OXFORD, Ohio - Behind a pair of goals each from freshmen forwards Riley Barber and Kevin Morris, the No. 3/4 Miami hockey team moved into first place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, as the RedHawks completed a sweep of No. 20 Alaska with a 6-2 win Saturday night at Steve Cady Arena.
No. 6/6 Western Michigan, which held the top spot in the CCHA entering Saturday, tied Ferris State, 2-2, in overtime Saturday night and lost the ensuing shootout. The 'Hawks (17-6-5, 12-4-4-4 CCHA) now have 44 points in the league, while the Broncos are one point back with 43. The two teams play each other next Friday and Saturday in Kalamazoo, Mich.
With the victory, Miami extended its winning streak to a season-long five games and completed a season sweep over the Nanooks (12-10-4, 10-9-3-1 CCHA) after a 4-1 win Friday and a pair of victories in Fairbanks Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The RedHawks have now won eight straight against Alaska dating back to March 11, 2011.
Barber and Morris both recorded their first career multi-goal games Saturday against Alaska, while Morris added an assist for a career-best three points. Junior forward Max Cook and sophomore forward Cody Murphy also found the back of the net while redshirt senior forward Marc Hagel dished out a career-high three assists and sophomore forward Austin Czarnik added two helpers. Miami's six goals marked a season high.
Barber tallied both of his goals in the opening period with the first coming 2:39 into the contest. Czarnik sent a shot in front of the net and Barber was there to knock in the rebound. Sophomore forward Alex Wideman also assisted on the play.
Czarnik picked up his second helper less than four minutes later on the power play, as he found a streaking Barber again, this time on a precise pass from the left circle. Barber finished the play with a smooth backhand shot that went top shelf. Barber is second on the team in points with 28 (11 goals, 17 assists) while Czarnik leads the entire CCHA with 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists).
"Getting two goals off the bat, that was really the key for us tonight," Barber said. "Tonight we went out there with the attitude that we had to bury them and we got a couple goals from a couple guys so that was good."
Alaska got on the board with the man advantage midway through the opening period to cut the RedHawk lead in half. Andy Taranto banged home a loose puck in front of the net, while Cody Kunyk and Colton Parayko picked up assists.
The Nanooks fought back and tied the game with 8:32 left in the second stanza, as Nik Yaremchuk took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play. Tyler Morley sent a pass through the slot to Yaremchuk at the far post, where he one-timed it past freshman goaltender Ryan McKay and into the open cage.
Alaska finished 2-of-5 on the power play, snapping Miami's steak of 26 straight penalty kills, while the 'Hawks finished 1-for-5 a man up. Both teams were whistled for eight penalties for 16 minutes.
Morris put the RedHawks up for good, scoring the first of his two goals on a quick wrister from the middle of the left circle with 6:55 left in the second. Senior defenseman Steven Spinell and Hagel tallied assists on the game-winner.
"For us to get that one-goal lead going into the third really kind of settled us down," MU coach Enrico Blasi said. "I don't know if it gave us the full momentum but it did settle us down a bit."
Cook pushed Miami's lead to two goals less than three minutes into the final period, the first of three RedHawk goals in the frame. Nanooks' goalie John Keeney reached in the air to grab a fluttering puck from sophomore forward Jimmy Mullin, but missed and Cook was there to stuff it in. The score was Cook's first of the year and first since Nov. 5, 2011 at Alaska. Freshman defenseman Chris Joyaux also assisted on the play.
Murphy made it 5-2 with 8:19 to go, as he fired a laser from the high slot into the upper-left corner of the net. The sophomore forward now has four goals in his last four games and eight on the year. Morris and Hagel both assisted on the goal.
Morris rounded out Miami's scoring, knocking in a rebound in front of the net with 57 seconds remaining for his second tally of the night. His three-point performance was also his first multi-point game donning the Red and White while he now has five goals in his rookie campaign.
"I thought the first ten minutes we played well. I felt like the next 30 minutes Alaska really took it to us with their speed, transition game and power play. They just kept coming. We were very defensive," Blasi said. "I felt that, in the third period we came out with a little bit better intensity, obviously we got a couple opportunistic goals there and that was it."
McKay and Alaska's Keeney both totaled 29 saves as the 'Hawks outshot the Nanooks, 35-31, including 13-8 over the final 20 minutes.
Miami puts its winning streak on the line next weekend with a showdown at second-place Western Michigan Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8-9 at Lawson Arena. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. both nights.