Wingels' Pair Lifts Miami to National Title Game
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Miami captain Brian Kaufman
Miami captain Brian Kaufman on beating Bemidji and getting to the NCAA title game.
WASHINGTON D.C. Bemidji State's Cinderella run came to an end in the national semifinals, while Miami's continues to the championship game.
It will be the first NCAA title game appearance for Miami University in any sport.
The RedHawks got there with a three-goal second period that took the game from 0-0 to 3-1. And they continued to keep Bemidji State, which had scored nine goals in two games against stingy defenses in the NCAA Regionals, at bay throughout the third.
Bemidji State, the 16th seed in the tournament, that became the darlings of the Washington media, could never get on track and continue the magic it had in the Midwest Regional.
"You know what, we got beat by a better team tonight," BSU coach Tom Serratore said. "Miami was — they were strong. They were quick. They reacted well. Every facet of their game was very good, and we couldn't get on track.
"You just try to will your guys. That's what we were trying to do the whole night, the whole coaching staff. We saw the same thing on the bench as you saw. We couldn't get going. We had a hard time sustaining any kind of pressure. We weren't getting any pucks deep."
Miami had the better chances in the first period, though the shots were 12-12. BSU goalie Matt Dalton made a couple of key saves to keep the game scoreless.
"I thought it was a pretty even period," said Miami coach Enrico Blasi. "You're never comfortable with a team that plays like Bemidji because they just go. So you really have to continue to remind the guys of what your game plan is and to be aware of your positioning on the ice, especially defensively when we don't have the puck. And, again, I thought our guys did a pretty good job of turning that and working in transition, something that we worked on all week in preparation for Bemidji. And I thought we executed very well."
But Miami got on the board 3:56 into the second period on a power play, with Tommy Wingels' ninth goal of the season, as senior forward Gary Steffes provided a perfect screen of Wingels' wrist shot. A few minutes later, Miami took a 2-0 edge when Alden Hirschfeld scored his fifth of the year.
Bemidji State regined some life when it got a power play soon after falling behind 2-0, and were able to take advantage when Matt Read made a pretty deke move in front to beat Cody Reichard.
But the Beavers had their backs broken when Miami responded just one minute later, to get the two-goal edge back. Will Weber's shot from the point was deflected by Bill Loupee in front, and he jammed in the rebound. It was only the senior Loupee's third goal of the season.
"Actually, (Kevin) Wideman made a really nice cross-dock pass to me in the back door and kind of end up flubbing that puck," Loupee said, "so I came back around and Weber just put a puck on that and kind of went off the shaft of my stick and I got fortunate enough to have it roll in."
Said BSU senior Travis Winter, "That was obviously a big goal for them. One of the bigger shifts of the game, obviously, right after a goal. And you try and win that shift, but unfortunately we didn't. And we thought we were tilting the ice a bit there."
Miami had a 15-7 shot edge in the third, and Wingels added an empty netter.
"It was pretty hard for us. They did a pretty good job, seemed like they started sending one guy at the end and clogging up the neutral zone," BSU's Cody Bostock said.
Said Serratore, "We didn't have the pursuit. We didn't have the puck pursuit. We weren't relentless. We didn't play as fearless as we obviously did last weekend and when we really get onto a roll. You know, I don't know, why didn't we have the jump? Who knows. But you've got to give Miami credit. They played great and they really out-muscled us. And, again, it's not like they're huge, but we're undersized and we had a hard time really getting free. As far as the game plan that we tried to throw at them, we never could get going. We just couldn't get going."
For Miami, it was a case of wearing down BSU.
"It wasn't something we talked about. But that's the way we play," Blasi said. "We're a physical team. And when we're on, we're finishing checks and we're doing a good job defensively, and we're getting pucks deep. And we're a good puck possession team, which, again, if we're on, we're wearing teams down just because we're playing well. And thankfully that happened tonight."
So after a heartbreaking loss in the regional final last year, a loss in the CCHA playoffs this year, and coming from the West Region as a No. 4 seed, Miami will play for a national title Saturday.
"Being one of the seniors, I can tell you that losing in the finals of the regional the last two years, it's actually been good preparation for right now," Loupee said. "I mean, it means a lot but you can't go into these games nervous. You can't go in uptight. And I think we've been able to accomplish that through that experience as well."
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