SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — It was an important game for both hockey clubs but for different reasons.
The Miami RedHawks defeated the Lake Superior State Lakers 4-1 in Central Collegiate Hockey Association action on Saturday night. For the RedHawks, the win continues and steady improvement over the last month while it was a bounce-back game following Friday night’s 8-1 loss.
In a similar fashion to Friday night’s loss, the Lakers fell behind 2-0 through one period, though they managed to keep things close in the middle frame as they looked to battle back.
“The difference tonight (from Friday) was that we stuck together and we battled,” said Lakers head coach Jim Roque. “We had a couple of bobbled pucks at the blue line and (Miami) capitalized. We didn’t get any bounces at all but we worked really hard tonight (Saturday). I was really happy with our effort tonight. If we play like that going forward, I’m happy with that.”
Said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi:
“(Friday night) we played very well and executed very well. (Saturday) was a little more of a battle. We knew they were going to come out and play hard. Connor Knapp played well in net. Our penalty kill did a good job. Even though we let one in, we blocked a lot of shots and executed when we had to.”
Riley Smith and Andy Miele paced the RedHawks with a goal and an assist each in the victory.
“They’ve been there all year,” said Blasi. “I don’t know what to say about Miele, Smith, Carter Camper and Pat Cannone. They come to play every night. For the most part, when they’re scoring we’re in good shape. When our goaltending is playing well and out defense is blocking shots like they are now, good things happen.”
Curtis McKenzie and Matt Tomassoni also scored in the win while goaltender Connor Knapp stopped 26 shots for Miami.
Rick Schofield scored the lone goal for the Lakers while goaltender Kevin Kapalka stopped 26 shots one night after stopping 30 through two periods before being pulled and making way for freshman Niels-Erik Ravn.
On Friday night, Smith scored a pair of goals and set up another in the Miami victory. Andy Miele had a goal and two assists while Trent Vogelhuber set up three goals. Carter Camper had a pair of goals while Pat Cannone, Chris Wideman and Justin Vaive had a goal and an assist each while Alden Hirschfeld set up two goals. Fred Cassiani scored the lone goal for Lake State.
“It’s amazing what a month does to a team,” said Blasi. “It was just four weeks ago we were searching for some results and searching for ideas. Then we ended up playing really well at Notre Dame and then end up playing really well at Michigan and Western and then coming here and sweeping. We’ve put ourselves in a pretty good position right now.”
With the victory, Miami finishes the regular season with a 16-7-5-2 conference record (19-9-6 overall) and open the CCHA playoffs as one of five teams who earned a bye in the opening round. The RedHawks finished third, behind first place Michigan and second-seeded Notre Dame.
For the Lakers, a win would have vaulted them into sixth, ahead of Alaska, who was participating in nonconference action over the weekend, and Northern Michigan, who suffered a sweep at the hands of Michigan on the final weekend of the regular season.
The Lakers finish the regular season with an 8-12-8-5 conference record (10-15-9 overall). As the eighth seed the Lakers will host ninth-seeded Ohio State next weekend.