After the Miami University Redhawks defeated the Bemidji State Beavers in Thursday's Frozen Four semifinal match-up by an impressive margin of victory, 4-1, they awaited the winner of the Boston University/University of Vermont semifinal match-up.
The BU/Vermont game had plenty of momentum changes, with the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament, BU Terriers, coming out on top.
In the third period with the Catamounts leading 4-3, Boston's Chris Higgins was able to fire a shot past Vermont goaltender, Bob Madore to even the score at 4-4 with just over 6:50 remaining in the game.
Then, it was Hobey Baker Finalist and sophomore stud Colin Wilson, who collected on the game-winning rebound just over one minute later to beat UVM and advance to the championship game—looking for their fifth national title in school history.
For Miami and its hockey program, which has only been in existence since the 1970's, this is very much un-chartered territory. Being in a national championship game in any sport is an entirely new occurrence for the Miami University Athletic Department and the school of Miami, which is a 16,000 person undergraduate university located in southwest Ohio.
The Redhawks, led by senior forward Justin Mercier and a pair of sophomores, Pat Cannone and Tommy Wingels, also rely on their strong defensive play, which ESPN hockey analyst, Barry Melrose noted during the team's victory over Bemidji State.
"Everytime a Bemidji player touches the puck, there is a white jersey on him almost immediately," said Melrose.
What also has made Miami so tough to beat during their run through the NCAA Tournament has been the play of freshman goaltender Cody Reichard, whose 5'11" 160 lb body has been able to limit opponents to a 1.33 GAA* in his last three starts, all of which have come in the postseason.
So, it all comes down to the boys from Beantown against the Midwestern toughness of the boys from Miami University.
Miami certainly likes to play physical and Boston University has been the best team in college hockey all year long.
Look for No. 22 of the Redhawks, Justin Vaive to cause some physical disruption to the ebb and flow of the BU style of play.
Also, look for both teams to heavily fore-check in the neutral zone (meaning they will play very physical as soon as the other team touches the puck).
It will be a very scrappy and heated battle, with the outcome most likely decided in the late third period or even in overtime.
My prediction: BU makes a late rally to tie the game and force overtime, but Miami freshman Alden Hirschfeld scores in overtime to give the Redhawks their first ever championship in ice hockey—and any sport—in school history.