OXFORD, Ohio — When Blake Coleman fired his shot into the net 7:14 into the third period, the 3,618 fans gathered in the Goggin Ice Center knew history had just been made.
The No. 3 Miami RedHawks won their fourth and final Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular season crown Saturday evening, downing the Ohio State Buckeyes, 4-2. Miami goes down in the history books as the last-ever CCHA regular season champion, as the conference is disbanding at the end of the year.
Miami coach Enrico Blasi has been involved in all four CCHA titles, three as a coach and one as a player.
“I don’t want to be sentimental at this point of the season because there is so much hockey to be played, but it is a big deal,” Blasi said. “We can say we won the last one. I am sad that the CCHA is going away, but everyone had to make a decision, including Ohio State and Miami, and it just so happened that we had to put an end to it.”
Before the game, the namesakes of the complex Lloyd Goggin, as well as the arena Steve Cady, were on hand to drop the puck at center ice.
“You want to put all the drama into one game, last CCHA regular season game against your rival for a CCHA championship and Senior Night,” Blasi said. “And then you had the guys dropping the puck who started the program, so why not (win the title)?”
The Buckeyes were able to postpone the RedHawks’ celebration by a night by defeating Miami, 3-0, Friday night.
“Tonight was do or die night for a championship; that is a game everyone dreams of playing,” Miami captain Steven Spinell said.
Holding onto a 2-0 lead in the third period, Miami was forced to kill off a five-minute major and a two-minute five-on-three. Freshman goalie Ryan McKay was up to the task, stopping a number of Ohio State’s chances.
“The power play has to come up with something there,” Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said. “Obviously I give credit to (Miami). It was a hostile environment, it was a playoff environment. They played well after losing last night.”
Seconds after the power plays, Ohio State goalie Brady Hjelle desperately tried to stave off a Miami breakaway opportunity. He mishandled the puck, which allowed Coleman to score an uncontested goal, sending the fans and Miami bench into a frenzy.
Despite the loss, Ohio State still had something to celebrate. Thanks to Michigan forcing a shootout against Ferris State, with goalie Steve Racine making a breakaway save in the final seconds of overtime, Ohio State clinched the No. 4 seed in the CCHA. The fourth-place finish marks Ohio State’s best conference finish since 2004-05, and the Buckeyes will host Ferris State in two weeks in the CCHA quarterfinal round.
“I think it’s a step; it’s one step for our program,” Osiecki said. “I think it was something that we set as a goal, and now we have to find a way to win two games.”
Following Ohio State’s Matt Johnson penalty 10:30 into first, Curtis McKenzie put the RedHawks on the board 10 seconds later off of a rebound from Coleman.
“Can’t write it up better than that, last (regular season) game in the new Goggin, four years of great teams, great teammates, unbelievable feeling singing that last fight song with the crowd,” McKenzie said after winning his second conference title.
Riley Barber notched his CCHA-leading 36th point of the season, scoring a power-play goal 13:11 into the second to give Miami a 2-0 lead when he weaved through traffic and beat Hjelle stick side.
After Coleman’s eventual game-winner, Cody Murphy added his eighth of the season to give Miami a 4-0 advantage with 4:10 left in the game. Following Coleman’s goal, the two squads fought near Hjelle’s net. All 10 skaters were involved in a skirmish that sent Ohio State’s Sam Jardine to the locker room early.
Following the dust-up, Ohio State cut Miami’s lead in half in the final 2:13 of the game with goals from Craig Dalrymple and Alex Szczechura.
Both squads advance past the first round of the league tournament and will play in the CCHA quarterfinals in two weeks. The RedHawks will find out their opponent next week, after all the playoff games are played. The week off gives Blasi a chance to reflect on an incredible regular season.
“As far as this team is concerned, I am not sure anyone picked them to do anything,” he said. “For them to set themselves up at the beginning of the year and play for each other, I am so proud of them of how they conducted themselves.”