Another Agonizing Exit For Miami
by Joshua Seguin/CHN Writer
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. One of the adages in sports is to never count a good team out.
Heading into the third period down, 3-0, Miami came out flying early in the third, lifted by two goals early in the period, 14 seconds apart. The RedHawks eventually tied the game late in the third, but in roller coaster fashion, despite numerous glorious chances to win it in regulation, lost on a goal 2:13 into the overtime to end their season.
"I guess we weren't as focused as we should have been at the get go," said Miami captain and leading scorer Reilly Smith. "They were all over us early. We didn’t stick to our game plan."
Smith was closest to ending it for Miami. The 30-goal scorer and Hobey Baker Award finalist was all alone in front after a shot deflected to him during a 5-minute major power play in the closing minutes of regulation. All he had to do was bury it like he's done so many times before. Instead, Massachusetts-Lowell goalie Doug Carr kicked out his pad and got a piece of the puck with his left skate, preserving the game.
"I'll take my chances with Reilly Smith any time," Miami coach Enrico Blasi said.
Miami could get nothing going in the early going as River Hawks were being left wide open in front of Connor Knapp. Lowell scored two first period goals to take a 2-0 lead into the intermission. This lead would increase to three early in the second period, and many counted the game as over.
“We got away from our game plan a bit tonight,” Blasi said. “The scored a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal to go up 2-0. They seemed to feed off of that. We made a poor decision on their third goal and now it was 3-0.”
Miami improved late in the second period but it was still 3-0 Lowell going into the third period. Could Miami make the comeback?
“We knew we were never out of this game,” said forward Alden Hirschfeld. “There is something special about this team. We have never given up.”
As undisciplined defensively Miami was in the first period, it made up for it in the third period by seemingly throwing everything at the UMass-Lowell net, including three goals that would tie the game.
“My teammates did a great job of turning the momentum around in the third,” said Smith. “As soon as that first goal went in our whole team got a huge momentum. Hockey is a game of momentum boost, and we took control of that. Too bad we fell one goal short.”
Miami got a late 5-minute major power-play on a Jake Suter checking from behind penalty with 3:35 to go in the game. Miami peppered Carr for the last minute and a half of regulation but to no avail.
“The shot was partially blocked and I tried to turn it back on the backhand before the goalie could get back but their goalie made a huge toe save” said Smith of his close call. “I should have taken an extra second and put it up high.”
This shot was seemingly the dagger in the game for Miami. If it would have been in, the game would have been all but over in favor of Miami.
“We were all over them in the third period,” said forward Trent Vogelhuber. “We knew that if we had any chance to win this game the third period had to be ours. We never gave up hope and I am proud of everyone in that locker room.”
After the 5-minute power-play, Lowell regained the momentum and subsequently broke the hearts of the RedHawks, who thought they would pull an improbable comeback.
“The last five minutes of the game, we didn’t finish our chances,” said Smith. “You give a team like UMass-Lowell a chance to regain the momentum and they will do so. They got the momentum after the five minute power-play and we let them back on the scoreboard.”
“It is anybody’s game going into overtime,” said Hirschfeld. “Overtime goals are usually lucky and something good happens. Unfortunately it didn’t happen for us.”
Miami’s season ended at 2:13 of overtime in Bridgeport. It didn’t go down without a fight. Coming back from a three-goal deficit coming into the third is something that few can say they have done in the NCAA tournament and the RedHawks did it on this night.
In the end, it was just another chapter in Miami's painful NCAA lore, which has now been ended seven straight seasons by a Hockey East team, almost of them in agonizing fashion.
And the game was the conclusion of a roller coaster season, seemingly that went down the same way.