Williams gets chance to play after Michigan’s goal explosion

Jay Williams saw his first action in a month Saturday. It wasn’t what he was expecting.

The Miami University freshman replaced classmate Ryan McKay in goal after Michigan stormed to a 4-0 lead en route to a 6-2 triumph in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association semifinals at Joe Louis Arena.

“It’s not ideal, but my job is to always be ready,” said Williams, who gave up two goals and had nine saves in 28 minutes and 27 seconds between the pipes. “I make sure I’m doing the right things in practice so that if something like that does happen, I can step in and not miss a beat.”

McKay made it through a scoreless opening stanza, then Andrew Copp got the Wolverines on the board with a shorthanded goal in the first four minutes of the second period. Just under six minutes later, Michigan began a three-goal binge that covered 2:11.

McKay totaled 12 saves. He “respectfully declined” an interview request after the contest, according to MU spokesman Michael Weisman.

“You try not to think about the situation when you’re coming in at 4-0,” said Williams, who last played Feb. 22 at Lake Superior State. “Once you make that first save, it’s like riding a bicycle. It’s something you never forget.

“They’re good. It’s Michigan. They’ve got a lot of high-end guys, a lot of offensive talent. We’ve got to use it as a learning lesson and get ready for next weekend (in the NCAA tournament) because whoever we end up playing is going to be just as good or better than those guys. We’ve got to find a way. We can’t make any excuses.”

The RedHawks hadn’t allowed more than four goals in a game this season before Saturday.

Getting the goals: Sean Kuraly scored Miami’s first goal and Curtis McKenzie marked the second. Austin Czarnik picked up a pair of assists, and Matthew Caito also had one.

“Right off the beginning, a couple bounces didn’t go our way,” Kuraly said. “We’ll learn to react to that a little better.”

Added McKenzie, “We got a little frustrated, didn’t play the way we’ve been playing, and they took it to us. I think we’ve responded well (all year). As long as we learn from this game, I think we’ll be ready to go for tournament time.”

Looking ahead: The NCAA tournament field will be announced Sunday night. Will MU be a No. 1 seed? A No. 2? RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi doesn’t care.

“Wherever we fit, we fit, and then we go from there,” he said. “We’ve gone to the Frozen Four being a 4 seed, and we’ve been beaten in the first round being a 1 seed. We’re just thankful we’re going to be in the national tournament.

“Yesterday might have been the craziest day I’ve ever seen in college hockey in terms of the PairWise (ratings). Things were going wacko. We feel blessed that we’re in the tournament, and we’re going to try to make the most of it.”

The four NCAA regional sites are Toledo, Grand Rapids, Mich., Manchester, N.H., and Providence, R.I. The Frozen Four will be held in Pittsburgh.

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