WASHINGTON, D.C. — With a strong second period and steady goaltending from freshman Cody Reichard, the Miami University RedHawks beat the Bemidji State Beavers, 4-1, to become the third CCHA team in three years to advance to the NCAA championship game.
“I thought it was a pretty good game,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi. “Obviously, we got some bounces there in the second period.”
Goals by Tommy Wingels, Alden Hirschfeld and Bill Loupee put the RedHawks up 3-1 after two, a period in which Miami and Bemidji exchanged three goals in a span of 2:11. After the even first period, the RedHawks wore down the Beavers and outshot BSU 25-13 in the final two periods.
“We got beat by a better team tonight,” said Bemidji coach Tom Serratore. “Miami was strong, they were quick, they reacted well. Every facet of their game was very good. We couldn’t get on track.”
Wingels opened the scoring on a pass from Andy Miele at 3:54, a rocket from the left point that found a sliver of open net between the left post and Bemidji goalie Matt Dalton, screened by RedHawk Gary Steffes, who parked right in front of Dalton.
Miami secured a two-goal lead with the first of three goals scored in the middle of the second. At 8:35, on an odd-man rush, Wingels took the puck into the BSU zone on the left wing, skated into the left circle, deked Beavers’ defenseman Cody Bostock and shuffled a pass to Alden Hirschfeld crashing the right side, who put the puck behind Dalton while falling to the ice.
Bemidji answered at 9:45 on Matt Read’s power-play goal from Matt Francis. From the slot, Francis fed Read left of the crease, and with Reichard drawn completely left to defend, Read had a big right-side target to make it a 2-1 game.
Just a minute later however, Will Weber’s shot from the left circle hit Loupee’s stick in the crease and the puck ricocheted off Dalton and back into the Beavers’ net to give Miami another two-goal lead.
“[Chris] Wideman made a really nice cross-box pass to me on the back door and I kind of ended up flubbing that puck,” said Loupee, “so I came back around and Weber just put a puck on net and it went off the shaft of my stick and I got fortunate enough to have it roll in.”
That third goal was the deciding factor in the game, said Beavers’ captain Travis Winter.
“One of the bigger shifts of the game [is] right after a goal, and you try to win that shift but unfortunately we didn’t. We felt like we were tilting the ice a bit there.
“They score a big goal and things start going their way again. That was a huge goal, probably the turning point of the night.”
Wingels’ empty-net goal with three minutes to go brought the score to 4-1.
“We were having a hard time sustaining any type of pressure,” said Serratore. “We weren’t getting pucks deep.
“We didn’t have the puck pursuit. We weren’t relentless. Why didn’t we have the jump? Who knows, but you’ve got to give Miami credit. They really out-muscled us. It’s not like they’re huge, but we’re undersized and we just had a hard time getting free.”
“That’s the way we play,” said Blasi. “We’re a physical team and when we’re on we’re finishing and we’re doing a good job defensively and we’re getting pucks deep and we’re a good puck-possession team.
“When we’re on, we’re wearing teams down just because we’re playing well. ”
The RedHawks (23-12-5) will face the winner of tonight’s Vermont-Boston University semifinal Saturday, becoming the first team for Miami University in any sport to play for a national championship in their first trip to the Frozen Four.
The game also marked the first Frozen Four appearance for Bemidji State (20-16-1), who with an overall No. 16 seed was the lowest seed in NCAA men’s Division I ice hockey history to make it this far.
“Hats off to Miami,” said Serratore. “We had a nice run. A lot of kind words the last couple weeks and Bemidji State University really appreciates it.”