OXFORD, Ohio — CCHA powers clashed at Steve Cady Arena and Miami withstood a late rush by Notre Dame to claim a 3-1 victory.
Three different skaters scored for Miami, while Ryan McKay turned aside 20 of 21 shots fired his way.
With the victory, the first-place RedHawks clinched a first-round bye in the upcoming CCHA tournament and will play their second-round best-of-three series at home.
Protecting a slim lead late in the third period, Miami coach Enrico Blasi said he told his players “the same old message.”
“Be in the moment, be ready to play, play our game and make good decisions with the puck,” he said. “I think when our guys are skating and doing the things we ask them to do, they’re fun to watch. They play hard and we see what happens.”
The RedHawks broke through what was a defensive stalemate courtesy of senior defenseman Steven Spinell’s first goal of the season. On a power play at 13:24 in the second period, he blasted the puck from the blue line through traffic past a screened Steven Summerhays.
Just 30 seconds later, sophomore Blake Coleman doubled Miami’s lead with his seventh goal. He made a beeline to the net with the puck and made Summerhays wait him out before lifting the puck over the goalie’s shoulder.
Coleman felt that getting the two goals in quick succession was crucial for taking control of the evenly-matched game.
“I think the whole game you’re trying to put them on their heels and get another,” he said. “Once you get one, it makes it a little easier to get the ball rolling. I think it’s deflating to a team once you score back-to-back like that.”
The Irish cut Miami’s lead in half in the game’s closing minutes with freshman Steven Fogarty netting his fifth goal of the season at 17:37 in the third. He took the puck straight through the zone and faked out McKay as he approached the crease, spoiling the freshman’s shutout bid with a backdoor score.
Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson thought that his players simply took too long to find their rhythm.
“I thought we played well in the third period,” Jackson said. “We made some line changes, the guys started getting some chances and I thought we were getting confidence just as the game was ending.”
Notre Dame pressured McKay throughout. The Irish outshot the RedHawks by a 12-5 margin in the final period, but Miami senior Marc Hagel put the game away with an empty-net score at 18:58.
The Irish came up empty on six power plays, while the RedHawks were one-for-three with the man-advantage.
The teams now travel to Chicago to play in the first game of the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field on Sunday. The second game in the doubleheader will be a WCHA matchup of Minnesota taking on Wisconsin.