OXFORD, Ohio — Goggin Ice Arena closed its doors to Miami hockey on Saturday night, and the RedHawks gave it the most fitting of sendoffs, clinching a berth in the CCHA championship at Joe Louis Arena with an overtime winner off the stick of freshman Alec Martinez to down Western Michigan, 5-4.
Miami’s last trip to Joe Louis Arena also was secured with overtime heroics, as Todd Grant gave Miami a 2-1 victory over Lake Superior State on March 13, 2004.
For the second night in a row, Martinez gave the RedHawks a 1-0 lead, this time pulling the trigger on his second goal of the season just 59 seconds into the contest. With juniors Matt Christie and Geoff Smith leading a three-on-two rush, Martinez took the puck from Christie and hammered home a rebound after his initial shot from the bottom of the left circle was turned away by Daniel Bellissimo.
Western Michigan wasted little time responding as Daryl Moore evened the game 1-1 at the 4:56 mark after he picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated in alone before tucking the puck between freshman netminder Jeff Zatkoff and the near-side post.
A power-play tally at 12:14 of the first gave the Broncos their first lead of the series as Moore connected on his second of the game to make it 2-1. After Zatkoff made two stops during a goalmouth scramble, Moore slapped in the loose puck as it trickled through the crease.
Freshman Justin Mercier’s third goal of the season erased the WMU lead at 6:16 of the second period as he capitalized on an unbelievable individual effort by Smith and made it 2-2. Senior Chris Michael moved the puck ahead to Smith as he carried the puck into Western Michigan territory and only one man to beat.
With Mercier streaking to the net, Smith undressed the WMU defender with a 360-degree spin and slid the puck through the slot directly onto Mercier’s stick, where he slammed it between Bellissimo’s pads and in.
Miami regained the lead at 14:01 of the second as senior Matt Davis took advantage of a four-on-three power play and whistled a wrist shot from the top of the left circle through the screen of Christie and over Bellissimo’s right shoulder. Assists on Davis’ 17th goal of the year went to Smith and freshman Raymond Eichenlaub as the RedHawks vaulted in front, 3-2.
The Broncos evened the score with a power-play goal of their own just 3:16 into the third period as Mike Erickson found the back of the net with a pair of RedHawks in the penalty box. The five-on-three power play for Western Michigan was the result of a bench minor for too many men on the ice followed by a tripping call against freshman Kevin Roeder.
After a draw to the right of the Miami net, Reid Yantzi gave Western Michigan a 4-3 lead when he tucked a wrist shot from the high slot under the crossbar at 12:12 of the third period.
The back-and-forth battle saw yet another lead evaporate as the RedHawks tied the game with 3:31 remaining in the third. Just as a Western Michigan power play expired, Michael picked up a loose puck and fed it ahead to Mercier just inside the WMU blueline. Mercier drove hard to the net, taking two Broncos with him and leaving junior Marty Guerin unattended on the right wing.
Mercier fired a shot on goal that was stopped by Bellissimo, but the rebound popped right to Guerin, who slammed the puck just inside the left post for his eighth of the year.
Overtime was kind to the RedHawks as Miami outshot WMU 9-5, with the ninth shot securing Martinez’ place in Miami history. Martinez took a pass from Jones at the right point and quickly snapped a shot that slipped through Bellissimo and emptied the Miami bench at the 17:00 mark of the extra period for the final goal in the history of Goggin Ice Arena.
The RedHawks will play either Northern Michigan or Alaska Fairbanks in the semifinals on March 17 at either 4 or 7:30 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.