Joe Louis Arena: Home of the Detroit Red Wings.
And now, Michigan junior Tim Miller.
Miller has scored all four of his goals this season at the Joe. Two of those, along with a pair of assists, came during the CCHA playoffs this weekend in a performance that earned Miller Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament.
“I always enjoy playing at Joe Louis,” Miller said. “I don’t know what it is, whether it’s the atmosphere or the ice, but every time I come here I feel like I’m on top of my game.”
After struggling to find the back of the net most of the season, Miller scored the game-winning goal against Northern Michigan in the semifinal round, and assisted on the championship winner against Miami (Ohio).
With a shaky one-goal lead halfway through the third period against the RedHawks, Miller drew out the championship-winning play before a faceoff deep in Miami territory.
He lined up with forwards Danny Fardig and Brandon Naurato with a plan in mind.
“Right before we went out there, I told them I was going to the net (off the faceoff),” Miller said. “Fardig and Naurato switched spots, so Naurato could tap it in. (Miami forward Nathan) Davis was giving me between his legs, so I tapped it through. It went through perfectly, and I slid it back door to Naurato and he buried it.”
Fardig appreciated the element of surprise.
“It was a great play by Timmy Miller – nobody expected it,” Fardig added. “Right place at the right time. Perfect.”
Maybe even more astonishing is how well Miller transitioned from replacing freshman Max Pacioretty as a first-line left winger Friday to centering the fourth line Saturday.
“It’s really difficult,” Miller said. “Especially when we have a couple of power plays in a row or our line is matching with (RedHawk forward Ryan) Jones’s line, which goes out a lot. We have to sit on the bench for maybe five, six minutes, but you have to keep your head in it and stay focused.”
And while the defensive forward’s offensive firepower this weekend surprised many, the scoring from what Michigan coach Red Berenson called “unexpected sources” is part of a recent team trend.
Naurato and freshman Carl Hagelin stepped up in the quarterfinal series against Nebraska-Omaha, each with a pair of scores.
“You never know who might emerge and who might take that extra step, but good for Tim,” Berenson said.
CCHA in the NCAAs: The Wolverines weren’t the only conference team that celebrated a tournament berth yesterday morning. Miami, Michigan State and Notre Dame were all given at-large bids during yesterday’s selection show on ESPN2.
The RedHawks, who boast one of the nation’s most potent offenses, grabbed the No. 2 overall seed. They drew Air Force, an automatic bid from the Atlantic Hockey Association, in the Northeast bracket.
Both Michigan State and Notre Dame will find the road to the Frozen Four a little rougher than Michigan or Miami will.
In the West Regional, the Spartans, Colorado College and New Hampshire all are ranked in the top 9 of the Pairwise, the standings the tournament selection committee uses to order the teams.
And to make things even tougher, the Tigers are hosting the regional at their home rink in Colorado Springs, Colo. The first-round matchups feature Michigan State against Colorado College and Notre Dame against New Hampshire.
All-Tournament Team: For the first time all year, the spotlight wasn’t on Chad Kolarik and Kevin Porter. The senior forwards didn’t garner All-Tournament team honors, leaving room for Miller, Northern Michigan’s Matt Siddall and Miami’s Ryan Jones.
The defensemen honored were Michigan’s Mark Mitera and RedHawk Alec Martinez, who scored the game-tying tally in the semifinals against Notre Dame with 3.4 seconds left in regulation and Saturday’s lone goal against the Wolverines.
Miami’s Jeff Zatkoff was named the All-Tournament goalie.