OXFORD, Ohio — As the final horn rang to close Friday night’s regular season finale for the Miami RedHawks and the Ohio State Buckeyes, the RedHawks’ seniors knew they had locked up a second place finish in the regular season, as well as a first round bye during the CCHA tournament.
The 4-3 win was a great way to cap their regular season careers.
RedHawk nation was out in full force at the Steve Cady Arena at the Goggin Ice Center to cheer their seniors on against their hated in-state rivals from Columbus.
“I knew we’d come out with a lot of emotion,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi. “It was an emotional night. Whether we would execute or not I had no doubts. Typically on senior night they can come out with so much emotion that it’s too much. It was a game we were going to be in the rest of the way. The last two weekends have been really good preparation for this weekend.”
The RedHawks opened things up with a bang when Jarrod Palmer scored the first goal of the night on assists from freshman Andy Miele and senior Nathan Davis. Davis and Miele got more points less than five minutes later when Davis got credited with the assist on Miele’s shot that went right by Buckeyes’ goalie Joseph Palmer.
Davis got his third point of the night about halfway through the first period when he put one right past Palmer to make the score 3-0. The three points brought Davis, who will join the Chicago Blackhawks organization next year, his 130th career point as a RedHawk.
The 3-0 score was not a deceiving one. The Red and White simply outplayed the Buckeyes. The RedHawks out-shot their opponents 12-3. OSU also had two penalties in the first while the RedHawks didn’t send a single man to the sin-bin in the first period.
“We got jumped on in the first period,” said OSU senior captain Matt McIlvane. “Miami’s one of the best teams in the country and we gave them a three goal lead in the first period and you can’t do that. We can’t be spotting the team that we’re playing three goals in the first period. We’ve got to build on the positives.”
The RedHawks were penalty free until the 3:35 mark of the second period when freshman defenseman Vincent LoVerde was sent to the box for tripping. The Buckeyes were finally able to get on the board late in the second when Kyle Reed put the puck through Charlie Effinger’s five-hole.
The goal shocked the crowd at the Cady Arena, but it didn’t take them long to drown out the cheers of the members of Buckeye Nation that made the trip south for the regular season finale between the two rivals.
“Sometimes the rivalry is so good that guys don’t want to do anything; otherwise, you give the other team the edge,” said Blasi. “There were some good hard hits and guys played pretty clean. At this time of the year, you don’t want anybody getting chippy and guys getting hurt.”
The RedHawks made it 4-1 early in the third after Brain Kaufman barely slipped one past Palmer. The play, one of the more interesting ones of the year, began when Effinger sent the puck coast-to-coast and Tommy Wingels took the puck away from an OSU defenseman and dished it to Kaufman. Kaufman then sent it back Ryan Jones who, in an effort to beat Palmer, sent it right back to Kaufman. The dizzying play ended in the fourth RedHawks goal for the night, the first one not to include either Davis or Miele.
“The puck got dumped in and their defenseman was on an island,” said Jones. “Kaufman went back door to me and I just gave it back to him and he put it in the empty net. It was a nice finish.”
Shortly after Kaufman’s goal, Justin Mercier got collared with Miami’s second penalty of the game. Just seconds after Mercier left the sin bin Reed put the puck past Effinger again to cut the lead down to two.
“You just have to keep going,” said Reed. “That Notre Dame weekend, the past three weekends we’ve had a big couple of weekends. We just have got to keep going. Obviously a start like that is a negative for the rest of the game. We keep coming back. In the third period we just stuck to the positives. I think we’ve got our heads on straight. We know we can battle against teams like Miami; we just have to keep that up in the playoffs.”
The Buckeyes made it a one-goal game when Cory Toy put it in off of assists from Reed and Boyd.
The goal put Miami fans on edge, as the RedHawks were holding on by a thread with under five minutes to go.
Effinger made a game-saving save with 49 seconds left on the clock, shutting down an overwhelming Buckeyes’ offensive onslaught.
“It was an exciting hockey game,” said Jones. “A little too close in the end. I could have done without that.”
With Michigans 5-3 win over Ferris State, Miami locked up second place in the CCHA regular season. Ohio State begins their “Road to the Joe” next week; currently all of the bottom eight teams in the CCHA are tied, so it is unknown whether the Buckeyes will be at home next weekend for the first round of the CCHA playoffs.