’Hawks prove Superior
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 22:02
It was a wild weekend for the Miami University men’s hockey team, one that saw the No. 3 RedHawks suit up in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., as they swept a two-game series with Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) opponent Lake Superior State.
The RedHawks (21-8-5, 16-6-4-4 CCHA) took the lead four separate times on Friday night in the 5-4 victory over the home team, a win that gave Miami its eighth straight 20-win season, and one in which 11 members of Miami’s squad notched a point. One of those players to find the back of the net was freshman defenseman Matthew Caito, who leads his team’s blueliners in points with five goals and 13 assists on the season. The California native also recorded the game-winner the next night.
“Every team’s great and every game is a battle, and you really have to be on your A-game,” Caito said. “You can’t take anyone lightly, that’s for sure. It was key for us to keep going and really try to keep us at the top, because it’s so tight, especially with Western [Michigan], and Notre Dame, and everyone right at our backs.”
Caito’s statement was tried and true in light of Saturday’s matchup, a 2-1 nail-biter, which gave the RedHawks their fifth series sweep in regulation on the year. The Lakers were the only CCHA team to beat Miami at home this year, and Head Coach Enrico Blasi noted that his team’s most recent foe proved why the conference is one of the best in college hockey.
“I thought they played great,” Blasi said of Lake Superior (15-18-1, 10-15-1-1 CCHA). “They just threw everything at us and left it all on the ice. I thought our [penalty kill] did a nice job. Ryan [McKay] made some big saves, and our power play scored and theirs didn’t. That was the difference.”
The freshman goaltender recorded a career high 44 saves en route to his ninth win on the year, and added his .962 save percentage and 1.06 goals against average, both of which remain the best in Division I hockey.
Freshman forward Riley Barber also added to his breakout season, notching a goal and game-winning assist on Saturday. The pair of points put his year’s total at 34, which is best among scorers in the CCHA. In part, his success, as well as his team’s, can be attributed to the atmosphere that Blasi and the rest of the coaching staff have created in the Miami locker room – one in which this young RedHawk team has thrived.
“(Blasi)’s always saying ‘just have fun out there’ and ‘play your game.’ It’s a great way to approach it, and we’re just having a lot of fun. Any time you win you’re having a lot of fun, but we’re just working hard and just trying to get points in every game. It’s pretty awesome where we’re at this point in the season.”
Where the RedHawks are is on top of their conference standings, and with a five-point lead over second-ranked Western Michigan, a single win this weekend against Ohio State will secure a first place finish to the regular season. In the final year of the CCHA, that statistic would be a memorable one for Miami – but the RedHawks aren’t interested in that kind of accolade at the moment. With the post season looming and one series left in league play, Blasi said that “maybe we’ll get sentimental after the season. We have a job to do, and we’ve got to stay focused.”
The Red and White return to action in Oxford March 1-2, closing out the regular season against the Buckeyes of Ohio State. The puck drops 7:35 p.m. Friday and 7:05 p.m. Saturday.