OXFORD, Ohio — No shootout was needed to decide game two of the opening series between Ohio rivals Ohio State and Miami University. The RedHawks romped in their home opener against the Buckeyes, crushing them 7-3.
With a new line-up in place, Miami Coach Enrico Blasi has set out to prove that his new-and-improved RedHawks are the team to beat. The new Miami offense is led by seniors Justin Mercier and team captain Brian Kaufman. Senior Kevin Roeder looks to serve as the leader of the defense this year.
Early on in the game, RedHawks freshman net-minder Connor Knapp looked like a suitable replacement for the dynamic duo of Jeff Zatkoff and Charlie Effinger. After stopping a couple of tough shots by an Ohio State offense that had overwhelmed his teammate Cody Reichard early on in Friday’s game, Knapp stonewalled the Buckeyes on an early power play.
“I’m excited,” said Knapp, who at 6’5″ and 215 pounds is one of the RedHawks’ biggest players. “We played really well as a team and we got the first ‘W’ along the way. A lot of saves I make, if I were a smaller guy I’d have to do a lot of things different. My size is definitely an advantage.”
Not to be outdone by his RedHawks’ counterpart, OSU’s Joseph Palmer made a few great saves of his own early on. One memorable moment came around the eight-minute mark of the game when Palmer made a pad save on a hard Miami slap shot, but then made a diving save as the puck landed right in front of the wide-open right-side of the net.
After one period, the score was 0-0. Ohio State was trying to flurry Knapp; unlike the night before however, Knapp kept blocking shot after shot. Miami was playing the fast and physical game that the RedHawks’ faithful saw last year.
“We played our game a little bit,” said Blasi. “I think you saw tonight that our style of play isn’t going to change. It’s just a matter of our guys getting back into the swing of things and getting the younger guys to understand how we move and things like that.”
The RedHawks persistence paid off early on in the second period. After punishing Palmer with hard shot after hard shot, the RedHawks were able to knock three goals past Palmer within five minutes of the start of the second period.
The first came just a 1:13 into the period on a power play as Pat Cannone slipped one past Palmer off of assists from Jarod Palmer and freshman Chris Wideman. The second, another power-play goal, was banged in by Mercier off of assists from Cannone and Camper. The second goal came just 1:34 after the first Miami goal. Miami’s third goal came just 34 seconds later when junior right wing Gary Steffes shot one past Palmer. Kaufman and Cannone assisted Steffes on the goal.
Cannone, not content with three points in less than four minutes, added a fourth point to his tally. Just 5:50 into the second, Cannone got an assist on a power-play goal by Camper, who was also aided by Mercier.
The fourth goal in under six minutes spelled the end of Palmer’s night. Buckeyes’ sophomore Dustin Carlson took the spot between the pipes.
“There were some untimely penalties,” said OSU Coach John Markell. “I think they were 4-for-9. Obviously they took advantage of it. We couldn’t stop the momentum they built up in that second period. I don’t know whether to attribute it to youth or stupidity but right now, given one week of practice with them, I want to think it’s youth.”
Shortly after the four-goal flurry by the RedHawks, OSU’s John Albert put the Buckeyes on the scoreboard with a slick shot that went right past Knapp 6:38 into the period. Kyle Reed got the assist on the Buckeyes’ first goal.
The RedHawks weren’t done scoring though. Just after the midway point in the period, Carlson let the puck get to Steffes right in front of the net, who quickly notched his second of the night.
The Buckeyes weren’t going down without a fight though. At the 13:06 mark in the second, Reed put in a goal of his own.
After two physical periods of play, the RedHawks went back to the locker room with a comfortable 5-2 lead over their in-state rivals. The RedHawks were able to smother the Buckeyes’ defense early and overwhelmed Palmer. Cannone’s four-point period is the second most points in a period in Miami history behind John Malloy’s five-point performance against Missouri on December 15, 1978. Cannone wasn’t the only ‘Hawk with multiple points in the second period. Steffes, Kaufman, Wideman, Camper, and Mercier all had two points each in the second.
The Buckeyes were able to pull within two with 12:16 remaining in the third period. The quick shot by Corey Elkins slipped right past Knapp’s glove and into the net.
Cannone let his stick continue do the talking. With 8:47 left in the game, he got his fifth point of the game. Cannone wasn’t done though. The emerging star for the RedHawks got his sixth point on another assist. This time he helped Steffes achieve the RedHawks’ first hat trick of the season. Kaufman also assisted Steffes on the hat trick goal, giving him his third point of the night.
After game two of the rivalry series, Miami looks like the clear favorite to win the battle for Ohio for the second straight year.