Frozen Four: Miami Extras and Championship Saturday
The Caps visit the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m., and Tarik will post tonight's lineup a bit later. Until then, here's some more on the NCAA Championship, which is here in D.C. tonight at Verizon Center:
If you haven't already, check out today's story on Miami's quest to win the 200-year-old school's first-ever NCAA title in any sport. History aside, though, perhaps one of the most exciting subplots of today's national championship game between Boston University and Miami will be how the Terriers' lethal power play fares against the RedHawks' stalwart penalty kill.
Boston University (34-6-4) boasts a 22.1 percent success rate (55 of 249) with the man advantage that will go up against Miami, who thwarts its opponents' power plays 89.6 percent (206 of 230) of the time. The RedHawks (23-12-5) have killed 15 of 17 penalties during the NCAA Tournament
"We have a ferocious penalty kill," Miami senior Justin Mercier said. "It is very in-your-face and a pressure penalty kill. We make teams make plays. We make them have to decide on the spot and I think that can catch a lot of teams by surprise."
It's a system devised by assistant coaches Chris Bergeron and Brent Brekke, and Coach Enrico Blasi says he's not even sure he can do the schemes adequate justice in an explanation.
"We have been doing it for about five or six years. Most of the guys you see out there have done it for a while," Blasi said. "If you have about an hour I can explain it to you, but frankly I don't know if I understand it. ... Our guys understand the schemes that we are trying to execute and the bottom line is, you have to execute."
One thing is for sure, though: Miami impressed BU Coach Jack Parker with its performance in the semifinal win against Bemidji State. Parker's Terriers, who are 5 of 11 on power plays in the tournament, are still heavy favorites as they make BU's first appearance in the final since 1997.
"I've watched them play [this season] and they're as good a college hockey team that's around. The first thing I thought was: How did this team lose 12 games?" Parker said. "I think they present an awful lot of problems."
The RedHawks have been getting scoring from all over the place in the tournament. For example, their regular-season leading scorer and All American Carter Camper has just one goal and three points, likely due to the defensive focus on him, but prior to their tallies in the semifinal Tommy Wingles, Alden Hirschfeld and Bill Loupee had a combined 14 goals this season. Miami isn't picky where their offense comes from at this point, though.
"I think Bill Loupee, Alden Hirschfeld, they've put themselves in situations," Blasi said. "They've gone to what I call the scoring areas in front of the net. With all the good goaltending you have to go to the net to score goals...Maybe next game it's somebody else, but at this time of the year nobody really cares."
With Miami's third goal on Thursday to siphon the energy away from the Beavers, Loupee scored his second goal of the postseason to match his regular-season total. He's one of the seniors for the RedHawks who went through all the heartache of losing to Boston College in the region tournament for three straight years, who saw so much talent leave at the end of 2007-08. Lately, he started thinking why this team was the one that finally made it to the Frozen Four himself.
"It's one of the things I've been thinking about over the past couple days," Loupee said. "This is probably the closest team that we've had in my four years. Maybe we don't have the superstars that we've had in the past, but when it comes down to this time of the year, it doesn't matter who's scoring goals whether it's the fourth line or the Carter Campers."
This game means a lot to the folks in Oxford, Ohio. Miami is celebrating its bicentennial this year, and the first national title in any sport would be a nice birthday present. But the pressure doesn't seem to bother many of the team's freshmen, who know how lucky they are to reach the pinnacle of college hockey so quickly.
"It's surreal almost how we made it here this fast," freshman defenseman Cameron Schilling said. "I'm a freshman coming in; they've all suffered losses and I know it fuels so many of the older guys. This means so much to them and I know this is big too, but I haven't had those losses in the NCAA tournament to think how hard it is to get here. I guess it makes it a little easier to focus."
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