DETROIT — The Miami RedHawks’ offense proved to be too much for a fatigued Northern Michigan team, taking a two-goal lead in the first and beating NMU 4-0 to win the third-place game of the CCHA Super Six at Joe Louis Arena.
The game was important for Miami (23-13-4) from an NCAA standpoint, allowing the RedHawks a tuneup for their first NCAA appearance since 1997 and preventing any substantial drop in the PairWise Rankings.
“I think it gave us some momentum [for the national tournament],” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi. “Obviously, a disappointing loss last night in overtime, but we came out and executed today. We played hard against a team that played hard. [NMU] came after us and our guys responded.
“Brandon Crawford-West played well in net. We had some guys that scored some goals. Hogeboom and Kompon played well again. Our defensemen played pretty good. I think we’ll carry some momentum into next week.”
The road-weary Wildcats, coming off a trip to Fairbanks last week, played their third game in three days and appeared to have little gas in the tank.
“Our guys were playing for pride,” said NMU head coach Walt Kyle. “We’ve spent one night in our own bed in the last 12 [and] we were very tired. We also played tonight’s game without [Nathan] Oystrick and [John] Miller, two of our defensemen. And for nothing, too. [The third game] is a brutal game to play.”
Andy Greene had the game-winning goal and an assist, and Matt Christie had two helpers of his own. Four different RedHawks contributed to the goal production.
“It’s a great comeback after a loss last night,” said Greene. “We still have a chance to go to the NCAA tournament, so we wanted to make sure that we came out and put our best game on.”
It didn’t take long for the RedHawks to jump out in front. Greene opened the scoring at the 3:11 mark of the first by jamming a shot through the legs of NMU netminder Tuomas Tarkki for the 1-0 lead. Andy Nelson assisted on the play.
“Andy gave me a great pass. I was streaking in and just shot it. I don’t know if it went straight in or I knocked the goalie in, but I’ll take them when I get them.”
The RedHawks made it 2-0 at 8:16 of the period. After a turnover in the neutral zone, Nelson skated in on goal, draped by a defender, and wristed a shot past Tarkki, with Greene earning his assist.
Miami outshot the Wildcats 18-7 in the opening stanza.
The RedHawks increased their lead to three goals at 8:27 of the second. Sophomore Taylor Hustead blasted a shot off Tarkki from the top of the right circle, and Todd Grant picked up the rebound for his 15th goal of the season.
Greg Hogeboom’s 19th goal of the season brought the final score to 4-0 at 15:22 in the second.
Brandon Crawford-West made a shutout-saving stop with 40.9 left in the contest, after which a brief scrum ensued. Crawford-West finished the game with 24 saves for his third shutout of the season. Miami outshot NMU 41-24.
The lone bright spot for the Wildcats was the brief appearance of Craig Kowalski at the beginning of the game, which allowed him to become the all-time leader among goaltenders in games played at NMU with 132. Kowalski appeared in the first 15 seconds of the game to break the record.
“He deserves to hold the record,” said Kyle. “I wanted him to have it.”
When asked if Kyle had to talk him into the game in order to set the record, Kowalski replied, “Yeah, he did.”
Neither team was effective on the power play, with both teams being held scoreless in six chances each.
The Wildcats end their season with a record of 21-16-4.