Sometimes ya got it, sometimes ya don’t.
Saturday afternoon, the Miami RedHawks had “it” in spades over heavily favored New Hampshire. But on Sunday evening, Boston College showed plenty of “it”, while Miami appeared to have misplaced its allotment of the ethereal intangible.
So what is “it”? Experience? Talent? Luck? Determination?
Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Sunday, the RedHawks were at a deficit at every corner of the It Quartet, and their battle-tested opponents buried them by a fitting four-spot. The nation’s second-best penalty kill was run ragged on five consecutive Miami infractions at one of the contest’s crucial junctures, and the Ohio program fizzled in its attempt to earn its second-ever NCAA tournament victory.
“Experience is everything,” said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi. “We’ve just gotta keep getting here. When you get here enough times, things are eventually going to go your way.”
Boston College measures its experience in square footage of fabric, with seven Frozen Four excursions in the last 10 years, along with a national title and 10 combined regular-season and league tournament championships on display in the rafters.
Miami, however, skated in only its fifth-ever NCAA tournament, and sixth tourney game. The RedHawks have one regular-season title to their name, and have yet to claim a postseason plaque.
The Eagles didn’t panic when Miami outshot them in the first period, nor when MU goaltender Jeff Zatkoff looked darned near impenetrable through 23 minutes of play.
Instead, it was the underdogs who made the early mistakes, as senior winger Marty Guerin earned a quick dismissal with a hitting-from-behind major only three minutes into the game. Miami committed the only penalties of the second period, which cost it dearly, and two additional minors late in the tilt effectively packed the RedHawks’ bags for the year.
The loss of Guerin, combined with preexisting injuries, forced Blasi to shorten the bench to three lines. Fatigue invariably began to eat away at the team.
“We lost one of our top players early,” said Blasi. “We lost a guy who could score some goals [12 on the year]. We had a short bench … [the fatigue] really takes its toll,” he concluded.
Boston College took hold of the contest with quick puck-movement, exhausting physicality and pure speed down the wings, resulting in numerous odd-man rushes.
“They executed on a lot more plays than we did,” said a concise Blasi after the game.
A power-play goal 5:44 into the second frame opened up a two-goal lead for the Eagles, marking the 12th straight game for BC with a goal on the advantage, in their 12th straight win. It was the first postseason goal allowed by the ‘Hawks this season in three games, who had been — ironically — 12 for 12.
The deficit put Miami in a big hole against a bigger, quicker, deeper opponent, and forced Blasi’s boys to take some aggressive risks.
“All of a sudden, it became a game that Boston College wanted to play,” said the coach.
Miami wasn’t without opportunities, hitting Most Outstanding Player of the regional Cory Schneider’s posts three times, and sending the puck spinning on edge along Schneider’s goal line late in the game. However, it was a shutout that was dead-set on being so, and none of the RedHawks’ 37 shots beat BC’s junior goalie.
“We played extremely well all weekend long,” said Blasi in the post-game press conference. “It didn’t go our way today, but I was so proud of the way the team battled.”
Miami demonstrated enough pride, strength, skill and poise to knock off top-seeded New Hampshire, but not quite enough to upend a far more seasoned BC program. After the game, Eagles’ head coach Jerry York told his players, “this never gets old.”
This weekend, Miami took a first step toward finding out just how old it never gets.