No. 6 Miami captured the Mason Cup and its first CCHA Tournament championship by knocking off No. 12 Western Michigan, 5-2, Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena in the RedHawks’ fourth title game appearance in school history. Miami (23-9-6) broke a 2-2 tie with three third-period goals to down the Broncos (19-12-10) while also extending its unbeaten streak to a school-record 13 games, which ties for the nation’s longest. The `Hawks are also now riding a season-best seven-game win streak.
Senior forward Andy Miele was named the CCHA Championship MVP after totaling six points on the weekend, including a goal and an assist Saturday, extending his point streak to a career-best 17 games and his goal streak to seven games. Sophomore Reilly Smith was also selected to the All-Tournament Team after a pair of goals and a helper in the title game for his second three-point game of the championship. Junior defenseman Will Weber and junior goalie Cody Reichard also nabbed All-Tournament Team honors, with Reichard earning the win in net both nights, giving him 15 on the year, while making 14 saves Saturday.
“The veteran team we have showed its true colors when they scored, we started to take the momentum back. These guys deserve all the credit,” head coach Enrico Blasi said. “They are the ones that go out there and execute and perform. They weren’t satisfied with one. They got another one and another one after that. I’m so proud of them for making history today.”
The RedHawks opened the scoring for the second straight night, as freshman Bryon Paulazzo lit the lamp for the second straight game and third time in his career. Just as a Miami power play had expired, junior Alden Hirschfeld found classmate Cameron Schilling at the point. Schilling ripped a shot that WMU goalie Jerry Kuhn saved, but Paulazzo was on the spot for the rebound and put it around Kuhn at the 12:03 mark of the first period.
With just 1:07 left in the opening stanza, Miami upped its lead to 2-0 on a power play goal. Senior Carter Camper fired a shot from high in the slot that Kuhn stopped but classmate Pat Cannone gathered the rebound and skated to the back of Kuhn, who was out of net. Cannone then passed behind Kuhn through to crease to Smith, who buried the puck in the open net for his team-leading 27th goal of the year.
Late in the second period, the Broncos got on the board, taking advantage of their own power play. With just 1:38 to play in the middle frame, Mike Leone redirected a shot by Greg Squires in front of the net that squeaked between Reichard’s legs. The period would end with the `Hawks clinging to a one-goal lead, despite outshooting WMU 20-13 through 40 minutes.
WMU quickly evened the score 2:38 into the third period, again on the man advantage. Shan Berschbach sent a pass to Dane Walters, who fired a wrister from between the circles that beat Reichard over his left shoulder.
Miami regained its lead less than six minutes later on a delayed penalty however, to make it 3-2. Schilling blasted a rocket from just inside the blue line through traffic that Miele redirected past Kuhn. The `Hawks then made it 4-2 on the ensuing power play with 9:50 remaining in the game. On the man advantage, Cannone carried the puck into the zone and dished to sophomore Curtis McKenzie through a defender. McKenzie’s shot was blocked, but he gathered his own rebound and wrapped around the net for his seventh score of the year.
The RedHawks then sealed the 5-2 victory and the championship with less than five minutes remaining when Smith scored again from between the circles top-shelf off a feed from Miele, giving Smith 28 tallies this year, which ranks in Miami’s single-season top 10. Junior Trent Vogelhuber also picked up a helper. As the clock hit zero, coaches hugged on the bench while players rushed the ice in celebration of making school history.
“There have been a lot of great hockey teams before us at Miami and a lot of great players and a lot of great coaches. But for us, this team here, we’ve been working hard since the summertime. For us seniors, we’ve been working hard since before we even got to Miami,” Camper said. “It’s an amazing payoff. This is 10 times better than winning the regular season championship last year.”
Miami finished with a 35-16 edge in shots, including 15-3 over the final frame. Kuhn stopped 30 shots in defeat for WMU. The `Hawks finished 2-for-3 on the power play while the Broncos went 2-for-4.