By John Lachmann
Miami’s stay in first place in the CCHA lasted all of one game.
The RedHawks fell to Western Michigan, 2-0 in the first of a two-game series in Kalamazoo on Friday.
Jordan Oesterle and Chase Balisy both found the net and Frank Slubowski turned aside all 32 shots he faced as the Broncos moved back into the top spot in the conference by two points.
It was the fifth time this season Miami has been shut out and MU’s fourth blanking in its last 13 games.
Oesterle opened the scoring with a shot from the point that beat RedHawks freshman goalie Jay Williams just 3:31 into the first period.
Williams denied a penalty shot by Mike Leone in the second frame to preserve the one-goal deficit.
But Western Michigan started the third period with a 4-on-3 for 1:50, and Balisy capitalized with a bad-angle shot that snuck past Williams and made it 2-0.
Miami fired 13 shots on goal in the third period but was unable to solve Slubowski.
The Broncos now have 46 points in the CCHA standings vs. 44 for Miami. The RedHawks could regain first place with a win, or WMU could take a five-point lead with a victory in the series finale on Saturday.
With Northern Michigan’s loss on Friday, Miami did clinch a home series in the CCHA Tournament, since the RedHawks can finish no worse than eighth in the conference.
Miami and Western Michigan conclude their series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
ANALYSIS: Miami didn’t play well early despite leading in shots, fell behind early, got better as the game went on, had its chances to score but was unable to capitalize and surrendered a crucial 4-on-3 goal early in the third period.
The RedHawks’ power play again struggled, and while it’s debatable whether the 1:50 4x3 was warranted, Miami had its scoring chances and could not find the net.
The Broncos deserve a lot of credit for stifling the RedHawks’ offense, and it was a tall order for Miami to sweep this series. Now the RedHawks must regroup and try to salvage a split, which would put them back in first in the conference.
FORWARDS: D-. It’s hard to do worse than scoring zero goals, and this has been far too regular a theme.
At least Miami was creating chances, most notably later in the game.
Sophomore Blake Coleman generated seven shots and freshman Sean Kuraly four.
Right or wrong, the McKenzie goal at the 20 minute mark of the second period was a death sentence, as Western Michigan skated 4-on-3 for 1:50. Good teams are going to score over half of the time in that situation.
DEFENSEMEN: B. This corps held Western Michigan to 23 shots, and one goal came on an outside shot and the other was scored 4-on-3.
And that was without freshman Chris Joyaux, who was out with an undisclosed injury.
Senior Joe Hartman covered the puck in the crease and WMU was given a penalty shot as a result, but Williams made the save.
GOALTENDING: B. It was hard to determine what happened on the first goal, and it’s difficult to fault anyone defensively when a 4-on-3 marker is surrendered.
Williams was 21-for-23, which is a .913 save percentage. It’s really tough to win when your team doesn’t score any goals, and goaltending was certainly not the reason for this loss.
LINEUP CHANGES: Freshman Michael Mooney was in the lineup in place of freshman Chris Joyaux on defense, the first game Joyaux has missed this season.
That should tell everyone how far in the doghouse sophomore Ben Paulides is. Paulides has definitely shown potential in his 1½ seasons in Oxford, but he missed his ninth straight game on Friday.
Not to take anything away from Mooney, who has played adequately in his six games on the Miami blue line.
Unless Joyaux’s injury is more serious than originally anticipated, he should not be out much longer. The native of Chicago’s western suburbs would probably play through just about anything rather than miss the game at Soldier Field.