DULUTH, Minn. – With its backs against the wall, the Miami hockey team fought back from a 2-0 deficit to take a third period lead, but No. 3 Minnesota Duluth scored the final three goals to claim a 5-3 win in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Playoffs on Saturday night.
With the result, Minnesota Duluth (23-6-7) claims the best-of-three series and ends Miami’s (9-20-7) 2016-17 campaign.
The Bulldogs pressed on the attack right off the opening faceoff, firing the first 10 shots on goal and getting a goal off the stick of Brenden Kotyk, putting them up 1-0 just 2:49 in.
A UMD penalty with 6:06 gone by gave MU the opportunity to go on the attack for the first time. However, the Bulldogs were able to get one stop from Hunter Miska and kill off the Red & White man advantage. Minnesota Duluth continued to control the puck for long stretches, finishing the first period with a 16-4 shot advantage.
Kiefer Sherwood had Miami’s best scoring opportunity of the period with about six minutes left when the puck squirted into the middle to give him a shot that Miska shrugged off. The rebound was loose near the crease for a few seconds, but UMD managed to clear the puck away before an MU stick could get there for a second attempt as the score remained 1-0 at intermission.
Miami was called for a penalty 1:09 into the second period, giving Minnesota Duluth its first power play of the evening, but the Red & White were able to fend off the Bulldog man advantage. MU stabilized its play after killing off the penalty and started finding some speed in the neutral zone along with some extended offensive zone puck possession. One rush created a rebound off Miska’s pad that was cleared away for the best look of the sequence.
After withstanding the MU pressure, Nick Wolff fired a point shot through traffic and in to make it a 2-0 contest with 11:01 left in the middle stanza. However, a Bulldog penalty kept the door ajar and the RedHawks took advantage when Justin Greenberg pounced on a rebound from Grant Hutton’s point shot for his second goal of the season, cutting the deficit to 2-1 with 9:18 left in the middle stanza. Kiefer Sherwood also picked up an assist on the power play tally.
The Red & White fought off another Bulldog power play shortly after getting within a goal and with five minutes to go, strong puck pursuit led to a centering pass to Sherwood in the slot, but Miska stopped the close range shot to keep UMD in front. Miami took another penalty with just over a minute left in the second, but held Minnesota Duluth off the board to stay within a goal at the end of two periods.
After killing off the remaining 56 seconds of UMD’s power play, MU got to work offensively. With just 1:25 expired off the clock, a 3-on-2 rush was finished up by Kiefer Sherwood firing in a rebound to even the score at 2-2. Just 1:52 later, an Anthony Louis shot took a funny turn off a deflection and fooled Miska to give Miami its first lead of the night at 3-2. Gordie Green and Zach LaValle drew helpers on the Sherwood goal while Willie Knierim and Scott Dornbrock assisted on Louis’ go ahead goal.
Trailing for the first time, the Bulldogs got a power play chance with 10:06 remaining. Joey Anderson got free for a one-timer with 9:16 to go that UMD thought crossed the line, but the officials reviewed it and said no goal.
Miami ultimately killed off the penalty, but was hemmed in its zone for a long stretch afterwards, which eventually led to a Jared Thomas goal, tying it up with 6:35 left in regulation. The Bulldogs then grabbed a 4-3 lead with 4:23 left when Alex Iafallo picked a corner on a transition rush.
Trailing in the late stages, Miami dumped the puck into the zone to allow Chase Munroe to leave the crease for an extra attacker in the final two minutes, but Minnesota Duluth was able to quickly clear and spring Dominic Toninato for a breakaway goal to put the contest away with 1:05 left.
The Bulldogs held a 36-24 shot advantage for the game, though shots on goal were dead even (20-20) over the final 40 minutes. Munroe made a career-high 31 saves in the setback while Miska stopped 21 shots at the other end. Sherwood finished with a goal and an assist to finish the year with 38 points and a team-high 14 multi-point games.
Miami begins its 2017-18 season on Oct. 6 at Providence.