy Murray said he wants his team to be a hard team to play against.

“Tonight, I thought we were kind of miserable to play against,” Murray said. “Everybody has the same mission out there. Greg [Squires] has been on a bit of a roll here and then that line with [Will] Kessel and Mike Leone have been good on the power play. It gives us two different types of power plays that we can use.”

That line for Western Michigan scored two of the three power-play goals for the Broncos. Squires and Kessel scored the goals on the power play, and they each ended up with two goals.

Western Michigan wasn’t too shabby with its penalty kill, either, completely shutting down Miami. The Broncos were tied for eighth in the nation in the penalty kill coming into the playoffs and they continued their strong play Friday night.

“Every time we got a little bit close, they did a nice job of scoring right away and really deflating us,” Blasi said. “Western Michigan deserved to win tonight.”


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