We’re seeing a recurring theme in January: Miami falls behind big then falls short in its comeback attempt.
The RedHawks have trailed by at least three goals in three straight games – all losses – including a 4-3 defeat at Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday in which they trailed by four but scored three times in the third period to cut the final deficit to one.
All have involved unorthodox goalie-pulling that has led to extended extra-attacker situations for Miami.
RECAP: After these teams combined for 18 goals on Friday, this game was scoreless after the first period.
However, Nebraska-Omaha scored four times in a 10:53 window to essentially win it.
Zach Jordan, Jake Randolph, Grant Gallo and Tyler Vesel all recorded goals, and Miami was down four heading into the final 20 minutes.
The RedHawks cut the lead to three just 101 seconds into the final stanza, as Phil Knies slammed home a loose puck at the side of the net off a Kiefer Sherwood shot.
Josh Melnick made it a two-goal game five minutes later when he batted a puck out of the air and into the net from the slot.
With the extra attacker, Phil Knies deflected in a shot by Chaz Switzer, and Miami was within one.
But the RedHawks had just one more quality scoring chance with time running out before dropping its third straight.
STATS: Like in the Denver finale, Miami was dominated in shots the first two periods before reversing course in the last 20 minutes. It was 23-15 in favor of UNO heading into the final stanza, but the RedHawks led, 16-4 in that frame. Last Saturday MU trailed, 28-5 against the Pioneers after 40 minutes but fired off 20 SOG to DU’s five in the last period.
– It was the third straight game in which Miami has scored an extra-attacker goal. The RedHawks pulled the goalie with 15 minutes left in the Denver finale, and Kiefer Sherwood scored, Casey Gilling picked up a 6-on-5 goal late on Friday and Phil Knies cut MU’s deficit to one on Saturday.
– Sherwood extended his points streak to five games, a current team best and a season long for the junior forward. He is 2-4-6 during his recent hot stretch.
– Phil Knies scored four goals and set up another this weekend. He had just three goals in the first 20 games of the season. Fellow freshman Ben Lown had six points entering this weekend but added four vs. UNO.
– Grant Hutton equaled his season output in assists prior to this weekend vs. UNO. He had four both before and during this series.
– G Ryan Larkin has allowed at least three goals in five straight outings.
– We’ve heard talk that officiating has gone against Miami too often. Through this game, Miami has had 99 power play chances. Its opponents: 100. The RedHawks have 28 special teams goals vs. their foes’ 21.
THOUGHTS: The obvious one is that Miami needs to show up for the first 40 minutes.
We get that this season’s team does not boast top-10 talent, but the RedHawks should not be hemorrhaging early goals at their recent rate in league games.
Enrico Blasi’s in-game coaching has definitely taken a step up this season, but even after multiple high-profile losses due to late goals against over the years, he has never been a fan of calling time-outs as a means of damage control.
UNO scored at the eight-minute mark of the second period to take a 1-0 lead, and the Mavericks added three more over a span of 5:14 that decided the game.
LINEUP CHANGES: The big one was Carson Meyer, who was scratched for the first time this season. Hopefully this sends a message to the talented Blue Jackets draftee, who has just seven points, is last on the team with a minus-10 rating and leads the team in penalty minutes.
Sometimes sitting a key player is an effective tool, and with Meyer recording just one point in his last nine games, his benching will hopefully serve as a wake-up call.
Christian Mohs also did not dress after playing on Friday. Ryan Siroky and Austin Alger returned to the lineup in their place.
On defense, Scott Dornbrock was scratched for the first time in five games. Rourke Russell, who sat Friday, skated in his place. These two and Grant Frederic have seemingly alternated in the five and six spots.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami can ill-afford a three-game losing streak, and now at 9-11-2 will have a tough road to the NCAAs.
The RedHawks are currently tied with Bowling Green for 17th in the PairWise (someone please explain how these two teams can be tied, since MU went 1-0-1 at BGSU earlier this season).
All of the eight NCHC teams have played in 12 of their 24 league games, and after Miami came away with zero of a possible six points, the RedHawks are in seventh place in the league, one point ahead of last-place Colorado College.
Barring a conference tournament win, the RedHawks now need to go at least four games over .500 down the stretch if it hopes to earn an at-large bid, and that means an 8-4 record to close out the regular season.
