OXFORD, Ohio — Lake Superior State swept No. 9 Miami out of the CCHA playoffs Saturday night. Propelled by another dominating performance by goaltender Jeff Jakaitis (43 saves), the visiting Lakers stunned the RedHawks 2-1.
LSSU’s first-year coach Jim Roque was ecstatic with his team’s effort, especially considering the condition of his troops. “We had guys hurt. Our leading scoring (Troy Schwab) didn’t play all weekend. [Defenseman] Ryan Baird was puking all game on the bench. We didn’t even have a full lineup. We only dressed 17 skaters.”
Senior Jeff Rainville continued his torrid tear, scoring two goals for a total of three this weekend. The Ontario native has been surging since the start of the CCHA playoffs. He totaled five assists last weekend against Ferris State.
LSSU jumped out to an early lead 11:51 into the first period thanks to a Miami defensive lapse in its zone. Rainville forced a turnover right in front of the net and scored easily, glove side.
After Miami evened the score with five minutes left in the contest, Rainville once again found the back of the net less than two minutes later, firing a shot over RedHawks’ netminder Jeff Zatkoff’s left shoulder from the slot.
This was another instance where LSSU capitalized on a Miami mistake. The RedHawks were unable to clear the puck from their zone. Forward Trent Campbell was able to secure the puck and find Rainville for the assist.
“Jeff Rainville scored two huge goals.” Roque said, elated with his senior’s recent play. “[The seniors] had tough seasons. [Rainville] thought he could have scored more. Dominic [Osman] and Trent Campbell, they thought they would have bigger years. It is just the perfect time to have a great playoffs. I’m so glad for them.”
Daydreaming through most of the game, the arena came to life after the announcement that MU’s men’s basketball team claimed the MAC tournament title against Akron on a thrilling last-second shot, 53-52. This seemed to add a little spark to the RedHawks. Moments later, 14:45 into the third period, the Red and White were finally able to break through. Ryan Jones deflected an Alec Martinez shot for his first goal of the series.
It appeared that the RedHawks were destined for overtime at the very least, before a costly mistake in their own zone led to Rainville’s winning score.
Roque felt the RedHawks were a little off this weekend. “They were not sharp, like as far as crisp, you know? A lot of their passes weren’t where they needed to be. Even their defensive guys, [the puck] bounced over their sticks. The puck wasn’t exactly were it needed to be. They had a tough weekend, I think. I don’t know why.”
The sweep in the second round of the CCHA playoffs may have cost the RedHawks a spot in the 16-team NCAA tournament, as Miami head coach Enrico Blasi conceded. “I’m thinking our season is over,” Blasi said, before allowing a little bit of hope to remain. “I have no idea, but the RPI and PairWise ranking, the way it works, sometimes it benefits you not playing.”
• It took referee Kevin Hall almost 30 minutes to call a penalty Friday night; he called four in the first five minutes Saturday. Hall only called four more penalties the remainder of the match.
• The announced attendance of 2,264, approximately 200 fewer than Friday night, was slightly surprising. With Miami’s students away on spring break, plenty of good seats were available and being a Saturday night, it was thought that the Steve Cady Arena would be closer to capacity. It was so uncharacteristically quiet, RedHawks’ play-by-play announcer Greg Waddell could be heard live calling the entire game.
• After platooning goalies Zatkoff and Charlie Effinger most of the season, the RedHawks scrapped the goalie-by-committee approach this series in favor of Zatkoff.
• Miami outshot Lake State 45-26.
• Jakaitis’ play was nothing short of remarkable. The senior, ranked second nationally in save percentage, stopped a combined 79 of 81 shots this weekend.
• All four CCHA second-round contests ended in sweeps Saturday. With the exception of Miami, the favorites all advanced (Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Michigan).
• This season MU and LSSU were placed in the same four-team CCHA cluster. As a result, MU and LSSU faced off with one another four times during the regular season in two home-and-away series. MU won three of the contests, including a February 10-11 home sweep.
M.D. Sandwasher is a writer for Blogcritics.com.