Tom Downey, For The Miami Student

Junior captain Reilly Smith heads down the ice against Michigan State University’s Matt Crandell during a weekend series in East Lansing, Mich. Friday and Saturday. Miami’s sweep of the No. 15 Spartans gives them their third sweep of the season. (AARON SNYDER | The State News)

The Miami University hockey team stumbled toward the end of 2011, but they started off 2012 on the right blade, sweeping No. 15 Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing.

The RedHawks won the first game 2-1 in overtime and then won the second game 4-0, behind senior goalie Connor Knapp both nights. It was the first time the Red and White had swept the Spartans since 2008.

In the first game, the RedHawks scored first as sophomore forward Bryon Paulazzo scored after senior forward Trent Vogelhuber’s shot was blocked. The goal came with just 2:12 left in the first period.

The Red and White’s lead lasted only a few seconds, however, as MSU tied the game up. Neither team managed to score again in regulation, despite opportunities for both squads.

Miami scored just under 1:30 into the overtime period to win the game, as freshman forward Austin Czarnik – back from competing for the United States in the World Junior Championships – found fellow freshman forward Jimmy Mullin, who managed to get the puck past MSU’s senior goalie Drew Palmisano to end the game.

“For the first game in a month, I thought our guys played pretty well,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said.

The goal was the first career game winner for the freshman.

Knapp finished the game with 33 saves, as MSU outshot the ‘Hawks 34-27. However, the RedHawks’ strong play in penalty kills helped immensely as they killed all five of the Spartans’ power plays.

The second game saw Knapp continue his strong play as the ‘Hawks won 4-0. It was Knapp’s first shutout of the season and ninth of his career.

The RedHawks scored their first goal on junior forward Reilly Smith’s 5-3 power play goal, his 13th of the year. Smith was recently named team captain, the team’s third in addition to seniors Alden Hirschfeld and Will Weber.

The Red and White would then put the game out of reach with three third period goals.

Freshman forward Tyler Biggs, senior forward Alden Hirschfeld and freshman forward Blake Coleman all scored during the period. Both Hirschfeld and Coleman had assists during the game as well.

Knapp finished with 20 saves for the game, 11 of which came on the Spartans’ eight power play chances. The RedHawks killed all eight of them while converting on one of their six advantages.

The RedHawks also dominated in shots on goal, racking up a season high 44 compared to MSU’s 20.

Freshman forward Cody Murphy also returned to the ice during the series for the first time since he suffered a left leg injury in his first collegiate game Oct. 8.

“It was a real exciting moment and I’ve really been looking forward to my first game back,” Murphy said.

The RedHawks may enter this weekend ranked once again after receiving votes for the Top 25 last week and after a sweep of the Spartans who entered the series ranked No. 15 in the nation.

Miami will go back on the road this weekend as they face off against Lake Superior State University, who swept the ‘Hawks earlier this year.

Puck drop is set for 7:35 and 7:05 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, repectively, in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

In 1971, The Miami Student reported that the Student Affairs Council was continuing to probe retroactive action that prohibited students from receiving financial aid – including employment – from the university if they were under conduct probation. The Board of Trustees had agreed to the action, but nine students on probation before the Trustees’ decision were punished according to the new rule and had to give up their jobs at the university.