In a game that saw half of Nebraska-Omaha’s skaters find the net, it was only appropriate that the final tally was credited to goalie Evan Weninger.
That capped off the Mavericks’ 11-7 win over Miami at Baxter Arena on Friday, as UNO set a school record for goals and the RedHawks gave up their highest total in over two decades.
Down 4-1 early, Miami battled back to within one and continued to fight – at least offensively – until the final horn. But MU could never generate the equalizer.
This was certainly not the way the RedHawks wanted to start a stretch of four straight road games as they hang on the PairWise bubble.
RECAP: For a game that featured 18 goals, believe it or not none were scored in the first 10 minutes.
Grant Gallo and Jake Rudolph netted consecutive markers to make it 2-0, and after Miami’s Kiefer Sherwood scored on the power play, UNO potted two more in a 41-second window to close out the first period with a three-goal lead, with Tristan Keck and Joel Messner hitting the net.
The RedHawks (9-10-2) cut it to one on a blue-line blast by Louie Belpedio and a freshman-to-freshman connection of Phil Knies to Ben Lown.
But four more shots found their way in the final seven minutes of the middle stanza, with three coming by the Mavericks, sandwiching Knies’ second marker of the night.
Gordie Green scored off a Karch Bachman feed early in the third period, but it was the final gasp for Miami. Back-to-back UNO goals seven seconds apart made it a four-goal game, although Lown and Casey Gilling did record goals for the RedHawks in the final 11 minutes of regulation.
MU goalie Ryan Larkin was lifted after allowing six goals, and backup Chase Munroe was actually credited with the loss for giving up the final four, even though Miami never tied the score.
STATS: The RedHawks were actually the Redskins the last time they allowed this many goals in a game. MU lost, 13-0 at Michigan on Dec. 6, 1996, and had never surrendered double-digit goals under current coach Enrico Blasi.
– A pair of freshmen – Lown and Knies – set career bests with three points each. Knies scored twice and Lown went 1-2-3. Grant Hutton picked up three assists, also his high total as a RedHawk.
– Gilling and Sherwood both extended their points streaks to four games, tied for the longest on the team.
– Miami scored three times on the power play, reaching that mark for the fourth time this season.
– The flip side? The RedHawks had not given up more than two PPGs in any game in 2017-18. They allowed four on six chances in this game.
– Seven Miami players finished with multiple points. Ten picked up at least one point. Four Mavericks ended the night with at least four points.
– The three goalies’ combined save percentages were .707. Their goals-against averages were 8.76.
THOUGHTS: Where to start…
Oh I know, how about Miami’s complete lack of defense? Bill Clinton was in his first term as president the last time the RedHawks gave up this many goals in a game.
There’s plenty of blame to go around in this area. They won 46 percent of their faceoffs, losing some key ones in the offensive zone that led to goals. A common theme, too few UNO players paid any kind of price for setting up at the top of Miami’s crease.
One Nebraska-Omaha goal – forgive me for not being to recall which one of the 18 it was – saw a player carry the puck from behind the Miami net to the side of the cage and take a shot and a follow-up backhand that went in with no red jersey in sight.
Too many blown assignments, with UNO players not picked up in Miami’s offensive zone.
And there’s 22 of 32 shots saved by the netminders. Ryan Larkin had an off-night for sure, going just 15-for-21, but Chase Munroe looked rusty as well, stopping only 7 out of 11. It was Munroe’s first appearance of the regular season, although he did play in the exhibition vs. Team USA in mid-October.
Miami has built a reputation of defensive excellence under Blasi, but D definitely took the night off.
Want some positives?
– Freshmen combined for nine points, with Knies and Lown tallying three each, Gilling picking up two and Alec Mahalak notching an assist. All seem to be getting better as the season progresses.
– Sherwood’s four-game point streak is inspiring, as he seems to have shifted into a higher gear recently. He had picked up points in just three of Miami’s first 17 games and had seven overall after that span. Sherwood went 14-24-38 last season, tied for the team lead in goals and second in both assists and points.
LINEUP CHANGES: Two up front and one on defense.
