Miami Turns to its D for O
Back to the Wall, RedHawks Get Dramatics to Advance to CCHA Title Game
by Andy Reid/CHN Reporter
DETROIT Few teams have even come close to slowing down the ferocious Miami offensive attack this season.
Led by the nation's top goal scorer Ryan Jones, the RedHawks rack up more goals per game on average (4.3) than any other team in the country.
But when its potent forwards were held in check by Notre Dame's scrappy defense and lockdown goaltending during Friday night's CCHA semifinal matchup, Miami had to find its output somewhere else — the blueline.
Defensemen Mitch Ganzak and Alec Martinez notched a goal apiece in the RedHawks' dramatic 2-1 overtime win.
Ganzak's goal was the play of the game. With goalie Jeff Zatkoff pulled, the senior skated up in the zone, and when Jones crashed down to the crease, Ganzak flipped the puck over Fighting Irish goaltender Jordan Pearce, who got caught up in the scrum around the net. The lamp lit with 3.4 seconds remaining on the clock.
"Scoring with two seconds left is a lucky bounce and it gave us a lot of momentum going into overtime," Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. "We were definitely opportunistic in our chances."
Ganzak's last-second tally left the door wide open for Martinez to finish off Notre Dame in overtime. After an Irish turnover, Martinez took a hard slap shot from near the blueline, which rocketed past Pearce for the win.
"I got the shot off and it was hard to follow because of the traffic in front of the net," said Martinez, who was named the CCHA's Defensive Defenseman of the year Thursday. "I didn't know it went in until the mesh rippled a little bit and then the puck dropped. It just waited and waited for the puck to drop."
The RedHawks poured out of the box and sprinted towards Martinez, who was celebrating along the boards near a large group of Miami fans.
"It is kind of scary to be on the bottom of the pile with all the guys jumping on me," Martinez said. "It is a good feeling though."
A second chance
The game had been dominated by physical hits, skillful defense and great goaltending halfway through the third period.
With the score knotted at zero, Notre Dame forward Mark Van Guilder sent a laser past Miami netminder Jeff Zatkoff that appeared to finally break the tie. But upon the ref's further inspection, the puck on partially crossed the plain before clanking off the pipe and back out of the net.
With review took several minutes, and when the ref finally signaled "No goal," the crowd, mostly comprised of RedHawk fans went wild.
"To tell you the truth it was an unbelievable shot," said Zatkoff, praising the Van Guilder's quick wrister. "I stayed up on it and it still went over my shoulder. I wasn't sure, but when I saw the replay it looked like it hit the post."
Playing at the Joe
For both Martinez and Zatkoff, playing at Joe Louis Arena is a homecoming. Martinez, a Rochester, Mich., native and Zatkoff, a Chesterfield, Mich., native, grew up coming to Red Wings games in the building.
"(Zatkoff) and I grew up pretty close to each other," Martinez said. "It is nice to come home like this and play in this arena. There is so much history and I grew up watching the Detroit Red Wings. It is a really good feeling to come here and win this game."
Added Zatkoff: "It is always exciting coming home. I grew up 20 minutes east of here and I had a lot of family at the game. Anytime you get to play at the Joe Louis Arena, it is what you dream about as a little kid, it's a dream come true."