TROY, N.Y. — What happens when one team dominates consistently in the third period, and the other team is badly outscored in the final 20 minutes?
You get No. 2 Miami University overpowering 16th-ranked Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, again.
For the second straight game, the RedHawks dominated the third period against the Engineers. Miami scored four goals to break open a close game and roll to a 5-1 non-league hockey victory over RPI, completing a sweep of the two-game series. The RedHawks (16-2) have outscored their opponents in the third 36-6.
“It’s just been part of our mentality, and our attitude this year,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “It seems like our guys understand what they need to do, and they go out and execute.”
Meanwhile, the Engineers (8-7-3) have been outscored 25-6 in the third. They didn’t score in the third in either weekend game. They’ve only scored once in the third period in their last six games. The Engineers have scored more than one goal in the third just one time this season, when they got two against Dartmouth November 10.
“We need to work on, in general, battling,” said defenseman Christian Jensen, who scored RPI’s lone goal late in the second period to tie the score 1-1. “We have to be a little stronger on the sticks.”
RPI coach Seth Appert attributed Miami’s third-period dominance to the RedHawks’ strong players.
“Miami’s ahead of us, in terms of their off-ice training,” Appert said. “They’ve put [many] years to build their culture of how they train in the summer, and we’ve had one year of it. We’re getting there. Our kids competed, no question. Their big, strong, talented players wore us down late in the game, and they made some really good plays, as great players do.”
Hobey Baker Award candidate Ryan Jones broke the tie 27 seconds into the third when his backhander bounced past goalie Jordan Alford, who was making his second straight start because Mathias Lange has a broken pinky on his left hand.
The RedHawks struck again 2:10 later when Tommy Wingels, who scored in the first period, got his second goal of the game when he fired a shot from the slot off the right post and past Alford. At that point, Appert called a timeout to try and settle his team down.
“There was no question in my mind that we were ready to come out and have a good third period,” Appert said. “They got kind of a bouncy, chop backhand goal to start that period. That’s where we need to get a little more resilient mentally, to handle it and to not let those next five minutes be the difference between winning and losing.”
Justin Mercier scored with 7:17 left, when the teams were skating four aside. A series of penalties led to the teams playing three-on-three, and then some power plays for RPI. Alford was pulled for an extra attacker, and the Engineers eventually had a six skaters to three advantage, but they couldn’t score.
Carter Camper, who scored twice Saturday, got an empty-net goal for Miami with 38 seconds left.
“We made some plays, not as many as we like in that situation,” Appert said. “Credit to [goalie] Jeff Zatkoff, who was strong in net for them. At the times we did penetrate, he showed why he’s one of the best in the country.”