Miami Survives and Advances
by Tim Rosenthal/Staff Writer
WORCESTER, Mass. On the ropes with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Miami RedHawks found a way to escape another upset effort by Air Force.
Last season, Air Force led 3-1 in the third before Minnesota rallied. Here, the RedHawks tied it on Carter Camper's power-play goal, and eventually won it overtime on Justin Mercier's 25th of the season.
"It was exactly the way we thought it was going to go," said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi. "We knew how good Air Force played and it was absolutely no surprise to us.
"The opportunity in overtime could've gone either way. Mercier made a heck of a play. This time of the year, it's the way it goes."
Miami kicked off the scoring just 19 seconds into the game, Tommy Wingels netted his 15th of the year. But it wasn't going to be the rout that, and the seeds, might have suggested. From there, Air Force took control, getting two goals and keeping Miami at bay until the third period when the Falcons took a bench minor for too many men on the ice.
It was one of those pivotal moments that will go into NCAA lore.
"The player jumped off the bench early," said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. "It gives the linesman an opportunity to get back into the game. In a tight game, things happen."
Miami goalie Jeff Zatkoff did not see as much action in the second and third periods, however, in overtime, he made more saves than he did in the second and third period.
"I tried to play more of a relaxed game," Zatkoff said. "I tried to control rebounds, tried to focus on each shot and make the save."
It was at 15:21 of overtime when Mercier ended the game, taking advantage of the defense getting on its heels.
"I knew I could take advantage of their defense when they were pivoting," exclaimed Mercier. "Any shift in overtime is desperation, It is playoff hockey and we tried to use that desperation in overtime."
Miami was faced with coming back minus one of its star players — senior Nathan Davis, and his injury put a small damper on the rally. Davis suffered a shoulder injury midway through the first, another chapter in the injury-plagued season for the one-time Hobey finalist.
"I'm not sure about the injury," Blasi said about Davis' injury. "He did have some ice on and it is covered on his upper body. I don't expect him to be back."
Nevertheless, Miami did overcome adversity through that moment, and until the third period.
"I thought we played well tonight," Blasi said. "Air Force is a good hockey team. I know people are surprised that it went into overtime. That shouldn't be surprising. This team gave it everything they had.
"Both BC and Minnesota are great teams. We had a chance to watch them play as a staff, pre-scouting them all week. We know what they can do. Obviously Boston College has great speed and Minnesota for five-to-six weeks had to play playoff hockey."
The CCHA is doing well so far in the tournament. One team is guaranteed to go to the Frozen Four in the West regional (Michigan State vs. Notre Dame), while Michigan and Miami could also be going to Denver in a couple of weeks.
"It wasn't so long ago that the CCHA didn't have any teams in the Frozen Four," Blasi said. "It doesn't surprise me that Notre Dame and Michigan State are moving on."