OXFORD, Ohio — Coming off their first win in Ann Arbor since 1994, the No. 7 Miami RedHawks (4-2-0, 1-1-0 CCHA) made their homecoming extra-special with a 4-3 win against the Bowling Green Falcons (2-1-0, 0-0-0 CCHA) at the Steve Cady Arena.
The RedHawks had won four in a row against the Falcons before this contest and tallied the victory by crashing the net on Falcon goaltender Eddie Neville.
“We had a ton of shots that were in close and we worked hard to get guys to the net,” said RedHawk captain Ryan Jones.
The RedHawks outshot the Falcons in the first two periods and capitalized on their opportunities in front of the net, while the Falcons were unable to bring the intensity on the loose pucks.
“I don’t think we responded with the necessary intensity in front of the cages,” said Falcon head coach Scott Paluch.
A lack of penalties was a factor for both teams as the officiating crew only called three penalties for the entire game.
“The veteran referee sets the stage early and if you abide by the rules, he’ll let you play,” said RedHawk head coach Enrico Blasi.
The first period started off quickly for both sides. The RedHawks showed a few defensive lapses early on, but goaltender Charlie Effinger stopped the Falcons from putting the puck in the back of the net.
Effinger would not be so lucky at 7:12 when the Falcons struck first. The goal came when the Falcons had a 3-on-1 on Effinger; forward Derek Whitmore received a pass from linemate Tomas Petruska and fired it through the back door of Effinger.
“They came out and put in a good effort by crashing hard at the net,” Effinger said. “You give up a goal and you just need to put it out of your mind.”
The RedHawks would have plenty of opportunities during the first period, but Neville caught some breaks from his defense as they chipped away loose pucks.
“There were a couple of chances where we had to bury the puck,” Jones said.
The RedHawks would finally get one past Neville at 13:07 when Jones found Nathan Davis, who fired a pass to defenseman Alec Martinez at the top of the slot. He fired a wrist shot that found its way to the back of the net.
During the first period, the RedHawks were on the offensive most of the time as they outshot the Falcons 17-7 in the period. Still, the period ended with the teams tied 1-1.
The second period started pretty much the same way as the first period with the Falcons striking first. The goal came early at 1:33 when Petruska tallied the goal off a rebound from linemate Jonathan Matsumoto.
“The puck was hopping around and that made it tough,” Effinger said. “When a team crashes the net hard, it’s tough as a goalie and that’s what BG did tonight.”
The RedHawks were struggling early on to get the puck past Neville, but would eventually score three unanswered goals on the freshman goaltender.
The first RedHawk goal came at 7:57 on a delayed penalty when Jones received a pass from Davis to skate in alone and beat Neville on the glove side. Martinez would also be credited with the assist on the goal for his second point in the contest, along with Jones and Davis.
The next RedHawk goal came just four minutes later. At 11:04, forward Bill Loupee found defenseman Ray Eichenlaub at the right circle, and he fired a wrist shot that hit the inside of the post and appeared to fall past the red line. Referee Steve Piotrowski took a few minutes to review and concurred. Forward Matt Christie was credited with the assist.
The superb goaltending of Effinger and the play of his defense to chip away the loose pucks on 5-on-5 play kept the RedHawks in the lead for the second period.
“I’m really confident in our team when we play 5-on-5,” Effinger said.
The RedHawks tallied one more before intermission at the 17:11 mark. When Neville came out of the net to pounce on a loose puck, freshman forward Gary Steffes picked up the puck and slid it into the back of the open net to give the RedHawks a 4-2 lead. It was Steffes’ third goal of the season; defenseman Kevin Roeder and forward Brian Kaufman were credited with the assists.
The RedHawks ended the period on top, as well as going 20 minutes without a penalty for the first time all year. However, Paluch was unhappy with the play of his team during the second period.
“I thought we were playing well early on, but I didn’t like our second period,” Paluch said.
The third period started out with the RedHawks well in control. However, the Falcons again struck first as they came within one at 6:43.
The goal came when forward James Perkin poked a loose puck through the five-hole as three of his teammates were crashing the net. Kyle Page and Kai Kantola were credited with the assists.
The RedHawks got a chance on the power play at 6:55 to take back the two-goal lead, but the Falcons killed the penalty.
“The credit goes to BG. They played really hard in the third period and they’re a really talented team,” Blasi said.
The Falcons pulled Neville with a minute remaining to make a last effort to tie the game. The Falcons had a chance on a slapshot with two seconds remaining, but Roeder was there to block the shot and end the game with a 4-3 RedHawks’ win.
The RedHawks ended the night outshooting the Falcons 45-30. Blasi reiterated that he expected his team to bring the intensity throughout despite the score of the game.
“We emphasize that no matter what the score is, we play a certain kind of way and I thought we did that tonight,” Blasi said.
Both teams will square off Saturday night at Steve Cady Arena to finish off the conference series with the faceoff at 7:05 PM.