DAYTON, Ohio — Although the Lefty McFadden Invitational was not a tournament set up to produce a winner, Miami would be the unofficial champion.
One night after defeating Boston University, the RedHawks faced off against Northeastern, which unexpectedly upset preseason No. 1 Michigan the night before. This produced a pair of first-game winners in Saturday’s nightcap, and only one would emerge from the weekend undefeated in Dayton.
Although the score didn’t reflect the closeness of the game, Miami pulled off the feat, beating Northeastern 6-2 in front of 2,209 at the Nutter Center.
RedHawk captain Andy Greene had a pair of goals, including a last-minute empty-netter. Marty Guerin and Geoff Smith each notched a goal and an assist for the RedHawks, and Brandon Crawford-West made 39 saves. Mike Morris and Yale Lewis scored third-period goals for the Huskies, who outshot Miami by a whopping 41-22 margin.
Along with good goaltending, the difference appeared to be special teams. Northeastern was blanked on 10 power plays, while Miami went three-for-seven — marking the second game in a row in which the ‘Hawks scored three power-play goals.
“I thought Brandon Crawford-West played extremely well all weekend long, and that gave us confidence — especially in the early going tonight,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “Our specialty teams played a big part as well. We were able to execute, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue that.”
“We had a lot of chances,” Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder said. “Their kid played well in net. We had trouble stopping their power play, and we knew they had a good power play. We just didn’t execute like we could’ve. A couple of times we couldn’t get it out, and all of a sudden that’s a little bit of a kiss of death.
“It was just one of those deals where we were just a second or two slow tonight, whether guys were trying to one-time it on the power play or get quick passes. I think we could’ve played better tonight, but I’m excited about this team, and it was a good weekend for us.”
Northeastern dominated the first period — outshooting Miami 16-5 — but still found itself down 2-0. The Huskies had a great chance at the three-minute mark when Carter Lee — playing his first collegiate shift — set up winger Jonathan Koop, but Crawford-West sprawled face-first, spreading his pads to make the save.
After a few more Husky bids, the RedHawks took the lead at 7:48 on their first power play. Controlling the puck in the NU zone, the Miami power-play unit finally got the puck to Marty Guerin high in the slot. His low shot beat Husky sophomore goalie Adam Geragosian, who was given the starting nod after playing just one game during his freshman season.
“We’ve got to see what he can do,” Crowder said of Geragosian. “I thought for the most part he was steady. I thought he was hung out to dry a few times by our defense. He should be happy with the effort he had tonight, and I think he’s going to get better … But Keni [Gibson] is our guy.”
Northeastern’s top line of Jason Guerriero, Mike Morris, and Ray Ortiz dominated territorially during the period but couldn’t convert. Then Miami’s second power play led to its second goal. In the right-wing faceoff circle, Geoff Smith made a nice move, faking a shot to make defenseman Tim Judy go to his knees to block, setting the stage for the second goal.
“It was an umbrella play,” Smith said. “Ganzak threw me the pass, and I kind of faked the slapshot and went around the guy. Then Hustead was just sitting out front, so I gave it to him, and he put it upstairs.
The RedHawk defense continued to be tested in the second period, when Northeastern wound up with a lengthy five-on-three advantage in the early minutes. Employing a bend-but-don’t-break mindset, Miami managed to kill off the power plays despite spending much of the time in its own end.
Yet when the RedHawks had just a 34-second two-man advantage of their own at the seven-minute mark, they made it 3-0. From the left-wing side of the goal line, Nino Musitelli fed the puck to Todd Grant at the left point. Grant appeared to consider a shot but instead found Geoff Smith at the far post for an easy conversion.
“We kind of worked it up high; we did an overload this time,” Smith said. “Grant brought it across and opened a nice seam for him. I just sat back door, and he gave me a nice pass for the tap-in.”
Blasi acknowledged that Smith is a player that the program is looking to step up and help replace some of the weapons that the team lost to graduation.
“You’re absolutely right,” Blasi said. “He’s one of those guys that we look to create some offense and get some chances. He’s a very skilled player, and he’s going to be getting more ice time.”
“I don’t mind the pressure,” Smith said. “I’ve got great linemates [in Todd Grant and Taylor Hustead] to help me out. They get me the puck and give me support.”
The final nail in the coffin came at 18:13, when Guerin intercepted a clearing bid at the left point and managed to slide the puck to Matt Christie, all alone in front of the net. The RedHawks’ leading goal scorer last season took his time, maneuvering before slipping a backhander past Geragosian.
Toward the end of the second period and into the third, NU had another five-on-three advantage. Ortiz had a great bid but was stonewalled by Crawford-West.
In the third, Miami’s fourth line picked up the fifth goal when Greene knocked in the rebound of a Joe Cooper shot.
Although it was too little too late, the Huskies produced a pair of quick goals around the five-minute mark. Mike Morris scored the first one and assisted on the subsequent goal, scored by sophomore winger Yale Lewis.
Greene rounded out the scoring with a long empty-netter in the final minute.
“It was definitely a lot closer than the score indicated,” Blasi said. “They’re a very good team: well-coached and quick. They get after you. Brandon played well early, and we were opportunistic. That was the difference in the game.”
Northeastern (1-1-0) returns to Matthews Arena next week to play defending national champion Denver in the Huskies’ home opener. Miami (2-0-0) begins its CCHA schedule next weekend, hosting Notre Dame for a pair.
On the whole, the tournament was a success featuring four intriguing teams, and the organizers hope to continue to grow its following. The Nutter Center is comfortable and spacious — a good place to see a game. One highlight for fans was a silent auction that included items such as a jersey signed by the 2004 NCAA champion Denver Pioneers, among many other items. The auction raised approximately $10,000 for various charities.
The organizers were fortunate to have the final game result in a quasi-championship. “It turned out that way,” Blasi said. “We were the only team to win two games, so we’ll consider ourselves champions.”