OXFORD, Ohio — Coming into this weekend series the No. 3 Miami University RedHawks (15-4-4, 12-3-2 CCHA) were in a 0-for-25 power-play drought.
That would end at Goggin Ice Arena Friday night when they squared off against the Western Michigan Broncos (5-14-3, 5-9-2 CCHA) in a battle between the first and last place teams of the CCHA.
“Coming in we knew we couldn’t spare a point against these guys,” said RedHawk Nathan Davis.
The RedHawks stuck to their pledge as they exploded on offense and went on to beat the Broncos 6-1. The RedHawk power-play unit emerged from its hibernation and registered three power-play goals off the Bronco goaltenders.
“Our guys played hard, we were opportunistic on our chances and executed,” said RedHawk head coach Enrico Blasi.
It definitely was a rough night for Broncos goalie Daniel Bellissimo as he let up five RedHawk goals, two of them coming on the power play.
The first period started out with both teams bringing the intensity on the fore check and the Broncos piling up the shots on goal. The RedHawks could not get a shot off for the first seven minutes of the game as the Broncos outshot them 7-0.
“Offensively, they’re a good hockey team and you have to defend against that,” said Blasi.
However, the slow start and the scoreless tie would end when the RedHawks capitalized on a power play at 17:10. Just 12 seconds after Bronco Brent Walton was whistled for a hooking call, RedHawk Geoff Smith circled the puck behind the net and passed it to Davis, where he fired a wrister past Bellissimo, ending the RedHawk power play goal drought. The first period would end with the 1-0 score.
The RedHawks added another goal to their lead just 46 seconds into the second period. Smith fired a shot that came free where Ryan Jones was able to tap in the rebound past Bellissimo.
The Broncos would be able to get on the board at 5:17, but that would be their only offense of the night against RedHawk goalie Charlie Effinger. The goal came on the power play when Daryl Moore fired a pass to Walton at the side of the net, where he deflected the shot through the five hole. The Broncos would have a few more chances, but could not get anything past Effinger, who made some key acrobatic saves.
“They came out hard, and I was just trying to keep us in the game,” said Effinger.
The RedHawks would not let the Broncos muster a comeback after their first goal as they scored four unanswered goals from that point on.
“After it was 2-1, Miami really took it to another level in the second period,” said Bronco head coach Jim Culhane.
The third goal came at 8:12 when Smith passed it to Joe Cooper. Cooper skated around the net and found Matt Davis, where he fired a wrist shot at the top of circle that bounced off Bellissimo’s pad and into the back of the net. It was Smith’s third assist of the night.
Davis’ younger brother, Nathan, would tally another goal of his own just 48 seconds later. Davis and teammate Nino Musitelli skated past center ice on a two-on-one rush, and Musitelli slid the puck to Davis where he tapped in a backhand off Bellissimo’s body that fell inside the post for his second goal of the night. This was the fourth time this season that the Davis brothers each scored a goal in the same game.
The RedHawks would not make the second period any easier for Bellissimo as they were able to get another goal at 14:51. The goal came when defenseman Brad Robbins fired a wrist shot at the top of the circle that bounced off Bellissimo’s pad and trickled into the net.
“Once they got rolling, they were able to generate scoring opportunities and get those four goals in the second period,” said Culhane.
The three unanswered RedHawk goals in the second period would mean the end of the night for Bellissimo, as Culhane would pull his starting goalie in favor of backup Eric Marvin in the third period.
Marvin would give up a goal of his own in the third when the RedHawks scored their third power-play goal of the night. The goal came at 2:12 when Musitelli skated in front of the net to beat Marvin on a backhand as he went down to stack his pads.
Smith added that the changes in the power play helped the unit awake from the drought and tally the three goals.
“We changed a few different guys on the power plays and it worked for us tonight,” said Smith.
The game would end with the RedHawks outshooting the Broncos 45-23 on their way to the 6-1 victory. This was the third time this season the RedHawks tallied six goals in a game and were thrilled with their effort against the Broncos.
“I think it’s something we actually needed, and not worrying about (Effinger) making the big saves,” Smith said.
The RedHawks will continue their weekend series against the Broncos Saturday night at Goggin Ice Arena and hope to bring the same effort into the second game as they did in the first.
“It was a character win and hopefully it will carry us into tomorrow night,” Effinger said.