MINNEAPOLIS – For the second consecutive season, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Frozen Faceoff Championship Game came right down to the wire, but this time No. 5/6 Miami came out on the winning side as senior forward Blake Coleman tallied a hat trick to lift the RedHawks to a 3-2 win over No. 18 St. Cloud State and the 2015 NCHC Tournament title Saturday night at Target Center. Second-seeded Miami (25-13-1), which lost in the inaugural Frozen Faceoff title game a season ago to Denver by one goal, held off the sixth-seeded Huskies (19-18-1) to win its first NCHC title of any kind and second conference tournament championship in program history.
In a high-energy, fast-paced game, the RedHawks came out strong, hitting two posts in the opening minutes of the game. Seconds after clanging the iron for a second time, SCSU went the other way and junior forward Joey Benik was able to get around a Miami defenseman and sneak a shot from a sharp angle between the post and Miami junior goalie Jay Williams to put the Huskies ahead eight minutes into the game. The RedHawks answered 4:15 later when Coleman notched his first of the game, batting a puck out of mid-air at the back door on a cross-ice feed from junior forward Riley Barber at the half boards to tie the game, which is how the score remained after 20 minutes.
St. Cloud State again recaptured the lead 6:03 into the second stanza on a power play goal from junior forward Jonny Brodzinski. Junior defenseman Ethan Prow fed the puck to Brodzinski in the circle, where he one-timed a laser into the back of the net. Again the RedHawks answered as Coleman scored a power play goal of his own only 1:34 later to knot the game at 2-2, burying a shot from between the circles. Coleman then capped his second career hat trick 9:20 into the middle period with a hard wrister through traffic that found its way into the net to give Miami its first lead, which proved to be the game-winner.
With 5:48 remaining in the second period, the game took a turn when Coleman was whistled for contact to the head and given a game misconduct, ending his night after a hat trick and putting the Huskies on a five-minute power play. Miami’s penalty kill then took over from there to hold on to the lead as the RedHawks managed to kill the major and head into the final frame up a goal.
The third period was very physical as both teams battled down to the wire. SCSU had a pair of power play chances in the first eight minutes of the third period, but again the RedHawks’ penalty kill and defensive unit was up to the task, while Williams routinely made lightning-quick glove saves to keep the puck out of the net. St. Cloud State had one final chance to tie the game when Miami was called for slashing with 3:39 remaining, but the Huskies again failed to convert on the man advantage. Sophomore netminder Charlie Lindgren was pulled with 1:13 remaining for an extra attacker, but the RedHawks defense held tough to close out the 3-2 win and capture the NCHC Tournament championship.
Miami finished with a slight, 21-20, edge in shots on goal, including 9-4 in the opening 20 minutes. The RedHawks penalty kill went 4-for-5 in the game, including 3-for-3 in the third period, which proved to be the difference in the game, while Miami was 1-for-3 on the power play itself. Williams compiled 18 saves to earn the win in net, while Lindgren took the loss, also making 18 saves.
Coleman was named MVP of the 2015 Frozen Faceoff, while classmate Austin Czarnik and freshman defenseman Louie Belpedio joined him on the All-Tournament Team from Miami. Benik, senior defenseman Tim Daly and Lindgren represented the Huskies on the All-Tournament Team.
Both Miami and St. Cloud State are headed to the NCAA Tournament and will find out their fate, along with four other NCHC teams (North Dakota, Denver, Minnesota Duluth and Omaha), on Sunday at noon ET when the NCAA Tournament field is announced on ESPNU.
2015 NCHC Frozen Faceoff All-Tournament Team
F – Blake Coleman, Miami
F – Austin Czarnik, Miami
F – Joey Benik, SCSU
D – Louie Belpedio, Miami
D – Tim Daly, SCSU
G – Charlie Lindgren, SCSU
MVP: Blake Coleman