The comeback was on. And then it went up in smoke.
Miami University’s hockey team fell behind St. Cloud State 2-0 in the NCAA Midwest Regional final Sunday at the Huntington Center, but the RedHawks’ Blake Coleman chopped the deficit in half with 12:10 left in the second period.
The Huskies responded with a Cory Thorson goal 2:22 later and went on to win 4-1 before a crowd of 2,460.
“It’s a credit to St. Cloud for bouncing back really quick and kind of squashing the momentum we had going,” Coleman said. “It was a tough night as far as breaks go. We didn’t quite get the bounces we needed.”
The sophomore’s goal was a bit atypical. Steven Spinell and Alex Wideman picked up assists on the board-aided play.
“I was just trying to take the goalie’s eyes away,” Coleman said. “Steve put a good shot towards the net, and I was able to track it the whole way and just kind of timed it off the wall. I just tried to make a strong play to the net with it.”
MU had plenty of good looks at St. Cloud goalie Ryan Faragher throughout the contest, but the sophomore rose to the challenge time and time again.
Faragher didn’t have a tremendous amount of saves (20), yet the quality of his work was outstanding.
“It’s on us,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to execute plays in tight. We’ve got to score on good chances, and we didn’t tonight.”
The Huskies’ first goal by Joey Benik with 14:32 left in the opening period was a bullet that whizzed past Miami goalie Ryan McKay, who said, “I never saw it. There was a screen.”
About three minutes after that score, the RedHawks’ Matthew Caito fired a shot that looked like it might have been a goal — the puck hit metal and caromed away from Faragher. No goal was called, though, and there was no review.
“I just shot it,” Caito said. “I didn’t really know where it went. I just heard a post.”
Said Miami coach Enrico Blasi, “All those goals are reviewed upstairs anyway, so I’m sure if it did go in, they would’ve called down. I have full confidence that the system that we use in the national tournament works. Other than that, I have no comments on that.”
Blasi credited St. Cloud for its performance and said the Huskies “played great.”
“I thought we had some good chances in the first,” he continued. “We hit a couple posts, their goalie made a couple big saves, and then I thought they took over in the second period. We just didn’t have an answer for it.
“From my point of view, I think we worked hard. We tried to generate some things, but in the end, they were just up for the task, and they deserve to be where they’re at.”
Regional honors: Benik was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player. The all-tournament team included forwards Benik, Coleman and Thorson; defensemen Spinell and Andrew Prochno of St. Cloud; and goalie Faragher.
Benik, a freshman, had four goals and an assist in two regional contests. He suffered a broken leg in the preseason and totaled three goals in 21 games before this weekend.
Looking back, Huskies coach Bob Motzko noted that Benik’s leg didn’t heal as quickly as they were hoping.
“Do you redshirt him and get that fourth year back down the stretch?” Motzko said. “I think we talked about it for about 30 seconds and decided, let’s go for it and get him back in our lineup. It took a little adjustment, but we’re all starting to see what he’s capable of doing.”
Nonstop killing: The RedHawks were perfect on the penalty kill all weekend, going 4 for 4 on Sunday and 4 for 4 against Minnesota State Mankato on Saturday.
Series update: MU is now 8-3-2 against St. Cloud. SCSU is located in St. Cloud, Minn., which is about 70 miles northwest of Minneapolis. It is the hometown of Miami senior defenseman Joe Hartman.
Outlasting LSSU: The RedHawks were 1-3 this season when allowing four or more goals. The win came at Lake Superior State (5-4) on Feb. 22.
Looking ahead: Miami will open the 2013-14 campaign on the road against Ohio State on Friday, Oct. 11.