SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - Freshmen paved the way Saturday for the No. 3 Miami hockey team as rookies scored both goals and Ryan McKay was stellar in net, leading the RedHawks to a hard-fought, 2-1, win over Lake Superior State at Taffy Abel Arena, completing a weekend sweep with another one-goal victory. Miami (21-8-5, 16-6-4-4 CCHA) collected its fourth CCHA sweep of the season after also topping the Lakers (15-18-1, 10-15-1-1 CCHA), 5-4, on Friday night.
Miami, which concluded its final ever CCHA road trip this weekend, continues to remain in first place in the CCHA with only two regular-season games to play. The RedHawks need just one point (a tie/shootout loss) against Ohio State next weekend to secure at least a share of the final CCHA regular-season title while two points (a shootout win or regulation win) would lock up the CCHA regular-season championship outright.
Despite being outshot, 45-31, by Lake Superior Saturday, the 'Hawks used tough defense and strong special teams to get the win. The 45 shots allowed were the most Miami has given up all season, but McKay made a career-high 44 saves to earn the ninth win of his freshman campaign. The 44 stops were the most by a RedHawk since March 28, 2010 when Connor Knapp totaled 55 saves in the NCAA Regional Final against Michigan.
Freshman forward Riley Barber and freshman defenseman Matthew Caito both tallied a pair of points in the victory, notching a goal while assisting on the other score. Each had a point on the power play as the RedHawks finished 1-for-3 on the man advantage while killing all three Laker power plays.
Like Friday night, Miami struck first as Barber found the back of the net on the power play 8:42 into the contest. Caito sent a shot in from the point that senior forward Curtis McKenzie redirected. McKenzie's shot was initially saved by LSSU netminder Kevin Kapalka but Barber gathered the rebound and deposited the puck backhand for his second goal of the weekend and team-leading 14th of the year. Barber also leads the CCHA with 34 points on the season.
The Lakers pulled even 8:23 into the second stanza when Dan Radke scored on a rebound of his own. Kevin Czuczman beat a Miami defenseman to get a clean shot on McKay, which was saved, but Radke was on the doorstep to bury the puck for a 1-1 contest.
The RedHawks answered just over two minutes later when Caito blasted a one-timer top-shelf to put Miami back ahead for good, 2-1. Barber worked the puck out of the corner to sophomore forward Austin Czarnik in the slot. Czarnik did a pirouette and passed to Caito in the circle to Kapalka's right for his first career game-winner, Caito's fifth goal of the season and, like Barber, second in as many nights.
Lake Superior put Miami on its heels in the third period, sending 13 shots on net over the final 20 minutes, but the RedHawks held strong. Laker defenseman Andrew Perrault hit the pipe with just over 13 minutes left in the game, but LSSU would get no closer. Kapalka, who finished with 29 saves, was pulled in favor of the extra attacker with 1:08 to play but Miami closed out the win.
The RedHawks look to clinch the program's fourth CCHA regular-season championship next weekend when Miami hosts in-state rival Ohio State Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, at Steve Cady Arena in the final CCHA regular-season games ever. Puck drop Friday is set for 7:35 p.m. while Saturday's game, which will also be Senior Night, is slated for 7:05 p.m.