OXFORD, Ohio - Sophomores scored all four goals, led by forward Austin Czarnik's two, to rally the top-seeded and third-ranked Miami University hockey team past Michigan State, 4-1, Saturday night at Steve Cady Arena. The win forces a deciding Game 3 Sunday in its Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) best-of-three quarterfinal series after the teams split the first two contests.
The RedHawks, who dropped Game 1 of the series, 3-0, Friday night, responded with more energy and determination Saturday, as they outshot the Spartans, 37-17. Miami also improved to 6-0-1 on Saturday following a series-opening loss on Friday.
"We had no effort (Friday) night. That was the message," Czarnik said. "We started battling in the pregame skate. That really got us going there and it just carried over into the game."
He continued, "We did a good job of attacking the net today. We got pucks to the net and won battles in front of the net. That was our key focus for today and we were successful with it."
Miami (23-10-5) trailed for the first half of the opening frame, as it allowed a goal in the first minute of action for the first time this season. Michigan State (14-24-3) opened the scoring on the power play just 28 seconds into the game after senior defenseman Steven Spinell was called for contact to the head - elbowing. Travis Walsh fed Greg Wolfe at the bottom of the right circle, setting up a cross-ice pass to Matt DeBlouw, who was unguarded near the far post for the putaway.
The RedHawks, however, wouldn't trail for long, scoring four unanswered goals, with the first two goals coming within three minutes of each other at the 10:38 and 13:01 marks of the first period.
Sophomore forward Jimmy Mullin, a Cincinnati native, redirected a freshman defenseman Matthew Caito shot from the point past MSU goaltender Jake Hildebrand, who tallied 33 saves. The goal, which tied the game, was Mullin's sixth of the season. Sophomore forward Cody Murphy also earned an assist on the play.
Miami took the lead for good after freshman forward Riley Barber's steal behind the Spartans' net led to a Czarnik short-handed goal. After the takeaway, Barber's initial backhand shot was blocked, but Czarnik was there to knock in the loose puck as it rested on the goal line. The goal was the sophomore forward's fourth short-handed score of the season, which are the most in the country. Barber, who tallied two assists Saturday, both on Czarnik goals, leads the CCHA in points with 38 and is also the top-scoring freshman in the nation.
"I thought we came out with some intensity (in the second period)," MU coach Enrico Blasi said. "When they made it one nothing, for us to tie the game and then to go up with a short-handed goal, that was huge."
Murphy put the RedHawks up, 3-1, in the second stanza, as he found the back of the net with 7:49 left in period. Caito tallied his second helper of the game, finding Murphy, who skated through the neutral zone and ripped a hard wrist shot from the top of the left circle. The goal was Murphy's 10th of the season while he finished with two points on the night.
Miami outshot MSU, 20-5, in the middle frame and finished 0-for-1 with the man advantage in the period, the RedHawks' only power play of the night. The Spartans were 1-for-4 on the power play Saturday.
Czarnik padded the host's lead midway through the third period, as he beat Hildebrand with a wicked, top-shelf backhand shot. Barber, who found Czarnik from behind the net, and senior defenseman Joe Hartman earned assists on the play.
Freshman goaltender Ryan McKay was solid in net for the RedHawks, making his fourth straight start and seventh start in Miami's last eight games between the pipes. He finished with 16 saves, holding the opposition to a goal or less for the 13th time in 19 career starts.
The RedHawks host Michigan State in the third and final game of the CCHA Quarterfinal playoff series Sunday night at Steve Cady Arena. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. Tickets for Sunday's game can be purchased here. The winner of Sunday night's Game 3 advances to the CCHA Semifinals next Saturday, March 23, at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich.
"Here we are," Blasi said. "We have to play tomorrow night, that's why they call it a series. We have to be ready to go."