COLUMBUS, Ohio — With yet another dominating victory, the Miami RedHawks have established themselves as one of the hottest teams in the CCHA heading into the conference’s playoffs starting next weekend. The RedHawks finished off their third consecutive weekend sweep with a 5-1 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes Saturday evening.
The RedHawks secured the fourth seed in the CCHA playoffs, and will take on Michigan State in the second round in two weeks, as both teams have a first-round bye. Miami has won six games in a row, the last five by at least two goals.
“It is a fun time of the year,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “You want your team playing well and over the last couple weekends, we have played some of our best hockey. Our team is playing solid defense, good goaltending, all four of our lines are playing.”
Miami got a four-point night from Reilly Smith and three-point efforts from Austin Czarnik and Jimmy Mullin.
“Just being able to secure home-ice advantage will be good for us,” Smith said.
Ohio State has suffered an epic meltdown in the second half of the season. The Buckeyes were No. 1 in the PairWise rankings and on top of the CCHA by five points during the holiday break. Since the start of 2012, Ohio State has gone 1-9-4 and has played itself out of the NCAA tournament barring a deep run in the CCHA playoffs.
“For whatever reason, it hasn’t bounced our way,” Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said. “We have to deal with the hand we’re dealt, and it is going to make us stronger. Good thing we’re into a new season; first half, second half, and playoffs.”
Ohio State needed a win Saturday to host a CCHA first round playoff series. For the second straight year, the Buckeyes will travel, this time to Notre Dame.
Senior Night marked a rough evening for two of the three seniors on the ice Saturday. Defender Sean Duddy had a minus-4 and goalie Cal Heeter gave up five goals on 18 shots against and was pulled 10:06 into the second period.
“We struggled in our D-zone,” Duddy said. “Pucks were bouncing off sticks, guys were forcing things. We just didn’t do a good enough job.”
Miami took the initial 1-0 lead just 43 seconds into the game after Mullin cleaned up a Czarnik rebound in the crease. Ohio State took advantage of a five-on-three power play when Al McLean’s innocent-looking wrister beat the glove side of Miami goalie Connor Knapp 8:45 into the second.
Miami responded with two goals 35 seconds apart. Blake Coleman scored his second of the year 15:34 into the first with his power-play goal that went off the skate of OSU defender Clark Cristofoli. Smith scored his conference leading 26th goal of the campaign after collecting a loose puck and firing it past Heeter’s glove after Chris Crane blocked Will Weber’s shot.
“Two goals in that time span is definitely going to down hearten the other team,” Smith said. “It wasn’t (my) goal; it was just the play after that. The next four or five shifts, our team was great.”
“I thought our guys came out and competed,” Osiecki said. “Heeter obviously doesn’t like to see the first shot go into the net. That doesn’t set a great tone but our guys competed. The first period, I thought we were ready to go and competed. They found a way to score three goals.”
Miami added a pair of Czarnik goals in the second period to take a 5-1 lead. Czarnik’s first goal came off a centering pass from behind the net he one-timed past the stick of Heeter. His second came on a breakaway short-handed after Smith’s outlet pass found him wide open in center ice.
“If you look at the guys who are scoring goals, it isn’t just Reilly; we are getting secondary scoring,” Blasi said. “We are sharing the wealth around, which is good. It gives the guys a lot of confidence going into the bye week.”
Knapp played in his fourth consecutive game. He stopped all but one of the 23 shots he faced.