Analysis: SCSU transition killed Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – Sometimes in hockey the final score is not indicative of the game itself.

That was the case on Friday, when St. Cloud State beat Miami, 5-1 at Cady Arena despite being badly outshot and having the RedHawks dictate play for much of the night.

That’s not in any way to say the wrong team won, as the Huskies were masterful at creating chances off of the transition and burying shots when they had their opportunities.

In a way it was a microcosm of the season: SCSU finished its chances and Miami did not. That’s a key reason the Huskies have eight players with 20 or more points and the RedHawks have one.

Against a team as good as St. Cloud State, a team has to convert its chances, and Miami had plenty in the first period but went into the first intermission down one.

At that point it felt like the night might have been lost.

Josh Melnick celebrates after scoring Miami's goal (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Josh Melnick celebrates after scoring Miami’s goal (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

To the RedHawks’ credit, Melnick scored 15 seconds into the second period to tie it, but MU spent way too much time chasing Huskies down the ice the rest of the game, and SCSU made Miami pay.

Time is quickly running out on the RedHawks if they hope to have any chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament or home-ice advantage for the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

Miami remained 24th in the PairWise and would need to climb to at least 14th for an at-large, which would require at least at 6-2 record and a first-round NCHC win (preferably a sweep). That’s the bare minimum, and a win on Saturday would be a great start.

In terms of NCHC standings, the RedHawks are tied for fifth but are only three points out of fourth with fourth-place Minn.-Duluth and the two lowest teams – Western Michigan and Colorado College – left on the schedule.

It comes down to winning, and Miami will need to do a lot of that in the next few weeks or it will need to run the table in the NCHC Tournament to get into the NCAAs.

Other thoughts…

– Starting to think the Conor Lemirande hat trick may not have been the best thing for the Crash Cousins line, as they were caught down the ice twice on odd-man chances that resulted in St. Cloud State goals. That’s at least three times since the offensive breakout game at UNO. The grind line’s job is to neutralize the other team’s offense and to make sure nothing bad happens for 30 seconds, and this line is becoming way too aggressive since its three-goal game.

– Sean Kuraly was moved to center of the Kiefer Sherwood and Jack Roslovic line, and they created tons of scoring chances but couldn’t find the net. Roslovic has been outstanding the past couple of weekends, and after fanning on two first-period chances from the left side of the net, he set up countless more for others.

– Of course loading up a line comes at a cost to another, and Justin Greenberg’s line with Kevin Morris and Zach LaValle did little (Morris did have five shots but non high quality).

– All in favor of defensemen pinching in the right spots, but one really has to pick one’s spots against a high-powered team like St. Cloud, and too many times Miami’s D got caught in this one. This RedHawks team is not built to match speed and offensive chances with a team like the Huskies, so expect a lot more conservative play on Saturday unless the Huskies have the lead late.

– Like the idea of the red and white checkered effect in the stands, but most did not adhere to it. Section 12 was white, and the only white Miami attire this fan has is his jersey, which did come down off the mantle, but it’s coat weather at the rink, and few have white coats. Maybe they could coordinate with the pre-meds next time they attempt this?

GRADES

FORWARDS: D. For a team that had 36 shots – 32 by the forwards – only a handful were quality chances, and almost all of them were created by the Roslovic line. One exception was the goal, of course, and honestly, the shot by Gacek should’ve been handled cleanly and Melnick shouldn’t have had a rebound opportunity. Anthony Louis was not tough on defense and gave too much space when SCSU scored its first goal. On the next two the Crash Cousins line got caught deep.

DEFENSEMEN: C-. As mentioned above, too much pinching and too many high quality shots against. Louie Belpedio has been very good since returning from World Juniors for the most part but did not have a strong game, going minus-3. Even dependable Taylor Richart made an errant pass in the offensive zone that ultimately ended up in the net. And they did not contribute on offense, although Grant Hutton did have a small hand in Miami’s lone goal by holding a puck in the zone, giving his a secondary assist.

GOALTENDING: C-. Sort of like last Saturday, Jay Williams had no chance on some goals, made a couple of great saves and gave up a goal he would’ve liked back. The first goal was an NHL-caliber backhand. No. 2 was on a breakaway, and neither goalie has been great on those this season. The third one snuck through on the backhand, and Williams should have been able to make the stop. SCSU’s fourth and fifth goals were on odd-man chances with wide-open players at the side of the net. He did make an unbelievable save on a point-blank one-time chance in the second period. If Ryan McKay was an option, Game 2 would be a good time to change it up in net with 10 goals against in two games, but it looks like Williams in the team’s only real option right now.

