OXFORD, Ohio — Sean Kuraly tallied the first multi-goal game of his career to give Miami a 4-1 victory in the decisive Game 3 of their CCHA quarterfinal series against Michigan State.
The RedHawks will now make a fourth consecutive appearance in the CCHA saemifinals at Joe Louis Arena, where they will face Michigan.
“Scoring goals is something you’ve gotta pay a price to do,” said Kuraly, whose last goal came Dec. 7. “Getting to the front of the net is how you do that and not worrying about confidence or whatever, just throwing that out of the equation.”
Miami’s first goal came in opportunistic fashion. With the Spartans on a power play, the RedHawks cleared the puck into Michigan State’s zone, forcing freshman netminder Jake Hildebrand to corral the puck in the corner. He mishandled it, sending an errant pass that bounced up against his own net. Miami sophomore Kevin Morris swooped in to tap the puck into the vacated net for the shorthanded score at 4:57.
Miami got a second goal in the period at 17:53 when Kuraly skated past a defender and across the top of the crease, beating Hildebrand on his stick side.
Hildebrand was replaced in net by junior Will Yanakeff at the start of the second period.
MSU coach Tom Anastos said he had considered starting the game with Yanakeff despite Hildebrand’s strong performances in the first two games of the series.
“We thought that was an option and decided we were going to stay the course with [Hildebrand], but knowing that [Yanakeff] was ready to go,” Anastos said. “It kind of came up after the first period [and] we thought, ‘Let’s see if we can shift this a little bit’ and put him in. I thought he did a really good job.”
Michigan State cut into Miami’s lead with a power-play score at 6:46 in the second period. Freshman Matt DeBlouw scored his third goal in as many games by ripping a shot from the blue line that sailed over Ryan McKay’s shoulder. It came during a delayed penalty call, extending what was already five-on-three play.
The Spartans nearly netted another score during the two-man advantage, with a shot ringing off the inside of the post.
The RedHawks were sent to the penalty box five times in the period and McKay said that killing off most of the penalties was a huge boost.
“I think when you kill big penalties like that, I think it actually motivates, brings up the energy level of the guys that don’t necessarily play penalty kill,” said McKay.
Kuraly stole the momentum back for Miami with a power-play score at 9:02 of the third period, slapping in a loose rebound for a 3-1 advantage.
Yanakeff was pulled with just under two minutes remaining in the game, but sophomore Austin Czarnik added an empty-net score at 19:36 to send the Spartans home.
Miami coach Enrico Blasi said he believed the loss his team suffered in the first game of this series was just the wake-up call they needed.
“It turns out that [the loss] helped us a lot,” Blasi explained. “It helped us intensify our commitment to the team, to each other, to the type of game that we want to play.”