Miami’s offense had disappeared, and the RedHawks were blanked, 3-0 by the lowest-seeded team in the CHCA Tournament to open their best-of-3 playoff series.
But MU ran off consecutive 4-1 victories the next two nights, clinching on St. Patrick’s Day and advancing to the conference semifinal round in Detroit.
Austin Czarnik keyed the Game 2 win with two goals, and Sean Kuraly netted a pair in the clincher. Miami’s defense allowed just 36 shots in the two games and Ryan McKay stopped 34 of them.
The year was 2013 and the opponent was Michigan State.
That’s the last time these long-time former CCHA foes met.
It’s been almost 10 years since they’ve faced off in East Lansing, and Miami swept that series in early 2012, 2-1 and 4-0.
But the RedHawks still trail badly in the all-time series and are just 18-36-3 on MSU’s home ice.
A look at this weekend’s matchup:
WHO: Miami RedHawks (1-1) at Michigan State Spartans (1-1).
WHERE: Munn Ice Arena (6,114), East Lansing, Mich.
WHEN: Friday and Saturday – 7:07 p.m.
STREAMING: Both nights–Bigtenplus.com ($).
MICHIGAN STATE RADIO: Both nights–WJIM-AM (1240), East Lansing, Mich.
MIAMI RADIO: Both nights–WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
NOTES: At this point it’s hard to wrap one’s head around the debacle of this program over the past 13 years after it had won 20 or more games in its previous 17 campaigns.
Michigan State’s last winning season was in 2014-15, and the Spartans have not qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 2012. They finished last in the Big-Ten-Plus-Arizona-State-Temporary-COVID-Conference-Foe with just 15 league points.
Michigan State split its first series of 2021-22 in similar fashion to Miami, winning a game by multiple goals and losing another under the new five-minute 3-on-3 rule.
The Spartans hosted Air Force last weekend, and avenged a 3-2 loss in the opener with a 5-1 win in the finale.
Eight goals in two games is great news for MSU, which was second last in all of Division I in goals per game last season, scoring at just a 1.48 clip.
Graduate senior Mitchell Lewandowski netted three of them after leading the team in points with 13 in 2020-21.
Up front, junior Josh Nodler recorded 11 points last season, and the Calgary draftee went 1-2-3 in Michigan State’s first two games.
Senior Northern Michigan transfer Griffin Loughran made an immediate impact, notching a pair of goals and an assist in MSU’s opening series.
Also returning are Nicolas Muller, who racked up eight points last season, and fellow junior Jagger Joshua, coming off a four-goal campaign.
On defense, Dennis Cesana led the Spartans in assists last season with 10 and finished second on the team with 12 points.
Twins and NHL draft picks Cole and Christian Krygier – selected by Florida and the Islanders, respectively – were both nightly starters.
Nash Niehaus logged 25 games last season and picked up two assists vs. Air Force last weekend, and Aiden Gallacher dressed 26 times and notched a pair of helpers.
Michigan State’s goaltending is its strength. The Spartans finished last season with a .924 save percentage, and both Drew McRidder and Pierce Charleson are back in 2021-22.
DeRidder, a senior, logged 79 percent of MSU’s time in net, posting a.923 save percentage despite s 7-15-2 record.
As a freshman last season, Charleson ended the season with a .938 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average in 327 minutes.
Both started a game last weekend and Charleson picked up the win, stopping 28 of 29 shots, and DeRidder turned 36 shots aside but allowed three goals and took the loss.
These teams both enjoyed success on the power play in their opening series, as Michigan State went 3-for-7 and Miami ended up 3 of 10.