By John Lachmann
Jimmy Mullin’s first career multi-goal game was not enough to save Miami’s winning streak.
The freshman scored two goals, but the RedHawks fell, 4-3 in the series finale at Lake Superior State on Saturday. Miami had won its first three games of 2012.
Senior Cody Reichard was in net for the first time in four games, and he allowed four goals on 26 shots to suffer his third straight loss.
Mullin gave Miami (12-10-2) the early lead by beating Lakers goalie Kevin Kapalka midway through the first period.
But early in the second period, Lake Superior State (13-10-3) scored a pair of goals 40 seconds apart. LSSU took advantage of an elbowing penalty by Miami freshman Blake Coleman, as Nick McParland tied the score on the power play five minutes into the middle stanza.
Zach Trotman put the Lakers ahead, but RedHawks senior forward Matt Tomassoni answered with a one-time goal off a feed from senior forward Patrick Tiesling less than two minutes later.
Lake Superior State’s Colin Campbell put his team ahead for good with five minutes remaining in the period, and LSSU extended its lead to two on a Fred Cassiani goal with 17:46 left in the game.
A backhander by Mullin a minute later cut the deficit to one, 4-3, but despite outshooting the Lakers, 18-2 in the final period, Miami was unable to tie the score.
Miami remains tied for fourth in the CCHA after playing one home game in its last 10 over the past seven weeks.
The RedHawks will host Western Michigan next weekend and will play nine of its final 12 regular-season games at Cady Arena.
ANALYSIS: So the obvious question is: Why did Coach Enrico Blasi start Reichard in net after fellow senior Connor Knapp had played so well the last three games?
I suspect it was a more difficult decision than usual for Blasi, but the best answer I can come up with is he didn’t want Reichard to rot on the bench and wanted to give him the opportunity to get his groove back.
Reichard had gone 34 days between starts, and the fact that he hasn’t won a game since Nov. 26 can’t be sitting well with the fourth-year starter.
If this was the postseason I have no doubt Blasi would’ve ridden the hot hand, which he has done in the past. Obviously he thought the possibility of a loss was worth the risk to try to get Miami’s only NCAA championship game starter in net right.
Blasi rode Reichard for six straight starts earlier this season, but that was during a stretch when Miami was playing every weekend.
So either the recent down time played a role in the decision or Blasi really has more faith in Reichard, since Knapp has been as hot as at any point during his career, stopping 78 of his last 80 shots faced (.975).
Reichard’s save percentage is .862 in his last four appearances, and he allowed the deciding goal in the third period despite facing just two shots in that stanza.
He played well in the first period, making two spectacular saves and stopped eight shots total. But he gave up three goals on 16 shots in the second period and the ultimate game winner early in the third.
It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback Blasi’s decision, and yes, I would’ve started Knapp, but it’s still completely understandable why he wanted to give Reichard another chance to get his confidence back.
With the number of games Miami is playing against TUCs (teams under consideration) – an integral factor in determining NCAA Tournament seeding – the RedHawks still have plenty of time to booster their resume.
And credit does go to Kapalka, who stopped 43 Miami shots to preserve the win. He’s been solid all season and is a key reason the Lakers are in third place in the league standings.
FORWARDS: B. They combined for 39 shots and accounted for all three goals and five of the team’s six assists.
Congratulations to Mullin on his two-goal performance, and with junior Reilly Smith’s two assists, he has seven points in his last six games.
Coleman’s penalty cost Miami early in the second period – his 18th minor of the season – but his other penalty and freshman Alex Wideman’s were coincidentals.
DEFENSEMEN: C. Lake Superior State was held to 26 shots and junior Stephen Spinell took the RedHawks’ lone penalty among its blue line corps.
They combined for seven shots on goal and senior Cameron Schilling recorded an assist for the unit’s lone point.
They shut down LSSU in the third period, holding the Lakers to two shots, but one went in.
GOALTENDING: D. Reichard stopped 22 of 26 shots, which is an .846 save percentage. The last two goals were scored on a rebound and a high wrister.
It’s not the type of outing that will elicit more time between the pipes for the senior. Then again, as outstanding of a career as Reichard has had, it doesn’t seem possible he will wither away on the bench in the home stretch of his final season in Oxford.
LINEUP CHANGES: Considering the lack of extra players Miami can bring on a road trip, the RedHawks went with the same 18 skaters as Friday. Reichard was the only difference