Analysis: Better effort on D in Game 2
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami’s defense tightened up considerably on Saturday, and the RedHawks allowed five fewer goals. Plus the blueliners scored all of the team’s goals.
That allowed Miami to pull out a 2-2 tie vs. Providence in the second game in two nights at Cady Arena on Saturday.
The Friars had way too many high-percentage looks at the net in the opener and rarely missed on their opportunities. Those chances were limited in this game, as Providence scored on a blue line shot off ofn offensive zone faceoff win and a rebound shot.
It’s fair to admit that the Friars are the better team right now. They’re experienced, their defense is impressive on both ends of the ice, their forwards have pinpoint shooting accuracy and they have solid goaltending. You might have heard this team won the national championship last season.
Miami has a lot of those things, too, but not as consistently at present. Of course, this is Game 2, and that could change in the next few weeks, few months, or at least (hopefully) by tournament time.
A few other thoughts:
– The power play needs work. It never lived up to expectations last season, and now a number of new players are on these units. Miami went 1-for-10 on the man-advantage this weekend and didn’t seem to have much chemistry. Of course, this was opening weekend and there hasn’t been much chance to build that.
– Defenseman Louie Belpedio had an interesting first period, as he took two undisciplined penalties and then made up for it by scoring the first goal of the game. That makes it easy to forgive the minors.
– Senior goalie Ryan McKay looked a little rusty early but got better as the game went along. He stopped a shot when a forward was left alone in front of the net in the second period as was 15 of 16 the final 45 minutes. If McKay can become McKay Version 2013-14 this team could be in for a phenomenal season.
– As appealing as 3-on-3 is, it doesn’t seem worth it if there are no stakes. Josh Melnick capped off an outstanding first weekend with a completely meaningless 3×3 goal, as the teams decided to play after the tie was official as a demonstration to prepare for conference play. Despite an announcement outlining that, the message didn’t get through to the crowd, which seemed to think that goal meant something. Even in conference play it will only be worth an extra point.
The problem is: The NCAA doesn’t want results of its games decided by artificial means, including 4×4. This has been discussed repeatedly. But the conferences are given leeway in determining their own points systems, so long as games are recorded as ties after 65 minutes of 5×5. That’s where the shootout and now 3×3 hockey comes in. Again, the concept is great, and hats off to league commissioner Josh Fenton for implementing it, but the problem is: It’s confusing to fans. Even the scoreboard operator incorrectly changed the final to 3-2 after the Melnick goal. And there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer.
FORWARDS: D+. The forwards were shut out. Providence seemed to have sticks in the lanes at all times, and although Miami overall generated 30 shots, many were right into the goalie’s logo. Senior Alex Gacek did pick up two assists – his third and fourth already – and Roslovic got a primary helper on the tying Chris Joyaux goal. Melnick had an outstanding first weekend.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. This was the most improved area of the team from Friday to Saturday, and they scored both goals. Belpedio had the first one off a feed from senior Matthew Caito, and Joyaux banged home the equalizer. Freshman Grant Hutton iced the puck unnecessarily and it ultimately ended up in Miami’s net, but coach Enrico Blasi clearly likes him and with his size, speed and ability, it looks like it will be worth suffering through any early growing pairs to get him some in-game experience. Joyaux had the other goal despite being benched on Friday, and he played very well overall.
GOALTENDING: B+. McKay had little chance on the first goal, and the second was on a rebound. He scared the crowd early when a routine shot hit the top of his glove and popped into the air in front of him, but he got better as he settled in. It’s way too early to go with one goalie at this point, but McKay had the better game and has the edge at this point if/when that decision is made.
LINEUP CHANGES: Joyaux was scratched on Friday but game back with an excellent game on Saturday. Sophomore Scott Dornbrock sat in his place. Up front, it was freshman Kiefer Sherwood who was scratched in favor of senior Andrew Schmit, who knocked a player out of the game with a crushing hit along the boards. And of course, McKay started over classmate Jay Williams, which everyone expected after Friday’s game.