OXFORD, Ohio - With a 4-2 win over Ohio State Saturday night at Steve Cady Arena in the regular-season finale, the third-ranked Miami University hockey team captured its fourth Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title in program history on Senior Night in front of a season-high 3,618 fans.
Senior Curtis McKenzie, freshman Riley Barber, and sophomores Blake Coleman and Cody Murphy all scored goals for the RedHawks, who improved to 22-9-5 overall and finished 17-7-4-4 in the CCHA. The Buckeyes fell to 14-15-7 and ended 13-10-5-1 in the conference. Miami earned a weekend split with the win in its final CCHA regular-season game ever, avenging Friday's 3-0 loss, while upping its record against OSU this year to 3-1-1.
"The regular-season championship is a difficult one to win because you have to be good consistently for six months," MU head coach Enrico Blasi said. "If you're fortunate enough to be in a position to win one it's pretty amazing."
Blasi continued, "As far as this team is concerned, I don't think anyone would have picked them to do anything. For them to set themselves up at the beginning of the year to just go out and play and have fun for each other, I'm so proud in the way they've conducted themselves."
Miami, which also won CCHA titles in 1992-93, 2005-06 and 2009-10, as well as a CCHA Tournament title in 2011, finished with 59 points in the standings. Notre Dame tallied 56 points, while Western Michigan had 54.
"That trophy's forever ours now," McKenzie said about winning the last CCHA regular-season title. "It's a special, special win."
Six Miami seniors were honored before Saturday night's game: Marc Hagel, Joe Hartman, Garrett Kennedy, Steve Mason, McKenzie and Steven Spinell. Three of those seniors recorded points against Ohio State, including McKenzie, who opened the scoring on the power play with 9:20 left in the first period.
McKenzie corralled a saved Coleman shot that bounced just outside the crease and found the back of the net after several hacks. Barber also had an assist on the play. The goal was McKenzie's ninth of the season.
Barber netted the second goal of the game on a 4-on-4 opportunity with 6:49 to go in the middle frame. The freshman forward, who leads the CCHA with 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) after his two-point night Saturday, slipped past two Buckeye defenders and beat goalie Brady Hjelle with a wicked backhand. Spinell and sophomore forward Austin Czarnik, who recorded his 70th career point, tallied assists.
Miami took a commanding 3-0 lead with 12:46 remaining in the third period, as Coleman capitalized on a breakaway chance. The sophomore forward blocked an Ohio State player's pass near the RedHawk blue line and took the puck the other way. Hjelle came out of net and poked the puck into the boards, but Coleman tracked it down and scored on the open net before Hjelle recovered. The goal was the Plano, Texas native's eighth of the season while he joined Barber with two points on the night.
Murphy sealed the win with 4:10 left, as he took a pass from Hagel and raced down the far boards. The sophomore forward beat Hjelle stick-side, top-shelf with a hard wrister for his ninth goal of the season.
RedHawks' freshman goaltender Ryan McKay did not allow a goal for the first 57 minutes and finished with 28 saves on 30 shots. Hjelle totaled 27 saves on 31 Miami shots.
Ohio State's Craig Dalrymple got the visitors on the board with 2:13 to go on the power play and Alex Szczechura rounded out the scoring with 18 seconds remaining.
Miami was 1-for-3 with the man-advantage, while OSU went 1-for-6 on the power play. The 'Hawks were whistled for 11 penalties for 36 minutes, both season highs. The Buckeyes were penalized eight times for 27 minutes, with several of both teams' penalties coming in a late fracas on the ice.
With the win, MU improved its home record to 12-2-3 this year.
The RedHawks, which earned a first-round bye and home ice for the second round of the CCHA Tournament, begin postseason play by hosting a best-of-three second-round series against a team to be determined (depending on first-round results) on Friday, March 15 at Steve Cady Arena. Game two of the series will be played on Saturday, March 16 and game three (if necessary) is on Sunday, March 17. Friday's game will be at 7:35 p.m. while games two and three are at 7:05 p.m. Tickets for the second round of the CCHA Playoffs can be purchased here.