By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – No. 3 Miami rode a dominant second period to its fourth straight win and its eighth consecutive game without a loss.
The RedHawks edged Lake Superior State, 3-2 in the series opener at Cady Arena on Friday, outshooting the Lakers, 24-5 in a middle stanza that saw them score two of their goals.
Miami extended its home unbeaten streak to 17 games (14-0-3) and has not lost in any of its nine games this season at Cady Arena (6-0-3).
Lake Superior State (7-10) took the early lead with 8:44 left in the first period when Kellan Lain knocked home a rebound off a shot from Stephen Perfetto on the power play.
Miami (10-2-3) fired 11 shots on goal in the first period and was denied on its first 20 of the second frame before RedHawks freshman forward Kevin Morris tied the score. Morris grabbed a loose puck after a mad scramble in the LSSU crease and scored with 4:23 left in the stanza.
Freshman forward Sean Kuraly gave Miami the lead less than three minutes later when senior forward Marc Hagel took a shot that was dropped by Lakers goalie Kevin Kapalka in front of the net. Kuraly was there to bat the rebound in to make it 2-1.
Freshman forward Riley Barber extended the RedHawks’ lead to two with 17:51 left in regulation off an odd-angle blast that beat Kapalka high.
LSSU cut the deficit to one two minutes later when Chris Ciotti went in alone on Miami freshman goalie Jay Williams, skated around him and roofed a backhander on the power play.
Williams finished with 23 saves as he improved to 5-0-2 in his last seven starts. He has an 8-1-2 record in games he has started this season.
Barber recorded a point in his fourth straight game, and Hagel and senior forward Curtis McKenzie extended their points streaks to three games each.
The RedHawks’ shot total was the most since firing 48 at Alaska-Huntsville on Feb. 11.
Miami held its one-point lead over Notre Dame for first place in the CCHA. The Fighting Irish kept pace with a win over Michigan State, and they have two conference games in hand over the RedHawks.
These teams will wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
ANALYSIS: Once again, Miami didn’t panic or get frustrated when it fell behind, even after its first 31 shots were denied.
The RedHawks kept the pressure on and eventually Kapalka sprung a leak, giving up all three Miami goals in seven minutes.
Even very good teams fall behind, but the RedHawks have shown an ability to bounce back from deficits repeatedly this season.
Miami didn’t look especially sharp early, and there seemed to be an extra Lakers forechecker in the RedHawks’ zone every time they tried to bring the puck up the ice, but the second period was a completely different story.
LSSU played better than a 7-10 team overall and made a serious push to try and tie the score in the third period. This will probably be the norm the rest of the season – it’s no longer a secret that Miami has a very good team, and opponents will throw their best at the RedHawks every game.
That’s why it’s essential Miami comes out ready to play every night. If the RedHawks go through the motions the first 10 minutes they could find themselves down two or three goals.
It’s hard to complain about the officiating too much when the power play chances are 4-3 – in Miami’s favor – but some of the calls on Friday were mind-boggling.
One of the referees was looking right at Barber as he got boarded in the head, and several times LSSU players took free shots at Miami players set up at the top of the Lakers’ crease and were never whistled.
In the third period Miami was killing a penalty and sophomore forward Austin Czarnik was unable to clear the puck because a Lake State player was blatantly tugging on Czarnik’s jersey.
The officials’ missed calls were more noticeable since Miami did not perform well on special teams. The RedHawks were 0-for-4 on the power play, and while they generated nine shots they still appeared out of sync at times.
And the penalty kill was just 1-for-3, with the second goal allowed coming on a blown assignment that left Ciotti wide open in front of the net.
One of the strangest stats of the night was none of Miami’s three goals were scored with all three of the linemates from its respective lines together. McKenzie was on when Morris scored, Hagel was on the ice for the Kuraly goal and Barber scored with Hagel and sophomore Blake Coleman.
FORWARDS: A-. They combined for 40 shots, all three goals and two assists.
Kapalka was outstanding until Miami solved him the first time. He probably would’ve liked the second and third goals back, although the shot by Barber was a thing of beauty.
Kuraly played arguably his best game of the season, finishing with eight shots and his third goal of the season. His line was buzzing for much of the game.
DEFENSEMEN: B. Senior Stephen Spinell and freshman Chris Joyaux picked up assists on a corps that generated five shots.
They helped hold Lake Superior