By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – Freshman forward Jimmy Mullin tied a Miami record 12 seconds into Friday's game, and senior Connor Knapp set a career mark when the final horn sounded.
Miami blew out Michigan State, 6-0 in Game 1 of the best-of-3 second-round series of the CCHA Tournament at Cady Arena.
Mullin tied Tim Huettl for the fastest goal to start a game in RedHawks history, and Knapp earned his 13th career shutout, passing fellow senior Cody Reichard and 2003 graduate David Burleigh for Miami's all-time record for the most blankings.
The RedHawks' win was their seventh straight and their first in 10 all-time conference tournament meetings with the Spartans. Miami was 0-9 in the CCHA Tournament vs. Michigan State entering Friday.
Freshman forward Jimmy Mullin put Miami ahead when he fired a loose puck past MSU goalie Will Yanakeff with 19:48 remaining in the opening frame.
Mullin skated diagonally through the Michigan State zone and left the puck for senior defenseman Chris Wideman, who slammed it home to make it 2-0 less than four minutes into the second period.
Freshman Tyler Biggs went in alone and buried a wrister to extend Miami's lead to three 34 seconds later off a feed from junior forward Curtis McKenzie.
Mullin scored again nine minutes later when he drove the net and drew Yanakeff to the top of the crease. Mullin faked the MSU goalie out and backhanded the puck into the net to give Miami a 4-0 lead.
Freshman forward Blake Coleman tipped in a shot by senior defenseman Cameron Schilling with 46 seconds remaining in the final stanza to make it 5-0, and McKenzie capped off the scoring with a backhander off a pass from Mullin midway through the final period.
Mullin finished with four points (2-2-4), setting a personal single-game points record. He has 10 points in his last four games.
Coleman, McKenzie and Wideman finished with a goal and an assist each, and freshman forward Austin Czarnik dished for a pair of helpers.
Knapp's goals-against average is 0.50 in his last six games, as he has recorded three shutouts and a .980 save percentage in that span. He has five shutouts in 12 starts since the start of 2012.
Game 2 between these teams will be at 7:05 p.m. at Cady Arena.
ANALYSIS: You can't ask a better performance that the one Miami gave.
The JAR line (Jimmy-Austin-Reilly) played one of its best games and accounted for three goals, the second and third lines each put one in the net, the defense was sensational and the goalie was excellent.
Mullin in particular skated like he was possessed.
Coleman was also excellent, and scored off a tip from a Schilling shot for the second straight game.
The first period was actually pretty even, as Michigan State generated several decent scoring chances early, forcing Knapp to stop 11 shots that stanza.
But the second period was arguably the most dominant of the season turned in by the RedHawks, and Michigan State looked defeated in the third.
Normally the atmosphere is lacking in these home playoff series, since the students are on spring break, but the crowd was rocking on Friday. What's funny is the attendance is listed at 2,206, but there were more people in attendance than in some of the games that supposedly had over 3,000.
FORWARDS: A+ Five goals vs. the 15th-ranked team in the country and 31 shots.
The JAR line and Mullin in particular saved the best game of the season for the playoffs, and Mullin showed no ill effects of the injuries he has suffered this season.
Coleman had another strong game, and McKenzie snapped a 16-game scoring drought, putting up his strongest effort of the second half.
Seniors Patrick Tiesling and Matt Tomassoni were outstanding on the penalty kill, as Tiesling was credited with a team-best seven blocked shots.
DEFENSEMEN: A. A couple of breakdowns early led to Spartans scoring chances, but the corps tightened up the final two periods.
Wideman was especially strong for the RedHawks, whose blueliners combined for a goal (Wideman), two assists (Wideman and senior Cameron Schilling) and eight shots on goal.
GOALTENDING: A+. In the obscure stats department, it has been 346:08 since Knapp has allowed a non two-man advantage goal, and he has gone 366:16 without allowing an even-strength goal.
Knapp needed to make a couple of good saves early, and Michigan State helped him by missing the net on a couple of point-blank shots, but there are no more adjectives to describe the second half Knapp has had.
LINEUP CHANGES: Coach Enrico Blasi continued his rotation of freshman Alex Wideman and sophomore Bryon Paulazzo, and if he sticks with that pattern Paulazzo – Miami's second-best player in the 2011 CCHA Tournament – should be in the lineup tonight.
Tiesling and McKenzie, who had not been particularly strong in recent weeks, both played well on Friday, making Blasi's decision even more difficult.
It sounded like junior Garrett Kennedy was going to occupy the sixth defense spot for this series, but freshman Ben Paulides returned to the lineup
after missing the last two games. Paulides was solid on defense and had a good look at the net late, but his shot was stopped.