OXFORD, Ohio — Looking to sweep the Michigan Wolverines (9-4-1, 5-2-1 CCHA) for the first time since 1998 and hand them their first four-game losing streak since 1988, the Miami RedHawks (10-2-1, 9-1-1 CCHA) renewed their heated rivalry with the Wolverines in the cramped confines of Goggin Ice Arena.
The RedHawks would achieve that feat as they came away with a 4-3 victory that was filled with unusual goals and heated fighting.
The RedHawks had defeated the Wolverines 4-2 the night before on the shoulders of net minder Charlie Effinger, who improved to 5-0-1 on the season and extended his personal unbeaten streak to 10 games.
Freshmen goaltender Jeff Zatkoff and senior goaltender Noah Ruden got the nod for their respective teams. Before the game, Zatkoff boasted the second best goals-against average in the CCHA with 1.58, and he shrugged off the prospect of playing against a very potent offense.
“Going into the game, you try not to think of the offense and just take it one shot at a time,” Zatkoff said.
Ruden was playing in just his sixth game this season, and Wolverine coach Red Berenson had planned on starting Ruden no matter what freshman Billy Sauer’s performance was Friday night.
The first period started out slow up until the 10:38 mark when the RedHawks struck first. Forward Matt Davis received a pass from Kevin Roeder along the boards and went in one-on-one with Ruden to deke him on a backhand shot.
However, the RedHawks would not hold the lead for long, as defenseman Jack Johnson’s shot went wide of the net where T.J. Hensick was there to pick up the puck and slip it in past Zatkoff on an open stick side for a power-play goal at 12:59.
The scoring would not end in this period as the Wolverines struck again three minutes later when Andrew Ebbett went in alone and deked Zatkoff to tip it off his skate for a shorthanded goal.
However, the RedHawks would answer back very quickly on that power play when Nathan Davis found Ryan Jones in front of the net for a one-timer past Ruden. The first period would end in a 2-2 tie as both teams showed the same intensity and offense as they did during the first game.
“There were two good teams going at it, and we were still optimistic on our chances,” RedHawk head coach Enrico Blasi said.
The second period would start out very clean, as neither team would get busted for a penalty until the 12 minutes into the period. Both teams piled up the shots as they combined for 28 in the period. The scoring did not happen until the halfway mark when the Wolverines capitalized on a very unusual goal.
At the 11:58 mark, Wolverine Brandon Kaleniecki fired a slap shot that deflected into the air and fell down in front of the net to hit Mitch Ganzak in the back and trickle in past Zatkoff. Referee Brian Aaron would look it over, but ruled that the goal stood and the lead went to the Wolverines.
“It hit Ganzak’s glove, and I completed lost sight of it,” Zatkoff said. However, the RedHawks hit the equalizer at 17:10 when Jones fed the younger Davis along the boards as he skated in and slipped it through the five-hole.
Johnson was busted after the play for boarding and a roughing penalty after the whistle. He was given a game misconduct that seemed to be a little harsh for the young defenseman.
“To take (Johnson) out of the game and you’re not sure, that’s uncalled for,” said Berenson.
Davis was down on the ice for a bit and received some stitches on his chin after the game, but his injury was not a time for revenge.
“It was a huge swing towards us, but you can’t go out and get back at the other team,” Jones said.
The third period began with the score deadlocked again, but both teams brought the attack and had their chances on the goal. The RedHawks continued their power play from Johnson’s penalty, but were unable to capitalize on their opportunities during the extended penalty.
Despite the killing of the five-minute major, the Wolverines could not hold the RedHawks for long. At the 9:04 mark, defenseman Andy Greene intercepted a pass from Tim Cook and came in alone on Ruden to fire a goal on Ruden’s high glove side to make the score 4-3.
Coach Berenson felt his team had better chances on goal this game and the play of Ruden was able to keep the game close.
“This was not an easy stretch of our schedule. We could’ve won tonight and last night,” Berenson said.
Both goaltenders made some very key saves between the pipes, but coach Blasi thought his team came away with the better final play.
“Nice saves by both goalies, but we executed one more play than they did,” said Blasi.
Next week the Wolverines will be at home for a conference series against Nebraska-Omaha. Coach Berenson said his team has the depth they need to compete within this league.
“We’ve got the depth and balance we’d like to have,” Berenson said.
The RedHawks will play a split weekend series with St. Lawrence on Friday and Clarkson on Saturday. Even though they had a very good weekend that helped their rankings in the country, Blasi said his team still needs to stay focused for next week.
“We need to stay focused on defense and our day to day approach,” Blasi said.