For the sixth straight season in which there has been an NCHC Tournament, Miami was knocked out in the first round.
No. 3 Denver swept the best-of-3 series, beating the RedHawks, 5-1 at Magness Arena on Saturday and earning a trip to the Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul next weekend.
Miami (7-27-2) fell to 1-11 in its last 12 postseason games.
RECAP: Denver (27-8-1) took the lead midway through the first period when Mike Benning whipped a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot past Miami goalie Ludvig Persson.
Massimo Rizzo extended Denver’s lead to two when he rifled home a one-timer in the slot off a feed by Carter Mazur just 71 seconds into the second frame.
Three minutes later, the Pioneers went up 3-0 on a 5-on-3 one-time blast by Cole Guttman on the left faceoff dot off a cross-ice pass by Bobby Brink.
It appeared Denver had gone ahead by four when another shot found the net in the final second of the middle stanza, but the goal was disallowed as it was ruled the Miami net had been dislodged.
DU made it 4-0 anyway on a tic-tac-toe passing play, with Mazur the recipient of a Guttman pass at the left side of the net for slam dunk on the power play with 8:55 left in regulation.
The RedHawks trimmed the deficit to three when Derek Daschke snuck a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle past goalie Magnus Chrona with 5:26 remaining.
But 73 seconds later, Guttman picked up his second goal and fourth point of the night shorthanded when he skated through the top of the crease and backhanded a shot that hit Persson’s equipment, popped into the air and into the top corner of the net to cap the scoring.
STATS: Daschke’s goal was his fourth of the season – all of which were scored on the road.
It was the 24th tally of his career and point No. 85, both eighth-best on Miami’s all-timer defenseman leaderboard.
— P.J. Fletcher earned the primary assist on Daschke’s goal, his ninth point in 10 games.
— Defenseman Jack Clement picked up the other helper, his second point in his last 19 contests.
— The teams combined for 17 power play chances and 30 on the weekend. Denver was 2-for-11 and Miami 0 of 6, and the Pioneers also scored shorthanded.
The last time a Miami opponent had 11 or more power play chances was Dec. 3, 2011, a 5-1 loss at Northern Michigan.
THOUGHTS: When Cathy and I first started dating 21 years ago, she was working for the Mike Babcock-coached AHL Cincinnati Mighty Ducks and I was covering the team for the now-defunct Cincinnati Post.
Because of injuries, call-ups and everything else imaginable that could go wrong for a team, Cincinnati used 13 goalies that season.
Babcock actually did an amazing job navigating that team to the postseason, but expectations in the playoffs were still low for the Mighty Ducks, who did succumb to powerhouse Chicago in the first round.
As we listened to Greg Waddell’s call from overpriced and overrated Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., from Cathy’s apartment, we shared a unique moment of mourning as the seconds ticked down in the clinching game of our mutual team of interest for the first time as a couple.
It’s a blend of sadness, frustration, acceptance and eagerness to explore the world you’ve ignored for five months oddly mixed with an anticipation of autumn and potentially similar torture the next season.
The average hockey fan’s brain would baffle scientists.
Back to 2022: Like that Ducks team from when this millennium was new, Miami had little chance to win this series, and it isn’t a surprise Denver did Denver and deposed the RedHawks in two games.
Not unexpected. Still kind of hurts. And it never gets easier,
— Playing at altitude never helps. It’s certainly not an excuse but it is another hurdle. Players, coaches and media have talked about the difficulty of playing a mile above sea level, especially the later a team gets into a weekend series.
There’s really no answer to this, other than not to finish in the bottom four of the NCHC, recruit marine biology majors or dress a team of grizzly bears.
— Officiating. We hate to bring it up because it sounds like an excuse, so this public service announcement: At no point did any call(s) alter an outcome. Denver rules!
The series was called tight, which is OK, but Miami faced two 5-on-3s (one of which was ~90 seconds) and a 4-on-3 of a minute and a half.
