April 9, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Turnabout is Fair Play

by Matthew Conyers/CHN Staff Writer

PICTORIAL: Miami-Bemidji Semifinal (see full pictorial)

Matt Dalton makes an early stop.

Miami defeated Bemidji State, 4-1, in the NCAA semifinals. The RedHawks are the first team in the history of the school to reach an NCAA championship game. (photos: Josh Gibney and Paige Ozaroski)

Audio Spotlight

Miami captain Brian KaufmanMiami captain Brian Kaufman
Miami captain Brian Kaufman on beating Bemidji and getting to the NCAA title game.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As a teenager from Fridley, Minnesota, Miami junior Jarod Palmer had plenty of college hockey teams to root for.

The easy pick would be to take Minnesota.

Palmer went a different route. He became a Bemidji State fan.

“I was always rooting for them because they were the underdog,” Palmer said. “It was kind of funny to have them, the underdog, playing us and us trying to end their story.

“I remember stretching out there and thinking I’ve watched these guys my whole life. I use to be intimidated and they would be a heck of a team to play against.”

Thursday, Palmer did what any big-time fan would do — he beat his childhood team into submission. Miami took the Cinderella Beavers out of their first National semifinal game early and coasted to a 4-1 victory to advance to the program’s first National Championship in history.

How’d Palmer and the rest of the RedHawks do it? That’s easy. They followed the game plan.

Yes, the game plan. Its hard to go through a hockey story without seeing it come across the page once or twice. Its overused and rarely does the game-plan ever go as its written up. But for the RedHawks, it did. This was Miami’s perfect game.

Miami slowed the Beavers down and took the game to them. The main goal was never let up the pressure and make Bemidji struggle to get through the neutral zone.

“We didn’t want to stick back,” Miami freshman defenseman Cameron Schilling said. “And we wanted to play a great overall team defense.

Never did Miami let up on the plan that was sketched out early last week, which also included winning the battle of the boards.

“I think we just used the boards a lot and tried to counter their action,’” Miami freshman Cameron Schilling said.

Miami also came into the game knowing the crowd would likely side with the underdog story of the moment, Bemidji State. Simply put, Miami wanted to take the crowd out of the game early.

“I though the momentum was with us the whole way,” Schilling said. “We never let the crowd get into the game."

With the arena quiet and the RedHawks locked in, Bemidji State never regained the urgency it had played with during the first two games of the tournament.

“We didn’t let them get back in the game at all,” Schilling said. “We just kept our same game going and kept following our game plan.”

But the noise was not among Miami’s chief concerns on the trusty game plan. First and foremost, Miami wanted to limit Bemidji State’s success along the boards and in-transition.

“I think it helped that we challenged them and we chipped a lot of pucks,” Schilling said. “We’d beat the first guy, chip it again, beat the second guy, chip it again. We just wore down them eventually.

Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore felt it was less of his players lack of intensity but rather, yes, the Miami game plan.

“We didn’t sustain a lot of pressure,” Serratore said. “It was a situation where I don’t think we had a lot of intensity. Maybe they had a lot to do with it. But again we couldn’t get any speed through the neutral zone. We were having a hard time advancing pucks and again we really didn’t take care of the puck."

When the game began to slip away for the Beavers in the second period, the execution became even more obvious.

“Part of the game-plan was to trust in each other and get the job done,” Palmer said. “When you have faith in your teammates like that you can play in your position and do your job. Everybody was getting their own job done. It all works together a lot better that way.”

And even when something wasn’t necessarily in the original game-plan, Miami did a fine job of improvising.

Take the RedHawks' third goal.

Miami followed one of oldest hockey adages in the book to a 'T'.

After surrendering a goal with 10:14 left in the second period, Miami scored nearly a minute later to take back momentum and commandingly shut the down on the Beavers' title game dreams.

“I was really happy in the process,” Palmer said. “They scored and it got loud. But we looked across the bench and said hey let’s stay calm and stay sharp in our game.”

“They score the power play goal and you think it will be a mental lapse for the rest of the team but we were just so confident in ourselves and what we’ve been accomplishing the past couple of weeks. They got a goal but it just didn’t matter to use.”

The quick bounce back goal was something Miami has been preaching all year but only recently started to have success with.

“That’s something we’ve been trying to get to for a long time,” Palmer said. “I don’t know why or how but it might have been the heartbreaker when we lost the playoffs at our home rink. That was hard. It was painful and that might’ve what brought us together.”

“Since then we’ve been a different team.”

Miami lost to Northern Michigan in three games during the quarterfinals.

As the Bemidji State story officially ends, the interest will likely shift to the next best underdog — Miami.

It's a role the RedHawks will happily continue to occupy Saturday.

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