By John Lachmann
Miami had posted a 7-2-3 record while playing eight of its first 12 games this season at Cady Arena.
And while the RedHawks had posted a decent 2-2 road record entering this weekend, Miami passed another test by beating Alaska, 5-2 in the series opener in Fairbanks on Friday after a 5,000-mile flight.
Miami sophomore forward Austin Czarnik opened the scoring seven minutes into the first period, and seven minutes later sophomore forward Cody Murphy extended the RedHawks' lead to two off a power play rebound shot initially fired by freshman Sean Kuraly – who earned his first collegiate assist.
Four minutes into the second period Miami freshman forward Riley Barber made it 3-0, as Czarnik and senior forward Curtis McKenzie earned assists for their set-up passes.
Murphy potted a shorthanded goal just past the midway point of the second period to push the lead to four.
UAF's Andy Taranto and Nolan Huysmans scored less than three minutes apart late in the middle stanza, but McKenzie made it 5-2 with 2:18 left in the frame.
The win helps the RedHawks preserve a one-point lead in first place of the CCHA.
Murphy finished with two goals, and Czarnik, McKenzie and Barber all added a goal and an assist (edit: Czarnik was credited with a late assist on the McKenzie goal, giving him 1-2-3 for the night).
RedHawks freshman goalie Jay Williams, who stopped 31 of 33 shots, appeared in his 10th straight game and improved to 7-2-2.
Miami extended its unbeaten streak to six games (4-0-2), and the RedHawks are 6-0-1 in their last seven games in Fairbanks.
The teams will wrap up the series at 11:05 p.m. on Saturday.
ANALYSIS: This is a good litmus test for any hockey team – how do you fare after 5,000 miles of flights and four time zone changes? Especially when three-fourths of your roster is comprised of freshmen and sophomores.
So Miami passed a major test on Friday. We'll see if the RedHawks' legs hold out through Saturday.
It's great to see the CAR line (Curtis, Austin and Riley) generate three goals and three assists, and also that Murphy – one of the hardest-working players on the ice – was able to find the net twice.
Once again Williams continued his amazingly consistent play, allowing two quick third-period goals before shutting down the Nanooks the remainder of the game.
FORWARDS: A. They scored all five goals, including an even-strength and a shorthanded tally by Murphy, and they combined for six assists while generating 29 shots.
In years past Miami teams have looked rusty after weeks off – especially among its scorers – but Miami was sharp and ready to play from the opening puck drop on Friday.
It's good to see Murphy find the net twice, and Czarnik racked up three more points in what's beginning to look like a possible conference MVP season.
DEFENSEMEN: B. Again a hard group to judge, but you would like to see the six blueliners combine for more than one shot.
That said, freshmen Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart earned assists, and Caito blocked four shots.
GOALTENDING: B+. Once again, Williams did not dominate but his numbers were solid and gave Miami a chance to win. And the offense made sure this game went into the RedHawks' ‘W' column.
Williams was 31 for 33, including 11 saves in the third period when the Nanooks were trying to get back into the game.
It's sounding like McKay may start on Saturday – he did make the trip and it would be hard to believe sophomore club goalie Anthony Jacaruso would stay home if McKay was unavailable.
LINEUP CHANGES: Junior forward Max Cook was scratched after playing 10 of Miami's first 12 games, and senior Steve Mason played in his place, generating two shots.
Senior Stephen Spinell was mysteriously missing from Miami's lineup on Friday, a major loss if he is out long term, and senior Garrett Kennedy took his place after a four-game absence.
In net, freshman Ryan McKay made the trip, so maybe he'll play Saturday. He was in net on Fridays when healthy before his injury, so perhaps he was not ready to start and that's why Williams got the call on Friday.
In any case, McKay continues to get closer to returning, which will not be a good thing for CCHA opponents' scorers.