By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – Riley Barber must have been angry he was not one of the six Miamians to score on Friday.
The sophomore forward pumped in his first goal of the season 14 seconds into the No. 2 RedHawks’ 6-3 win over Ohio State on Saturday, and he added three more goals and an assist.
It was the first four-goal game by a Miamian since Tommy Wingels accomplished that feat on Dec. 11, 2009 at – coincidentally – Ohio State.
His first goal was also the quickest to start a game in the Cady Arena era.
Junior center Austin Czarnik slid a drop pass to Barber while cutting toward the net, and Barber juked and buried a shot for his first tally of the season.
Miami (2-0) extended its lead to two when junior forward Max Cook set up Barber’s next goal by sliding a pass through the crease just over four minutes later after Czarnik had intercepted a pass at the blue line.
With 1:57 remaining in the opening period, Ohio State’s Alex Czczechura grabbed a loose puck and roofed a shot over Miami’s sprawling sophomore Ryan McKay to cut the RedHawks’ lead to one.
RedHawks sophomore forward Sean Kuraly beat Buckeyes freshman goalie Matt Tompkins on the short side with a wrister with 6:36 left in the second period to make it 3-1.
The Buckeyes (0-2) cut the lead to one again with under three minutes to play in the middle stanza on a tipped shot by Szczechura, but Barber completed his hat trick 56 seconds later, taking a feed from Czarnik and burying a wrister from between the faceoff circles.
Czarnik went in for a breakaway goal, which he scored on his forehard, making it a 5-2 game with 5:43 left in regulation, and Barber capped the Miami scoring with a short-handed empty netter from his own blue line.
Czarnik finished with a goal and three assists, and Cook and freshman defenseman Trevor Hamilton added a pair of helpers each.
The RedHawks have not opened with 12 goals in their first two games in 11 years.
Barber finished with seven points on the weekend (4-3-7), and Czarnik had two goals and three assists.
Miami opens NCHC play on Oct. 18-19 when the RedHawks welcome North Dakota. Friday’s game will be at 7 p.m., Saturday’s at 8 p.m.
ANALYSIS: It won’t always be this easy, of course, but this weekend is likely a microcosm of the season. Scores of 6-2 and 6-3 will be commonplace.
Miami has the offensive talent to hang a six spot on anyone, the defense is very young and will give up quality scoring chances, and the RedHawks’ goaltenders will bail them out frequently but not always.
The turnover factor was in play for multiple Miami goals again, most notably on the second RedHawks goal by Barber when Czarnik picked a pocket.
The tough thing for opponents is every Miami line is a major threat to score – that statement is thrown out there often by coaches and players but on this time that really is the case.
I wasn’t playing that close of attention to shifts in the third period, but it seemed like Miami coach Enrico Blasi used his fourth line regularly.
That’s a good move because sophomore Alex Gacek and freshman Justin Greenberg can skate circles around tiring defensemen and sophomore Kevin Morris is outstanding defensively so the RedHawks shouldn’t get caught on an odd-man rush.
It’s tough to gauge a team vs. one opponent, but Ohio State is certainly not a bad team. The Buckeyes have good offensive weapons and a decent defense corps. The goalies let one week one in on Friday but Miami had to earn its goals on Saturday.
So these were definitely legitimate wins.
And the power plays were 7-2 Ohio State. That isn't exactly indicative of the game, although it's hard to complain after Miami scored a pair of 5x3 goals to open the scoring on Friday.
The first crowd of the season was at capacity (3,642) and was rocking at Cady Arena. Miami will need that fan intensity next weekend against a much stronger UND team.
FORWARDS: A. Barber-Czarnik-Kuraly accounted for all six goals, and this corps combined for seven assists and 33 shots on goal.
This game re-enforced what most already knew: Miami will roll out four excellent lines each night and score many goals.
DEFENSEMEN: C-. They combined for four assists, including two by Hamilton, but Ohio State was able to get through the RedHawks’ blueliners too easily.
The Buckeyes finished with 41 shots on goal, and Miami is not used to get outshot, especially in its own building.
Again, not exactly breaking news that a defense corps with a junior who played 12 games last season, three sophomores and two freshmen will have a learning curve early in a season.
If a writer can see that coming into a season, there’s a good chance the coaching staff knew it too and will work to improve that aspect of the team.
Miami has hung its hat
on strong defensive play over the years and Coach Brent Brekke will have this group clicking better as the season progresses.
GOALTENDING: B. Sophomore Ryan McKay made some excellent saves, turning aside 38 shots overall. A .927 save percentage is good in any league.
The late OSU goal was sort of weak and McKay was clearly unhappy about it, but he did all he could on the first one and the second was a pretty good tipped shot.
Jay and McKay are seeing significantly more rubber than they did last season, and they both passed their opening-weekend tests.
LINEUP CHANGES: Other than McKay for sophomore Jay Williams in net, Blasi went with the same 18 skaters he dressed in Columbus.
It’s easy to like the forward line combinations, and while the top defensive pairing is set, it will be interesting to see how he uses his remaining defensemen.
Blasi typically does not go with 18 guys and ride them for an entire season, he’ll usually work other guys in and solidify his lineup close to playoff time.
Add in obligatory mention that Williams should start in net on Friday; McKay between the pipes on Saturday.