Photo courtesy of Jeff Sabo
By Grace Remington, For The Miami Student
A winning outdoor performance in Chicago bumped the Miami University men's hockey to third place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference after a 4-3 victory over Western Michigan University Saturday.
Miami also moved up one spot to No. 7 in both the USCHO.com and USA Today polls.
Miami (16-9-1, 9-6-1-1) controlled the first 40 minutes of the contest and finished the second period leading 4-0. WMU (11-11-4, 4-8-4-3) had a quick three-goal revival in the third frame, but the 'Hawks skated away with the 4-3 win.
"We knew [Western Michigan] was going to make a push, and they did," head coach Enrico Blasi said. "We were fortunate enough to hang on there at the end."
Senior forward Alex Wideman put Miami on the board midway through the first frame, and junior forwards Riley Barber, Kevin Morris and Sean Kuraly contributed one goal apiece in the second.
The RedHawks finish the regular season 3-0-1 against the Broncos.
Miami outshot WMU 41-28. Junior goaltender Jay Williams moved to 14-4 on the year, stopping 25 of 28 shots. WMU's junior goaltender Lukas Hafner was pulled after allowing four goals on 26 shots in two periods. Senior Frank Slubowski subbed in and kept the Broncos close by stopping all 15 shots he faced in the third.
The start of the game was delayed three times due to problems on the ice. Earlier in the week, Blasi had mentioned this as a challenge that accompanies playing outdoors.
"There's no secret to playing in an outdoor game," Blasi said after the game. "You have to keep things simple. When you try to be cute you get in trouble."
Freshman defensemen Louis Belpedio, who had a multi-point performance with two assists, agreed.
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"You have to be simple with the puck," Belpedio said. You can't try to make the fancy play. All the goals were ugly, right in front of the net. But that's what it takes sometimes."
Now, having competed in the Hockey City Classic twice, Blasi expressed his interest in returning.
"If they invite us to come back again, we're here," Blasi said. "This is a great thing for our game, for college hockey. It's a great thing for the players … for our alums, our fans and everyone associated with our programs."