The Miami University hockey team was swept at home for the first time since Oct. 27-28, 2011, losing 5-2 and 3-2 to National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) rival Western Michigan University.
This marks the fifth and sixth 2014 losses for the RedHawks and drops them to an overall record of 10-13-3, as well an NCHC report card of 4-11-1-1. That puts Miami in the basement with a .281 conference winning percentage and a -10 goal differential in conference play.
Western Michigan pulls ahead to 14-10-4 with the pair of victories, and is making a late season push for an NCAA bid under the tutelage of ex-NHL coach Andy Murray. The weekend wins give the Broncos a 4-0 season-sweep over the RedHawks.
“We just seem to shoot ourselves in the foot,” head coach Enrico Blasi said after Saturday’s contest. “Give them credit. They were a good team, obviously better than we were. They smelled blood and obviously took it.”
Friday’s contest got out of hand quickly, as sophomore goaltender Ryan McKay was pulled at 11:01 of the first period after allowing three goals on eight shots. The RedHawks managed to stay in the thick of things with a one-timer from freshman forward Anthony Louis on the power play just seconds into the second session, but a comeback wasn’t in the cards. Despite outshooting the Broncos 29-21, the Red and White lost 5-2.
Saturday night started differently, as Miami jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first frame. The initial strike was a one-two shorthanded punch from junior forward captain Austin Czarnik and sophomore linemate Riley Barber at 9:14. The second goal came from sophomore defenseman Matthew Caito on the power play, which ended Bronco goaltender Lukas Hafner’s evening after 10 shots.
Despite the early RedHawk effort, second period play looked all too familiar – and lackluster – to the fans at Goggin Ice Center. Western Michigan netted three goals on sophomore goaltender Jay Williams, and another night of subpar goaltending led to a Bronco lead. The ‘Hawks didn’t have a third period answer, and Broncos completed the sweep with a 3-2 win.
The pair of losses dealt a crushing blow to RedHawk tournament hopes, which were already in jeopardy during this massive cold streak. Miami has made an NCAA berth in each of its last eight seasons, though at the present rate, that streak is in very real danger of ending. Miami’s final four opponents of the regular season are the University of North Dakota, St. Cloud State University, the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the University of Denver. All four of those teams are ranked in the USCHO Top 20. Miami’s last hope is a strong finish, and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the NCHC championship – a daunting task, to say the least, given the present state of affairs.
“Nothing changes for us,” Blasi said. “We’ve got to continue to get better, and to find a way to deliver on the weekend.”
No Miami players were available for comment after either game, nor were they available in the days leading up to the publication of this article