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Miami University photo
Jarod Palmer hopes to lead Miami back to the NCAA title game.

Freakish OT goal motivates Miami

2009 NCAA runners-up enter tourney as top seed

One would think mere mention of the goal would make members of the Miami of Ohio hockey team nauseous.

It’s overtime of last year’s NCAA championship game. Colby Cohen of Boston University fires a shot from about 45 feet out; it ricochets off the leg of sliding Miami defenseman Kevin Roeder, knuckleballs into the air and swerves into the top of the net, as bewildered goaltender Cody Reichard never seems to see the puck.

It’s about as painful a goal as one will see, deciding the biggest game of any of the players’ lives.

Oh, did we mention that Miami squandered a two-goal lead with less than a minute to play in regulation? Ouch.

In this year’s NCAA tournament, Miami comes in as the top seed and is poised to take on Alabama-Huntsville today in the Midwest Regional at Memorial Coliseum.

But the RedHawks embrace the events of last season, painful as they might be to watch months later.

“I’ve watched it on YouTube quite a few times, actually,” said Miami’s leading scorer, Jarod Palmer, who has 18 goals and 45 points in 41 games.

“I don’t know. I’m sort of indifferent about it. I remember looking up in the second period and feeling amazed that I was even there in a championship game and there were 17,000 people there. I will never forget it, regardless of the outcome. It’s painful watching that, but it gives us extra motivation going into this year.”

The RedHawks (27-7-7) must be wary against Alabama-Huntsville (12-17-3), even though it’s the only team in the field with a losing record. Miami knows three No. 1 seeds (Notre Dame, Denver and Michigan) were ousted in the opening games of their respective regions last year.

“It’s a little bit of trend in the last few years of national tournaments with No. 1 overall seeds falling in the first game to No. 16 seeds,” Palmer said. It’s a big concern of ours. We definitely have to prepare and keep our sights set on Alabama-Huntsville and not look past them (to either Michigan or Bemidji State).”

That’s because the RedHawks don’t want Cohen’s goal – some might say it was a fluke – to be the defining moment in their careers.

“You want to keep it in the back of your mind because it was such a good feeling being there, one of the most memorable moments of our lives,” said Miami’s Tommy Wingels, who has 17 goals and 42 points. “But at the same, it’s tough to relive that moment. It’s in the back of your mind as motivation and you don’t want to feel it again.”

Miami came out of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association with the top-ranked offense (3.44 goals per game) and the top-ranked defense (1.85 goals against per game), though it lost to eventual champion Michigan in the semifinals of the CCHA tournament.

Using their loss to Boston University as the catalyst, the RedHawks have worked on particular areas of their game this season.

“What happened in that game has been on our minds all year,” Palmer said. “We’ve done a lot of extra work preparing for end-of-game situations.”

Miami is 3-2-1 in its last five games. Now it must get on a run akin to last year, when it made the finals.

“Last year’s experience has provided so much for us,” Wingels said. “Experience-wise, having that in the NCAA tournament, it’s very important. There’s more media, more people calling for tickets, family and friends coming. The experiences are something we can use to our advantage this time.”

The RedHawks just hope it all ends better.