Ryan Siroky sat for the first time since early October, as did Austin Alger, who had dressed for the last four. Willie Knierim was back on the ice after being scratched last Saturday, and Christian Mohs occupied the last forward spot, logging just his seventh game of 2017-18.
Rourke Russell was benched for just the third time this season. Grant Frederic, who had been out of the lineup three straight contests, took his place.
FINAL ANALYSIS: It would be tough to imagine the coaching staff being anything but irate after this effort.
Granted Miami did continue to fight after falling behind three early, but falling behind three early ultimately led to the RedHawks’ demise.
Grant Valentine didn’t exude confidence based on his relief appearance in net earlier this season, and Munroe, ditto.
That’s a problem, because if Larkin gets hurt or struggles in a game, Miami’s choices are limited.
Of course, we’d expect Valentine and/or Munroe to play better if either was called upon on more of a regular basis, but it’s pretty obvious that barring injury the odds are Larkin will start every regular season game.
Miami is now under .500 for the first time since late November, and its path to the NCAA Tournament will become smaller with each loss down the stretch.
OXFORD, Ohio – For a three-goal loss that was completely one-sided in the first two periods, Miami found a way to make the final 20 minutes interesting.
No. 5 Denver scored the first three goals in a 4-1 win over the RedHawks at Cady Arena on Saturday, as the teams split their weekend series.
The Pioneers (12-6-4) were a huge favorite, so winning one was a bit of a victory for the RedHawks. But since MU was .500 after the first half of the season, it needs to make up games somewhere, and this weekend wasn’t it.
This series was actually more of a reinforcement that, while the RedHawks (9-9-2) are improved over 2016-17, Miami’s overall talent does not match up with the NCAA’s elite.
RECAP: Denver scored twice in the first period and once more in the first minute of the final stanza to take a 3-0 lead.
The shots were 28-5 in favor of the Pioneers after 40 minutes.
But then it got interesting.
Miami pulled the goalie five minutes into the third period.
The RedHawks, who were anemic on the power play all night, thrived with the extra attacker.
Kiefer Sherwood broke after an extended 6-on-5 to make it 3-1.
And Miami drew a penalty on the goal, setting up a power play.
The crowd, comatose after the early domination, was suddenly into the game.
But the man-advantage fizzled and Denver eventually scored an empty netter to seal it.
Miami did outshoot Denver, 20-5 in the last 20 minutes.
STATS: Sherwood and Casey Gilling both extended points streaks to three games. Gilling is 2-3-5 in that stretch.
– Rare to see the starting/lone goalie of team log just 51:38.
– In the you’ll-see-something-new-every-time-you-go-to-the-rink department, Miami iced the puck twice while on a 6-on-5. The NCAA rule is that when a team ices the puck, no one on said team is allowed to leave, but apparently an exception is made for goalies. Both times the RedHawks did this they were able to pull one skater.
THOUGHTS: Not much to add from Friday’s game. Denver is more talented and came out aiming to prove that. Cudos to Miami for battling back in the third after an anemic first 40 minutes. And they were anemic.
FORWARDS: D. One goal only after the outcome had been decided. Gordie Green and Josh Melnick were both held without a shot.
DEFENSEMEN: D+. Too many high-percentage scoring chances for DU at this corps’ hands.
GOALTENDING: B. It was a shooting gallery for Ryan Larkin the first two periods. He made a couple of excellent saves and is certainly not accountable for the loss.
LINEUP CHANGES: Only one: Zach LaValle was in at forward, replacing Willie Knierim. Knierim had dressed in the last nine games, and LaValle had sat for three in a row.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Splits against top-10 teams are nice, but when you’re .500 heading into the break, at some point you have to sweep someone.
Denver is an exceptional team, and Miami will have to gain ground against someone else.
OXFORD, Ohio – Despite being outshot by more than a 2-to-1 margin, Miami found a way to hold off No. 5 Denver.
Three times the RedHawks led by two goals but saw that margin shrink to one each time as they escaped with a 4-3 win over the Pioneers at Cady Arena on Friday.
Denver (11-6-4) practically played keep-away with the puck all night, won the overwhelming majority of battles to loose pucks, had a better passing game, etc.
Miami (9-8-2) was outplayed in pretty much every aspect except the one that counts: Scoring goals.
The final shot total was 47-19 in favor of the Pioneers, and the disparity was amazingly consistent: DU 16-16-15, Miami 6-7-6.
