By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – Unable to find the net in the first 33-plus minutes, No. 3 Miami made up for its lack of early offense in a 30-second span.
The RedHawks scored on consecutive second-period shots and added an empty netter en route to beating No. 12 Notre Dame, 3-1 at Cady Arena on Friday.
MU freshman goalie Ryan McKay stopped 20 shots to record his fifth straight win.
Miami held the Fighting Irish to two first-period shots despite three power plays, but Notre Dame generated two good scoring chances that did not officially yield shots on goal.
After two RedHawks collided, a UND player fanned on an uncontested one-timer right in front of the net and another skater hit a post on a blast from the blue line.
Miami senior defenseman Steven Spinell rocketed a slap shot home from the blue line with 6:36 left in the middle frame to make it 1-0.
Thirty seconds later, sophomore forward Blake Coleman beat Notre Dame goalie Steven Summerhays over his shoulder after Coleman faked a pass and got the Fighting Irish netminder to commit low, anticipating a possible pass.
With 2:23 left in regulation, UND’s Steven Fogerty skated around Miami freshman defenseman Chris Joyaux and wrapped the puck around RedHawks freshman goalie Ryan McKay to make it 2-1.
That goal came off the transition after MU freshman forward Sean Kuraly was denied by Summerhays on a breakaway.
But Miami sophomore forward Austin Czarnik chipped a clearing pass onto the stick of senior forward Marc Hagel, who shot the puck into the empty net, sealing the game.
No RedHawks recorded multiple points, as nine finished with one.
Hagel scored for the second straight game and has seven points in his last five games. Coleman recorded his second point in as many games, and Spinell found the net for the first time this season.
With the win, coupled with Western Michigan’s tie and shootout win, Miami pulls two points ahead in the CCHA points race. The RedHawks also clinched at least fourth place in the conference, meaning they will host a CCHA playoff series March 15-17.
Next up is Miami’s first-ever outdoor hockey game, the series finale and possibly the last regular season game between Notre Dame and the RedHawks for quite a while.
The teams will play at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago, followed by Wisconsin vs. Minnesota.
ANALYSIS: What a great start to the weekend for Miami.
The RedHawks were outplayed in parts of the third period, but that’s because Notre Dame is a very good team with a potent offense.
Spinell’s shot was a missile, and Coleman’s goal was a thing of beauty as he showed great patience.
And Hagel has been all world on the penalty kill this season, so it’s nice to see him rewarded with the ENG.
The big story of the night, though, other than obviously a big win against a good team and the imminent inaugural outdoor game for Miami, was McKay getting the start in net.
RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi had rotated McKay with fellow freshman Jay Williams the past nine weekends, with Williams getting the nod on Fridays.
McKay recorded a shutout last weekend to earn the win while Williams surrendered two goals in a 2-0 loss, including a softie.
The move is a bit surprising considering Blasi's patience with the rotation with Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp all four seasons they were between the pipes.
The move may not be as much to bench Williams as to reward McKay for his outstanding play recently. McKay has allowed just five goals during his current five-game winning streak, and Williams has given up seven in that span.
Or maybe it’s because there’s an extra day between games this week and he wants to make sure McKay doesn’t enter Sunday having not seen live rubber in eight days.
It’s a no-win situation for Blasi, because he doesn’t want Williams to feel like he may lose his job if he gives up one bad goal (and this team would not be in first if it wasn’t for Williams’ play when McKay was hurt), but it’s hard to keep McKay out of the net when he’s playing so well.
If and when McKay loses the cape and falls to just excellent, Williams will probably go back in net. McKay, being from the Chicago suburb of Palatine, has to be considered nearly a lock to play Sunday, but Blasi’s goaltending decisions have been hard to predict in recent years.
Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, the exposure can only help Miami’s program and the young players will gain more experience playing in front of a huge crowd.
And this game got pretty chippy late, which only builds the drama surrounding the Soldier Field game.
Hagel got buried from behind well after a play in the final minute, yet apparently none of the four officials saw the hit as Miami was not awarded a power play. But Spinell and senior forward Curtis McKenzie stood up for their teammate, who also was involved in the scrum.
FORWARDS: B. They only scored two of the goals, with