By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – Jay Williams had allowed exactly two goals in each of Miami’s last four games.
But on Saturday the freshman goalie stopped all 13 shots he faced to record his first career shutout, a 2-0 RedHawks win over Michigan State at Cady Arena.
Miami held the Spartans to six shots over the final two periods.
It was the second shutout of the season for the RedHawks – freshman Ryan McKay made 24 saves in his debut en route to blanking Colgate on Oct. 12.
Senior forward Curtis McKenzie put Miami on top when he tipped in a shot by freshman forward Riley Barber with 7:58 remaining in the first period.
Williams’ toughest save of the night came midway through the third period when he got a piece of a blast to his glove side to deny a 2-on-1.
Sophomore forward Alex Wideman sealed the game when he ripped a shot that beat Michigan State goalie Jake Hildebrand over his right shoulder from just inside the offensive zone.
Wideman has scored a goal in three straight games and four goals and three assists in the six games he has played this season. He also provided shootout winners in the first two games of his goal-scoring streak.
Miami remained unbeaten in Oxford this season, improving to 5-0-3 at Cady Arena, and the RedHawks have played 16 straight home games without a loss (13-0-3). Their last home defeat was Jan. 27 vs. Northern Michigan.
Miami is off next weekend and travels to Alaska for a weekend series in Fairbanks on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
ANALYSIS: With the exception of a few minutes early in the first period, Miami absolutely dominated the game and played as well defensively as at any point this season.
Looking beyond the obvious shots-on-goal disparity, which was 36-13, Michigan State also blocked 23 shots to Miami’s eight. That's 59 shots for Miami to 21 for the Spartans not including attempts that missed the net.
Michigan State entered the weekend averaging 2.8 goals and 28.2 shots on goal per game. The Spartans finished the weekend with two goals and 34 shots in two games.
The best scoring chance Michigan State had was on a 2-on-1 resulting from a Miami player falling down (I think it was Stephen Spinell) at center ice.
After squandering a two-goal lead on Friday it was great to see this team score the first goal and control play pretty much from the start.
And it was still a 1-0 game when Williams – who was in the difficult position of watching from his crease most of the game – had to come up huge on the third-period 2-on-1 break to preserve Miami’s lead.
Williams seems to fare better on more difficult scoring chances than on outside shots (he hasn’t allowed a goal in the last two shootouts).
It was actually a highly unusual site to witness Michigan State's odd-man rush – those types of chances for Miami opponents have been practically non-existent thanks to a conservative defense corps and smart forward play.
If there was one shortcoming this weekend it was the RedHawks’ power play, which went 0-for-7 including a five-minute man advantage on Saturday.
Michigan State isn’t going to miss Oxford when it joins the Big Ten Conference next season. The Spartans have been outscored, 14-3 in their last two trips to Miami.
McKay was dressed and skated in warm-ups again like last weekend but obviously didn’t play. With 13 days between games, hopefully he’ll be able to get back between the pipes in Alaska.
FORWARDS: B+. Yes, they only scored two goals, but Hildebrand was excellent in net. Miami could’ve easily scored four goals or more, and the Michigan State defense did a good job getting into shooting lanes.
Wideman has been unreal since returning from mononucleosis, and McKenzie now has three goals in his last seven games.
DEFENSEMEN: A. This group isn’t flashy but night after night opponents get few good looks at the net and even fewer odd-man chances.
Freshman Taylor Richart deserves substantial credit for his feed to Wideman on his clinching goal after Richart seized a loose puck near his own blue line.
GOALTENDING: A. Williams will drive fans mad by juggling weak outside shots and trying to play pucks behind the net in traffic, but like the defense, even if it isn't always pretty, Williams is pretty effective overall.
Games like these can be the most difficult for goalies because they have long periods of inactivity, which is why Williams deserves a ton of credit for the 2-on-1 save.
This was the ninth straight game Williams has played in, and his goals-against average is now 2.18 and his save percentage is .915. Both are very solid numbers, especially considering he was expected to split time early this season.
LINEUP CHANGES: Miami coach Enrico Blasi went with the same six defensemen as Friday, and obviously Williams was back in net for the ninth straight game.
After being benched on Friday, sophomore Jimmy Mullin was back in the lineup, playing on the fourth line again with freshman Kevin Morris and junior Max Cook.
Cook was also scratched on Friday.