RECAP: Casey Gilling scored 70 seconds in after a strange carom off the boards left him with the puck alone in front of a wide-open net.
Freshman defenseman Rourke Russell slammed home a rebound early in the second period to make it 2-0.
Denver cut the lead to one later that frame, but Miami went back up by two when Josh Melnick made a ridiculous behind-the-back pass to Gilling for a blast from the top of the faceoff circle.
That made it 3-1, and the Pioneers again cut the lead to one before Louie Belpedio ripped one home directly off a faceoff win by Melnick.
Denver scored again late and nearly tied it in the closing seconds.
STATS: Gilling finished with two goals and an assist for a career-best three points, and he was 11-6 on faceoffs. Melnick picked up a pair of helpers on each of the critical late goals. Goalie Ryan Larkin stopped 44 shots.
Dylan Gambrell scored twice on 12 – yes, 12 – shots on goal to pace Denver.
Miami was 2-for-4 on the power play and held the Pioneers to 0-for-5.
THOUGHTS: The process may have been ugly from a Miami perspective, but this Denver team is easily the best the RedHawks has hosted all year. The Pioneers’ skating, speed, defense and finishing ability shined in this game, and they are far more skilled than MU.
But despite being outmatched and not playing its best, Miami still found a way to win.
The RedHawks will need to beat a lot of ranked teams down the stretch if they hope to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.
From an entertainment perspective this game ranked as one of the best at Cady Arena this season, as Denver came close to tying it a couple of times in the closing moments.
– Gilling is quickly moving up the Miami forward depth chart. He now has 11 points, with six coming in the last five games, and his hockey IQ extremely high. His faceoff percentage is top on the team.
– Despite being in the J-term, the RedHawks’ brought in a “sold-out” crowd of 2,277 without a student section. The university bought its tickets and gave them to faculty, which could potentially add new fans, especially with the excitement level of this game.
– We’re tweaking the write-up format a little so we can get to the key points quicker, make for easier reading and try to conserve a limited amount of weekend free time. And we’re coming to the conclusion that if we can’t pump out a gamer within a few hours of the final whistle it serves little purpose. So we’re going with one story with the recap included. Reader input is always welcome.
FORWARDS: C. As is too often the case, Miami just doesn’t get much contribution by forwards not named Melnick or Gordie Green, and it’s now safe to throw Gilling into that list. Conor Lemirande played a lot on the PK and had a solid game overall. He picked up an assist and went plus-1. This corps finished with just 10 shots.
DEFENSEMEN: C+. The good: Belpedio scored the eventual game winner, Russell also found the net and blocked six shots. The bad: Overall this corps was unable to contain Denver’s super-talented forwards, who were able to skate around in Miami’s offensive zone seemingly at will. Chaz Switzer added three blocks including a critical one in the final minute that may have prevented a goal.
GOALTENDING: A-. Rarely does a goalie deserve this high of a grade after allowing three goals, but Larkin made 44 saves for a .936 save percentage, and without a strong presence in net Miami would’ve lost for sure. Didn’t get a great look at the first Denver goal but the second and third ones were nearly unstoppable.
LINEUP CHANGES: None. This is the second straight game in which the same 19 were on the lineup card.
WRAP-UP: Miami was held to its second-lowest shot total of the season and allowed 13 more SOG than in any game of 2017-18 and was able to beat the fifth-ranked team in Division I.
The hockey gods were with the RedHawks in this one.
This is basically the mid-point of the Miami hockey season, as the RedHawks are wrapping up a month-long regulation-game break and have 16 of 34 regular-season games remaining in 2017-18.
The hard data: MU is sixth in the eight-team NCHC and 8-8-2 overall.
But most importantly, the RedHawks are still 17th out of 60 in the PairWise.
That’s the position in which the RedHawks have placed themselves with their first-half performance.
Certainly better than last January 3, when Miami was 4-8-5 after a 10-game winless streak from Oct. 29-Dec. 9.
The RedHawks Version 2016-17 finished 1-12-2 in their final 15 games, and their struggles appeared to bleed into this fall, as they were 2-15-2 in a 19-game stretch through the second week of October.
