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RedHawks shift focus to eighth straight NCAA berth

Now it’s on to the big show for Miami University’s hockey team.

The RedHawks took a 6-2 bruising from Michigan in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association semifinals last weekend in Detroit, but now they’re focused on their eighth straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

MU (24-11-5) collected a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Regional and will play No. 3 Minnesota State Mankato (24-13-3) at the Huntington Center in Toledo on Saturday at 5 p.m.

“If you’re one of the top teams in the country playing at this time of the year, that’s pretty special,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “We’re happy that we’re in. Now it’s just a matter of getting ready to play on Saturday.”

No. 1 Notre Dame (25-12-3) faces No. 4 St. Cloud State (23-15-1) in Saturday’s first regional semifinal at 1:30 p.m. The title will be decided Sunday at 4 p.m.

This will be the RedHawks’ 11th NCAA appearance. They are 7-10 in the national event, losing in the first round the last two years.

“Definitely a sense of urgency is there, especially as a senior,” MU senior defenseman Joe Hartman said. “If you don’t play well, you will lose and you will go home. We’ve got to bring it.”

MSMU doesn’t have much postseason tradition at the Division I level, losing to Cornell in its lone NCAA trip in 2002-03. Of course, Massachusetts Lowell didn’t have a lot of tradition last year before handing MU a 4-3 overtime defeat.

“You would’ve said that about Bemidji State a few years ago, and they made it to the Frozen Four,” Blasi said. “I don’t buy any of that. Throw it out the window. Minnesota State made the tournament, and they earned it no different than we earned it. Let’s play the game.”

Focus and composure will be hammering points at practice all week, according to Blasi. The RedHawks didn’t have a lot of either while giving up a season-high six goals to Michigan.

And Miami’s goaltending situation? Ryan McKay allowed four goals before getting replaced by Jay Williams last weekend, and Blasi said Saturday’s starter is uncertain — even though McKay has started the last seven games.

“It certainly makes things a little more interesting this week in practice,” Blasi said.

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