LINEUP CHANGES: Coach Enrico Blasi switched pairings and tweaked lines but went with the same 19 for the sixth straight game. With consecutive decisive losses a change or two might be in the cards for Saturday’s finale.

St. Cloud pounds Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – Despite dominating in the shot column, firing 36 for the game including nearly half in the first period, No. 3 St. Cloud State was much better in the category that counts: Hitting the net.

The Huskies pounded the RedHawks, 5-1 at Cady Arena on Friday, netting four straight goals after Miami tied the score at one in the opening seconds of the second period.

The first frame was played almost exclusively in the SCSU end, as Miami led, 17-3 in shots heading into the final minutes.

But St. Cloud State (23-5-1) put the final three shots on goal, including a wicked backhander by Ethan Prow that snuck just under the crossbar with 39 seconds left in that stanza.

Josh Melnick scores Miami's lone goal on this shot (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Josh Melnick scores Miami’s lone goal on this shot (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The RedHawks (10-13-3) tied it 15 seconds into the second period when freshman forward Josh Melnick batted home a rebound from a bad angle off the initial shot by senior forward Alex Gacek.

The Huskies took the lead for good when David Morley went in alone and backhanded one over the pads of senior goalie Jay Williams with 8:25 left in the middle stanza.

Less than three minutes later, Judd Peterson made it 3-1 when he pitchforked one past Williams from the side of the net off a 3-on-2.

Blake Winiecki tapped home a back door pass from Ryan Papa with 13:50 left in regulation, and Patrick Russell scored from his forehand on a 2-on-1 with 4:07 to play to cap off the scoring.

St. Cloud State extended its unbeaten streak to seven games and Miami dropped its second straight.

Melnick, who had his five-game point streak snapped last Saturday, started a new one with his goal. Gacek now has five points in six games.

The RedHawks are now 0-3 vs. SCSU this season and have been outscored by the Huskies, 11-1.

The teams wrap up their weekend series at 7 p.m. tonight at Cady Arena.

Preview: St. Cloud State at Miami

WHO: No. 3 St. Cloud State Huskies (22-5-1) at Miami RedHawks (10-12-3).

WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio.

WHEN: Friday–7:05 p.m.; Saturday–7:05 p.m.

TV: Friday–Fox Sports Alternate (DirecTV Ch. 608); Saturday–None.

ST. CLOUD STATE RADIO: Both nights–KCML-FM (99.9).

MIAMI RADIO: Both nights–WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio; WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.

NOTES: St. Cloud State has 123 goals or 4.39 per game, the second-best clip in college hockey.

Miami's Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The Huskies have eight players with 20 points or more, compared to Miami, which has just one (Jack Roslovic), and six SCSU skaters have scored at least 10 times.

Kalle Kossila has 11 goals and 24 assists for a team-best 35 points, and Joey Benik leads the team in markers (17) and is second in helpers (16).

Rounding out the team’s 30-point club is David Morley with a line of 10-21-31.

Captain Ethan Prow leads all blueliners in points with 26, including five goals.

In net, Charlie Lindgren leads all of college hockey in wins (21) and minutes (1,562). He has a 2.04 goals-against average and a save percentage of .927.

St. Cloud State is second in college hockey with a power play percentage of 31.7.

If the Huskies have an Achilles’ heel, it’s their penalty kill. Opponents are converting 22.8 percent of their chances on the man advantage.

SCSU is riding a six-game unbeaten streak and has won four in a row, during which the team has scored 25 goals.

Miami leads the all-time series, 13-9-2, but has lost four of its last five meetings. This is the first time these teams have played in Oxford since Feb. 21-22, 2014.

The RedHawks have just one more home series after this weekend.

Richart is Miami’s black and blueliner

OXFORD, Ohio – While Taylor Richart’s presence in Miami’s lineup seems like a given on a nightly basis, there was a point when he pondered whether he had a shot at making it to this level.

