OXFORD, Ohio – A brilliant special teams performance by the Miami hockey team secured its first weekend series sweep of the season as it topped No. 20 St. Cloud State 4-1 on Saturday night.
The RedHawks (7-8-5, 3-4-3-1 National Collegiate Hockey) scored a shorthanded goal and killed off all six Huskies’ (9-10-1, 4-7-1-0 NCHC) power plays to win their fourth straight and extend their unbeaten streak to five.
Miami generated a grade-A scoring chance a few shifts in when Josh Melnick found Carson Meyer near the crease in the middle, but he couldn’t handle the pass. Meyer was fed again in transition later and got a shot off from in close that Jeff Smith kicked away. While the first 10 minutes of action saw the ice tilted at the SCSU end, MU was called for the first penalty off of a bit of extended time in its own zone with 10:35 left in the first period.
Fewer players on the ice proved no problem as Kiefer Sherwood’s active stick broke up a neutral zone pass and sprung him for a breakaway. The sophomore forward skated in down the right wing and beat Smith blocker side for his 10th goal of the season to give the RedHawks a 1-0 lead on their first shorthanded goal of the season with 10:09 gone by.
St. Cloud State started to pressure a bit more as the period went on, thanks in part to a couple more power plays. The Huskies outshot the RedHawks 11-10 in the first 20 minutes, but Sherwood’s goal stood as the lone marker at intermission.
Ryan Larkin made a couple of stops during extended 4-on-4 play in the early stages of the period to maintain the lead. The Huskies continued to come in the period, drawing another penalty during a cycle in the offensive zone. Miami was again equal to the test and killed off the power play by blocking a couple of heavy point shots.
The RedHawks generated some offense in transition midway through the period and went on the power play at the 8:17 mark. While MU’s man advantage maintained for extended periods of time with some good looks, a heavy one-timer hit the post and the penalty was ultimately killed off.
Miami started to string together some shifts in the offensive zone, but couldn’t finish to extend the lead. The Red and White’s momentum was halted a bit when they were whistled for a penalty with 1:55 left in the middle frame, but Larkin stood strong throughout to keep the score 1-0 after two periods.
After killing off the few remaining seconds of the carryover penalty, Miami added to its lead when Gordie Green finished a pretty breakout off a cross ice feed from Sherwood. Anthony Louis also picked up an assist on the play by banking an outlet pass ahead to Sherwood to create the 2-on-2 rush.
The Huskies got another opportunity on the power play midway through the third, but the Red and White were once again equal to the task thanks to some solid positional play as they did not allow a shot on goal. However, a transition opportunity pulled SCSU within one as Jake Wahlin waited for traffic to gather in front of Larkin before firing a shot in with 6:02 left.
Determined to not let the lead slip away, Miami eventually drew a penalty with 5:14 to go. The Red and White got possession in the offensive zone and worked some nice tic-tac-toe passing with all five players touching the puck as Josh Melnick redirected a Louie Belpedio point shot to grow the lead back to two goals with 4:50 left.
St. Cloud State attempted to press the issue by pulling Smith with under two minutes left. However, solid stick work by Grant Hutton forced a turnover in the neutral zone and he skated in on a breakaway with the empty net to put the game away with under 44 seconds to go, sealing away Miami’s first series sweep of the season.
The Huskies outshot the RedHawks 29-22, but special teams play proved crucial for Miami as it killed off all six St. Cloud State power plays and went 1-for-3 on the man advantage while adding a shorthanded goal. Sherwood notched his ninth multi-point game of the year with a goal and an assist while Louis added two assists for his second-straight multi-point outing. Larkin stopped 28 of 29 shots while Smith finished with 18 saves in the other crease.
Miami’s next four games are on the road, starting with a trip to defending national champion North Dakota on Jan. 13. Opening faceoff in Grand Forks is at 8:37 p.m. ET.