Keeping with a now concerning trend, the RedHawk weekend on ice was marked by a tale of two completely different nights.
The Miami University men’s ice hockey team (14-8-4 overall, 12-5-3-1 CCHA) skated to a 2-2 tie Friday night against the University of Nebraska-Omaha (13-9-5, 8-7-5-3) before a surge of special teams success boosted the Red and White to a decisive 6-1 road win over the Mavericks Saturday. Friday’s tie felt more like a loss, not only because Nebraska ousted Miami 3-2 in the shootout, but also because the RedHawks choked up a 2-0 third period lead.
The RedHawks are now 5-5-3 on the opening night of weekend series, and 0-3-1 in the past four weekend starters. This contrasts with a 9-3-1 record on the closing game of each series.
Defensively, rookie goaltender Connor Knapp turned away 52 shots for the brotherhood over the course of the series and started in goal both nights-a first for 2008-09. Rico’s RedHawks established an offensive advantage as well, opening scoring both nights to improve their record to 13-0-2 when posting the first point.
Junior Jarod Palmer beat junior net minder Jeremie Dupont stick side to put the ‘Hawks on the board at 13:37 of the first frame on Friday. Sophomore Pat Cannone capitalized on one of five Miami man-advantages in the opening stanza and set the play up, leaving the puck for Palmer to bang it home.
Following a scoreless second period, a window of opportunity presented itself to UNO barely two minutes into the final frame when sophomores Justin Vaive and Tommy Wingels were consecutively sent to the sin bin, leaving the Red and White vulnerable with a two-man deficit for 1:45. Miami’s No. 2 ranked penalty kill stonewalled the Mavericks’ efforts, however, and weathered the disadvantage. Soon after, sophomore Andy Miele scored what appeared to be an insurance goal for Oxford’s icers, extending Miami’s lead to 2-0 at 9:46.
A tremendous two-point effort in the second half of the period pulled the Mavericks even with Miami. UNO senior Tomas Klempa pulled his team within one at 12:07, wrapping the puck around the net to beat Knapp glove side.
“Their goaltender played well, and I thought ours played well, but it was just a matter of execution,” Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said. “You’ve got to make plays, and they made one more down the stretch than we did.”
Then, with 1:12 remaining in regulation and in the midst of a line change, UNO sophomore Eric Olimb chipped in the equalizer, forcing the game into a scoreless overtime period and eventually leading up to a shootout victory by the Mavericks.
“I was pleased with the way our guys just continued to hang in there and fight through a lot of adversity,” UNO head coach Mike Kemp said. “I think the win will help. It keeps us in a position we need to keep in, hanging into that battle for the upper spots (in the standings), and it’s going to go down to the wire.”
Unsatisfied with the draw, the brotherhood took it to UNO during game two, vanquishing the Mavericks 6-1. Multiple points by Cannone, Palmer, senior Justin Mercier, freshman Chris Wideman and sophomore Hobey Baker Award nominee Carter Camper, along with four power play goals, propelled the RedHawks to a victory that left them in sole possession of second place in the CCHA.
“We just know what we have to do to win a game,” Cannone said. “We took the loss (Friday) night personally, so we really wanted to take it to UNO tonight. The win is huge for us going down the stretch. We’re bouncing back slowly, but we’re just trying to keep rolling here and keep wins coming along.”
Camper wasted no time, capitalizing on the first penalty call of the game to put Blasi’s boys on the board less than three minutes into the opening frame. Cannone tallied another man-advantage point midway through the period, and freshman Will Weber beat senior UNO goalie Jerad Kaufmann glove side at 14:03 to close scoring at 3-0 for the first period. The goal prompted Kemp to relieve Kaufmann of his post in favor of Dupont.
“We just got behind the eight-ball early,” Kemp said. “You can’t give a team like Miami that many power play opportunities and put you back in a hole, and we never got out of the hole.”
The switch did the Mavericks little good, however, as Camper-deadly as ever on the power play-picked up a bouncing rebound off the stick of Mercier in the slot and gave the RedHawks their fourth tally of the game midway through the second stanza.
The brotherhood just kept on going and never looked back, adding one more tally apiece from Cannone and junior Brandon Smith to its total in the final frame.
The Mavericks refused to go quietly, however, and UNO sophomore Matt Ambroz finally bested the RedHawk penalty kill at 16:48 of the third period to thwart the shutout.
The Miami penalty kill unit finished Saturday night’s game 7-of-8, and went 17-of-18 on the weekend.
“It’s important for us to play well, and that’s what we did tonight,” Blasi said, “(so) it’s a good step forward as we go down the stretch here.”
The brotherhood returns to Steve Cady Arena Jan. 30-31 to battle Bowling Green State University. The puck is set to drop at 7:35 p.m. Friday and 7:05 p.m. Saturday, with television coverage provided by the Ohio News Network (ONN).
Fans can also listen live to WMSR’s broadcast at www.redhawkradio.com.