By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – Entering this weekend, No. 3 Miami had scored three empty-net goals this season.
On Friday, RedHawks sophomore forward Austin Czarnik netted a pair of ENGs in 27 seconds in a 4-1 win over Alaska at Cady Arena.
Miami (16-6-5) extended its winning streak to four games and has allowed one goal in five straight. The Nanooks’ six-game win streak was snapped.
For the second straight game, the RedHawks scored twice in the first period.
Sophomore forward Blake Coleman’s bad-angle shot slipped through the legs of UAF goalie John Keeney with 7:49 remaining in the opening frame.
Sophomore forward Cody Murphy banged home a loose puck after it hit off two Alaska defenders just under six minutes later.
The Nanooks’ lone goal came when Trevor Campbell joined the rush to create a 3-on-2 and wristed a shot over the shoulder of Miami freshman goalie Jay Williams.
Alaska (12-9-4) nearly scored a minute earlier on a wraparound, but it was waved off because a hooking penalty was called before the puck found the net.
Miami survived 13 UAF shots in the third period and a one-timer by Andy Taranto with the net open that sailed high with six-plus minutes left.
Czarnik took a clearing pass off the boards from freshman defenseman Matthew Caito and backhanded it in from the red line to make it 3-1 with 57 seconds remaining.
Alaska again pulled the goalie for an offensive zone faceoff, but Czarnik won the draw and senior forward Curtis McKenzie ended up feeding Czarnik on the right wing for the tap in with 30 seconds left.
All four RedHawks goals were scored by the sophomore class.
It was Czarnik’s third two-goal game of the season, and he has found the net four times in the last seven games.
Senior forward Marc Hagel finished with two assists, his first multi-helper game as a RedHawk.
Williams stopped 24 shots as he held his third straight opponent to one goal.
The teams will wrap up their series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
ANALYSIS: The three-goal final margin is very misleading.
Miami was outstanding in the first period, was a little flat in the second and outplayed by Alaska in the third.
With this goaltending duo it may seem like when the RedHawks score a second goal that the game is going into the win column, but it seemed like the team actually played with that mentality a good portion of the final 40 minutes.
Alaska shot itself in the foot with its hooking penalty that erased a goal in the second period (and the hook didn’t really affect the play, as Caito would not have been able to recover in time to prevent the goal), and Taranto connects on the shot with the open net 99 times out of 100.
But this is a talented, well-coached Nanooks team that deserves a lot of the credit for hanging with Miami for 59 minutes.
Williams made a couple of outstanding saves down the stretch as Miami was forced to kill two penalties in the final 10 minutes.
Believe it or not that was just the second goal in 23 games for Coleman, and hopefully the sophomore will heat up as the postseason approaches. It was definitely a goal Keeney would’ve liked back.
Murphy’s goal was a result of crashing the net and sheer hard work by a guy who makes his living with his maximum-effort style. Hagel actually completely fanned on a shot and was credited with the primary assist, but that makes up for him not getting a point for his stellar play on the penalty kill last weekend.
Senior defensemen Steven Spinell and Joe Hartman seemed to be slow getting into position on the UAF goal and no one picked up the extra man on the 3-on-2.
Czarnik’s first empty netter actually hit a defenseman’s stick, although it’s unclear if it would’ve gone in anyway, and he won the defensive zone faceoff that ultimately resulted in his second ENG.
It’s sort of amazing that the team that flew 5,000 miles to get to Oxford looked sharper as the game went on, and Miami will need to play better consistently if they expect to extend their winning streak to five.
The officiating was absolutely awful. Both coaches were livid at certain points in the game, and Miami coach Enrico Blasi could be seen yelling naughty words at the referees in the first period.
All three penalties in the third period were ridiculous. Taranto was called for goaltender interference when Caito should’ve been whistled for interference on the play.
Murphy was given two minutes for holding and the replay showed he did nothing that even closely resembled holding. Then he was taken off for elbowing when he actually hit his much taller opponent with his shoulder, which as most people know is over a foot away from the elbow.
FORWARDS: B-. Four goals is the most for the RedHawks since, well, their last game against Alaska on Dec. 1, but Miami really didn’t generate the scoring chances it normally does and two of its goals were empty netters.
They combined for just 19 shots,