Undersized for a defenseman at 5-feet-9, the senior went from having to try out to make an NAHL team to logging 122 games at the Division I level for the RedHawks and becoming one of their most dependable and toughest stay-at-home blueliners.

Taylor Richart as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Taylor Richart as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

“He comes in, works his (butt) off every day, he really attacks it – practice, workouts, whatever it may be – real detail oriented, and he makes sure does all of the little things right,” goalie and classmate Jay Williams said. “He wants to do everything he can in his power to make sure he’s ready (for games), and obviously you’ve seen the results: For the past two years he’s been one of our best, most consistent players on our back end.”

Richart was born and still lives in Blaine, Minn., a northern suburb of Minneapolis, and was a rink rat practically from birth. His father, Scott, played for the University of Minnesota and still coaches youngsters.

Richart learned how to skate at a small park a couple of minutes from their home as a toddler and was a natural on the ice.

“Even when I was two years old I would put a pair of skates on and walk around the house,” Richart said. “Everything in my house is hockey since my dad grew up around hockey.”

Prep hockey is huge in Minnesota, and Richart helped Blaine High School qualify for the state tournament twice, including a third-place finish in 2009. He was named to the all-conference team in 2010.

Richart at the outdoor game in Chicago in 2013 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart at the outdoor game in Chicago in 2013 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

But at that point, he didn’t see a lucrative future for himself in the sport and considered non-scholarship competition.

Richart also patrolled second base and shortstop growing up, and he thought he could play hockey in the winter and baseball in spring if he went to a Division III school.

After his senior year of high school, Richart received a call from an acquaintance that offered him a tryout for NAHL Aberdeen. Richart not only earned his way onto that team, he logged 53 games, scoring twice and dishing out 10 assists.

He worked as hard as anyone on the ice, impressing so much that he joined a USHL team the following season and went 7-9-16 for Fargo.

“His work ethic is really something that’s above and beyond,” senior defenseman Matthew Caito said. “Everything he does, he does 100 percent and he gives it his all, and guys really follow him, and we feed off of that. His intensity and work ethic in practice is amazing to watch. He’s one of my good friends, but I’m not just saying that because he is. It’s true – he’s one of our great leaders.”

Richart was preparing for a third season in juniors when a late defection left Miami short a defenseman. He came to Oxford for a visit and fell in love with the campus.

“That year we had (Steve) Spinell and (Joe) Hartman and (Garrett) Kennedy and (Matthew) Caito obviously with (Joyaux) and Ben Paulides – a year older,” RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi said. “So we needed him to come in right away and compete for playing time and he did that.”

Richart as a sophomore (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart as a sophomore (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart proved himself ready for that challenge right away as well.

Two years after trying out to make an NAHL team, Richart was in the lineup for an elite Division I school. He played 40 of 42 games as a freshman, went plus-2 with four assists and was fourth on the team with 49 blocked shots.

“From Day 1 he’s had that hockey IQ, and it’s obvious – if you watch him play you can see it,” Caito said. “It’s great how he’s always in the right position at the right time.”

A concussion essentially ended Richart’s season after 24 games as a sophomore. Despite the short year, he managed five assists and still blocked 36 shots while taking just one minor penalty.

With more freshmen coming in for his junior season, Richart again had to work his way into the lineup. After being scratched for the first five contests of 2014-15, he hit the ice for the final 35.

“I knew coming into the year I was kind in an odd spot because we had a lot of guys coming in as well, so I knew I had to work my butt off when I came to the rink every day,” Richart said. “Positive attitude, just kind of wait for chance, and when the chance came I grabbed it and ran with it.”

Richart netted his only career goal that season in a 3-0 win over Cornell on Dec. 29, 2014. He piled up 45 more blocks, finished plus-5 and took just three minors.

In 23 games this season, Richart leads team with 46 blocked shots – 11 ahead of any other RedHawk. – and he has three assists.

“The last couple years he’s done a tremendous job, really working hard to bring everything else along,” Williams said.

Richart as a junior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart as a junior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

He also won the team’s hardest shot competition prior to this season.

“He’ll tell you that his shot’s gotten a little harder, but I don’t know about that,” Williams said. “They clocked it before the season but it might have been in kilometers.”

Said Blasi: “He came in his freshman year, kind of struggled sophomore year – which is not uncommon for guys – toward the end of his sophomore year started to come out of it and had a real solid year last year and he’s been pretty good this year. Those are always the good stories when the guys work themselves into the lineup and contribute and are mainstays.”

