By John Lachmann
CHICAGO – The scoring pattern in the Hockey City Classic was eerily similar to Friday’s game between Miami and Notre Dame.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, they were the team that was unable to erase a two-goal deficit on Sunday in a 2-1 loss to the Fighting Irish in the series finale.
“Unfortunately we didn’t play our best and Notre Dame played really well and they deserved to win,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said.
Like the RedHawks in the series opener, the Fighting Irish opened the scoring midway through the second period, built a two-goal lead, allowed one late and held on for the win. The only difference was Miami tacked on an empty netter in Oxford.
Notre Dame took the lead when Steven Fogarty won a faceoff to Bryan Rust, who slid a pass to Mario Lucia for a wrist shot that beat Miami goalie Ryan McKay with 7:18 left in the second period.
The Fighting Irish’s Jeff Costello made it 2-0 when he tapped home a rebound off a shot by Anders Lee after Miami goalie Ryan McKay had made a toe save with 11:27 remaining in regulation.
Miami answered a minute later when freshman forward Kevin Morris’ wrist shot slipped through traffic and tricked past Notre Dame goalie Steven Summerhays.
But the RedHawks were unable to get the equalizer.
McKay, who had won five straight games entering Sunday, made 26 saves.
Because of all of the recent activity and the extreme cold the previous two days, the ice quality was less than ideal. The puck was tough to control as it regularly skipped on the ice and was unpredictable along the boards, eliminating much of Miami’s stickhandling and long passing prowess.
“Both teams play an up-tempo game, so we both had to deal with it,” Blasi said. “I think they found a way to make plays and they had better energy. They had a little bit more jump, if you will, and they took it to us. We just didn’t have an answer for it. We were not ourselves because of what they were doing to us. All credit goes to Notre Dame. We had a good game on Friday and they didn’t have such a good game and today they had a better game than we did.”
The bright sun also created difficulties for the goaltenders. But Notre Dame allowed just one goal despite defending the north end zone – which faces the sun – for two periods. It warmed to 31 degrees by the end of the game.
Miami was unable to capitalize on a five-minute power play assessed late in the first period when Notre Dame’s Mike Voran buried RedHawks freshman defenseman Taylor Richart from behind. Voran was given a disqualification penalty, meaning he will be suspended for a game next weekend.
Miami had two minutes of that man-advantage erased when sophomore forward went off for goaltender interference with three seconds left in the opening frame.
“You get a five-minute power play and then you get an undisciplined penalty and it takes you right out of your power play,” Blasi said. “Credit to them, they killed off.”
The RedHawks had won seven of their previous eight games and were 11-1-3 in their last 15 games vs. Notre Dame.
Miami remains in first place over Western Michigan by two points in the CCHA standings, but the Fighting Irish are now just three back of the RedHawks in third place. All three teams have just four conference games remaining.
Next up for Miami is a road series at Lake Superior State on Feb. 22-23.
ANALYSIS: Miami didn’t adjust particularly well to having its speed and stickhandling taken away from it because of the ice conditions and took a couple of undisciplined penalties that cost the RedHawks valuable power play time.
It was a conference game, it was a game Miami certainly would’ve liked to have won, especially since it was played on such a huge stage, but it’s still only one game.
The RedHawks are still leading the conference and have Lake Superior State and Ohio State remaining on their schedule. If they win three of four they force Western Michigan or Notre Dame to run the table, so they still control their own destiny.
Though it was frustrating to watch the puck bounce around like a racquetball, which pretty much neutralized the duo of sophomore Austin Czarnik and freshman Riley Barber, the good news is adjusting to those conditions and that type of ice isn’t a skill Miami players will need the rest of the season.
And it’s not like the RedHawks were blown out.
The experience was fantastic, Miami sold more tickets than any of the other teams and all parties did well financially. Plus the players had the experience of a lifetime.
FORWARDS: C-. Morris scored the lone goal and considering the conditions, Miami created a decent number of chances. Morris did lose the defensive zone faceoff that resulted in the Fighting Irish goal.
Notre Dame and the conditions did a good job of shutting down the RedHawks’ burners.
DEFENSEMEN: C. Mario Lucia skated right around freshman Taylor Richart on the first goal, and freshman