By Grace Remington, Staff Writer
The Miami University men’s hockey team continued conference play at home as it split a series with University of Denver. The No. 9/10 RedHawks (15-9, 8-6 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) were edged by the No. 11/12 Pioneers (14-8-1, 7-6 NCHC) in a 3-1 loss Friday, but bounced back with a
4-1 win Saturday.
Miami came out flying early when senior forward Austin Czarnik fed junior forward Riley Barber with a breakaway pass that Barber converted into a backhand goal. Barber’s 11th goal of the year gave Miami a 1-0 lead 8:54 into the game. Czarnik’s 148th assist tied him with Mike Orn for 10th on the school’s all-time list.
The ’Hawks kept the momentum, out-shooting the Pioneers 11-6 during the remainder of the period. However, first-minute DU goals in both the second and third periods spoiled Miami’s strong start.
“We had a good first period, then Denver took over from there,” head coach Enrico Blasi. “You can’t let goals in in the first minute of any period, and we did that twice.”
Denver was able to keep Miami from generating much speed as the RedHawks had only two shots on goal in the final 17 minutes. Pulling junior goaltender Jay Williams for an extra skater proved fruitless, as DU sophomore forward Terrence Moore put the game away with an empty net goal with 10.8 seconds remaining.
“We weren’t getting to the net,” Blasi said. “You have to get to the net against a good team like Denver. We’re going to have to come back and regroup and see if we can play a little bit better tomorrow night.”
The Red and White did just that.
Sophomore forward Anthony Louis put the contest’s first tally on the board at the 12:07 mark with a shot that just barely passed DU freshman goaltender Tanner Jaillet. The period ended with Miami leading 1-0 for the second night in a row.
With 6:56 to go in the second frame, matching minor penalties opened the ice up to 4-on-4 play. The ’Hawks took advantage of the opportunity, as senior forward Blake Coleman intercepted a pass and heaved it up to Cody Murphy. Murphy wristed shot to put the RedHawks up 2-0 with 6:34 remaining. Denver added a tally from senior forward Zac Larraza at the 2:55 mark to cut MU’s lead to 2-1.
Murphy gave Miami some breathing room with his second goal of the game at the 4:22 mark in the final frame, assisted by senior defenseman Ben Paulides and junior forward Andrew Schmit. The Pioneers pulled Jaillet for an extra skater with three minutes remaining, but Coleman hit an empty net goal to put an exclamation point on the win.
“We weathered the storm,” Blasi said. “It was important for us to bounce back.”
Murphy tallied two goals and one assist on the night, but was quick to hand credit to his teammates.
“I was fortunate enough just to capitalize on some of the opportunities that I had tonight,” Murphy said. “But the team is most important. At the end of the year we want to see ourselves at the top of the division, so that’s more important right now.”
Entering the series, Denver was ranked third in the nation with a 24.7 percent success rate on the power play. Miami’s penalty kill held the Pioneers 0-for-8 on the power play through both games.
“First and foremost, keeping them off the board during the power play is really important,” Blasi said. “They have so much skill … they’re dangerous guys. Special teams are such a big part of the game that you have to make sure you’re on the positive end of things.”
The Red and White return to action against Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. Saturday.