Outstanding special teams play and tight defense propelled the No. 1 Miami University men’s ice hockey to back-to-back 1-0 and 4-0 shutouts over the University of Notre Dame Dec. 4 and 5. The Red and White improved their record to 11-2-5 overall and 8-1-3-1 in the CCHA, while the Fighting Irish fell to 7-7-4 overall and 4-4-4-2 in conference play.
“I thought we played hard all weekend,” junior captain Tommy Wingels said. “We stuck to our game, got the pucks deep. We knew they were a little banged up at defense, so we concentrated on playing the body all weekend because they get worn down. If you play four or five guys all weekend, by then, the third period of the second night they’re going to be worn down.”
Wingels and junior Carter Camper each notched two points on the weekend, and sophomore Cameron Schilling was credited with three assists during Saturday night’s contest en route to the RedHawks’ first ever back-to-back shutouts on the same weekend against the same opponent. ND came out flying and the RedHawks took an early penalty as the Irish fired off six shots on goal (SOG) – including one that clanged off the post – before Miami tallied even one. Before the period was over, however, the Red and White came storming back and peppered ND freshman goaltender Mike Johnson with shots on back-to-back power plays, but to no avail.
“I think just sticking with our game plan and knowing that our systems will work … and staying strong and not getting rattled too much (helped Miami to get in the game),” freshman Joe Hartman said.
The brotherhood went on an aggressive penalty kill (PK) when freshman Reilly Smith was sent to the box at 16:59. As Smith’s penalty wound down, Miami controlled the puck in ND’s zone and Wingels sent a centering pass to Hartman, who lofted the puck shorthanded over Johnson to put the ‘Hawks on the board at 18:42. Hartman’s shorthanded tally was the first the Irish have allowed this season.
“That’s huge,” Miami Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. “You’ve have to get the crowd into it, obviously scoring first is a big deal for us, plus it was shorthanded after we had to kill a few penalties in the first period. All those things were a big momentum boost for us.”
The tally was Miami’s fourth shorthanded goal of the season and marked the first time in 2009-10 that the Red and White have found the back of the net in the opening stanza at home. The goal also marked Wingels’ first and only point of the night as he received a five-minute major and 10-minute game misconduct for hitting from behind during a scuffle after the buzzer.
The brotherhood continued its aggressive PK into the second and Camper seized the puck early on and streaked toward ND’s net shorthanded. The center from Rocky River, Ohio, was tripped before he could get a shot off and was rewarded a penalty shot for his efforts, but Johnson stymied Camper’s backhanded attempt.
The penalty shot was the highlight of the period as several more scrums and penalties followed – including a 10-minute major assessed to sophomore Matt Tomassoni and a two-minute minor to sophomore net minder Cody Reichard for roughing. The two teams combined for 57 penalty minutes and the frame ended scorelessly.
“(It was a) physical game,” Reichard said. “They’re a great team – definitely one of the better teams in the country and we knew it was going to be tough coming in here. Their team defense has been good all year – very stingy, hasn’t given up hardly any goals, as they did tonight … we knew it was going to be a close game and that just adds to it in the physicality.”
Miami controlled the game in the third period, but regulation ended with Hartman’s goal standing alone on the board – the kind of score one might expect from a meeting between two of the country’s top defensive-minded teams. The last time ND was shut out was also by the RedHawks, when the two teams met Oct. 24, 2008.
“Mike played really well in goal for us tonight,” Notre Dame Head Coach Jeff Jackson said. “He made some great saves and kept us in the game. It’s unfortunate we get that kind of effort and we can’t score for him. We had some chances and we just didn’t finish.”
The brotherhood drew first blood again on Saturday night when Wingels solved the Irish’s PK – which topped the NCAA after Friday’s contest – to make it 1-0 Miami at 10:27 of the first frame.
The Red and White outshot ND 12-4 in the opening period and continued to control the puck and play an exciting game into the second stanza. The ‘Hawks took it to the Irish and notched another 13 quality SOG, but Johnson stood on his head maintained ND’s one goal deficit.
Miami kept the pressure on into the final period, though, and went on the power play at 2:27 when ND freshman Nick Larson was sent to the sin bin for holding the stick. The man-advantage and a little help from Schilling were all junior Pat Cannone needed, as he wristed the puck over Johnson’s right shoulder to double Miami’s lead.
Then, to close out the period, the Red and White put the game out of reach with back-to-back goals spaced just 1:23 apart. Camper netted the first one at 15:34 – his fifth in the last five games – and junior Justin Vaive beat Johnson high on his glove-side at 16:57 to cement the final score at 4-0. Knapp stopped 18 shots en route to his fourth career shutout.
“I think they have a couple injuries, guys out of the lineup, and I thought our guys did a real good job of continuing to put pressure on them and wear them down,” Blasi said. “It was a pretty close, tight-shot game and we got a couple of bounces there at the end, but a hard-fought game from both sides obviously, and our penalty kill did a great job tonight and so did our power play.”
With the two shutout wins, the RedHawks recorded consecutive shutouts for just the fourth time in school history. The last time ND was shut out in back-to-back shutouts was in January 2005 against the University of Wisconsin.
Miami’s PK unit went 16-for-16 on the weekend, and the Blasi’s boys are now 7-0-3 when scoring first this season and 9-0-0 when leading after two periods.
Up next for the RedHawks is a home-and-home series v. Ohio State University Dec. 11 and 12. The puck is slated to drop at 7:05 p.m. both nights, Friday in Columbus and Saturday at Steve Cady Arena.