COLUMBUS, Ohio — In its final game before taking a 10-day break, No. 5 Miami (Ohio) closed out the first half of the season with a 3-1 victory against rival Ohio State on Saturday at Value City Arena, notching a goal in each period. With the win, the RedHawks (11-3-4, 8-3-3-3 CCHA) earned five of six points on the weekend after a tie and shootout win against the Buckeyes (7-6-5, 6-3-3-1 CCHA) on Friday.
Sophomore forward Blake Coleman and freshman forward Riley Barber each recorded a goal and an assist, with Coleman’s goal as the game-winner. Sophomore forward Austin Czarnik added a pair of assists. Freshman goaltender Ryan McKay made 22 saves to earn the win. McKay has yet to allow more than one goal in any of his six starts as a RedHawk.
For the second night in a row, special teams played a big factor, as the RedHawks were a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, including a kill shortly after OSU had closed within a goal at 2-1. Miami finished the weekend 9-for-9 on the penalty kill while the RedHawks scored a power play goal for a consecutive game, going 1-for-3 a man up.
“Last week, we had some guys that weren’t very good at our penalty kill, but I thought this week they were much more determined,” Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said. “We did a good job of keeping [OSU] to the outside, we blocked a lot of shots. When we didn’t block it, there was a big save by Ryan [McKay], especially at the end. It’s one of those things that when guys are out there, they just have to get the job done.”
Miami controlled the first period, outshooting OSU 11-5, despite having to kill a pair of penalties.
Freshman Alex Gacek found the back of the net with 23.4 seconds left in the first period, to give Miami the 1-0 lead. Coleman won a battle along the boards at center ice to get the puck to fellow freshman Cody Murphy. Murphy skated into the offensive zone and dished to Gacek in the left circle, who fired a hard wrist shot top-shelf into the far corner of the goal for his third of the season.
“It’s always good to go into the locker room feeling good about your team,” Barber said. “Getting that goal late in the period really just fired us up to come back in the second with a great effort.”
Miami doubled its lead 3:33 into the second period on the power play when Coleman scored his fifth goal of the year. Barber fired the puck on net initially and the rebound popped right to Coleman just outside the crease where he buried the rebound for a 2-0 RedHawk lead. Czarnik earned the second assist.
Both teams had scoring chances late in the second period, but neither could convert, as the ‘Hawks took the two-goal lead into the second intermission. In the closing two minutes of the stanza, the Buckeyes had their best chance of the first two periods after an attempted Miami clear deflected off a Buckeye back towards the goal, but the puck hit the post and McKay cleared before OSU could convert.
Just 19 seconds into the third period, senior Curtis McKenzie batted the puck out of the air and into the net, but the referees immediately ruled a high stick and no goal. OSU cut its deficit in half when Max McCormick scored with a blast from the slot, top-shelf while McKay was screened. Alex Szczechura and Riley Simpson added the assists on the goal, which was the first even-strength goal McKay has allowed in a RedHawk uniform and just his third goal allowed overall.
Miami came up with the big penalty kill to regain some momentum. With 1:12 remaining in the game, the Buckeyes continued to apply pressure, but pulled Hjelle in favor of the extra attacker. After blocking two shots, the ‘Hawks cleared the zone and McKenzie fired toward the empty net from mid-ice, but his shot was wide. Barber chased down the puck at the blue line and his shot found the empty cage to seal the 3-1 victory.
Miami finished with a 34-23 edge in shots on goal as Hjelle totaled 31 saves in defeat.