EAST LANSING, Mich. — Miami freshman Jimmy Mullin became the overtime hero in the RedHawks’ 2-1 win over Michigan State, but he did so when everyone else was trying to defend someone who didn’t even appear on the score sheet — Reilly Smith, the Miami junior with 12 goals to his credit this season, who’d been thwarted half a dozen times by MSU senior goaltender Drew Palmisano.
With the score tied 1-1 at 1:24 in OT — and Miami outshooting MSU 6-0 in the extra period — Austin Czarnik fished the puck from the corner and fed Mullin, who walked undefended around from behind the Spartans’ net and fired from between the bottom of the left circle and the crease, shelfing the puck and winning the game for the RedHawks.
“Czarnik made a nice play behind the net and I came around the right-hand side and everybody went to Reilly,” said Mullin, “so when they go to one person, all you have to do is shoot. It went in, and I was really excited about that.”
The Spartans had good reason to keep their eye on Smith, and not just because his reputation preceded him. At 9:31 in the second, Smith ripped a sure goal from the bottom of the slot that Palmisano handled like an infielder. Smith forced Palmisano to make a save six seconds into overtime.
“When one of your best players is getting chances and nothing’s happening for Reilly,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi, “you kind of wonder what’s going on. Obviously, Jimmy made a nice play at the end there.”
Smith wasn’t the only unsung hero of the game. The Miami penalty kill was flawless tonight, denying all five MSU chances, including a critical five-on-three early in the second period.
With the game tied 1-1 on goals scored by Miami’s Bryon Paulazzo and MSU’s Greg Wolfe 12 seconds apart late in the first period, RedHawks Trent Vogelhuber and Will Weber were in the box 40 seconds apart to give the Spartans a five-on-three advantage for 1:20. Surviving those penalties — especially with Weber, one of Miami’s best PK players, in the box — fueled the RedHawks for the remainder of the game.
“Any time you can kill a five-on-three, you get a little bit of the momentum back,” said Weber. “That helped, because we were kind of scrambling there for a while. I think after that five-on-three, we kind of took the momentum back a little bit and finished the game strong after that.”
Connor Knapp’s 33-save performance helped as well.
“I thought he played in control and made some big, big saves when he had to,” said Blasi. “He kept us in the game, especially early on. He’s a big boy, so when he’s playing in control, it’s hard to see the net. Very nice job with rebound control, and that’s key because our defensemen; I think we’re in our system play pretty good team defense. We’re not giving teams many second chances if we’re getting good rebound control, and usually that’s a good sign for us.”
Knapp’s counterpart, Palmisano, played well with 25 saves on the night.
“He played a real strong game again,” said MSU coach Tom Anastos, “but to win, you have to usually score more than one goal.”
The teams meet again Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. in Munn Ice Arena.