Denver was also down two, including a two-man advantage linked to an alleged slew foot major penalty.
I’m not a let-everything-go-in-the-postseason type, far from it. But veteran officials should want to let kids play in the playoffs, the last competitive game of some players’ careers. And to put a team down two (or 3-on-4) it should be pretty blatant.
This game was not 1998 Colorado vs. Detroit. The game was played hard but wasn’t dirty on either side. A total of 19 penalties and 11 power plays for Denver including over three minutes of 5-on-3 or 4-on-3 time?
That much special teams time absolutely ruins the flow of hockey and makes the greatest game to watch on the planet a lot less great to watch.
Slew foot for a guy finishing a check and making incidental contact with the skates? Only saw the replay once, but yikes. Helluva make-up call in favor of Miami, ejecting a Denver player.
— It didn’t help that the RedHawks’ power play had nothing to do with power. They were 0-for-6 including the major that overlapped with another DU minor. Miami had trouble getting set up in the offensive zone all night.
The PK was actually pretty good, especially considering how much time was spent on an extreme play (the new analytic stat I just invented, consisting of 4-on-3 plus 5-on-3 time).
— Replay in this format is not working.
We need to remember the words of former NHL standout referee Paul Stewart, who said that replay ultimately makes an official second-guess oneself because of the safety net it provides, as counterintuitive as that sounds.
Miami had a game last 2:54 this season (six reviews?), and this one ran around 2:40 largely because of four replay delays.
The college game, with two 15-minute intermissions, should run 2:30 at most.
Coincidentally, pretty much every league from Major Junior up brought on a second referee in the past two decades.
1) Trust officials to do their job and encourage the crew of four to communicate amongst themselves.
2) Looking at goals is always worthy of review. But put a two-minute cap on the process. If a call can’t be overturned by then, the original call stands.
3) No other reviews in the first two periods, unless…
…A coach uses his one challenge. Allow coaches one non-goal challenge in the first two periods. If a coaches challenges again and loses, it costs him his timeout or is a delay of game if he has already spent his.
4) In lieu of immediate justice, allow the league to issue ex poste facto game misconducts for stuff that wasn’t caught by the officials or wasn’t initially elevated by them.
Under current NCAA rules, three game misconducts in a season equals a one-game suspension, and no one better to ask than a Miami fan how bad that can hurt a team in the postseason (cough, Blake Coleman 2015).
5) Reviews in the third period and overtime as is the case under current rules UNLESS the margin is five goals or more (or four, or three, pick one, but when it’s 7-2 who cares if a minor gets flipped to a major with three minutes left?).
And even then, a two-minute limit on replays. If it takes that long to alter a call, the original one should stand.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: Brian Silver dressed in place of Michael Regush up front.
Silver played in four of Miami’s final six games and made major strides late.
Regush had missed 10 games in a row before hitting the ice on Friday only to be scratched in this game.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Expectations were higher than 7-27-2.
The non-conference schedule was lighter, veteran leadership was brought in via transfer and a promising freshman class joined a team ready to return to relevance in the NCHC, and all of college hockey for that matter.
But after a 7-4 win at Ferris State to open the season, the Bulldogs managed to score 3-on-4 in overtime to split the series, winning their first game against a Division I opponent in 21 months.
That was the beginning of a 1-10-1 run that basically ended any aspiration of Miami contending for NCAA consideration.
From then on it was a rash of heartbreaking losses and injuries. That happens to many teams, but not nearly to Miami’s degree, and it’s tougher to overcome those issues when your winning percentage is south of .200 at the onset.
This team was a proverbial lamb being led to slaughter in this series, but like they did the past six weeks, the RedHawks showed their best side in a series they lost, 9-3 in aggregate.
We’ll have plenty more discussion about this season and next in the coming weeks and months.
We give our best wishes to all of the seniors and any others who won’t be rejoining the team this fall in all future endeavors, both on and off the ice.