By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami was 10 minutes away from a sweep of Wisconsin on Saturday.
The RedHawks were leading by a goal heading into the final stretch, but they allowed a pair of markers in a five-plus minute span and fell to the Badgers, 3-2 at Cady Arena.
Wisconsin’s Jake McCabe fired a shot over Miami sophomore goalie Ryan McKay’s shoulder with 3:08 left in the first period to open the scoring.
RedHawks junior forward Blake Coleman went top shelf on a one-timer from the right faceoff circle off a feed by junior center Austin Czarnik from the point on the power play, tying the score five minutes into the second period.
The highlight goal of the night came from Czarnik, who took a long outlet pass from junior forward Jimmy Mullin and went 1-on-1 with a defender. He pulled the puck to his backhand and back to his forehand before whipping it into the bottom corner of the net with 5:32 left in the middle stanza.
But Wisconsin scored similar net-crashing goals with 9:53 left and 4:43 remaining in regulation, coming from Michael Mersch and Joseph LaBate, respectively. Both times the puck was loose in the crease and they were able to push the pack past McKay in heavy traffic.
The loss broke a four-game home winning streak for Miami.
Czarnik finished with a goal and an assist. It was his second goal in as many nights and his fifth in his last five games.
Miami will travel to Nebraska-Omaha for a weekend series on Nov. 22-23.
ANALYSIS: Bad first period, great second period, bad third period for Miami.
Funny how the MO for this RedHawks team is to wear teams out over the course of a weekend and be the better team by the third period on Saturdays.
Wisconsin looked fresher late in this game, and on both late goals no one was able to help McKay clear the puck out of the crease.
The Badgers came out flying like most suspected they would, and Miami had chance after chance in the middle frame.
And Wisconsin, which is an impressive team that got better on Saturday with the return of its injured starting goalie, wanted it more in the final 20 minutes.
Miami has to close out a series like this at home. Period.
At least this was a non-conference opponent.
The officiating, which was solid on Friday but brutal in the finale. That said, it didn’t cost Miami the game – the RedHawks did that all by themselves.
FORWARDS: C+. They accounted for both goals, all three assists and 23 shots.
Czarnik was amazing as usual, but even that line appeared to fade late, probably because of the amount of ice time they logged on the weekend.
Coleman looks like he’s finding the consistency he’s lacked his first two seasons.
Once again the fourth line of Kevin Morris, Alex Gacek and John Doherty played well together.
DEFENSEMEN: C+. They helped hold Wisconsin to 26 shots on goal, but no one was there to clear the puck during either of those late goals.
They combined for an unusually high shot total of 11, but this corps did not record a point.
Freshman Trevor Hamilton and sophomores Matthew Caito and Chris Joyaux blocked four shots each, and sophomore Taylor Richart added three blocks.
Hamilton had his best game at Cady on Friday but was shaky in this game. Joyaux suffered what appeared to be a knee injury late in the third period, went down the tunnel and did not return.
GOALTENDING: C-. McKay wasn’t bad but it wasn’t his best game either. The first goal he had no chance on, but he contributed to allowing loose pucks to sit in his crease for the final two goals.
He wasn’t quite as sharp as Friday, as he allowed a few more rebounds and seemed to have trouble picking up the puck at times.
Ultimately he stopped 23 of 26 shots, which is just an .885 save percentage. He’s spoiled fans into expected better every night.
LINEUP CHANGES: Coach Enrico Blasi went with the same 19 he used on Friday.
He’s continuing to use Mullin-Barber-Czarnik on his top line, with Mullin playing the left wing, which is not his natural position.
Mullin did find Czarnik for his highlight-reel goal, but I was hoping the chemistry would develop faster. If Blasi determines it isn’t working he may put Mullin back with Coleman, since two have worked very well together.
One correction from what I said two weeks ago: I said that Barber was moved to the left wing and Mullin stayed on the right side. The more I thought back to that game Mullin was on the left side then as well.
Freshman Anthony Louis played on the top line in the exhibition and looked good together although Blasi has not used that combination in the regular season.
Joyaux’s injury didn’t look good, and if he is out long term it may open the door for freshman Johnny Wingels, who has sat the six games and logged just three games overall.
McKay hasn’t been
as strong on Saturdays, so Blasi may work fellow sophomore Jay Williams back in next weekend, especially with the extensive travel involved the next 14 days.
It’s a tough decision for Blasi: McKay has posted shutouts three straight Fridays but hasn’t been as strong on Saturdays. Blasi’s MO the last decade has been to rotate but still ride the hot hand, and it while McKay has been fantastic overall he hasn’t been dominant for 120 minutes any weekend.
My guess is Williams is back between the pipes on Saturday.