He also has just four penalty minutes, giving him 12 PIM in 90 games since the start of his sophomore season, a marvel considering his stay-at-home role.

Richart has a goal and 16 assists for his career, but points are a deceiving stat for a player in his role, and his total does not reflect the obvious improvement in his game since he first set foot on the ice at Cady Arena in 2012.

“His sound plays with the puck,” Caito said. “When he was younger, he kind of forced pucks a little bit just like everyone does when they first come into college. Now he’s really harnessed in on making the simple plays and realizing that plays lead to bigger opportunities for us. His defensive play is amazing right now.”

Having a father who played at the college level and still coaches has helped Richart become a smarter player as well.

“He knows the game very well, and as a smaller guy you have to know the game a little better,” Blasi said.

Richart uses the hockey smarts he father instilled in him to overcome the size deficit he faces when he dresses for games against ultra-physical NCHC opponents.

Richart grimaces after blocking a shot (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart grimaces after blocking a shot (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

“You’re not going to out-muscle guys – you’ve just got to be smart,” Richart said. “Know the game, know your strengths and weaknesses. Just make strong plays. I know I’m not going to be the bigger guy, and that’s part of the reason why I kind of got overlooked, because I’m smaller, but I always knew I was going to have to out-think someone rather than rough them up.

“That kind of comes from my dad. He taught me to block shots, and he always told me that’s a big part of the game, being a defenseman, so that’s kind of what I prided myself on, blocking shots, taking hits, making plays, being a tough player. Your teammates look up to you when you do that as well, because they see that you’re sacrificing your body for them.”

If there was a statistic for penalty minutes drawn vs. penalty minutes taken, Richart would have to be high on the Division I leaderboard. He has drawn boarding majors numerous times in his career and has rarely missed a shift despite taking some brutal-looking hits.

“He’s got to set an NCAA record for being on the receiving end of hits from behind,” Williams said. “Obviously every time it happens it’s scary and it’s dangerous plays usually, and your No. 1 concern is thankfully he’s OK and his health and his safety. But drawing penalties is the result of hard work and moving your feet and doing the right things, and playing disciplined but playing with an edge and aggressive, so I think that’s kind of a testament to how he plays and how hard he works out there.”

Said Blasi: “He puts himself in that situation where he’s competing so hard for pucks that he’s going to take some punishment. As a smaller guy that’s just the name of the game – you’re just going to have to take it and move on.”

Besides the concussion, Richart said he has broken fingers a couple of times, fractured a foot on multiple occasions and has received countless stitches.

He also bruised a lung earlier this season and required medical treatment as he was coughing up blood. Richard missed just two games for the latter, the only times he has not been in the lineup in 2015-16.

“A couple of times I’ve gotten stitches this year and last year and just put some glue on it and repair after the period so I don’t miss time,” Richart said.

Richart as a senior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart as a senior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Whenever Richart has to visit a doctor, the paperwork heads north to his parents.

“My mom always gets the bills, an X-ray here, an X-ray there, there’s probably a stack about 20 deep,” Richart said. “They always joke that when I get an X-ray they know me by name there – I have a little VIP section where I go in.”

Caito is one of Richart’s best friends, and he said that Richart has earned the nickname The Deputy because of his militaristic routine.

“He’s real strict about his schedule and he gets all upset if you mess with it,” Williams said. “Kind of the iron fist.”

Richart has a 3.3 grade-point average as a sports leadership management major and will graduate this spring. He want to continue playing hockey in the professional ranks beyond this season but is currently focused on his final collegiate games as he wraps up his last few months in Oxford.

“The coaching staff, the guys – this place is just unbelievable,” Richart said. “Even the first time I came for my visit in the summer when no one was here, I knew this was the place for me. Everything is set up for you to succeed – the professors want you to succeed, the coaches want you to succeed, not only on ice but they want you to grow as a person. They care about you and they have so much respect for you. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ll have for life here. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”

Photos: Denver at Miami

Images from the series between Denver and Miami played at Cady Arena on Jan. 29-30, 2016. All photos by Cathy Lachmann.

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Analysis: Margin for error low for Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – The better team won both games this weekend at Cady Arena.

