The magical ride of the Bemidji State men's hockey team through the NCAA Tournament is over.
Miami University defeated the Beavers 4-1 in the first semifinal of the NCAA Frozen Four Thursday at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The loss brought to an end an historic ride for Bemidji State, which was the first No. 16 seed to reach the Frozen Four. It also marked the first time a team outside of the "Big Four" conferences had made it to Frozen Four.
But on Thursday on the biggest stage of all, the Beavers just didn't have it - and Miami did.
"You know what, we got beat by a better team tonight," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "Miami was strong; they were quick; they reacted well. Every facet of their game was good and we just couldn't get on track. Again, hats off to Miami."
All the scoring that mattered for the game occurred in the second period over a span of 7:10. The RedHawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Beavers answered to make it 2-1. Miami quickly got a huge goal to make it 3-1, then added an empty netter in the third.
There was no scoring in the first period, but plenty of action as the teams combined for 24 shots - 12 each.
Miami got the better of the quality chances, but BSU goalie Matt Dalton was solid on each. Miami leading scorer Carter Camper got off a strong shot with just under four minutes remaining from in close, but was stopped.
Dalton also came up with a pair of big glove saves. The first came on a Miami 2 on 1 with Andy Miele unleashing a hard shot from the far circle. Dalton made the glove save at 18:00. Dalton did it again with just 16 seconds remaining in the period, this time off a shot from Justin Mercier from virtually the same spot.
Bemidji State had its chances early in the period. Matt Francis tipped a shot from the point by BSU defender Ryan Adams that Miami goalie Cody Reichard kicked aside. Less than a minute later, Matt Read got off a shot with Reichard kicking the rebound to the side of the net. Tyler Scofield was there and ready for the rebound, but the puck jumped his stick.
Miami coach Enrico Blasi said he believed the scoreless first period was evenly played, with the Beavers performing well. "I thought they played very well in the first period and that their goalie Dalton was tough," he said. "We certainly weren't comfortable going into the second period - you never can be against a team like Bemidji. They just go."
Miami took control in the second period, jumping out to an insurmountable 3-1 lead.
The RedHawks' Tommy Wingels scored first with Miami on the power play, connecting on a hard wrist shot from the top of the near circle that beat a heavily screened Dalton short side at 3:56.
Miami then made it 2-0 at 8:35 off a nice passing play. Wingels led a rush up the boards and then slowed to allow a linemate to join the play. He found Alden Hirschfeld with a nice pass to convert the 2 on 1.
Bemidji State got on the board with a power play of their own just 1:13 after the Miami goal. Francis found Read low with Read cutting in front of the goal and scoring past a sprawling Reichard.
But Miami answered quickly with a goal 58 seconds later that was the turning point of the game. Miami's Will Weber took a shot that deflected off Dalton in front. The deflection then caromed off RedHawk forward Bill Loupee's stick and tickled into the net, giving Miami a 3-1 lead.
Bemidji State would never recover.
"Our power play came up big and got that first goal," said Blasi. "When that happened you could feel the team get a bit more loose and start playing their game. Then we got that second one. Even when Bemidji scored, the guys continued to play well. That third goal was huge."
After trailing 2-0 and getting the power play goal from Read, the Beavers looked like they may be able to make a run. It didn't turn out to be the case. Miami quickly answered just one minute later to score the biggest goal of the game.
"That obviously was a big goal for them," said Bemidji State senior Travis Winter. "One of the biggest shifts in every game is right after a goal and you try to win that shift, but, unfortunately, we didn't. It was a huge goal, probably the turning point of the game."
Bemidji State just never seemed to be able to sustain any pressure for most of the night and couldn't find a rhythm. Senior Tyler Scofield said Miami had a lot to do with it. "They did a good job of taking away our speed through the neutral zone," he said. "I don't remember too many times when we had great speed coming into their zone. And we were just having a tough time hitting each other (with passes).
"And, I mean, we've had success lately, but it just wasn't there for us tonight."
Blasi said taking away the BSU speed through the neutral was something Miami worked on heavily. "We knew Bemidji was going to be tough in the way they play, a real aggressive style," Blasi said. "I thought our guys did a pretty good job of adapting to that and really trying to turn it on them in transition. It was something we worked on a lot in preparing for Bemidji."
In the Beavers incredible run through the Midwest Regional, they played a relentless style that featured constant puck pursuit and attention to detail. Neither were there for the Miami game.
"We didn't have the puck pursuit," Serratore said. "We weren't relentless. Miami played great and really out-muscled us. As far as a game plan we tried to throw at them, we never could get going. We just couldn't get going."
Miami ended the night with a 37-25 shots on goal advantage. Dalton took the loss, making 33 saves in a strong performance. Reichard was the winner for Miami in net, ending with 24 saves.
The loss ended the season for the Beavers who finished 20-16-1. It also marked the last collegiate game for seniors Cody Bostock, Tyler Scofield, Travis Winter, Matt Francis, Orlando Alamano and Brandon Marino.
"This was the most tight-knit team I've ever been a part of and I love every single one of those guys. It was a fun run," said Scofield. "But it was definitely an emotional finish. Thinking that you're not going to play another college game, well, it really takes a toll on you."
Bemidji State 0 1 0 - 1
Miami 0 3 1 - 4
First Period - no scoring. Penalties - Vincent LoVerde, MIA (holding the stick), 8:06, Brad Hunt, BSU (interference), 9:02
Second Period - 1, MIA, Tommy Wingels 9 (Matt Tomassoni, Andy Miele), 3:56 (pp). 2, MIA, Alden Hirschfeld 5 (Wingels, Carter Camper), 8:35. 3, BSU, Matt Read 15 (Matt Francis, Tyler Scofield), 9:46 (pp). 4, MIA, Bill Loupee 3 (Camper, Will Weber), 10:46. Penalties - Ian Lowe, BSU (checking from behind), 2:22, Miele, MIA (hooking), 9:26, Wingels, MIA (hooking), 12:01, Weber, MIA (checking from behind), 13:52
Third Period - 5, MIA, Wingels 10 (unassisted). Penalties - none
Shots - BSU 12-6-7 25, MIA 12-10-15 37
Saves - BSU-Matt Dalton (36 shots-33 saves)(empty net, :22-goal), MIA-Cody Reichard (25 shots-24 saves)
Power Play - BSU 1 for 4, MIA 1 for 2
Referees - Feola, McDonald, assistant referees - Brown, Garfield (ECAC)