After a 2-1 win against Western Michigan University Friday night, the No. 19 Miami University hockey team completed the series sweep of the conference rival with a 2-1 win Saturday night.
Miami entered the weekend on a three-game losing streak.
“It’s huge,” senior left winger Alex Gacek said. “It’s very unlikely for us to get a sweep in our league play. All the teams, top to bottom, are really good. Especially to take care of work at home is huge for us and gets some momentum going for North Dakota next weekend.”
Senior goaltender Ryan McKay started both nights in net and saved 19 of 20 WMU shots Saturday, bringing his weekend total to 42. McKay improves to 4-2-1 on the year.
Both teams were held scoreless through the first period.
“Coming out after a big win last night, it wasn’t the way we wanted to start,” senior left winger Alex Gacek said. “The first four or five minutes were really flat. But we stuck together and battled through it. It was just a solid team victory. Top to bottom, everyone played well.”
Miami drew first blood 12:07 into the second period. Senior right wing Sean Kuraly found senior left wing Alex Gacek, who opened space by crossing the high slot. Freshman defenseman Grant Hutton drove to the net and set a screen, and Gacek buried a goal between the post and the goalie’s right arm.
“Big save by McKay to start off the whole thing,” Gacek said. “I just came back to support the puck. Sean made a great outlet pass, and it was just basic 3-on-3 play entering the zone. Jack and [Hutton] were driving the net, creating a lot of confusion. I just got the puck, shot it on net, and it just had ice and fell back in net.”
Western answered when junior forward Sheldon Dries beat his defender and found the far side of the twine, tying the game at 1-1 with 4:43 left on the clock.
Junior forward Anthony Louis gave Miami a 2-1 lead 11:28 into the third with a slapshot that deflected off his defender’s stick and beat WMU senior goaltender Lukas Hafner in the upper right corner of the net. It was Louis’ first goal of the year.
“I thought our team grew a little bit this weekend,” head coach Rico Blasi said. “The process for those guys has been pretty good. It was nice to see [Louis] get one by tonight.”
Kuraly received credit on the assist, for his second assist of the night and third of the season.
After killing two WMU power plays Saturday, Miami’s penalty kill steak extends to 28 straight. The RedHawks have killed 34 of 35 opponent power plays on the year (97 percent).
“It’s part of the game, it’s part of the process,” Blasi said. “You have to be good in special teams. I thought our penalty killers did a nice job all weekend long.”
The Broncos started junior Collin Olson in net Friday night, but switched to Hafner on Saturday. Hafner saved 30 of 32 Miami shots and dropped to 2-2-1 on the season.
Miami improves to 5-4-1 on the year, while WMU falls to 4-4-1.
The ’Hawks continues conference play on the road with a two-game series against No. 1 North Dakota University.