Unfortunately for Miami, that meant after winning the series opener against Denver, the RedHawks fell to the Pioneers, 5-3 in the finale on Saturday.

The strange thing about Game 2 was Miami was badly outplayed in the first period but came away from that frame with the lead.

The RedHawks were much improved in the second and third periods but were outscored in both.

Typically in the ultra-competitve NCHC, teams splitting against a ranked in-conference team is OK, so long as they are beating the bottom dwellers.

The problem for Miami is it dug itself such a deep hole that 1-1 weekends are no longer suffice if it hopes to get back into NCAA Tournament contention.

At 24th in the PairWise, the RedHawks still have much work remaining before any serious NCAA talks can begin. And Miami now will play the majority of its nine remaining games away from Cady Arena.

As mentioned before, strength of schedule will help Miami if it gets to .500 or above, but one caveat as we move forward: The NCAA now requires teams to post at least a .500 winning percentage to qualify for an at-large bid.

But judging from its positioning in PairWise (24th) vs. its record (two games under .500), this looks like it will probably be a self-policing situation. Just wanted to throw it out there.

A 6-3 finish to the regualar season would suffice the winning percentage requirement, assuming Miami can win at least one in the best-of-3, and there’s a good chance that in that scenario that series would be played in Oxford.

It may take a 7-2 mark plus a trip to Minneapolis to get into the top 14 in PairWise, which is probably where Miami would need to advance to for a fairly safe NCAA berth.

The RedHawks’ small margin for error makes next weekend so important and such a high-risk, high-reward series, since wins will be tough to come by against the second-ranked (in the PairWise) Huskies but could be very lucrative.

Other thoughts…

– Back to the game…too many turnovers, especially in the first period when Miami seemingly was essentially in penalty kill mode for 20 minutes. Forwards didn’t seem to get back on D or backcheck very well, and after standing on his head for the first four periods of the weekend, senior goalie Jay Williams led in a couple of outside shots he normally stops. The flip side of that is: Denver is a very good team that played a very good game in most facets (goalie Tanner Jaillet wasn’t that great would be the only knock on the Pioneers in this one).

– Jack Roslovic’s set-up of Kiefer Sherwood was world class and was shown repeatedly on the big screen, as it should have been. A world-class play by a world-class player. He still needs to stop trying to carry the puck through three and four players, which he was probably able to get away with at the last level.

– Obviously skaters cannot record saves, but both Alex Gacek and Chris Joyaux kept pucks from going into the net by sprawling across the crease. Great effort by both on their respective “saves”.

– Our nightly GoalieGate update: There is no update. Ryan McKay was scratched again on Saturday, and it’s unknown if/when he will return. One thing of note regarding goalies: Ryan Larkin is with the team but is recovering from an upper body injury and is out for the season. Larkin, the cousin of Detroit Red Wings star Dylan Larkin, came to Oxford earlier this month to start on classwork and will be a freshman this fall. Good move by him and by the program.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C. They scored all three goals, but as mentioned above, the backchecking and defense by this group left much to be desired, and they turned the puck over way too much. Nice to see the Roslovic-Sherwood combo generating offense as well as Kuraly scoring by driving the net. So glad to see Alex Gacek having a solid senior season.

DEFENSEMEN: C. Kind of a comme ci, comme ca game for this group. No standouts for either good or bad reasons. It does bear mentioning that Louie Belpedio has been much more solid overall since returning from Finland.

GOALTENDING: C-. Tough call here. Williams was the difference in the first period but was 16 of 21 the final 40 minutes. To be fair, he had zero chance on the first goals, and on the fourth one Shore ended up with puck all alone in the slot for multiple seconds after an unfortunate bounce for Miami. And Williams made the initial save on the third goal. The second and fifth ones were two he would’ve wanted back, but the fifth one was a laser that found the top corner of the net.

LINEUP CHANGES: None again. This is the fifth straight game Coach Enrico Blasi has gone with these 18 skaters plus Williams in net.

Denver snaps Miami 4-game win streak

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami did come back from a two-goal deficit to tie it but ultimately saw its four-game winning streak snapped.

Denver netted a pair of third-period goals en route to a 5-3 win over the RedHawks at Cady Arena on Saturday, handing MU its first loss since Jan. 9.

