OXFORD, Ohio — Jake Hildebrand recorded 34 saves as Michigan State posted a 3-0 victory at No. 3 Miami (Ohio) on Friday night to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three CCHA quarterfinal series.
Matt DeBlouw, Matt Berry, and Kevin Walrod had the scores for the Spartans, who led 2-0 after the first period and relied on a tenacious effort in all areas to hold on for the win. MSU snapped a seven-game winless streak against the RedHawks (22-10-5), who swept MSU out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals last season.
Hildebrand made several big saves throughout the game, but also got an impressive defensive effort in front of him. MSU, which improved to 14-23-3 overall, finished in 11th place in the regular season, and upset sixth-seeded Alaska on the road last weekend to set up the series with the regular-season champion RedHawks this weekend.
“Defensively, we made them work for clear shots, and good shots on goal. We tried to contest everything possible and I thought overall we did a pretty good job of that,” Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos said. “They really had to compete to get scoring chances. We just didn’t rely on our goaltender.
“We’re growing in confidence and trying to find a way to win. We’re making things work around injuires and illnesses. Guys are stepping up and doing whatever is asked of them. When you win, it’s contagious and that gives you confidence.”
MSU came out with a ton of energy and jump and, despite an early power play for Miami, got on the board first at 8:04. Greg Wolfe carried the puck into the left circle, despite a pair of defenders hauling him down on the rush. On his stomach, he swiped the loose puck over to DeBlouw in the slot, and DeBlouw’s snipe beat Maimi goalie Ryan McKay five-hole for his eighth goal of the season.
MSU padded its lead at 15:17 of the opening frame to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room. Tanner Sorenson got the puck out to the right point for John Draeger. Draeger saw Berry all alone at the left post, and got him the puck for an easy tap-in into the wide-open left side of the net.
The second period went scoreless, and Hildebrand certainly did his part, turning away several good RedHawks scoring chances, the most impressive a doorstep shot by Curtis McKenzie at the left post at 15:17. Miami had its second power-play chance in the game late in the frame, but the Spartans limited the Redhawks to just one shot on the man advantage and took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission.
Miami pressed during the opening half of the final frame, opening up its lead on shots on goal but still unable to solve Hildebrand. Its best chance came midway through the period, when Riley Barber’s shorthanded offering hit the right post. The home team pulled McKay with two minutes remaining in favor of an extra skater, but MSU held its ground, and potted an empty-net goal from the stick of Walrod with a little less than a minute remaining to ice the victory.
The shutout was MSU’s first in the CCHA postseason tournament since the 2005 quarterfinals, when the Spartans shutout Nebraska-Omaha. MSU’s most recent postseason shutout came a year later in the NCAA tournament, when Jeff Lerg blanked New Hampshire 1-0 at the East Regional in Albany, N.Y.