The Midwest Regional Final will feature the number two seed Miami (OH) who defeated Minnesota State 4-0 taking on the number four seed St. Cloud State who defeated the number one seed Notre Dame 5-1.
Both teams exploded on offense in their first round game. Miami is led by Austin Czarnik who had 38 points this year. He had two assists in the first round and is dangerous on the penalty kill as he led the NCAA with 4 shorthanded goals. Look out for Blake Coleman who also had two assists in the first round. Riley Barber could be someone who is ready to break out as he led the team with 15 goals this season. Miami is a young team with plenty of speed that is not afraid to use it.
On the other side is St. Cloud State who exerted their will on Notre Dame in a dominating victory. The speed and passing of St. Cloud was able to fluster Notre Dame. The only guy who didn’t seem to tally a point in the game against Notre Dame was Drew LeBlanc. Look out for leading goal scorer Jonny Brodzinski who had a goal against Notre Dame. Brodzinski has now scored 22 goals this season and one of many players who are dangerous on St. Cloud.
Advantage: St. Cloud State
Miami had a great defensive game against Notre Dame. Miami already allowed the second least goals in the country. They stopped Minnesota State by blocking 28 shots completely shutting down high powered Minnesota State. Miami blocks a high volume of shots which lowers the number of pucks that reach the net. Minnesota State was only able to get 20 shots on net.
St. Cloud State was able to control the game against Notre Dame mostly with their offensive attack. But they played a great defensive game as well. Notre Dame was unable to get anything going on offense for the whole game. St. Cloud State held Notre Dame to 18 shots on goal which was 13 less than their season average. St. Cloud State has a disciplined defense that is led by Nick Jensen who is very good offensively and had one assist against Notre Dame.
Advantage: Miami (OH)
Miami had two great goaltenders to choose from for the first round and they went with Ryan McKay. That was a good choice considering that he shutout Minnesota State and made 20 saves. McKay was first in the country in goals against average and second in the country in save percentage. McKay has been brilliant all season long and it’s hard to believe that he is just a freshman.
On the other side is Ryan Faragher who is a sophomore. He made 17 saves on 18 shots in the victory over Notre Dame. Faragher has a goals against average of 2.26 and a save percentage of .915. Faragher made several great saves to keep St. Cloud staked to the lead before they stretched it out in the second period.
Advantage: Miami (OH)
Both teams make their money on special teams. Miami is not great on the power play as they convert at a pedestrian 15.8 percent. Miami was 0 for 1 on the power play against Minnesota State. Where Miami makes their money is on the penalty kill. They have the sixth best penalty kill unit at 88.1 percent. They were 4 for 4 on the penalty kill against Minnesota State and scored their first goal nine seconds after killing a penalty. Look out for Austin Czarnik who has scored 4 shorthanded goals which was the best in the country.
St. Cloud State was good on the special teams as well in the first round. They were 2 for 7 on the power play which was better than normal for them as they convert 17.6 percent of the time. But St. Cloud’s passing was great on the power play and both plays were designed for soft shots from the shot that were kicked out to Joey Benik who scored both power play goals. 3 of Benik’s 5 goals are on the power play now. St. Cloud was also 1 for 1 on the penalty kill. St. Cloud State is the least penalized team in the country and will continue to need to be disciplined to make it an advantage. One knock was that St. Cloud did give up a shorthanded goal to Notre Dame in the first round.
This should be a good game between two teams of contrasting styles. Miami is a defensive team that wants to limit the chances of the opposition. They have a great goaltender but block shots like gangbusters to keep the pressure off of McKay. St. Cloud State is going to want to push the pace and control the tempo of the game. Expect to see a lot of shoot first mentality or quick passing plays to prevent Miami from setting up in the zone to block shots. St. Cloud must get more than 20 shots on net to challenge McKay. I suspect that the game will come down to the battle of special teams. If St. Cloud can stay out of the penalty box and get a goal or two from the power play they will have a chance. For Miami, Czarnik must be licking his chops after seeing St. Cloud give up a shorthanded goal against Notre Dame. Miami has the talent and Curtis McKenzie and Czarnik should be huge x-factors. I like Czarnik to get a shorthanded goal and McKenzie to score the game winner in overtime.
Miami (OH) 3 St. Cloud State 2