Despite being severely outplayed in the first period, Miami freshman forward Jack Roslovic went in on a 2-on-1, faked a shot and slid a pass across the slot to freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood, who buried it with 1:42 left in the frame.

The Pioneers would record the next three markers in a seven-minute window.

They tied it on a tic-tac-toe passing play, capped off with a tap-in from the side of the net by Trevor Moore 7:04 into the second period.

Matt Marcinew slipped one through traffic from the blue line, beating RedHawks senior goalie Jay Williams with 9:38 left in that stanza.

Denver went up 3-1 over three minutes later when Quentin Shore beat three Miami players, put a shot on that was saved by Williams and followed it up with the tap-in.

The RedHawks cut the lead to one with 4:56 left in the middle frame on a shot by senior forward Alex Gacek from the top of the faceoff circle that snuck inside the far post.

Miami's Sean Kuraly fends off a defender and eventually scores the tying goal in the third period (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Sean Kuraly fends off a defender and eventually scores the tying goal in the third period (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Senior center Sean Kuraly evened it at three when he drove strongly the net and beat goalie Tanner Jaillet on the forehand less than two minutes into the third period.

But the Pioneers went ahead for good less than three minutes after the tying goal when a Miami clearing attempt deflected to a wide-open Shore in the slot, and he shot over Williams’ glove for the go-ahead tally.

Denver’s Nolan Zajac capped off the scoring on a blast from the blue line that found the far top corner of the net with 3:32 remaining in regulation.

It was Williams’ first loss since Oct. 31. He stopped 26 shots.

Kuraly led Miami with two points (1-1-2), giving him eight points in his last five games. Freshman forward Josh Melnick and junior forward Anthony Louis saw their five-game points streaks snapped.

Miami is now in a three-way tie for fourth place in the NCHC with Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth at 19 points.

The loss also dropped the RedHawks to 24th in the PairWise rankings.

Miami hosts St. Cloud State next weekend. Game times are 7:35 p.m. and 7:05 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Analysis: Forward thinking

OXFORD, Ohio – It’s funny how quickly things can change in hockey.

Three weeks ago, Miami was a one-line team, and the star of that forward combination was even fading.

Looking at the RedHawks’ past three games, including Friday’s 3-1 win over Denver at Cady Arena, it’s hard to rank their lines, as all are contributing in that all-important goal column.

And when they aren’t, they’re at least creating scoring chances or playing responsibly on defense.

Kevin Morris knocks home the clinching empty-net goal on Friday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Kevin Morris knocks home the clinching empty-net goal on Friday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Forwards Kevin Morris and Anthony Louis have been major reasons for Miami’s rejuvenated offense. Yes, they accounted for three points on Friday, including two of the team’s three goals, but as usual with hockey, there’s much more beyond the surface.

Morris’ pass to Roslovic for the eventual game-winner was as impressive as the goal itself, and his two-way play has made him one of the best forwards on the team in recent weeks.

Louis played well on D vs. No. 13 Denver (12-8-5) and was a pest all of Friday as he continues his annual second-half surge for Miami (10-11-3).

And yes, Roslovic was better as well, as he seemed more involved than he has been in the past few games, which is scary for opponents, especially with so many other forwards playing at a high level that opponents need to account for defensively.

Also, the fourth line didn’t account for any goals on Friday, but that Crash Cousins-plus-Ryan-Siroky unit played well in its grinding role after Conor Lemirande recorded a hat trick last Saturday.

Not to discount the defense corps, with the exception of a turnover-turned-goal, and the goaltending in this game in the least. But most that follow this team knew those areas weren’t going to be an issue this season.

Need a stat to back up blueliner play: Senior Taylor Richart blocked eight shots on Friday.

Other thoughts…

– Justin Greenberg made an incredibly selfless play on the PK in the first period, throwing his body at the puck near his defensive blue line to get the puck down the ice when Miami really needed a clear. Greenberg’s play hasn’t been mentioned above, but holy cow, talk about a candidate for most-improved player at this season’s awards banquet.

– Another player not mentioned to this point: Alex Gacek. It’s mind blowing that someone his size is able to lay out players twice his size, which he did multiple times on Friday. Yet another senior that is playing some of his best hockey in his final stretch run.

