COLUMBUS, Ohio — Miami defenseman Mitch Ganzak went from goat to hero in the span of 11 minutes, essentially scoring RPI’s game-tying goal at 14:00 in the third, then setting up teammate Geoff Smith’s game-winning goal at 4:49 in overtime, as the No. 2 RedHawks beat the Engineers, 3-2, in the opener of this year’s Ohio Hockey Classic in Nationwide Arena.
“They got a lucky bounce there to tie the game,” said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi, “but give Mitch Ganzak credit. He felt as bad as anybody. He made a great play…and fortunate for us, Geoff [Smith] was able to put it in the net.”
On RPI’s second goal, Ganzak attempted a pass up the ice from the Miami zone, but hit teammate Alexandre Lacombe’s skate instead, sending the puck back to the RedHawk net and past goaltender Charlie Effinger. The goal was credited to Engineer Keith MCWilliams.
On the game-winner, Ganzak centered a pass from the left circle to Smith in the slot. Smith fired through traffic and beat RPI goaltender Mathias Lange high on the glove side.
“We kind of set it up in their zone, and Ganzak got up in the rush and…then he came across for that shot and he looked back at me and didn’t want to take it so he threw it out to the middle,” said Smith. “A great pass by him, I give him all the credit. I just kind of fired it to the back of the net through a few people and I was real lucky there. A good screen by Jonesy [Ryan Jones].”
The RedHawks had a 2-0 lead at the end of the first after dominating the opening stanza, with goals by Bill Loupee and Brad Robbins. Loupee’s goal, his first career tally, came at 4:40, a deflection of Matt Davis’ initial shot. Davis skated around the back of the net from right to left, came out to the top of the left circle and fired — all one fluid motion — and Loupee tipped it in long past Lange.
At 13:27, Robbins earned his first of the season after taking a pass from Lacombe from the top of the right circle. Robbins’ slapshot from the right point beat Lange low and long.
“I thought we played [well] the first, maybe, period-and-a-half,” said Blasi. “I thought that Charlie played great in net. It seemed to turn a little bit in the third period. They really took it to us. They’re a good hockey team; they’ve beaten some pretty good teams this year.”
When Jonathan Ornelas scored at 8:04 in the third on the Engineer power play, picking up Brad Farynuk’s initial shot from the right point, the momentum clearly took a Rensselaer turn, culminating in the tying goal at 14:00. Smith said that RPI’s late rally and seeming good luck motivated the RedHawks heading into OT.
“After they tied it up kind of close to the end of the period, going into overtime, we really didn’t want to go to the shootout; we really wanted to win this in overtime [so] we really brought our game in overtime.”
“I thought it was a real good hockey game,” said Rensselaer head coach Dan Fridgen. “They capitalized on our mistakes, and we were able to capitalize on their mistakes, and that’s the kind of game you had. That’s why you have to really make sure you limit your mistakes in games like this.
“In that type of a game when you’re playing that type of a team, you have to be very, very patient. I thought in the first period we didn’t come out and execute what our game plan was supposed to be at all. We were trying to beat guys one-on-one and that’s just not going to happen against Miami University.”
RPI finished the night 1-for-4 on the power play to Miami’s 0-for-3. Lange had 22 saves, Effinger 23. Each team had 25 shots on goal.
Miami (13-2-2, 10-1-1 CCHA) advances to the OHC title game at 8:05 p.m. Friday in Nationwide Arena, and will face the winner of the match between Holy Cross and host Ohio State. Rensselaer (8-7-3, 2-1-3 ECACHL) will play the loser of that game in Friday’s 5:05 p.m. consolation game.