RedHawks sweep Alaska
After a weekend sweep of Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) foe the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Miami University men's ice hockey team sits atop the CCHA standings with 44 points. The No. 3/4 RedHawks (17-6-5, 12-4-4-4 CCHA) moved past No. 6 Western Michigan, who they play next weekend.
The No. 20 Nanooks (12-10-4, 10-9-3-1 CCHA) came into Oxford the winners of six straight, having not lost in 2013. Miami ended that streak abruptly Friday night with a 4-1 win that was closer than the score indicates. The 'Hawks were the first to strike, as sophomore forward Blake Coleman scored at 12:11 of the opening frame with an extra skater on a delayed penalty.
"We had the extra attacker and I knew their guy was coming out of the box," Coleman said of the scoring play. "[Alex] Gacek kind of moved it down the wall and Jimmy [Mullin] was planted in front, so I just threw it on net and saw what would happen. It went off his leg pad, fortunately, and gave us a bounce, so I'll take it any way I can get it."
Freshman forward Cody Murphy got in on the action, scoring for the third time in three games as he gave the RedHawks the 2-0 lead with just over a minute left in the first. The Nanooks did not go out without a fight though, and sophomore defenseman Trevor Campbell found his way past freshman net minder Jay Williams just five minutes into the second period. That was the first and only goal of the night for the visiting squad, with Williams backstopping the Red and White with 24 saves, including 13 in the third period alone.
As the clock ticked down to just over a minute in the game, Alaska pulled freshman goaltender John Keeney in favor of an extra attacker. Sophomore forward and CCHA leading scorer Austin Czarnik put the final nail in the coffin, scoring twice on the empty net to seal the 4-1 victory.
Saturday saw an increase in offensive production, starting with a pair of Riley Barber goals, with Czarnik assisting his freshman linemate on both tallies. The lead wouldn't last long though, as Alaska netted a pair of power play goals to tie the game at two apiece halfway through the second period.
Miami found offensive firepower from some unlikely candidates, as they scored four straight and never looked back. Freshman forward Kevin Morris notched the go-ahead goal, burning Keeney on a glove side wrister to put Miami up 3-2. Junior forward Max Cook had a similar style goal just minutes into the third, and sophomore linemate Cody Murphy added his own strike at 11:41 of the third period. Morris found the back of the net once more to cap off the RedHawks' scoring, achieving the first multi-goal game of his career in the process and helping his team to its second straight series sweep. Classmate Ryan McKay totaled 29 saves on the night in the 6-2 victory.
"Momentum's huge in a game and Steven (Spinell) did make a nice pass out of the box there, and it was a lucky move and a lucky shot," Morris said of his game winner. "That doesn't happen often for me, I usually get the garbage goals. But I'll take what I can get. It was one of those games where the bounces went our way ... and we've set ourselves up pretty good for next weekend at Western."
Though the two goals allowed on man-down situations ended a streak of 26 straight successful kills, the 6-2 win marks the most production that head coach Enrico Blasi's squad has seen on the year, and the 'Hawks ride a season-high five game win streak into the next series against No. 6 Western Michigan. And according to him, his players will need to continue that kind of effort if they want to finish the season strong.
"Every team's going to be desperate now, and every team needs points," Blasi said. "We've got to match them up, we've got to be intense. For us, it doesn't change anything we do. We approach it the same way whether it's game one or game twenty-eight. We've got to make sure we're managing the puck well and playing good, team defense. If we can do those things we give ourselves the best chance to win."
Miami will battle the Broncos next weekend in Kalamazoo, Mich., at the Harry W. Lawson Ice Arena. The puck drops 7:05 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8-9.
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