Miami overcame a sluggish start and shutdown Minnesota State with a willingness to get in front of pucks in an NCAA hockey Midwest regional semifinal at the Huntington Center on Saturday.
After a scoreless first period, the RedHawks produced four unanswered goals to shut out the Mavericks 4-0.
Miami freshman goaltender Ryan McKay finished with 20 saves. The RedHawks also blocked an astonishing 28 shots as they held the Mavericks without a goal for the first time this season.
“Our guys did a great job of blocking shots and Ryan was there when we needed him,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of … not giving them too much.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Miami RedHawks win regional semifinal
Curtis McKenzie scored with 8:56 left in the second period to break a scoreless deadlock. Marc Hagel scored on a nice assist from Blake Coleman 2:30 into the third period. Cody Murphy gave Miami a 3-0 cushion midway through the final period, and Max Cook added an empty-net goal.
“It was a good start to get that first goal,” McKenzie said. “It’s something that we try to stress. That first period we were still trying to find our legs. It was almost a relief. Things started going our way from there.”
Miami blocked nine shots in the first, 13 in the second, and six in the third.
“When guys are doing stuff like that, you appreciate it as a goalie and that’s the desperation we played with tonight and I think that was the contributor of why we won tonight,” McKay said.
Miami (25-11-5), which won the Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title, came into the tournament as the No. 2 seed. The RedHawks are playing in their eighth consecutive regional.
Minnesota State (24-14-3), which is located in Mankato, Minn., was the third seed and was making its second NCAA tournament appearance after qualifying in 2003.
Miami advances to face St. Cloud State (24-15-1) in the regional final.
Coleman and Austin Czarnik, a finalist for the Hobey Baker award, each had two assists.
Czarnik and Riley Barber got free on a two-on-one breakaway to set up the pivotal first goal. McKenzie trailed the play and was there for the rebound.
“I just tried to get on my horse,” McKenzie said. “Czarnik gave me a nice pass right at my skate, and somehow I got it up over the goalie.”
Murphy made it 3-0 with 10:36 left in the third period after the RedHawks had a bevy of chances right in front of the net. Murphy cashed in when he popped the puck over Mavericks freshman goalie Stephon Williams (22 saves).
Minnesota State pulled its goalie with 4:48 left initially and again a minute later. Cook scored the empty net goal with 58 seconds left.
“Give them a lot of credit,” said Mavericks forward Eriah Hayes. “We had a lot of good looks and they were blocking everything it seemed. I think their goalie should give their D-men a little pat on the back.”
Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said Williams, who was named the WCHA’s freshman of the year, was one of the main reasons his team qualified for the tournament.
“When you don’t give a guy any run support, it’s hard for him to win a hockey game,” Hastings said. “He kept us in it, made some saves that he shouldn’t. He had a special year.”
McKay rebounded from a 6-2 loss to Michigan in the CCHA semifinals last Saturday.
“We’re happy to be here,” McKay said.
“We’ve stressed all year to be in the moment. I think we’re already looking forward to [today].”