EAST LANSING, Mich. — It was the Chad Hontvet show at Munn Arena on Friday. The junior forward scored two power-play goals six minutes apart in the second period to lead Michigan State to a 2-1 first round CCHA playoff win against Miami.
“In the playoffs you need different people to pick you up,” said Michigan State coach Rick Comley. “Chad is always there, he always works hard. He’s kind of a playoff-type player. He works hard and he’s reliable and he’s earned the right to play right now.”
Hontvet, whose playing time has been infrequent over three seasons, made the most of an opportunity to crack the lineup for just the 29th game of his career at State.
“I didn’t really know until Thursday [that I was going to play], but playing at Notre Dame [last weekend] and having a good game helped me to prepare for tonight,” said Hontvet
He drew the Spartans even from a 1-0 deficit in the second period by recording his first collegiate goal on the power play. Ash Goldie took a shot from the point that Hontvet tipped past Brandon Crawford-West.
“I really don’t know where it hit me. I didn’t even know I had it until the replay — but I’ll take it, though.”
The Warroad, Minn., native wasn’t done just yet. Hontvet found himself in the right spot at the right time for the game-winner, confidently sending a rebound into the back of the net to lift the Spartans to victory.
“That was a great one. I kind of made sure I had one because I really didn’t know about the first one. The rebound came right off his pad onto my stick and into the net.”
At 6-2 and 214 lbs., he added a much-needed physical presence to the power play, something that Jim McKenzie has been making a living of doing down the stretch.
Comley said, “You can’t let Crawford-West see the puck. They’re two big bodies and [having them parked out front] is big. [Miami] pressures so much killing penalties that you can’t try to make too many plays. You just have to get it high and get it to the net, and catch them away from the net and that’s what happened on both goals.”
“It’s playoff time and you need guys to contribute, and they obviously had a guy contribute tonight who probably wasn’t expected,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi.
As with most playoff games, this contest was ultimately decided by special teams and goaltending. Hontvet’s tallies left Michigan State 2-for-8 on the man advantage while the Spartan penalty kill limited Miami to one goal in five attempts.
At times, Dominic Vicari was a one-man penalty kill for MSU. The stalwart sophomore stopped 25 of 26 RedHawk shots, none bigger than back-to-back stops on Miami’s Todd Grant with five minutes left.
“In a playoff game where it’s on the line, you have to take each shot individually and stay focused,” said Vicari.
Crawford-West was also sharp in net for the RedHawks. He made 32 stops in a losing effort, but his aggressive style helped thwart a handful of great scoring chances for MSU.
Comley said, “Crawford-West was playing outstanding. I thought both goaltenders made a lot of good saves. It was a game decided by power plays that was very, very tight. It had good pace and good action.”
His most memorable stop of the night might have been a diving pad save on Colton Fretter in the first frame to keep the Spartans off the scoreboard. Crawford-West got caught leaning over to the far post when Fretter received the pass, but desperately slid across the crease to rob Fretter of a sure goal.
In a classic playoff bout, both teams had quality chances, there was solid goaltending, and special teams played a critical role.
“It’s all special teams. We kept them off the power play for the better part of the game and kept ourselves on it,” said Slater. “We didn’t give them many chances five-on-five either or make too many mistakes in our own zone.”
Nathan Davis opened the scoring for Miami on the power play, notching his 14th goal of the season. The freshman one-timed a pass from behind the net at the bottom of the right circle past Vicari and into the net to give the RedHawks an early lead.
The two teams battled through six chances on the man advantage and 14 penalty minutes, but neither came away with many quality chances to close the first
After Hontvet’s pair of goals in the middle frame, both teams played cautiously in the third with neither mounting much of an attack. The RedHawks pulled Crawford-West with a minute left, but could not find the equalizer.
Oddly enough, MSU’s Drew Miller may have had Miami’s best chance to tie the game late in the third. While trying to knock down a shot in front, Miller accidentally tipped a puck on Vicari that was labeled for the top right corner, but it nicked the post and squirted wide.
Miller’s tip was not the only funny bounce of the game. After MSU took the lead in the second period, Miami sent a harmless dump high off the glass behind the net that hit a seam and bounced off the top of the net and down toward the goal line, but Vicari wheeled around to glove the puck before disaster struck.
Both teams will be looking for a little puck luck in another hard-fought game Friday as Miami aims to force a rubber match while Michigan State hopes to lock up a ticket to Joe Louis Arena for the Super Six. The faceoff is set for 7:00 p.m. at Munn Arena.