OXFORD, Ohio — A week after splitting their East Coast series, the No. 4 Miami RedHawks (12-5-0, 8-3-0 CCHA) continued their assault on conference opponents as they came from behind to beat the Ferris State Bulldogs (4-9-1, 2-7-1 CCHA) 5-3 at the Steve Cady Ice Arena.
Throughout the game, the difference-maker was special teams. The Bulldogs started with a power-play goal, but the RedHawks came back in the second period with three straight power-play tallies of their own.
“Special teams have been a big part of our game. We spent a lot of time on it in practice and it paid off tonight,” said RedHawk head coach Enrico Blasi.
The RedHawks welcomed back defenseman and assistant captain Kevin Roeder after he missed a few games with a foot injury, but still made a big difference Friday.
“Roeder blocked about 10 shots. He plays with a lot of energy and everybody feeds off of that,” Blasi said.
It didn’t take long for either team to put a goal on the scoreboard, as the Bulldogs tallied at just 2:30 in the first period. The goal came on the power play, when winger Zac Pearson picked up a rebound and slid it past RedHawk goaltender Jeff Zatkoff. Center Dan Riedel was credited for the assist.
“We turned the puck over a couple times and they were able to put it in the back of the net,” said RedHawk captain Ryan Jones.
The RedHawks and Bulldogs had many more chances during the first period, but neither could find the back of the net. The RedHawks started the game looking sloppy in the offensive end and went 0-3 on the power play during the first period, unable to score on any opportunities they had in front of the net against Bulldog goaltender Mitch O’Keefe.
“They came out and took it to us in the first period. But our guys came out with a lot of energy in the second period,” Blasi said.
After the intermission, the RedHawks looked like a different team as they shed their scoreless power-play performance and came out firing for three straight goals with the man-advantage.
The first came after the Bulldogs sent two men to the box early in the period to give the RedHawks a 5-on-3. The RedHawks scored the equalizer at 6:59, when Justin Mercier was in front of the net to tip a rebound from midair through the pipes. Jarrod Palmer and Ray Eichenlaub were credited with the assists.
The RedHawks tallied their next power-play goal only 22 seconds later, when Jones received a pass in front of the net and slid the puck past O’Keefe for his 10th goal of the season on the remaining 5-on-4 advantage. Matt Christie and Charley Fetzer earned the assists, Christie’s 100th point of his career.
The RedHawks weren’t done, notching another goal on the power play at 11:34. Eichenlaub received a pass from Nino Musitelli at the top of the slot and fired a wrist shot past O’Keefe to make the score 3-1. Fetzer would also be credited for his second assist of the game.
“Fetzer is a sturdy defenseman and he always makes the right play. He made some great passes tonight,” said Jones.
The Bulldogs were unfazed by the RedHawks’ surge and got right back into the game towards the end of the period.
The first Bulldog goal came at 17:25 when forward Joe Van Culin received a pass at the point and fired a wrist shot past Zatkoff on the stick side to make the score 3-2. Defensemen Jim Jorgensen and Chris Zarb were credited with assists.
“(Ferris State) is a good hockey team. They’re always in your face and you need to be ready for it, no matter what the score is,” Blasi said.
The Bulldogs tallied the equalizer at 19:07 during a 4-on-4 when Dan Riedel fired a wrist shot from the top of the circle that beat Zatkoff. Pearson would be credited to the assist on the play. Both teams went into the locker rooms deadlocked at 3-3 and the tie did not seem to affect the play of the RedHawk netminder.
“I just had to regroup and get those goals out of my mind and give us the chance to win,” Zatkoff said.
After losing their two-goal lead in the second period, the RedHawks came back to break the tie in the third period at 4:05. The goal came when Jones was tripped up in front of the net, but still managed to poke the puck across the line.
Referee Tim Kotyra would take a few minutes to review the play, but the goal stood, giving the RedHawks the lead. Fetzer would get his third assist of the game along with Brian Kaufman.
The Bulldogs would have a chance on a 4-on-3 advantage, but the RedHawk penalty kill and the goaltending of Zatkoff did not allow the Bulldogs back into this game.
“We did a good job in the third period of shutting them down,” Blasi said.
The RedHawks scored their fifth goal of the night when Jones recorded a hat trick midway through the period. The play came at 11:16 when Jones picked up a loose puck skated along the left circle then deke O’Keefe and slide the puck pass his blockers.
It was Jones’ 12th goal of the season, leaving him one behind team leader Nathan Davis. It was also Jones’ first hat trick of the season.
“The biggest thing was that we won the game and it doesn’t matter who scores the goals,” Jones said.
The RedHawks ended the night outshooting the Bulldogs 35-26 while adding another conference victory. The teams meet again Saturday night at the Steve Cady Ice Arena for a 7:05 p.m. start.
If this game was any indicator, the series finale will be an intense battle.
“They’re very much like we are. They love to grind the puck down low and it will be the exact same way tomorrow,” Jones said.