By John Lachmann
No. 3 Miami suffered its first loss of the season on Friday, and the effects of the RedHawks’ conference opener will likely be felt beyond this weekend.
No. 6 Michigan scored twice in the third period to beat Miami, 4-2 at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor in the first game of the teams’ weekend series.
But more importantly, RedHawks freshman goalie Ryan McKay left the game five minutes in with an injury. McKay stopped one shot before departing, and has a 0.46 goals-against average and .984 save percentage.
The Miami Web site acknowledged that McKay did leave after he “injured himself after making a save”, but it did not specify the injury or how long he may miss.
Freshman Jay Williams came in and stopped 30 of 34 shots while taking the loss.
Prior to the injury, RedHawks sophomore forward Cody Murphy scored his first goal of the season at 3:14 of the first period off a feed from sophomore forward Jimmy Mullin. The play was reviewed because the net came off its moorings, but the goal stood.
A.J. Treais scored twice to give the Wolverines the lead, but Miami sophomore forward Austin Czarnik tied the score on a shorthanded goal after freshman forward Riley Barber stole the puck and sprung Czarnik loose with 8:02 left in the second period.
Mike Chiasson scored his first goal of the season with 11:19 remaining in the third period to put Michigan (3-1) ahead for good, and Alex Guptill extended the Wolverines’ lead to two less than four minutes later.
The teams will wrap up their series at 7:35 p.m. on Saturday at Yost Arena.
ANALYSIS: Well, obviously McKay’s injury is the news of the night. According to the official Miami hockey Twitter page, The Brotherhood, McKay did return to the bench late in the first period but was skating gingerly.
So it sounds like a groin injury, and those can be devastating for goalies. The fact that he was able to return to the bench was a positive sign but McKay could still miss significant time.
Of course, this is purely speculation at this point, but considering he was not well enough to return to action I’d be shocked if he played Game 2.
As for the game, Miami lost of course but the RedHawks held their own, which is great news since this team is so young and this was its first game in (very) hostile territory.
It wasn’t a good night to be a Miami fan. Losing to Michigan is never fun, losing the best freshman goalie in college hockey is really tough but keeping perspective is key.
The RedHawks, with a lineup of half freshmen, are 3-1-1. Their top goalie was hurt, they’re missing a key defenseman in Joe Hartman as well as sophomore forward Alex Wideman.
Coach Enrico Blasi said this team will be better each month, and obviously the goal is to make the NCAA Tournament and peak at that point in March.
Assuming McKay’s injury isn’t season ending, Miami fans learned on Friday that they can be competitive in one of the most hostile road environments in the country playing with a team that is missing several key players because of injuries.
Last Saturday Miami won in overtime after getting scored on with time winding down, playing without Hartman, Wideman and sophomore forward Jimmy Mullin.
If that game taught us anything about this team it’s that it can overcome hardship to pull off a victory.
FORWARDS: C. They put 25 shots on goal and two found the net. They also picked up both assists.
The Czarnik-Barber combination generated a shorthanded goal when Miami absolutely needed one, and Murphy is having a breakout year, partly because he’s been moved to a scoring line.
DEFENSEMEN: C-. An inability to clear the puck cost Miami one goal, and the Michigan fired 35 shots.
This is a tough assignment for a young blueline corps (or any for that matter), especially one missing a key senior in Hartman, so 35 shots and four goals allowed is actually about I expected going into the game.
GOALTENDING: C. Would be a C- or D+ if just one goalie played, but Williams deserves some credit for keeping Miami in the game after unexpectedly coming off the bench.
He stopped 30 of 34 shots (.882) after McKay turned aside the one chance he faced.
It looks like Williams will get another shot on Saturday, and he seems like the type that will settle down and get better with experience.
As I recall, Cody Reichard looked nervous and struggled his first couple of games and he turned out to be OK, and Williams hasn’t been bad at all – he just hasn’t put up the video game-like numbers McKay did.
LINEUP CHANGES: With Mullin back in the lineup after missing Saturday, senior Steve Mason was scratched, but other than that Blasi went with the same skaters in the other 17 spots from that overtime win.
Junior Max Cook and freshman Alex Gacek, who have both played well lately, are probably competing for that last forward spot because Wideman will return the lineup in the next couple of weeks.
On defense, in a bit of a surprise freshman Michael Mooney dressed for the second straight game,