OXFORD, Ohio — One night after the No. 5 Miami RedHawks (10-4-0, 7-3-0 CCHA) brought a tremendous offensive attack against the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (3-6-3, 2-5-1 CCHA) by scoring seven goals, the RedHawks only needed two to tally the victory against their conference foe, beating the Mavericks 2-1 at the Steve Cady Ice Arena to complete the series sweep.
“Tonight was a really good college hockey game,” said RedHawk head coach Enrico Blasi. “It was just a matter of who got that one play to score the winner.”
The second game of the series was the opposite of the first as both teams went scoreless through two periods. However, special teams and defense would be the deciding factor, as the RedHawks scored both of their goals on special teams.
“We work a lot on our penalty kill and it’s a key point for us going into any weekend,” Blasi said.
The difference-maker for both teams was the superb play of their goaltenders. Maverick goalie Jerad Kaufmann played well as he stopped 32 of 34 shots, while RedHawk goalie Jeff Zatkoff stopped 34 of 35 on his way to his sixth victory of the season.
“He played great all weekend and we have a lot of confidence in him. He knew he was going to play well,” Blasi said.
Neither team scored during the first period; both had chances on the power play, but could not get anything into the back of the net.
The story remained the same for another 20 minutes. There were plenty of opportunities for both teams on the power play, as well as the penalty kill, but no goals.
“I thought our penalty kill was amazing tonight,” Zatkoff said. “We had more chances on their power play than they did.”
However, neither team could put anything past either of the superb goaltenders. After the second period, Zatkoff and Kaufmann stopped all the shots they saw. The goalies also had plenty of help from their defensive units on even strength and the penalty kill. There was a big difference in the penalty-kill unit for the Mavericks tonight as they were more aggressive near the net.
“They changed their penalty kill tonight and they were more aggressive,” said RedHawk captain Ryan Jones.
Through two periods, the RedHawks and Mavericks combined for 16 penalties, still going scoreless on the power play. There were a few scuffles in the period and Maverick head coach Mike Kemp was happy with the way his team stood up for themselves.
“Our team hasn’t been a real physical team. Frankly, I was glad to see it because we engaged more,” Kemp said.
The RedHawks started the third period on the power play, and the scoreless tie ended just 31 seconds into the period when RedHawk center Nathan Davis poked in a power-play rebound off an Alec Martinez slapshot. Forward Brian Kaufman was also credited with an assist on Davis’ team-leading 12th goal of the season.
Referee Brian Aaron laid down the law throughout the game, as there were plenty of scuffles after the whistle was blown.
One of those incidents happened near the middle of the third period at 8:24 when a fight broke out in front of the net. That ended with two players from each team sent off to the box and Maverick forward Mick Lawrence sent to the locker room for a game misconduct.
“Those things tend to happen at the end of the weekend and tempers happen to flare,” said Jones.
The Mavericks got on the board at 10:19 as a result of a RedHawk penalty. The goal came 4-on-4 when forward Alex Nikiforuk received a pass from defenseman Phil Angell and skated to the top of the right circle to fire a wrist shot on the high stick side of Zatkoff.
“Obviously there were a lot of positives to come out of this game,” Kemp said. “If you play the right way, things will turn around for you.”
The RedHawks broke the tie on the penalty kill at 16:44. As the RedHawks skated shorthanded, RedHawk captain Ryan Jones received a pass from Davis and skated in alone to slide the puck past Kauffman and tally his eighth goal of the season. It also was Davis’ tenth multi-point game of the season.
“(Ryan’s) our leader and when there’s a big play to be made, he’s involved,” said Blasi.
The RedHawks skated to a 2-1 victory and remained in first place in the CCHA. According to Blasi, his team has been improving all year.
“I think we’re getting better and slowly improving in every aspect of our game,” Blasi said.
Next weekend, the RedHawks will travel east to face St. Lawrence and Clarkson while the Mavericks will be back at home against Notre Dame.