By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – On Friday, Miami lost despite firing more than three times as many shots as Northern Michigan.
But on Saturday, the RedHawks dominated both on the shot counter and the scoreboard, pounding the Wildcats, 6-0 at Cady Arena to earn a series split.
The shot total favored Miami, 41-13 on Friday and 40-16 on Saturday.
Two RedHawks also reached personal milestones with the win. The shutout was the 12th of senior Cody Reichard’s career, tying him with David Burleigh for the all-time career school record, and junior forward Reilly Smith became the 47th Miamian to reach the 100-point mark.
Freshman forward Alex Wideman fired a rebound shot past NMU goalie Jared Coreau on the power play with 3:46 left in the first period to give Miami the early lead. Smith picked up the assist, giving him his 100th career point.
Six-plus minutes into the second period, sophomore forward Bryon Paulazzo scored on a wrap-around goal, beating Coreau to the short side to make it 2-0.
Smith notched his 101st career point when he scored off a rebound shot that somehow snuck through Coreau’s pads just over a minute into the final frame.
Wideman scored again less than three minutes later on a blast from the side of the net, chasing Coreau.
The goals kept coming for Miami, as senior forward Patrick Tiesling slammed home a one-time pass by senior forward Matt Tomassoni with 15:04 remaining. Freshman forward Tyler Biggs capped off the scoring on a highlight-reel backhander with 1:20 to play.
This was the first win for Miami (15-11-2) over Northern Michigan (12-9-5) this season, as the RedHawks finish the regular-season series 1-3 vs. the Wildcats and 2-6 against teams from the UP.
In addition to Wideman’s two-goal game, Smith and Paulazzo finished with a goal and an assist each and senior defenseman Chris Wideman, senior forward Matt Tomassoni and freshman forward Blake Coleman recorded two helpers each.
The three points from the win moves Miami into a tie for second in the CCHA standings with Western Michigan and Ohio State with 36 points. Ferris State leads the league with 37 points, and FSU and OSU have two games in hand on the RedHawks.
After the most recent PairWise update, Miami is tied for eighth with Minnesota and Merrimack. The RedHawks are 14-11-1 vs. TUCs (teams under consideration), having played the most games against teams in that field (26) of any NCAA team.
Miami travels to Michigan for a series at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor next weekend.
ANALYSIS: Wow, where to begin. This was probably the best game Miami has played all season.
The most encouraging thing about Saturday was the RedHawks’ killer instinct in the third period. As has been documented here, Miami has blown way too many late leads the past two seasons, but since Christmas break – with this game being a microcosm – the team has completely bucked that trend.
In their first 20 games, the RedHawks were outscored in the third period and overtime, 21-16. Since the start of 2012, Miami has scored 14 goals in the third period and OT and allowed just one, including four goals for in the final stanza on Saturday.
-- And the fourth line scored twice on Saturday. Tiesling, Paulazzo and Tomassoni had a total of 19 points entering the game, but they accounted for two goals and three assists.
Tomassoni has one of the biggest hearts on the team, and he continued to play his 110-percent style. Paulazzo, who was benched on Friday, responded with one of his best games of the season, and Tiesling played arguably his best game as a RedHawk.
In addition to his goal that broke a 22-game scoring drought, he won a critical faceoff cleanly to start a 4-on-3 NMU power play that resulted in a clear, and the Wildcats were never able to generate a high-percentage shot on the entire man-advantage.
Tiesling also set up Tomassoni with a beautiful centering pass that Tomassoni couldn’t put in the net, and Tiesling blocked a pair of shots.
-- And there’s no doubt this was Alex Wideman’s best game in a Miami uniform. He’s done some good things since being moved to the third line and given power play time, but it had not translated on the scoresheet.
Speaking of non-scoresheet related plays, Wideman dished out one of the hits of the night when he went into the corner after a loose puck while being pursued by 6-feet-5, 211-pound Jake Baker. As the 5-8, 145-pound Wideman got to the puck, he put on the brakes and drilled Baker.
-- And special teams were excellent. Miami killed off five penalties, holding Northern Michigan to just one shot in 8:14 of power play time, including a two-minute 4-on-3. It was the third consecutive game the team has not allowed a power play goal.
The RedHawks scored twice on their four chances, breaking a four-game streak without a power play goal. Entering Saturday, Miami was 10th in the CCHA with an overall power play percentage of 13.1 and an abysmal 7.7 percent efficiency on the man-advantage in conference games.
-- And lost in the goal-scoring outburst