– It was Week 3 in GoalieGate for the RedHawks. Freshman Evan McCarthy was again the backup, as senior Ryan McKay was scratched. The reason for his suspension, or whatever we’re calling it, has been discussed ad nauseum, and BoB has no idea what the aftermath has been between McKay and the coaching staff, but here’s hoping it ends soon. McKay has been an exemplary player for 3½ years, and it’s tough to see this happen to a senior during his final stretch run. That said, even when McKay is reinstated, Jay Williams has been a wall in his absence, posting a .947 save percentage, so it may be tough for him to get into games with an .867 mark since the North Dakota series.

– As far as who outplayed whom between Denver and Miami, the first period was pretty even. MU generated a scoring chance in the opening seconds, but there were few of those in the opening stanza and both teams buried theirs. The RedHawks dominated the second period, and Denver was very strong in the final stanza, although Miami played well also. Very well-played game, the type we’ll likely see more of in the second half of the NCHC season.

– Well, the students were back for the first time since, well, before Thanksgiving, and it seemed to be an enthusiastic crowd. But the attendance for this game was still south of 3,000, which was disappointing, especially considering the magnitude and quality of this game.

And unfortunately for some fans that meant the return to non-rock for the entire game and not just the first and third periods plus most of the second. Apparently there was no reason to stop at bringing back four-decades-old Village Idiots steamer YMCA and band favorite from the same Musak era Sweet Caroline – a pro-Boston fossil, which…hey wait…doesn’t Miami dislike Boston after all of those BC and BU losses in the NCAAs? Fortunately we also added in 1950s great “Shout” to its almost exclusively dance club repertoire, as opposed to the rock selections every other rink in North America touts. Hey, let’s not stop there: Let’s break out some Irving Berlin and then work ourselves back to Beethoven and eventually the Baroque era for some Bach and Vivaldi. Worth repeating: Having been to hockey games in over a dozen states and now six Canadian provinces, beautiful Cady Arena has easily the worst music selections of any rink I’ve ever attended. Not even close.

– Sean Kuraly took two minors on the same shift at the end of the second period. The first one could’ve been debated. The second one for charging was un-captain-like. He has played so much better in recent weeks but he can’t let his emotions get the better of him.

– Were Taylor Richart’s eight blocks mentioned above? They were, but let’s mention them again.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A-. Two goals plus the empty netter, but still a great effort against a hot team with two solid goalies. Lots of standouts in this one: Morris for one, but also Roslovic, Louis, Greenberg – liked Zach LaValle in this one too as he continues to gain confidence.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Denver is a bit of a one-line team, and this corps was pretty good for the most part. Grant Hutton did turn the puck over for the Pioneers’ first goal, but he came back and played well after that. Amazing to see how much better Scott Dornbrock has gotten from Game 1 to Game 24. Richart had eight blocks. In case that wasn’t mentioned above.

GOALTENDING: A. To say Williams stole this game might be an overstatement, but Miami certainly doesn’t win without his effort. He looked a little vulnerable early, which is not uncommon with Williams, but he was a rock the final 40 minutes. A great pass and backhand resulted in Denver’s lone goal, and Williams made two unbelievable saves in the third period to preserve the 2-1 lead. Williams has allowed just six goals in his four-game winning streak and has a goals-against average of 1.33 since taking over in net.

LINEUP CHANGES: None. As mentioned previously, Coach Enrico Blasi typically likes to stick with a starting 18 by this point in the season, and it looks like this is the group. Hard to blame him, as it would be difficult to pick a weak link, but it’s always tough to see quality players sit in the stands, like Colin Sullivan and Devin Loe. The goaltending situation has been discussed at length, and it’s unclear if/when McKay will be re-instated.

Miami wins fourth straight vs. Denver

OXFORD, Ohio – The .500 mark is finally just a win away.

After a 6-11-3 start capped off by a seven-game winless streak, Miami has won four straight games, including a 3-1 win over No. 13 Denver at Cady Arena on Friday, to put itself back in NCAA contention.

Miami's Jack Roslovic celebrates his go-ahead goal (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Jack Roslovic celebrates his go-ahead goal (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Freshman forward Jack Roslovic broke out of a mini-funk, scoring for just the second time in 11 games, while senior forward Kevin Morris and junior forward Anthony Louis stayed hot.

Morris found the net for the third straight game and Louis has recorded a goal in three of his last four contests.

