OXFORD, OHIO — After a tenuous road trip where they tallied a painful 0-2-2 record, the No. 12 Miami RedHawks returned home and ended their winless streak with a 4-1 dismantling of the Lake Superior State Lakers. The RedHawks continued their dominance at home as they added to their 12-3-1 mark at the Cady Arena.
“I’ve said it before about this league, everybody plays good and their own barn,” RedHawk head coach Enrico Blasi said.
The RedHawks (19-10-4, 14-7-4 CCHA) had a tough task ahead of them in Laker goalie Jeff Jakaitis, who took his nation-leading save percentage of .941 into this game against a RedHawk offense that has not been shutout all season.
Jakaitis may have given up four goals, but his 33 save performance was still solid for the Lakers.
“He played solid and I thought we did a good job defensively tonight, we just didn’t finish our opportunities,” said Laker head coach Jim Roque.
On the other side of the ice, RedHawk goaltender Charlie Effinger looked unstoppable between the pipes as he stopped 18 shots.
“The credit tonight belongs to the guys in front of me and I just sat back and did my job,” said Effinger.
After a scoreless first period where both teams had plenty of opportunities in front of the net, the RedHawks tallied the first goal of the game just 2:54 into the second period.
The goal came when forward Gary Steffes intercepted the puck and found defenseman Alec Martinez at the top of the slot where he fired a wrist shot past Jakaitis. It was Martinez’s ninth goal of the season, leading all RedHawk defensemen this year.
“We talked about scoring more goals all week and tonight we got opportunities on our chances and it was a good hockey game,” Blasi said.
After a questionable hooking call on RedHawk captain Ryan Jones at 10:30, the Lakers needed just 12 seconds on the power play to even the score at 1-1.
The Lakers tallied the equalizer when Derek A. Smith picked up a pass from Trent Campbell at the bottom of the right circle and fired a slap shot that beat Effinger for the power play goal. Troy Schwab was also credited with the assist.
Both teams would have a few more chances in front of the net, but couldn’t get the puck to fall. The second period would end with both teams deadlocked at 1-1.
However, the momentum would swing in the RedHawks’ favor at the beginning of the third.
The RedHawks would break the tie just 4:43 into the third period when Nathan Davis scored his 17th goal of the season. Davis received a pass from Brad Robbins along the boards and then skated in front of the net to poke the puck past Jakaitis. Martinez would tally his second point of the night with the other assist.
“We slowed down the rush early and turned the momentum around,” said Effinger.
The RedHawks would have more chances on the power play, but Jakaitis made some eye-popping saves and showed the RedHawks why he led the nation in save percentage.
However, at the 11:07 mark, a poor decision by Jakaitis cost his team a goal when he decided to come out of the net and play a loose puck.
“He made the right decision and I don’t fault him for that,” Roque said.
As Jakaitis skated out of the net to play the puck, Jones skated in alone and beat Jakaitis to pick up the loose puck and fire a wrist shot into the back of the open net to give the RedHawks a 3-1 lead. It was Jones’ team-leading 20th goal of the season.
“He definitely had the step on me and I just got lucky and made a good guess on the puck,” Jones said.
The RedHawks would not be done with the scoring as they tallied a fourth goal at the 18:15 mark to put the game away. The goal came when Matt Christie banked home a rebound off a Jarod Palmer wrist shot. It was Christie’s seventh goal of the season.
“Everyone around was really pumped tonight and it was good all around for the team tonight,” Christie said.
The RedHawks and Lakers (15-13-3, 9-11-3 CCHA) will finish off the series Saturday night at the Steve Cady Arena. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:05 P.M.