EAST LANSING, Mich. — Miami entered Friday’s game at No. 4 Michigan State 5-1 on the year when its opponent scores first, but quickly found out falling behind the Spartans and Ryan Miller is not a winning proposition.
Second-period goals by senior center Joe Goodenow and junior defenseman Brad Fast and a third-period goal by junior defenseman John-Michael Liles proved too much for Miami to overcome, as MSU recorded a 3-0 win over the RedHawks before 6,608 at Munn Ice Arena in a battle of the second- and third-place teams in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
Third-place Miami fell to 4-2-1 in the league and 6-4-1 overall, while the Spartans improved to 6-2-1 and 7-2-1. The teams will meet again at Munn on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
In what is becoming the norm rather than the exception, Hobey Baker winner Miller made 23 saves in goal to record yet another shutout, the 22nd of his career. It was the third consecutive time the RedHawks have been shut out at Munn.
“He’s a quality goaltender,” said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi in a vast understatement. “When he’s on, he’s on. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody better in my college career as a player or a coach.”
Miller had to be sharp in the first period because Miami seemed to get the better of the play, outshooting the Spartans 9-7 — and if it wasn’t for the Spartan netminder, might have netted a couple of goals.
Miller stopped RedHawk junior winger Nick Jardine on a breakaway and sophomore center Derek Edwardson from point-blank range on a Miami 3-on-1 rush to help keep the game scoreless after one period.
“I felt early on it was important to shut them down and let the guys get into the flow of the game,” Miller said.
The Spartans struck first on a power play 3:08 into the second period Goodenow put home a rebound off a shot by Liles over the shoulder of fallen RedHawk netminder David Burleigh to make it 1-0.
The play was set up by a great individual effort by Liles, as he stickhandled through the Miami defense and put a point-blank shot on Burleigh, creating the rebound chance for Goodenow.
“I had to find out who scored because I had no idea,” said Liles, who was taken down to the ice in a collision with Burleigh and a RedHawk defenseman on the play.
Defenseman Brad Fast made it 2-0 at 8:05 of the period when he skated in on Burleigh and took an innocent-looking shot from a bad angle that got through Burleigh’s blocker side and into the net.
Later in the period, Miller stopped another breakaway when Miami freshman winger Todd Grant skated in and tried to fake him to his right, but failed to put the shot behind a well-positioned Miller.
Liles completed the scoring with 8:05 left in the game on another Spartan power play when he fired a shot from the point through senior captain Adam Hall’s screen for his fourth goal of the year and a 3-0 MSU lead.
Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said not on capitalizing on scoring chances was the difference for his team in the game.
“I thought our team came ready to play — they played hard,” he said. “Give Michigan State credit for burying their chances when they had them. We weren’t able to capitalize. That’s the way it goes.”
For Liles, seeing zero on the scoreboard for an opponent as a result of the brick wall known as Miller is getting to be downright routine.
“I’ve been here for all of them, (and) everything’s a blur, I think,” he said. “He definitely has a lot of them. It’s a tremendous thing and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”