By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – Alex Wideman’s shootout goal clinched the extra standings point for No. 4 Miami after last Saturday’s tie.
The RedHawks played to a 2-2 tie again on Friday – this time vs. Michigan State at Cady Arena – and the sophomore forward again delivered the knockout punch with his penalty-shot goal.
And like last weekend, Wideman played a huge role in getting the RedHawks (6-2-3) to the shootout, this time scoring a highlight-reel goal in the second period that extended the Miami lead to two.
Freshman forward Alex Gacek opened the scoring when he buried a wrist shot off of a Michigan State clearing attempt with 8:45 remaining in the first period.
Wideman made it 2-0 5:47 into the second period when he fired the puck in off a spin move from a bad angle after juking a defender behind the net.
But the Spartans (4-5-2) cut the lead to one when Matt DeBlouw fed Matt Berry in front of the net for a one-timer on the power play with 12:22 left in the middle stanza.
Michigan State tied the score when Dean Chelios’ shot deflected off the stick of Miami sophomore forward Austin Czarnik and into the net with 1:07 left in the second frame.
RedHawks freshman forward Riley Barber scored to open the shootout, and after Czarnik was denied on his opportunity, Wideman beat Spartans goalie Jake Hildebrand to give Miami the extra point in the conference standings.
RedHawks freshman goalie Jay Williams stopped both Michigan State penalty shots.
Miami remained unbeaten at home this season (4-0-3), although it has tied three of its last five games in Oxford.
The teams will wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday at Cady Arena.
ANALYSIS: I’ve said throughout the first 1½ months of this season that I’m singularly impressed with this team’s performance, considering the youth and loss of formidable skill from 2011-12.
But it was puzzling to me that everyone leaving Cady Arena after Friday’s game seemed happy with the outcome.
I’m guessing the majority of Miami fans still don’t get the insignificance of the shootout.
Let’s quickly rehash the evening. Miami led 2-0. Miami gave up two unanswered goals. The final score was 2-2. The shootout is absolutely meaningless from a record standpoint. A tie vs. a sub-.500 team is not a good thing for a RedHawks team ranked No. 4 in the country.
The shootout is for an extra point in the CCHA standings. That’s it. And, thank whomever, shootouts will almost certainly have even less significance (as in probably won’t happen) once Miami joins the National conference next season.
Sorry to be a downer, but now, back to the actual game.
First, the call on Miami freshman forward Kevin Morris that resulted in the tying goal was pretty weak, especially since several Michigan State penalties had been let go.
That said, Miami finished with four power plays and the Spartans had three, and the RedHawks failed to capitalize on any of their chances.
As skilled as Czarnik and Barber are, and they certainly did not play badly on Friday, it seemed like they tried a little too hard on the man advantage, getting too cute with passes and trying to create the next You Tube sensation goal.
They also logged a ton of ice time – as did senior linemate Curtis McKenzie – and all were noticeably worn down by the end of the game. Smaller players wear down more easily anyway, and being on the ice a significant of time for PKs and power plays as well as playing on the first line is extremely taxing.
This will be a challenge for Coach Enrico Blasi all season: Monitoring the ice time of Czarnik and Barber to ensure they are able to still excel come tournament time in March.
McKenzie, who has adapted well to his role as protector and net crasher for his linemates, really struggled in the third period, failing on clearing attempts and struggling to control passes on the tape of his stick.
Some positives: Post-mono Wideman is playing at a completely different level this season, and fellow sophomore forward Cody Murphy continues to impress as well.
Freshman defensemen Matthew Caito and Chris Joyaux also seem to get better on a game-by-game basis.
Freshman forward John Doherty made his Miami debut and during one second-period shift he helped create an offensive zone turnover, generated a scoring chance and had a hand in drawing a Michigan State penalty.
Just what Blasi needed: Another potential nightly candidate for the starting lineup.
And Michigan State deserves some credit: After getting beat up in the CCHA the past couple of season and entering Friday a game below .500 this is a much better team.
The Spartans did a good job denying Miami scoring chances.
FORWARDS: C+. By the way, Wideman scored his goal with three Miami defensemen on the ice. What a goal, and what a joy he’s been to watch since his return.
This corps dominated the second period on the ice and the shot counter but not the scoreboard, and that seemed to frustrate and demoralize Miami’s scorers.