By Karl Henkel/at the CCHA Championship
DETROIT - The Miami RedHawks came out firing on all cylinders, but made sure to save the best for last.
In a game in which they trailed the Irish of Notre Dame in the waning moments, Miami not only tied the score to send the game into overtime, but won it, 2-1, on an overtime goal by Rochester native Alec Martinez.
Miami came out in the opening period and peppered Irish netminder Jordan Pearce with 11 shots, eight of which occurred during two RedHawk power plays. The Irish, on the other hand, were held to just three shots.
But in the second frame, Notre Dame looked much more like the team who defeated Ferris State in the CCHA quarterfinals. Still, the game remained scoreless heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
With just over six minutes to play in the third period, and on a power play, the Irish looked to have broken the scoreless duel when captain Mark Van Guilder walked in from the left circle and fired a wrist shot over the right shoulder of RedHawks goalie Jeff Zatkoff (Chesterfield). Referee Brian Aaron initially called it a goal, but replay officials determined the puck hit the far post and never completely crossed the line.
“I stayed up on the shot, I thought I had it covered,” Zatkoff said of the shot. “It was an amazing shot.”
But just a few minutes later Notre Dame forward Evan Rankin (Portgage) lofted a backhander from between the circles that Zatkoff got a piece of with his glove hand. Unfortunately, he didn't get enough of it, and the puck fluttered just inside the right post for the one-goal advantage.
In the last minute of action, Miami pulled Zakoff for the extra-attacker. Just as it appeared the Irish were going to advance to Saturday's CCHA championship game, Canton native Mitch Ganzak's desperation slapshot with 2.3 seconds to go was redirected in front by an Irish defenseman, which sent the game into overtime.
In the extra session, off a broken play, the puck squirted to the Notre Dame blue line, where Martinez ripped a shot that deflected off Pearce's glove into the back of the net.
“I couldn't see it because there was traffic in front,” Martinez said after the game. “But then I thought it went in went in when I saw a ripple in the mesh.”
Neither team scored a power-play goal, but deficiency was to be expected, with the Irish and RedHawks ranking first and second in terms of penalty killing, respectively, during the CCHA regular season.
The RedHawks will play Michigan in the CCHA final tomorrow. Notre Dame, who failed to repeat as tournament champs, will take on Northern Michigan in the consolation game.