Joe Gieringer, Senior Staff Writer

Miami junior forward Austin Czarnik battles with UMD freshman forward Kyle Osterberg during Miami’s 1-0 loss Saturday. (Ben Taylor | The Miami Student)

The Miami University hockey team struggles continued this weekend, but they didn’t go down without a fight – literally. Following a wide-open 5-4 loss Friday to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the Brotherhood battled to the wrong end of a 1-0 affair that ended in a bench-clearing brawl as time expired. In only a few minutes, it appeared Miami and Minnesota-Duluth had planted the seeds of a heated, National Collegiate Hockey Conference rivalry in just the third-ever meeting between the two teams.

“I thought our effort was good,” head coach Enrico Blasi said, particularly of Saturday night’s performance. “We just didn’t execute.”

The two losses drop the RedHawks’ record to 11-18-3, and 5-16-1-1 in NCHC play. Seniors Max Cook and Bryon Paulazzo (were honored prior to the Senior Night puck drop Saturday, as Miami geared up for its final home game of the year.

Minnesota-Duluth (15-13-4, 10-10-2-2 NCHC) gains some much-needed momentum as it nears the league tournament, though the one-score losses also proved Miami was still very much alive, and dangerous to boot.

Miami jumped out to an early 2-0 lead Friday night on junior forward Blake Coleman’s breakaway goal early in the first period, with junior forward and captain Austin Czarnik supplying the pretty pass that traversed two-thirds of the length of the ice. Freshman Anthony Louis finished off the first frame scoring off two nifty passes from Cook and junior Cody Murphy.

UMD tied the contest up with three goals in 2:25, but fell behind on Louis’ second strike of the night, again assisted by Murphy. The Bulldogs tickled the twine twice more and Coleman notched his second goal of the night, evening things up at four apiece entering the third period. 1:09 into the final frame, Bulldog junior forward Adam Krause found a seam when Czarnik mishandled a power play opportunity on the Bulldog blueline, and Krause buried the eventual game winner to lift his team to a 5-4 win.

“Friday night we had a good start,” Czarnik said. “We had a couple let downs, a couple turnovers and they capitalized. But I think we’re starting to go in the right direction … we’re starting to do the right things.”

Saturday was a more complete contest in terms of quality of play from the RedHawks, and freshman forward Kyle Osterberg’s one-timer was the difference in the 1-0 contest. Fans quickly checked their ways at the final buzzer, however, when benches cleared and players of both teams squared off against each other. Tensions had been high all game, but the powder keg of pent up fury ignited as time expired in the third. Linemates, defensemen and even goaltenders rushed to aid their embattled squadmates as an old-time hockey fight played out in the waning moments of the evening

The officials were quick to break up the skirmish, but as of this article’s publication, no player on either team has been handed a game suspension, which is the customary punishment for dropping the gloves.

For Miami, it looks as if the fight breathed a new sense of urgency into the flailing, former first place club.

“It was a chippy type of game,” Czarnik said. “A lot of talking going on for both teams and I think that just kind of worked out the way it did … everyone was positive after the game. It’s not the result that we wanted but I think that’s the best attitude and mindset we’ve had all year.”

Miami concludes regular season play this weekend when it travels across the country to meet with NCHC opponent the University of Denver.