Ben Blanchard, Sports Editor
In a physical home series against instate rival Bowling Green State University, the Miami University hockey team earned a draw this weekend, winning 2-1 in overtime Friday and losing 4-1 Saturday.
Following the split, MU is now 3-2-2, while the previously winless Falcons are now 1-6-1.
The emotion of the rivalry showed throughout the series, as the offense and speed displayed in Miami’s past games were replaced by rough play and defense.
“It had that same kind of feel as the Ohio State game,” freshman and starting forward Carson Meyer said. “It felt like every time I touched the puck, I was getting hit.”
Friday night’s game got off to a slow start, with both teams picking up penalties and getting caught up in the physical game. The first period ended tied both in score, 0-0, and shots, 6-6.
The second period brought more of the same, as Miami was forced to kill off several penalties. This included a double-minor roughing call on sophomore forward Kiefer Sherwood following a scrum in front of MU freshman goaltender Ryan Larkin, one in which Sherwood swung at BGSU’s antagonizing junior forward Mitch McLain.
The RedHawks’ nation-leading penalty kill rose to the challenge, and successfully killed off their penalty for the 31st time in a row. The second period concluded with shots favoring BGSU 14-10, but the tilt remained knotted at 0-0.
Miami came out of the second intermission ready to play, as sophomore forward Josh Melnick won the draw and senior forward Anthony Louis carried the puck into the Falcons’ zone. Louis made a move past a BGSU defender before finding Meyer wide open at the backdoor, and Meyer fired the shot into the top of Bowling Green’s net to put MU up 1-0 just ten seconds into the third.
The goal did not stop the aggressive play, as the third saw continuous big hits and emotion from both sides.
Almost six minutes into the third, a collision behind the BGSU net between the Falcon’s junior defenseman Mark Friedman and Miami freshman forward Carter Johnson resulted in Johnson receiving a five-minute major for interference. Friedman took several minutes to get up, but eventually made it off the ice and would return to action shortly.
MU’s special teams stood tall once again, managing to kill off the entire five-minute penalty without surrendering a goal, electrifying the Steve ‘Coach’ Cady Arena crowd.
With a minute and a half and the RedHawks’ 1-0 lead remaining, BGSU pulled junior goaltender Chris Nell for an extra attacker.
With 1:06 left in regulation, the six Falcons’ skaters overwhelmed the Miami defense, as Friedman ripped a shot from the point that flew through traffic and past Larkin to tie the game at 1-1.
For the third time in its last four games, Miami headed to overtime.
On a power play from a BGSU boarding infraction, Louis found himself alone in front the Falcons’ net, and finished the game with a quick five-hole shot between Nell’s pads 2:05 into the overtime period.
This finish gave Louis and many RedHawks’ fans a sense of deja vu, as the Chicago Blackhawks prospect scored the game-winning goal over BGSU with two seconds left in regulation the last time the Falcons travelled to Oxford.
“I thought the goal they scored with 70 seconds left was definitely my fault, so I went out there with a shooter’s mentality and wanted to get it back, it felt good,” Louis said.
While MU earned the 2-1 victory, it only generated 15 shots, and this lack of offensive production would come back to haunt the RedHawks Saturday night.
Early in Saturday’s action, however, Miami’s offense seemed to have found itself again.
At 7:01 of the first, Meyer showcased his trademark speed and elusiveness, evading two BGSU defenders to get off a shot that was saved by Nell. However, the rebound came straight to Louis, who buried it to put Miami up 1-0. With the tally, Meyer stretches his point streak to four games, while Louis’ streak now stands at five.
This goal was all MU would get Saturday, as the Falcons’ physical defense seemed to wear down the young ‘Hawks. Miami, one of the nation’s youngest programs with 14 freshmen and six sophomores, was also without Melnick, its starting center, on Saturday.
“Not having Melnick out there definitely made us move some guys around, but we expect him back next week so we’re not too worried,” head coach Enrico Blasi said.
With 4:45 remaining in the first, BGSU senior forward Pierre-Luc Mercier caught a Larkin rebound and banged it home to tie the game at 1-1. From that point forward, the Falcons’ had the momentum and rolled with it.
“I don’t know what happened after the first goal, we started missing assignments and got rattled,” Blasi said. “They’re a good hockey team, I don’t care about their record. After their second and third goals, we started pressing too much and got away from our game.”
Just 45 seconds after surrendering the first BGSU goal, senior forward Matt Pohlkamp fired a shot over Larkin’s right shoulder to make it 2-1 Bowling Green.
Miami never recovered, and the Falcons scored once in the second and again in the third to earn their first victory of the season in decisive 4-1 fashion, while also dominating shots 41-18.
“Bowling Green deserved to win this game, they played urgent and outplayed us in every aspect of the game,” Blasi said. “We have to remember this feeling and learn from it moving forward.”
Miami looks to bounce back on the road this weekend as it begins National Collegiate Hockey Conference play with a series at Western Michigan. The puck drops 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Kalamazoo, Michigan.