During the 2017 calendar year MU was 12-20-4, a .389 win percentage, but after a 1-3 start to 2017-18, the team is the team is back to .500 for the season and is 4-2-1 in its last seven against mostly ranked teams.
Miami has definitely improved this season, and seems to be doing so on a weekly basis.
But .500 won’t get the RedHawks back to the NCAAs, even in the ultra-competitive NCHC. They likely need at least a 9-7 record and an opening-round league tournament series win to qualify, so the team development must continue.
Here are five things Miami needs to do if it hopes to play in its first Division I championship since 2015:
1) Cut down quality chances allowed. Opponents are generating fewer than 25 shots per game, but nearly three are going in on average. The RedHawks still leave the slot open too often and don’t always make the opposition pay the price in the crease area.
2) Generate scoring from players not named Green-Melnick-Belpedio-Hutton. Miami presently has two scoring lines – to be generous – and goals have been a rarity from the other two sets of forwards. This was a problem in 2016-17 as well.
3) Goaltending can still improve. Ryan Larkin makes a lot of quality saves and faces a lot of high-percentage chances, but his save percentage of .893 still needs to rise. Neither Chase Munroe nor Grant Valentine have done much to impress behind the first half of this season.
4) More production from the Columbus duo. Carson Meyer and Kiefer Sherwood have just 14 points between them and are both minus-7. Meyer also has 33 penalty minutes, with 25 coming off a major and two 10-minute misconducts taken out of frustration. This duo combined for 64 points in 2016-17.
5) Closing out games. Yeah, like this is a new one. Miami turned a two-goal lead into an overtime loss in its last game of 2017 at Western Michigan. It blew a one-goal edge in Bowling Green before that. Etc. Etc.
OXFORD, Ohio – Starting goalie Ryan Larkin logged 20 scoreless minutes, the Green-Melnick-Bachman line is a quasi-permanent thing and no one got hurt.
Those are the headlines from Miami’s 8-2 exhibition win over the University of Windsor at Cady Arena on Saturday.
To address the relevance of this meeting first though: This game was a well-scheduled tune-up for the RedHawks, whose last game was three weeks ago.
That’s a long time to go between contests in any sport. Plus in recent years, Miami has struggled in the games immediately following Christmas break.
This way, the RedHawks could get its regulars ice time and allow others to earn experience by logging valuable minutes as well.
The downside to NCAA-CIS (Canada’s version of the NCAA) matchups is CIS teams play more of a pro style of hockey. Meaning half-shields instead of cages and more importantly, an increased tolerance of chippiness.
That addresses the final headline point: No one gets hurt, and additionally, no one gets suspended.
It can seem like there’s little upside to these exhibitions.
Anyway, on Larkin: He played the first period, presumably to knock off any down-time rust. Good call by the coaches to keep him sharp without overusing him during a season he’s clearly destined to log almost all of Miami’s minutes between the pipes.
Chase Munroe played the second period, Grant Valentine the third, as both of Windsor’s goals were scored under Valentine’s watch.
Then there’s the first line: Karch Bachman joined Josh Melnick and Gordie Green at the end of the Cornell series, and they were together at Western Michigan and again in this game.
They combined for three goals and five assists, with each tallying at least two points.
Melnick recorded a game-best four points on two markers and a pair of helpers.
Bachman has blazing speed and a super-quick shot release, so he provides another sniper on the first line, and he has also moved into a penalty killing role this season. He is 3-6-9 this season after racking up just six points his freshman season.
Green and Melnick – should we call them Grelnick? – clearly make this offense go, and being the third member of their line is a privilege.
– To catch up: Decembers are tough in this part-time writer’s full-time vocational field, thus the lack of content here, but Miami split its final two NCHC games at Western Michigan, winning 5-2 on Friday and dropping a 4-3 overtime decision in the finale.
Saturday’s loss was tough to accept, as the RedHawks led 3-1 in the second player before allowing a natural hat trick – with the latter coming in overtime.
That was the second time in three weekends Miami saw a Saturday outcome flipped. The RedHawks also ended up tying Bowling Green on Nov. 25 on an extra-attacker goal with 38 seconds left.
– Miami is currently sixth in the NCHC with a 3-4-1 league record, although the RedHawks have played two fewer games than all of the top five teams. MU has completed its non-conference schedule, as its remaining 16 regular season games are all against league opponents.
