OXFORD, Ohio — It had finally arrived. After more than a month of anticipation, the top two teams in college hockey finally faced-off Friday night. In an intense game worthy of such hype, the host — and top-ranked RedHawks — fell to the No. 2 Wolverines, 4-2.
Fans camped outside of the Goggin Ice Center in Oxford for over 24 hours in anticipation of getting tickets to game one between Miami and their rivals to the north. The makeshift town of tents, dubbed Camp Cady for the arena in which the RedHawks play their home games, was one that rivaled the likes of Duke Universitys Krzyzewskiville.
As most fans know, Michigans rivalry with the Ohio State Buckeyes is one of the oldest in college sports, but after hearing the reactions of Miamis fans as anyone affiliated with the Wolverines entered the arena, it was clear that enmity didnt stop in Columbus.
The RedHawks opened up the game by winning the face-off and crashing the net. After a two-minute minor for tripping going against Tommy Wingels, the RedHawks were able to kill the penalty keeping the Wolverines away from the goal for the majority of the kill.
Michigans Chris Summers got called for hooking giving Miami a chance on the power play. The Wolverines were also able to effectively kill the RedHawks power play opportunity keeping the game at a scoreless tie almost hallways through the first period.
That would soon change as the Wolverines silenced the Miami fans with a goal at the 9:08 mark in the first. Michigan freshman center Louie Caporusso scored the goal off of assists from juniors Travis Turnbull and Brandon Naurato. The Wolverines added to that lead making it 2-0 after a Aaron Palushaj goal at the 12:18 mark in the first.
The goal came off of an assist from Carl Hagelin. Kevin Porter quickly added to the lead making it 3-0 just a few moment later with a goal at the 12:55 mark. Fellow senior Chad Kolarik made the assist on Porters goal. Porters goal was his 24th on the season, which ties a career high that he set just one season ago.
I think we got the bounces in the first period, said Michigan head coach Red Berenson, Everything we touched went in the net. Obviously they were important goals. We got the breaks. We got the bounces. Those pucks hadnt been going in for us as of late, but they went in tonight.
Michigan dominated the entire first period. At the 14:56 mark in the first Michigans Max Pacioretty scored the Wolverines fourth goal of the night. Aaron Palushaj got his second point of the night with the assist. The four goals that Miami net minder Jeff Zatkoff allowed in the first were the most that the RedHawks had given up all season in a single period.
Miami had a plethora of problems in the first. The most evident of which being puck control. The RedHawks turned the puck over time after time in the neutral zone. The Hawks also were unable to capitalize on the scoring chances they had throughout the first period of play, including one in the closing seconds of the period.
Obviously Michigan came out strong and they took it to us, said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi, They capitalized on more chances. Its a tough road when you have to come back from a four-goal deficit. I didnt think it was (Zatkoffs) fault.
First time he made a great save on the first shot and the guy had a second chance on it. The second one we had a breakdown defensively and the guy was all alone in front. The third one was a break away, and on the fourth one he was alone and in front again.
Miami began the second period strong. The RedHawks took every opportunity they could muster to crash the net and take shot after shot against Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer. Sauer wouldnt allow the puck to reach the net though stoning Miamis offense time and time again.
Miami unleashed its frustrations towards the Wolverines when Miamis Kevin Roeder nailed Michigan sophomore Steve Camper into the boards and sending to the ice where he would need assistance getting back up to his feet. No penalty was called against Roeder or the RedHawks after the hit, but Camper was helped off the ice.
Both teams were held scoreless in the second. The Zatkoff that Miami fans were used to seeing seemed to be back in the second, but penalties against the RedHawks continued to pile up and the Hawks were unable to gain much momentum back from the Wolverines. The penalties continued to mount against the RedHawks as they went into the third period with a man in the box.
Things seemed to slowly start to go Miamis way during the third period began as they gained a 5-on-3 advantage and pressured Michigan deep within their own zone. The Wolverines gained some much needed relief when Miami freshman Andy Miele got sent to the box. The 4-on-3 quickly evened out when Michigan returned a player to the ice.
Shortly after Michigan went back to full strength Michigans Scooter Vaughn got saddled with a game misconduct penalty in addition to a five minute major for checking from behind after sending Miamis Justin Mercier to the ice with a vicious hit.
Miami finally put themselves on the board with a Ryan Jones power play goal off of assists Nathan Davis and Miele. The fans within the confines of the Steve Cady Arena at the Goggin Ice Center in Oxford erupted in joy, forgetting for a short time that they were still down by three.
The RedHawks caught another break midway through the third as they gained another two-man advantage after Michigans Tim Miller got sent to the box for two minutes for another Wolverine check from behind. After the penalty the crowd in the Cady Arena was as loud as it had been all year trying to rally their team to cut the Michigan lead down to two.
With less than 10 minutes remaining both sides were at full strength for the first time in the final period. It didnt take long for the RedHawks to go back on the power play though as Michigans Brian Lebler got called for charging. Miami took full advantage for the penalty as Jarod Palmer cut the Wolverines lead to two on with a power play goal that was assisted by Mitch Ganzak and Mercier.
After Michigan sent Mark Mitera and Tristen Llewllyn to the box for the remainder of regulation, the Hawks pulled their net to give them a 6-on-4 advantage. The two man advantage couldnt help the Hawks though as Michigan was able to kill the two penalties and hold one for the 4-2 win.
I think we have to regroup, refocus, and get ourselves ready to play for sixty minutes again tomorrow night, said Blasi.
The loss left the RedHawks with a bitter taste in their mouths and one can be sure the RedHawks will be looking for vengeance on Saturday in game two of the clash of the NCAA hockey titans.