The Pioneers (12-8-5) took the early lead, as Troy Terry slid a pass to Danton Heinen through the slot, and Heinen went to his backhand to slip the puck past RedHawks senior goalie Jay Williams just 7:06 into the first period.

But 90 seconds later, Louis dug a puck out of the corner, skated around the back of the net and stuffed it past goalie Evan Cowley on the far side to tie the score.

Roslovic gave Miami (10-11-3) the lead when he hammered a centering pass from Morris home on the power play with 2:14 remaining in the second period.

With just over a minute remaining in that period, senior forward Sean Kuraly was assessed two minor penalties, and Miami was forced to kill off four minutes of power play time.

Williams made eight saves in the final period – two in spectacular fashion – and 20 overall to pick up the win, his fourth in a row and 41st of his career. That moves him into solo control of fifth place all-time on the team’s career leaderboard, ahead of Richard Shulmistra and five behind Connor Knapp.

Morris skated in and tapped home an empty netter with 23 seconds to play, sealing the RedHawks’ win. He finished with a goal and an assist, and sophomore defenseman Scott Dornbrock picked up a pair of helpers.

Louis and freshman forward Josh Melnick extended their points streaks to five games. Louis has three goals and three assists in that span, and Melnick has five helpers.

Morris has a three-game goal streak, going 3-2-5 after picking up five points the first 21 games this season.

Senior defenseman Matthew Caito has also recorded points in three consecutive tilts (1-3-4). Dornbrock, who had one assist the first 22 games, has three in the last two games.

Miami vaulted Nebraska-Omaha and moved into a tie with Minnesota-Duluth for fourth place in the NCHC standings. UNO fell, 5-1 to Colorado College and UMD played an out-of-conference game.

The RedHawks have a game in hand vs. Minn.-Duluth, against whom they finish the regular season on the road.

Miami surged into a tie for 18th in the PairWise rankings, which determine the teams that make the NCAA Tournament.

These teams wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday at Cady Arena.

Preview: Denver at Miami

WHO: No. 13 Denver Pioneers (12-7-5) at Miami RedHawks (9-11-3).

WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio.

WHEN: Friday–7:05 p.m.; Saturday–7:05 p.m.

TV: Friday–CBS College Sports (DirecTV Ch. 221); Saturday–Fox Sports Alternate (DirecTV Ch. 608-1).

DENVER RADIO: Friday–KEPN-AM (1600), Denver, Colo.; Saturday–KKFN-FM (104.3).

MIAMI RADIO: Both nights–WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio; WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.

NOTES: Miami has six home games left on its schedule with four to be played in the next nine days.

The RedHawks are coming off a huge sweep at then-No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha and have won three straight games after a 6-11-3 start.

But Denver is also on a hot streak, unbeaten in its last eight contests (5-0-3), as the Pioneers have surged into third place in the NCHC.

DU goalie Tanner Jaillet was pulled last Friday after surrendering two goals on seven shots, and the Pioneers came back to win with Evan Cowley in net. Cowley is 73 of 74 since, so there’s an excellent chance he’s in net for the series opener, especially since Jaillet has an .897 save percentage vs. Miami.

No one on Denver’s roster has scored 10 goals, but seven skaters have five or more makers.

Dylan Gambrell – a freshman – leads the Pioneers in points with 24 on seven goals and 17 assists, and Trevor Moore leads the team in assists with 18 and has 21 points.

Danton Heinen has a team-best nine goals and has nine assists for 18 points.

The Pioneers have two blueliners who create offense as well. Will Butcher, a Colorado Avalanche draftee, has five goals and 11 assists, and Nolan Zajac – younger brother of NHLer Travis Zajac – has notched a goal and 12 helpers.
Freshman forward Josh Melnick has recorded points in four straight games, and senior forward Sean Kuraly and junior forward Anthony Louis have points in three consecutive tilts. Kuraly has notched six points during his run, including five assists.

Jay Williams.

Jay Williams.

Senior Jay Williams has been in net for all three of Miami’s wins during its current run. Classmate Ryan McKay has been scratched for all those games, and it’s unclear if he will return to the lineup this weekend.

These teams are 9-9 all-time against each other. They split their four regular season games in 2014-15, and Miami beat Denver in the NCHC Tournament. The Pioneers ended the RedHawks’ 2013-14 season by winning in the NCHC final.

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