March 19, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Miami Gets Its Hardware

Defense Propels RedHawks to First CCHA Tournament Title

by Michael Mark Florek/CHN Reporter

DETROIT — Miami’s offense has been the driving force for it all season but in its last pit stop before the NCAA tournament, it took a back seat, letting the defense take the wheel.

The RedHawks allowed just 16 shots in their 5-2 victory over Western Michigan in the CCHA Tournament Finals. It’s the first Mason Cup in program history.

“For us and this team here, we’ve been working hard since the summer time and for us seniors we’ve been working hard since we even got to Miami,” senior forward Carter Camper said. “It’s an amazing payoff and it’s 10 times better than winning the regular season championship last year.”

Both of Western Michigan’s goals came on the power play, along with nine of its 16 shots. Western Michigan’s best chance early on, with the game still scoreless, was met with four RedHawks sprawled out on the ice.

Broncos defenseman Matt Tennyson let go of a shot from the point. Miami goalie Cody Reichard made the stop and but sent the rebound back to Tennyson. At that point every RedHawk collapsed in, blocking a couple of rebound shots and eventually clearing it out. Miami scored the first goal of the game a minute later.

Although the defense has been in the background all season those type of plays has propelled Miami to be third in the nation in scoring defense. The RedHawks have given up 16 or less shots seven times this season.

“The focus and the purpose that our guys are playing with without the puck has been executed very well,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “Our guys are doing a good of job of getting their sticks in lanes and blocking shots and backchecking with a purpose and communicating. It’s just not one thing.

“It’s something that’s been a process and something that our guys are believing (in). If we can continue to do that we’re going to win some games.”

And when the defense sputtered, the offense did a little back seat driving. Western Michigan tied the game, 2-2, just two and a half minutes into the third period. The RedHawks went on to score three goals in a span of eight minutes to put the game out of reach. In the process, the defense was reignited, allowing just three shots in the final period.

The offense is well known. The defense isn’t. Andy Miele and Camper are Hobey Baker Award finalists and Miele was the CCHA Player of the Year. Miele, Camper and teammate Riley Smith were first team All-CCHA en route to leading the RedHawks to average nearly four goals a game. On the defensive side, only junior defenseman Chris Wideman earned All-CCHA honors and was second team.

Now, all the individual awards don’t matter. With two senior Hobey Baker finalists on offense together with a defensive unit that has just one senior, Miami will likely be the last No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and will get another shot at the ultimate prize. Now, the whole team is in the driver’s seat.

“There’s something special about this team when you’ve been through what these guys have been through on the ice and off the ice,” Blasi said. “Let’s just say they deserve it.”

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