– Perhaps the best news is that Miami is 17th in the PairWise rankings, which ultimately determine which teams qualify for the NCAA Tournament. In a 16-team Division I tournament with at-large bids, typically a PairWise rank of 12 or 13 is considered safe.
– Love the toughness from Chaz Switzer, who blocked a slap shot in the leg and returned after a brief stint in the locker room, and Conor Lemirande, who needed facial sowing after scoring a goal but returned.
– Also love the game-to-game improvement by Ben Lown. The freshman scored and picked up an assist.
– Miami had 21 skaters for this game, three more than is allowed in NCAA play, and forwards Christian Mohs and Zach LaValle and defenseman Grant Frederic were listed as the extra bodies. F Carter Johnson, F Alex Alger, D Bryce Hatten and G Evan McCarthy were the only RedHawks who did not dress.
– Denver’s up next. The Pioneers are No. 5 in the PairWise and second in the USCHO poll. Big two games in Oxford this Friday and Saturday.
OXFORD, Ohio – Well, maybe it’s best to look at the weekend as a whole.
After an epic win over No. 5 Cornell on Friday, Miami dropped a 4-0 decision at Cady Arena on Saturday to finish the weekend with a split.
Back to the old cliché that if you knew heading into the series that the RedHawks would take 1 of 2 against the fifth-ranked team in Division I, would you be happy with that?
Most would probably say yes, especially considering Miami is a .500 team right now.
Yeah, Saturday was forgettable. There were the defensive lapses, poor officiating and the inability of the RedHawks to do anything offensively the first two periods.
The game was pretty much over when the Big Red (10-2) fired the third goal in, 38 seconds after their second, as a player stood wide open in the slot waiting for a pass.
The better team took advantage of two early power plays and lackadaisical play on the third, then coasted the final 47 minutes, as Cornell entered play allowing 2.00 goals and 23.6 shots per game.
Shut down is the Big Red’s specialty.
Miami needs to find to way to overcome that vs. the balance of its NCHC slate chock full of high-ranked teams.
No forward not named Melnick, Green or Gilling has recorded a point in the past three games.
– Another disclaimer that we try to keep official criticism to a minimum, but this group of refs Nick Krebsbach and Brad Shepherd and linesmen Ryan Madsen and Paul Karnathan were truly brutal.
The Grant Hutton call on Friday was nowhere near a major, and yet they initially ruled a game disqualification against the defenseman, which carries and automatic suspension before reducing it to a 5-and-10.
It’s hard to believe that was a miscommunication issue between the on- and off-ice officials, and the off-ice officials relayed a DQ penalty to the PA announcer.
– Then there was the faceoff fiasco. Gilling had an in-depth discussion with a lineman before a drop on Friday, and in this game, Gilling took exception to a Cornell foe’s positioning, and he was booted by one of the refs after he refused to move into faceoff position.
Gilling later received a 10-minute misconduct, and interestingly did not return.
Alec Mahalak was drilled in the head at his own blue line. No call.
To be fair, the loss shouldn’t be blamed on officiating, but it hurts the integrity of the game.
Cornell was the better team and deserved to win. But film of this series will not be used in the how-to portion of the officials’ training videos.
– No forward not named Gilling, Melnick or Green recorded a point on the weekend.
– With Gilling gone, Karch Bachman joined the Green-Melnick line but results were inconclusive.
FORWARDS: F. Just 17 shots and obviously no goals. Once again a key member of this corps was out of action for an extended period of time for arguing (Gilling). Not much going on at all after the top line.
DEFENSEMEN: C+. The first two Cornell goals were scored on the power play, and the third was on a breakdown in slot coverage. This corps wasn’t a huge factor in the outcome.
GOALTENDING: B-. Ryan Larkin was 19 of 22 and was pulled with five minutes left and Miami down by three. The first goal was very stoppable, but the next two on a tip-in and a point-blank shot, respectively.
LINEUP CHANGES: On defense, Scott Dornbrock returned to the lineup as Rourke Russell sat. Russell had played 14 of the first 15 games, and Dornbrock has missed just two contests. Zach LaValle was back on the ice in favor of Austin Alger, who logged limited minutes in his return from injury on Friday.