OXFORD, Ohio — For the second weekend in a row, Michigan State’s hockey team will be spending Sunday night fighting for its postseason life.
Top-seeded Miami (Ohio) evened the CCHA Playoffs second-round series on Saturday night with a 4-1 victory over the Spartans, forcing a deciding Game 3 tonight at Steve Cady Arena.
Faceoff is 7:05 p.m. The winner will advance to Saturday’s CCHA semifinals in Detroit.
“Regardless of the score – if it’s by one goal or 10 goals – it’s one loss,” MSU coach Tom Anastos told Spartan Sports Network. “We’re gonna shake it off, and we’re gonna get ready for tomorrow.”
The Spartans (14-24-3) won the first game on Friday, 3-0, then scored fast on Saturday.
Miami established a physical tone off the opening faceoff, with defenseman Steven Spinell taking a penalty 10 seconds in after indirect contact to the head of MSU’s Kevin Walrod. Matt DeBlouw made the RedHawks pay quickly, scoring a power-play goal 18 seconds later off assists from Greg Wolfe and Travis Walsh.
It was DeBlouw’s ninth of the season and his third of the playoffs. The freshman also scored the first goal in Friday’s 3-0 MSU victory. It was the 13th time in their last 17 games that the Spartans scored first.
“It was a good start, obviously,” Anastos said. “The game kind of went in the direction we thought it would go. We were prepared for that, and it was good to get a goal early.”
That would be the only highlight of the night for MSU. The RedHawks (23-10-5) would erupt for four unanswered goals to force tonight’s third game.
Miami tied it with 9:22 left in the first when right wing Jimmy Mullin tipped one past Spartans goalie Jake Hildebrand.
The RedHawks took a 2-1 lead off a turnover by MSU behind its own net on the power play. Riley Barber got stopped, but Austin Czarnik put the puck past Hildebrand for the short-handed goal.
“Give them credit, they’re an awfully good team. They played real hard and with a lot of intensity,” Anastos said. “Part of the reason ther were errors is they were forced errors. I thought our guys competed hard, (but Miami was) the better team in all phases of the game.”
Late in the first period, the Spartans lost redshirt freshman forward Justin Hoomaian, who received a five-minute major penalty and was ejected from the game for a hit-from-behind penalty. MSU already was without junior center Lee Reimer, who is expected to miss the remainder of the series with a knee injury he suffered last Saturday at Alaska.
“Now we’re using the same guys to kill it off, and that takes our lines out of rhythm,” Anastos said. “We essentially played three lines the rest of the game.”
Hoomaian is eligible to play in tonight’s series finale.
Miami’s Cody Murphy added a goal in the second period, while Czarnik netted his second of the game in the third to seal it for the RedHawks.
Hildebrand made 33 saves. Miami goalie Ryan McKay faced only 17 MSU shots, stopping 16.
Anastos said he worries about fatigue after a long trip and three games last weekend at Alaska, plus being without Reimer for tonight’s game.
“Right now, we don’t have anybody out of the lineup that we can put into the lineup,” he said. “Whether its a factor or not is irrelevant. We have to play with what we have, and we have to make the best of it.”