SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - Leading four different times throughout the game, redshirt senior forward Marc Hagel gave the No. 3 Miami hockey team the lead for good late in the third period to lift the RedHawks to an exciting 5-4 win over Lake Superior State Friday night at Taffy Abel Arena. With the victory, Miami (20-8-5, 15-6-4-4 CCHA) locked up its eighth straight 20-win season while improving to 2-1-0 against the Lakers (15-17-1, 10-14-1-1 CCHA) this season.
By winning Friday, the RedHawks remained in first place in the CCHA with three games left in the regular season. Miami leads second-place Western Michigan by three points and third-place Notre Dame by five points. The RedHawks also assured themselves of a top-three finish in the final standings.
Friday's game saw a bit of everything as Miami tied a season high with 51 shots on goal while Lake Superior totaled 29 shots, with 18 coming in the final frame. The four goals allowed tied the most Miami had given up all season (Oct. 26 at Michigan) while the nine combined goals marked the highest-scoring game of the year for the 'Hawks.
Freshman goaltender Jay Williams totaled 25 saves, including 16 in the third period, to earn the win, despite allowing more than two goals for the first time since Nov. 2. His counterpart, Laker junior Kevin Murdock, stopped 46 shots in a losing effort.
Special teams also played a key role in the back-and-forth affair, as the RedHawks finished 1-for-6 on the power play while LSSU went 2-for-7 on the man advantage, including a 5-on-3 tally. Miami's penalty kill unit came up large late though, killing the final three penalties, all in the last 10 minutes of the game.
Hagel tied a career high with three points on a goal and two assists while sophomore forward Alex Wideman and freshman forward Kevin Morris each dished out a pair of helpers. Friday was the first multi-assist game for both Morris and Wideman while also tying Wideman's career high for points.
Miami wasted little time getting on the board as sophomore forward Jimmy Mullin found the back of the net on the team's first power play just 3:46 into the game. Freshman forward Alex Gacek banked the puck off the boards to a streaking Mullin, who fired the puck past Murdock near-side (glove side) for his fifth goal of the year. Senior defenseman Steven Spinell added the second assist.
The Lakers quickly responded to pull even at 1-1 as Dan Radke scored 81 seconds later. He spun and beat Williams from the circle to the netminder's right with a low shot. Chris Ciotti and Andrew Perrault tallied the assists. Lake Superior then took a 2-1 lead with 9:40 remaining in the opening stanza as Zach Sternberg scored on the power play. Kellan Lain fired a shot from the point that snuck through Williams' pads and Sternberg tapped the trickling puck in from the goal line.
Despite trailing at the first intermission, Miami had four power plays to work with, scoring just once, while doubling the Lakers in shots, 16-8, over the first 20 minutes. The two first-period goals allowed by Miami marked just the second time all year the RedHawks had done so.
The second period was dominated by Miami, outshooting LSSU, 22-3, in the middle 20 minutes while outscoring the Lakers, 2-0. The 'Hawks pulled even 5:42 into the second stanza when freshman forward Riley Barber tallied his team-leading 13th goal of the year. After a long shift in the offensive zone, senior defenseman Joe Hartman stopped the puck at the blue line, sophomore forward Blake Coleman spun and made a nifty dish to Wideman, who found Barber alone at the far post for the easy putaway.
Shortly after sophomore forward Cody Murphy rang a shot off the post, Miami regained the lead with 7:57 remaining in the second as junior forward Max Cook notched his third goal of the year. Morris blocked a pass that led to a 2-on-1 rush with Hagel carrying the puck into the zone. As Hagel and Cook began to cross, Hagel fired a shot that Cook deflected past Murdock for a 3-2 RedHawk lead. The assist by Hagel extended his point streak to a career-best four games.
The third period then saw the teams combine for four goals and five penalties, as the squads traded markers with LSSU pulling even each time. Just 1:41 into the final frame, Domenic Monardo scored the first of his two goals on a rebound shot from the left circle to level the contest at 3-3. A hair over five minutes later, freshman defenseman Matthew Caito put Miami back ahead with a laser from the point that a Laker defender deflected, beating Murdock top-shelf for his fourth goal as a rookie.
Once more the Lakers had an answer as Monardo found the net again on a 5-on-3 power play to knot the game at 4-4 with 10:01 remaining in the contest. Miami proved to be resilient, however, as Hagel scored the go-ahead goal with 6:26 left in the contest to put the 'Hawks on top, 5-4. Hartman sent in a shot from the point that was redirected off the stick of Hagel and past Murdock for his fifth goal of the season and first game-winner as a RedHawk. Morris collected his second assist of the game on the score.
Miami then killed two more penalties after taking the lead, while Williams scrambled to make a pair of sprawling saves with the puck loose in the crease down the stretch. Lake Superior pulled Murdock in the final minute for the extra attacker, but Miami's defense clamped down to secure the win.
The RedHawks and Lakers square off again Saturday night at Taffy Abel Arena with puck drop slated for 7:05 p.m.