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MU splits series with defending national champion Providence

Junior defenseman Colin Sullivan fights for the puck against Providence.
Junior defenseman Colin Sullivan fights for the puck against Providence.

By Steven Perkins, staff writer

After a devastating 7-3 loss against Providence College in its Friday home-opener, the Miami University hockey team took to the ice Saturday and beat defending national champion in the first ever NCAA three-on-three overtime.

Miami opened the two-game series with a power play goal from the highly-touted freshman forward Jack Roslovic. The visiting Friars answered with three straight goals, closing the first period with a 3-1 lead. Roslovic added an assist in Saturday's game to finish his first NCAA weekend with two points.

Head coach Enrico Blasi thought his team looked solid in the beginning of the game, but was disappointed with the drop-off.

"Maybe in the first ten minutes of the game we had some jump, but after that they showed why they won the national championship a year ago," Blasi said. "I just thought they outplayed us in every aspect of the game."

Miami opened the scoring in the second period when junior defenseman Colin Sullivan scored his first NCAA goal 1:35 into the frame. Providence netted the next four straight goals, extending their lead to 7-2.

In the dwindling moments of the third period, another first gave the fans at Goggin something to cheer about. Freshman forward Josh Melnick tipped in a goal with under eight minutes to play for his first collegiate score.

Senior goaltender Jay Williams had a tough night, giving up seven goals on 25 shots. He was replaced by his senior counterpart Ryan McKay with 11:36 to play. McKay made one save on one shot.

"Our compete level has to be better, we have to start winning battles," Blasi said. "We're not going to sugarcoat anything. It wasn't very good."

Senior forward Alex Gacek agreed.

"Top to bottom, we weren't good tonight," Gacek said. "Period."

Gacek said the RedHawks did not present their best work.

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"We had a good week of practice," he said. "Today we didn't show it at all. Tomorrow will be a big test for our team to show how we can turn it around and come back."

And the RedHawks did just that.

On Saturday, Miami overcame a 2-1 deficit in the third period and fought its way to a 3-2 overtime victory, though the result is recorded as a 2-2 tie.

Blasi was pleased with the team's play during game two.

"I thought our guys really stepped up their game," Blasi said. "All-in-all, it was a good response to last night and we're pleased with it."

Miami opened the scoring again on Saturday. Sophomore defenseman and alternate captain Louie Belpedio struck first for Miami just over 13 minutes into the game. He finished the weekend with one goal and one assist.

Providence scored the next two goals, one in the first period and one in the second, taking a 2-1 lead heading into the final period of the weekend.

But the RedHawks refused to leave empty handed.

Senior forward Chris Joyaux, who did not dress on Friday, knotted it up with less than seven minutes remaining. The game would end tied at 2-2 and headed to overtime.

Coach Blasi was glad with his team's ability to bounce back.

"Our guys just dug deep and started to play our game the way we want them to play and they could feel it," Blasi said. "We were using our speed and just making simple plays."

Senior forward and team captain Sean Kuraly echoed Blasi.

"It's not easy to come back after a loss like that," Kuraly said. "I'm happy with how the guys responded. It was just about flipping the page and trying to get better."

After five minutes of scoreless play in overtime, the game was officially called a 2-2 tie, and both teams earned one NCAA point. The teams then sent out three players and a goalie each to begin the first ever NCAA three-on-three overtime period, which didn't even last two minutes.

After a long shift and tenacious forecheck, Kuraly laid a hit on the boards in the offensive zone, knocking the puck to the middle of the ice to connect with freshman forward Josh Melnick. Melnick found a hole and shot the game-winning goal, giving the RedHawks a 3-2 victory.

Kuraly remained modest about his role in the overtime winner.

"I was just trying to finish my hits all night," Kuraly said, "[Melnick] has been working hard and he's being rewarded for his hard work. That's the bottom line."

Melnick returned the favor to his captain.

"If you watch the clip of that last goal, it was all my teammates' hard work," Melnick said. "Sean won a battle on the left side, and I just kind of stepped into the middle and took a shot that trickled in."

Miami continues non-conference play next weekend in a home-and-home series with Ohio State University.