MADISON, Wis. - Senior forward Curtis McKenzie scored late in the second period to break a 1-1 tie and the No. 8 Miami hockey team used strong defense the rest of the game to earn a 2-1 win over Wisconsin Saturday night at the Kohl Center. The victory gave the RedHawks (13-6-5) a weekend split with the Badgers (9-8-5) after UW topped the 'Hawks, 1-0, Friday.
Miami snapped a season-long four-game winless streak with the victory while also earning its first ever win over the Badgers in four tries in front of 12,037 spectators. The win halted Wisconsin's 11-game unbeaten streak and seven-game winning streak, as well, giving the WCHA foe its first loss since Nov. 24.
Freshman goaltender Ryan McKay was strong in net for the RedHawks, totaling 33 saves, including several clutch stops in the third period (14 in all) with Miami leading by one. The 'Hawks were outshot in the contest, 34-32, while UW netminder Joel Rumpel, who was also in net Friday, totaled 30 saves in the losing effort.
After being shut out Friday, Miami wasted little time getting on the board Saturday. The Badgers were called for too many men on the ice and the RedHawks took advantage with a power play goal off the stick of sophomore forward Austin Czarnik just 3:13 into the contest. Freshman defenseman Matthew Caito and freshman forward Riley Barber each picked up assists as both fired shots, creating traffic in front of the goal, allowing Czarnik to bury the rebound from close range. It was his ninth goal of the year, tying him for the team lead.
McKay then came up with two big saves on Miami's lone penalty kill of the first frame, as the RedHawks went into the first break up a goal despite UW outshooting Miami, 13-10, in the period.
The 'Hawks nearly doubled their lead early in the second period after freshman forward Alex Gacek and sophomore forward Jimmy Mullin each forced turnovers in the offensive zone but McKenzie's shot off a Gacek feed went wide and Rumpel denied Mullin. Minutes later the Badgers pulled even when Michael Mersch lifted the puck over McKay's blocker to tie the game at 1-1 8:35 into the second stanza. He received a pass from Derek Lee just outside the crease to set up the tally.
Miami responded with 3:53 remaining in the middle period when McKenzie buried a shot from just inside the left circle to put the RedHawks back on top, 2-1. Gacek chased the puck down in the zone and fought off a Badger to get the puck to McKenzie, who notched his seventh goal of the year after a slight toe-drag. Freshman forward Sean Kuraly earned the second helper while Gacek's assist was the first of his career.
Wisconsin nearly drew level again late in the second period on the power play but Mark Zengerle's wrister hit the crossbar and bounced out of play as the 'Hawks held their one-goal lead at the second intermission.
The Badgers had another chance to pull even in the closing minutes of the third period as Miami was whistled for a pair of penalties less than a minute apart. UW had been called for a penalty just seconds earlier giving Wisconsin both 4-on-3 and 5-on-4 power plays, but a gritty penalty kill and solid goaltending kept the puck out of the net.
With less than a minute to go, the Badgers pulled Rumpel for the extra attacker but Miami was able to clear the zone multiple times to lock up the 2-1 victory.
After each team was whistled for only one penalty Friday, Saturday's contest saw a lot more pushing and shoving, resulting in a combined 14 penalties. Miami finished 1-for-3 on the power play while going 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.
With eight consecutive road games behind them, the RedHawks return to Oxford to host CCHA foe Bowling Green Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25-26 at Steve Cady Arena. Puck drop Friday is set for 7:35 p.m. while Saturday's contest begins at 7:05 p.m. Both games will be televised on Time Warner Cable Sports Channel in Ohio.