That's all it takes. One game to change a program, career, or life.
The Miami University RedHawks will look to win that one game tonight in the NCAA Hockey Championship game against the mighty and powerful Boston University Terriers.
The RedHawks (23-12-5) advanced to the title game on Thursday after defeating College Hockey America champions Bemidji State, 4-1. For Boston (34-6-4), their semifinal game was a bit tougher, but they overcame the Vermont Catamounts for a 5-4 victory.
While both teams are good, this is another episode of David vs. Goliath.
Boston entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the Northeast Regional. All year long they have been the best team in the country, winning four tournaments along the way. Their high powered offense includes many NHL prospects, and you can find the 2009 Hobey Baker Award winner, Matt Gilroy, back on defense.
The script is different for Miami. After losing in the CCHA quarterfinals to Northern Michigan, the RedHawks didn't even know if they would make the tournament. They quickly shredded up all doubt that they weren't a tournament ready team, defeating top-seeded Denver and Minnesota-Duluth in the West Regional.
There is no question that Boston has the edge over Miami in the offensive category.
Their four top scorers—Colin Wilson, Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins, and Brandon Yip—all have more points this season than Miami's leading scorer, Carter Camper. If BU's weapons all strut their best stuff, no one can stop them.
Miami's offense sings a different song than Boston's. Not one player on this roster can take over a game. The RedHawks' forwards are all versatile, balanced, and play good in their own end. This offense is a collective effort—eight forwards have more than 20 points, and six of them have 10-plus goals.
The key for Miami is to score the first goal of the game. They are 21-1-2 this year when they score first.
As you would expect, this isn't just going to be an offense show. Both teams boast some of the best defense in the nation.
The Terriers have a man who can score from the point in Gilroy. Complementing the All-American are two juniors, Eric Gryba and Brian Strait, who play a defense-first approach. This is a defense that is big and can move around, something that will be vital in stopping Miami's balanced attack.
Four of Miami's six defensemen were freshman in the win over Bemidji, something Wilson and company will look to take advantage of. Freshman Chris Wideman has 26 assists this season, which account for all of his points. This isn't a defense that will score on you, but they will be ready for Boston's offensive attack.
Look for them to establish their physical presense early and often, something they did very well against Bemidji State.
Saturday's game will feature two freshman between the pipes, something you don't see very often.
Boston University will have Kieran Millan in the net. Millan posted a 1.92 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage to go along with a 28-2-3 record. While he played outstanding during the regular season, his start against Vermont was arguably his worst of the season.
Miami will throw out Cody Reichard. Reichard has a 2.02 GAA and a .917 save percentage, and played very sharp against the Beavers on Thursday night.
Both goalies will need to overcome the mental challenge this game brings early so their team doesn't trail by a goal or two early.
Another key will be special teams. Boston has one of the nation's best power plays, with a plus-21 margin. They also have capitalized on short-handed chances, putting 10 pucks in the back of the net with a man down.
Miami's penalty kill entered the tournament with the country's second-best penalty killing percentage, but gave up two PPG's to Denver. Since then, they have settled down, only allowing one in 11 chances against Minnesota-Duluth and Bemidji State.
This game certainly has all the tools to be an all-time great. Both teams are outstanding in all categories, but I think Boston just has too much offensive firepower for the young Miami defense to stop. Boston will win their fifth NCAA Championship with a win over the Miami University RedHawks at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
If you want to watch the game, it will be airing live on ESPN at 7 PM ET.
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