Buckeyes’ 3-0 victory puts Miami celebration on hold

The celebration got postponed, at least for a night.

Miami University’s hockey team was looking to wrap up the final Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season championship Friday, but instead got humbled on its home ice by Ohio State.

Chris Crane, Alex Szczechura and Max McCormick tallied goals as the Buckeyes overcame a 29-16 deficit in shots en route to a 3-0 triumph before a crowd of 3,170 at Steve Cady Arena.

“We just need to be better tomorrow,” MU defenseman Steven Spinell said. “They executed. We didn’t execute tonight.”

Execution was the key, and the third-ranked RedHawks didn’t have nearly enough of it. They were 0 of 4 on the power play and gave up a goal during their first penalty-kill attempt of the night.

“It was a tough game,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “I thought they played extremely well. I just think they executed their game plan and executed some plays, and we didn’t. We had pucks on our stick.”

The regular season ends Saturday night, and first-place MU still has a two-point lead over Western Michigan (which beat Michigan State 5-2) and a three-point lead over Notre Dame (which beat Bowling Green 4-3).

Blasi said he was unsure if he’ll go with Ryan McKay or Jay Williams in goal Saturday. McKay totaled just 13 saves and took Friday’s loss.

“We’ve just got to go out and play,” Blasi said. “There’s no secrets to the game now.”

OSU goalie Brady Hjelle was brilliant on this night with a 29-save performance. The Buckeyes scored a pair of second-period goals, and McCormick added an emtpy-netter with 79 seconds remaining.

“They did a good job of getting sticks in lanes, and we didn’t make any good decisions on the power play,” Blasi said. “When we did, Hjelle was there.”

While Miami is trying to win the fourth regular-season title in its history, Ohio State (14-14-7, 13-9-5) is playing for home ice in the CCHA tournament. OSU will meet Ferris State in the second round, and thanks to Ferris’ 4-1 loss to Michigan on Friday, the Buckeyes can clinch home ice with a shootout loss or better on Saturday.

“We’re also playing to try to spoil these guys’ championship. I think that’s kind of cool,” Hjelle said. “Our guys came to play tonight. I just thought our defensemen did a really good job all night clearing rebounds. They didn’t give them any second chances.”

Ohio State got swept 5-3 and 6-3 by visiting Michigan last weekend, so Buckeyes coach Mark Osiecki was happy to see his team respond appropriately in Oxford.

“It was important for us to come in and play the way we did after last weekend,” Osiecki siad. “We didn’t play our game. I gave a lot of credit to Michigan for the way they played.”

Crane gave OSU its first goal Friday by tipping a Devon Krogh shot past McKay on the power play. Krogh’s shot came from near the blue line.

“We were just trying to play Ohio State hockey, win our battles in front of the net,” Crane said. “It was a great shot by Krogh, and I was just lucky enough to get a stick on it. That’s how we have to play every single night. I think last weekend against Michigan we got away from that. We had a great week of practice and focused on net-front presence, getting in the corners and winning our battles.”

Crane said he might have caught a break on the goal.

“Everything that gets around the net, I just try to tip or screen the goalie — that’s my role on the power play,” Crane said. “I thought maybe it was going wide and high, and I got a lucky stick on it. I actually thought it was going to be a high stick when they went and reviewed it, so I think we got away with one there.”

Crane is a West Chester native, having moved to Southwest Ohio from Virginia when he was about 10 years old. He attended Lakota West High School as a sophomore.

“I was recruited here and Ohio State,” said Crane, a junior forward. “It was a tough decision for me. I’ve always been a RedHawk fan growing up as a kid, and I’ve always been a Buckeye fan growing up as a kid. I’ve got a lot of friends that play on Miami, so it’s nice to come home and play.”

Tanner Fritz picked up two assists for the Buckeyes. Krogh, Szczechura, McCormick and Craig Dalrymple added one apiece.

Puck drop for Saturday’s Senior Night contest is set for 7:05 p.m. Miami’s six seniors — Spinell, Curtis McKenzie, Marc Hagel, Joe Hartman, Garrett Kennedy and Steve Mason — will be honored in a pregame ceremony.

The RedHawks are 11-2-3 at home this season. Their other defeat came against Lake Superior State (1-0) on Dec. 8.

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