MANCHESTER, N.H. – Ryan Jones recorded a goal and an assist and Jeff Zatkoff recorded 43 saves to lead 13th-ranked Miami University hockey team to Saturday afternoon’s 2-1 victory against fifth-ranked University of New Hampshire in an NCAA first round game of the Northeast Regional at Verizon Wireless Arena.
UNH, the 2007 Hockey East regular-season champions who earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Ice Hockey Championships, ends the season at 26-11-2. Miami, also an at-large team, improved to 24-13-4 and will face off against the winner of the Boston College versus St. Lawrence University first-round matchup Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
Trailing 2-0 midway through the third period, UNH pulled within 2-1 on Mike Radja’s shorthanded tally at 15:15. Craig Swizter’s pass through the neutral zone sent Radja into the offensive zone against two defenders. From the slot, he pushed the puck forward, shifted to the right to elude the defense and lunged forward to chip a shot over a charging Zatkoff into the net.
The RedHawks went on the power play again at 16:50, but once again it was the ‘Cats with the best scoring opportunity as the forecheck of Greg Collins and Josh Ciocco generated Ciocco’s shot from the left circle that was gloved by Zatkoff.
Miami was whistled for an interference penalty at 18:39, which prompted UNH to call time out and pull goaltender Kevin Regan (23 saves) in favor of an extra skater. The ‘Cats went on the power play 11 seconds later to give them a two-skater advantage. New Hampshire cycled the puck effectively and Matt Fornataro fired a shot from the right circle that hit Zatkoff, and the goalie – surrounded by teammates and opponents -- fell forward to cover the puck.
MU called time out at that point – 27.7 seconds remaining. UNH won the ensuing faceoff in the left circle, but Jamie Fritsch’s shot from the point was blocked and the ‘Cats could not get a shot on goal before being whistled offsides with 17.3 to play. The RedHawks won the faceoff and Nathan Davis threw the puck the length of the ice. UNH slowly advanced the puck into and through the neutral zone, then dumped the puck harmlessly into the offensive zone with four seconds left and time expired as the puck carried behind the net.
Miami scored on its first shot of the game and took that 1-0 lead into the first intermission despite UNH’s 14-10 shot advantage in the stanza. Jones initiated the scoring sequence with a pass from behind the net to Brian Kaufman deep on the right side. Kaufman’s centering pass found Davis in the slot and, with his back to the net, Davis slid a shot inside the left post at 1:47.
The RedHawks went on their first power play of the game minutes later. Despite good time of possession in the offensive zone, MU generated just one shot on goal. After a successful penalty kill, UNH went on the power play at 8:34 and the Wildcats immediately generated a flurry of shots. Chris Murray’s slap shot from the left point was stopped by Zatkoff, then Jacob Micflikier, who sliced through the slot, was denied off the rebound by the goaltender’s extended left leg pad. The rebound from that shot went to the low slot, where Brett Hemingway chipped the puck into Zatkoff’s midsection.
New Hampshire recorded a 16-5 shot advantage in a scoreless second period. Miami generated the first dangerous scoring opportunity of the stanza when Marty Guerin’s shot from the right circle was stopped by UNH goaltender Kevin Regan. Off the rebound, the loose puck was pushed to the opposite circle, where Matt Christie’s shot was blocked by UNH’s defense as Regan scurried across the crease.
Midway through the period, UNH’s Josh Ciocco corralled a loose puck on the left wing and circled behind the net. His wraparound attempt at the right post was stymied by Zatkoff and Joe Charlebois’ ensuing blast from the right point was block by a Miami defenseman.
The Wildcats went on their fifth power play of the game late in the second period, and Zatkoff stoned Mike Radja at the top of the crease and on his follow-up shot off the rebound. The ‘Cats had one last chance in the stanza when they won a faceoff with 4.4 seconds to play and Zatkoff stopped Murray’s shot from the high slot and cleared the puck into the corner as an unmarked Micflikier advanced to the net.
Miami needed just 39 seconds in the third period to extend its lead to 2-0 as Jones carried the puck from behind the net to deep on the left wing, where he fired a crossing pass that deflected of a UNH defenseman’s skate into the net. That tally proved to be the game-winning goal.