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No. 5 MU splits series with No. 7 Denver

By Grace Remington, For The Miami Student

Junior forwards Riley Barber and Alex Gacek each scored twice as No. 5 Miami University hockey skated away with a 5-3 win at No. 7 University of Denver Friday night. However, the tables turned Saturday when DU stifled the RedHawks 6-2.

"We got half the job done obviously," Gacek said. "We came out guns blazing Friday, and Saturday we just let a bigger team take it to us."

Friday's win marked the 12th time in head coach Enrico Blasi's 16 seasons Miami won 20 games.

"Obviously, to get to 20 wins it's a big deal for college hockey," Blasi said. "Our year has gone fairly well, we've been pretty consistent."

Saturday's rout kept the 'Hawks (20-11-1, 13-8-1-1 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) from clinching home ice advantage for the NCHC playoffs, but they remain in second place in the conference with 41 points.

Junior forward Sean Kuraly totaled his 16th goal of the year Friday to put the Red and White on top 1-0 with 7:05 left in the first. Denver (19-11-2, 12-9-1-1 NCHC) fought back in the second, outshooting the 'Hawks 14-7, but Miami held on for the win.

The RedHawks outshot the Pioneers 27-26 overall, while scoring on 1 of 3 power plays and killing off all three DU man advantages. Junior goaltender Ryan McKay made 23 saves to extend his personal unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1), while his counterpart, freshman Tanner Jaillet, stopped 22 shots for Denver.

"We weathered them off in the second period and finished them off in the third," Blasi said.

Four Pioneer goals in the first period slowed Miami Saturday night. The 'Hawks showed signs of revival in the second frame when goals from junior forward Riley Barber and senior forward Alex Wideman narrowed the score to 4-2. However, Denver secured the game with two goals in the final period.

"Saturday night - their senior night - they really came out to play hard," Blasi said. "Their special teams in the third really put the nail in the coffin."

The Pioneers outshot the RedHawks 47-21, the most shots Miami has allowed and second fewest it has attempted in a contest this season. Junior goaltender Jay Williams took the loss after allowing four goals on 13 shots before being relieved by McKay, who stopped 32 of 34 DU attempts.

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"We got caught sleeping," Gacek said. "The first 10 minutes we were down 4-0, and by then it's almost a little too late to get back in it. But we give credit to a good Denver team; they avenged their loss on Friday."

The Red and White return to action this weekend in a regular season finale against the University of North Dakota. Puck drops 6:30 p.m. Friday.

"It'll be No. 1 versus No. 2 in the conference," Gacek said. "What more can you ask for?"