By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – Could all of Miami’s problems this season be solved with the return of Blake Coleman for the lineup?
On Friday at least, that seemed to be the case as the RedHawks held off No. 4 St. Cloud State, 4-3 at Cady Arena.
The junior forward returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on Dec. 6 and scored two goals, including the game winner, and he was named first star of the game.
Coleman had 10 goals and six assists in 17 games before his injury, which kept him out for 11 consecutive contests. Miami was 8-6-2 before his injury, lost the night he was hurt and went 2-8-1 in his absence.
After the RedHawks generated seven of the first eight shots of the game, St. Cloud State (17-7-5) took the lead on a power play goal when Jonny Brodzinski wired a one-timer in the top corner on the power play with 6:50 remaining in the opening period.
But Miami (11-15-3) answered with three straight markers. With 3:38 to play in the opening stanza, junior center Austin Czarnik whipped a wrister that was blocked and came right back to him. He shot again and this time beat goalie Ryan Faragher, tying the score.
The RedHawks took the lead with 9:43 remaining in the middle frame as sophomore center Sean Kuraly tipped in a weak wrister from the blue line by freshman defenseman Trevor Hamilton.
Coleman got a piece of a Czarnik shot, which slipped past Faragher less than four minutes later, giving Miami a 3-1 lead.
With 38 seconds left in that period, a centering feed by Joe Rehkamp hit the stick of RedHawks sophomore defenseman Matthew Caito and slid past sophomore goalie Jay Williams, cutting the Miami lead to one.
Coleman gave the RedHawks their two-goal cushion again when he stole the puck in the neutral zone along the boards, skated across the blue line and buried a shot inside the near post with 12:03 left in regulation.
Another tip-in by SCSU resulted in the final goal, as a shot from straight away at the blue line deflected in off of Miami freshman defenseman Matt Joyaux on the power play with 1:08 to play.
It was the first home win for the RedHawks since Dec. 7 and just the second time in their last 10 games they scored more than two goals.
In addition to Coleman’s two goals, Czarnik finished with a goal and an assist. Williams stopped 27 shots to earn his first win in five appearances.
Seventh-place Colorado College also won on Friday, so Miami remains in the basement of the NCHC by four points.
The weekend and four-game season series wraps up at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday at Cady Arena.
ANALYSIS: No More Miserable Crap?
Friday’s game certainly wasn’t miserable for RedHawks fans, who have been for an effort like this since November.
Miami dominated the first half of the first period, taking an early 7-1 shot advantage, but the Huskies battled back with 10 straight shots on goal of their own including the power play goal.
But the RedHawks controlled play the remainder of the night, which is quite an accomplishment against a team that leads the NCAA in goals per game.
Miami showed flashes of very good play in the series opener at North Dakota but not enough to win, especially combined with a couple of soft goals against.
And this was a St. Cloud State team that was hot coming in and is vying for a regular season title. The loss drops the Huskies into a tie with North Dakota for the top spot.
Coleman did a lot more than score. He drew the penalty that resulted in the Czarnik goal and punished SCSU players, an area that has been lacking far too often with the undersized RedHawks in a league of big, physical skaters.
Coleman energized the team. His skating was exceptional for a player returning from a 2½ –month hiatus. And that energy was contagious among Miami’s skaters.
The energy was a welcome sight for RedHawks fans, who are for the most part already looking toward next season. With only two seniors, this is predominantly the team Miami will have next year as well and it’s imperative this group gets better.
Otherwise, the RedHawks’ struggles will bleed into 2014-15.
FORWARDS: B+. Coleman played left wing on the top line with Czarnik and sophomore Riley Barber, and on this night the move by coach Enrico Blasi was a success.
Czarnik was one of those who seemed to play at a higher level, and Kuraly and junior Cody Murphy had strong games as well.
Despite the success, this corps combined for just 20 shots and only about 15 after the first 10 minutes of the game, and they were so-so on the penalty kill, which allowed two of SCSU's goals.
Opponents have scored on seven of their last 23 chances on the man advantage.
DEFENSEMEN: C-. St. Cloud State still had too many good scoring chances.
Junior Ben Paulides continues to take too many penalties, and a bad cross-checking minor cost Miami a power play goal. He was also whistled for roughing but that was a coincidental penalty.
Two of SCSU’s goals hit off RedHawks defensemen, which was mostly bad luck, but like
the forwards they were mercurial on the PK.
Caito probably played the best game among this group.
GOALTENDING: B. The first shot was a perfectly-placed blast by Brodzinski and the other two, as mentioned above, hit Miami players and deflected in.
Williams made a couple of very good saves during the Huskies’ surge midway through the first period and had other several strong stops throughout the game.
LINEUP CHANGES: If this was not mentioned above, Coleman returned to the lineup.
To make room, sophomore John Doherty was scratched after playing the last six games.
Sophomore defenseman Michael Mooney was in the lineup on Friday for the third time in the past seven games and the sixth game overall. He blocked two shots.
Sophomore defenseman Taylor Richert was benched in Mooney’s place after finishing minus-6 in North Dakota on Saturday.
Williams got the nod on Friday, and even though he was good against an excellent offensive team, Blasi will likely come back with McKay on Saturday.