OXFORD, Ohio -- Austin Czarnik’s Senior Night was one to remember as he posted four points to lead No. 5 Miami (Ohio) to a 6-3 victory against No. 1 North Dakota on Saturday night.
The victory clinches home ice advantage for the RedHawks (21-12-1, 14-9-1-1 National Collegiate Hockey) in next weekend’s NCHC Playoffs. It also marks the first time they have defeated the No. 1 team in the nation since topping Michigan 4-2 on March 1, 1997.
North Dakota (25-7-3, 16-6-2 NCHC) fired seven of the first eight shots on goal of the contest. The RedHawks got the night’s first power play 5:19 into the contest, but they were unable to get set up for an extended period or direct anything in Zane McIntyre’s direction during a scoreless two minutes.
First blood was drawn by UND at the 9:31 mark when Luke Johnson finished a backdoor feed from Stephane Pattyn after Gage Ausmus’ shot was deflected and slowed down to Pattyn atop the crease, where he found Johnson to make it a 1-0 North Dakota lead. Miami got another power play shortly thereafter, but was once again stymied with the man advantage as it still trailed entering the latter half of the frame.
The RedHawks found their legs as the period wore on and eventually evened the shot count at seven apiece at intermission. Miami finally broke through with 2:45 to go in the frame when Matthew Caito wired a shot from the point that Kevin Morris deflected wide off the boards. Czarnik took advantage of the lively carom as it bounced out at the opposite post and buried his third goal of the year, evening the score at 1-1 after 20 minutes.
Miami was put short-handed just 17 seconds into the second frame, but it was the RedHawks who took advantage of the situation as fore-checking pressure by Czarnik and Sean Kuraly forced a turnover into the slot. Kuraly ripped a shot wide that bounced off the high glass to Czarnik, who again took advantage of the favorable geometry with three seconds remaining on the man advantage, his second of the night putting MU on top 2-1.
Smelling blood, Miami crashed the net for a goal 37 seconds later as Blake Coleman won an offensive zone faceoff, Taylor Richart swung the puck around the wall and Anthony Louis centered the puck into the crease where Coleman jammed it home to put Miami ahead 3-1 just 2:51 into the second period.
A Miami miscue at the offensive blue line sprung Johnson loose for a breakaway that he converted on for his second goal of the evening that cut the lead to 3-2 with 14 minutes to go in the middle stanza. UND started to surge from there, outshooting MU 15-9 in the period.
The game’s critical point came with 3:40 remaining in the period when Coleman was called for a five-minute checking from behind major and a game misconduct, ending his Senior Night early. North Dakota had a golden opportunity to tie the contest up, but Czarnik forced a turnover at the UND point and skated in for a breakaway. The senior stuck with the play despite being hooked from behind by Paul LaDue and slipped the puck in past McIntyre for his second short-handed goal of the period, extending the RedHawks’ lead to 4-2 after two periods of play. That goal completed his first-collegiate hat trick.
A late penalty on Miami in the second carried into the third period, leaving North Dakota with 45 seconds of a 5-on-3 to work with. UND took advantage of the extra numbers as Nick Schmaltz fed his brother Jordan for a one-timer that whistled wide of the left post, but caromed out front to Drake Caggiula at the other end where he finished at the back door to pull North Dakota within 4-3 just 32 seconds into the final frame.
The RedHawks managed to answer just 1:12 later when Czarnik won a faceoff cleanly in the offensive zone to Riley Barber, who wired a wrist shot past McIntyre to give the RedHawks a two-goal lead once more at 5-3. Things got a bit heated from there as the teams combined for nine penalties and 29 minutes in the final 17:40. The teams also combined for 25 shots (13-12 Miami), but the Red and White were able to put the contest away when Louis buried an empty net goal by flinging the puck in from his own zone with 9.2 seconds remaining.
North Dakota ended up outshooting Miami 34-29, marking the first time MU won a game when it allowed more shots on goal than it recorded. Louis’ empty net goal finished the RedHawks’ power play at 1-for-6 on the night while North Dakota finished 1-for-5 with the man advantage. Ryan McKay turned aside 31 of 34 shots to improve to 4-0-1 in his past five starts. McIntyre stopped 23 of the 28 shots he faced from MU. Czarnik’s four-point night moved him past Andy Miele for sixth in school history with 160 career points. Louis (1g, 1a) also put up a multi-point night for the Red and White.