By John Lachmann
It took four tries, but Miami's final go-ahead goal stood.
Forward Marc Hagel put the RedHawks ahead for good late in the third period of a 5-4 win at Lake Superior State in the first game of Miami's final road series this season on Friday.
Hagel also picked up two assists as he tied a career high with three points. He also recorded three points in the RedHawks' 6-2 home win vs. Alaska on Feb. 2.
The senior has 11 points in his last seven games, including three goals as Miami equaled a season high in shots with 51, which it also accomplished in its 1-0 loss to Robert Morris in Pittsburgh.
Freshman forward Kevin Morris and sophomore forward Alex Wideman added two points each, all on helpers.
Sophomore forward Jimmy Mullin put the RedHawks ahead by whipping a shot past Kevin Murdock from the right wing on the power play less than four minutes into the game.
Lake Superior State answered just over a minute later with a goal by Dan Radke and took the lead with a power play goal of its own with 9:40 left in the opening stanza.
Wideman slid a great pass to freshman forward Riley Barber for a tap-in goal with 14:18 left in the middle frame, and junior forward Max Cook redirected a shot by Hagel five minutes later to put the RedHawks ahead for the second time, 3-2.
But Domenic Monardo tied the score in the second minute of the third period.
Freshman defenseman Matthew Caito put Miami ahead again with 13:16 remaining in regulation with a blast from the blue line that hit a Lake Superior State player, and Monardo again answered with a 5-on-3 goal with 10:01 left in the final frame.
It was Hagel who finally netted the game winner, redirecting a blue line shot by senior defenseman Joe Hartman past Murdock with 6:26 to play.
Miami freshman goalie Jay Williams, who surrendered two goals on the first four shots, helped kill two penalties down the stretch, preserving his third win in his last four outings.
The RedHawks, who entered the night in first place in the CCHA by two points, were helped by a tie between Western Michigan and Notre Dame. WMU drops three points behind despite a shootout win and the Fighting Irish now trail Miami by five points.
Miami owns the tiebreaker over the Broncos, so if the RedHawks win two of their last three games they clinch the No. 1 seed in the final conference tournament.
These teams will wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
ANALYSIS: Some truly remarkable stats to show how good Miami's defense has been this season.
This was the first time since Nov. 30 – that's a stretch of 20 games – a team has scored two goals vs. the RedHawks in any period. No team had previously netter two goals in multiple periods in 2012-13 (Western Michigan scored two in all three periods on March 16, 2012).
Miami had not allowed two goals in the first period since Nov. 10, the only other occurrence this season.
The RedHawks snapped a 10-game streak of having a save percentage over .900. This was only the fourth time this season Miami did not finish a game with a .900 or better save percentage.
About the game: Once again, this young team continues to impress by overcoming challenges. Down one after the first period on the road? No problem. Lake Superior State ties the score? No problem, Miami nets another goal. The Lakers tie it again? No problem. Two late LSSU power plays? No problem, the RedHawks kill them off.
God forbid Miami actually allow four goals, yet the RedHawks generate the offense they need to win a road game.
After the WMU-Notre Dame tie, Miami controls its destiny completely in terms of a regular season conference title, needing to win two of its final three games to clinch. The RedHawks have lost just once in 15 home games this season, so their chances are good.
Miami completely dominated the second period, outshooting the Lakers, 22-3 in that frame. LSSU showed a lot more life in the third period, and the RedHawks bent but did not break, surrendering just a 5-on-3 goal.
The state of officiating in the conference is pretty sad when fans see the power plays are 6-3 Miami midway through the period and openly acknowledge obligatory make-up calls are forthcoming.
The Lakers – who were rightfully upset about the penalty imbalance early in the game – had four man-advantage chances late in the third period, including a 5-on-3 that resulted in a tying goal.
FORWARDS: A. They scored four goals and tallied eight assists, racking up 44 shots. Murdock made some good saves and sophomore Cody Murphy hit a post, so they certainly could have inflicted more damage.
For those who don't notice Kevin Morris, watch him during a shift or two the next time you get a chance. He doesn't always handle the puck or make the flashy move, but he is constantly blocking shots or breaking up passes or keeping an opponent from driving to the net. And he also has seven points in his
last seven games.
The son of a D-I coach also has seven points in seven games.
It was nice to see Wideman pick up two points, his first multi-point game since Nov. 10.
DEFENSEMEN: C. Caito scored, seniors Joe Hartman and Steven Spinell picked up assists, but Lake Superior State was afforded too many good scoring chances, certainly more than Miami fans are used to seeing this season.
Caito has nine points in 12 games.
GOALTENDING: D. Williams has been great all season for the most part, but Friday was not his best effort.
He stopped 25-of-29 shots (.862), and as well as fellow freshman Ryan McKay has played, this game may cost Williams more playing time.
Williams did make a couple of big saves late in the third period when Miami was shorthanded.
LINEUP CHANGES: Miami continued playing its starting 18 skaters from last weekend.
Williams was back in net after McKay played three straight games. McKay should play on Saturday, and the question is: Will Williams start next Friday?
It's unfortunate Williams may have his ice time cut, as 99 percent of teams would kill to have him as their starter, but McKay has a 1.06 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage.
If Williams does not get a start vs. Ohio State, he should be available in the best-of-3 home series in the CCHA quarterfinal round, since Miami could play three games in a 51-hour period, but otherwise unless McKay falters Williams may not return between the pipes this season.