By Ben Blanchard, Sports Editor
Despite outshooting the University of Maine 32-9 over the final two periods and overtime, the Miami University hockey team was forced to rally at home to tie the Black Bears 3-3 Friday night. Less than 24 hours later, the MU offense exploded while its defense and freshman goaltender Ryan Larkin stood tall, leading to a dominant 5-0 victory.
With the tie and win, Miami (2-1-2) extends its unbeaten streak to four games.
Maine (3-2-1) travelled to Oxford after defeating No. 4 and last year’s NCAA runner-up Quinnipiac 4-3 the previous weekend.
Friday night, the RedHawks got off to a good start, creating offensive chances and forcing three Maine penalties in the first ten minutes.
The youth of the Red and White showed, however, as a turnover in front of the Miami net gave Maine’s freshman forward Peter Housakos an easy goal with 5:36 remaining in the first period.
After the first period and early second passed with several chances for both sides, sophomore forward Kiefer Sherwood fed wide-open sophomore defenseman Grant Hutton at the backdoor, and Hutton tapped the puck past Maine’s sophomore goaltender Rob McGovern to tie the game 1-1 at 5:29 of the second period.
This even-strength goal was the first of the season for Miami, as all previous tallies had come on the powerplay.
The Black Bears responded quickly, as a series of poor defensive clearing efforts by Miami led to a deflected shot beating Larkin to put Maine up 2-1 at 6:52 of the second.
Senior forward and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Anthony Louis had been causing havoc for the Black Bears’ defense all night, and a feed from sophomore forward Josh Melnick was all Louis needed to tie the game 2-2 with a slapshot from the slot at 13:02 of the second stanza.
The RedHawks outshot UM 17-4 in the second, but were unable to break the 2-2 standoff.
In the third, Miami’s dominance of possession and shots continued, but so did its inability to capitalize. With eight minutes of regulation remaining, Miami had outshot Maine 34-18, while the score remained knotted at 2-2.
In keeping with the rest of the tilt, Maine took advantage of its limited opportunities, as junior forward Cedric Lacroix’s top-shelf rip beat Larkin to put Maine up 3-2 with 6:26 remaining.
MU found a way to rally once again, as Louis dazzled the home crowd by juking past two Maine defenders and lifting the puck over the right pad of McGovern to tie the game 3-3 with 4:47 remaining.
Similar to Miami’s game against Ohio State the previous weekend, the tie lasted through the end of regulation and two five-minute overtime periods. Just like the finish against the Buckeyes, MU was denied in the shootout while Maine scored to end the game. However, the shootout was for entertainment and exhibition purposes, and the game is recorded as a 3-3 tie by Miami and the NCAA.
“We generated a lot of good chances tonight, but their goaltender came up and made some big saves,” head coach Enrico Blasi said. “They did a good job of capitalizing on our turnovers and mistakes.”
Saturday night, the first period looked to bring more of the same for the RedHawks, as they outshot Maine 12-9 but ended the period tied 0-0.
Freshman forward Carson Meyer electrified the home crowd with back-to-back cutback moves that shook two Maine defenders before picking his shot and sniping over McGovern’s glove to seemingly put the RedHawks up 1-0. However, Maine challenged the goal, and upon video review, Miami was ruled offside and the goal disallowed.
3:42 into the second, MU finally broke through, as Louis caught a Melnick pass and fired it over McGovern’s blocker to make the score 1-0 Miami.
The Red and White did not become complacent with its lead, as Louis fed junior captain and defenseman Louie Belpedio who shot through traffic and found the back of the net to make it 2-0 only 25 seconds after the first score.
The two-goal differential created by Belpedio’s tally was the first of the season for Miami, as all previous games had been one-goal or tied affairs from start to finish.
MU was not satisfied with the two-goal cushion, and Belpedio scored again, from almost the same position and shot to make it 3-0 Miami at 9:18 of the second period.
At the end of the second, Miami led 3-0 and 24-21 in shots.
Junior defenseman Scott Dornbrock and Sherwood each scored in the third, while Larkin completed his quest for perfection, stopping all 33 of Maine’s shots for his first career shutout.
Through five games, the rookie netminder has a .931 save percentage.
“It was a fun game to be a part of, the team was great in front of me and with clearing out rebounds,” Larkin said. “We had a lot of fun out there, we knew we had to pick up our energy after last night and we came out and did what we needed to do.”
Four Miami skaters recorded multiple points Saturday with Meyer (three assists) and Sherwood (one goal, two assists) notching three and Belpedio (two goals) and Louis (one goal, one assist) chipping in two apiece.
“This was the first game we’ve played well all the way through,” Belpedio said. “Maine’s a good team and we just shut them out, I think it speaks for itself.”
The RedHawks wrap up their five-game home stand next weekend with a series against in-state rival Bowling Green. The puck drops 7:35 p.m. Friday in Steve “Coach” Cady Arena.