Analysis: Win over OSU a morale booster
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Granted it wasn’t against a top-10 team, but getting into the win column has to be a huge moral victory for Miami, especially on a late game winner.
The RedHawks won their road opener at Ohio State, 3-2 at Value City Arena on Friday on a rebound goal by Columbus native Jack Roslovic with 1:33 left.
Miami has a plethora of new forwards this season, and many are in the starting lineup because of their abilities, and also with three extra skaters on the roster including one blueliner, it was obvious most or all of them were going to get the opportunity to play.
Seeing four of them into the points column in this game (Roslovic, Josh Melnick, Kiefer Sherwood, Ryan Siroky) had to be a mental boost for all of them, and getting that first win does everyone good.
The offense was a concern heading into this season, with so many ultra-talented players from 2014-15 departing. But this team has scored eight goals in three games, which is neither bad nor good, and better things are ahead for this team.
One can see the passes that just miss, the chemistry that is still developing, the shots that aren’t quite perfect enough to hit the net. And let’s face it, the Ohio State ice does not exactly rival Edmonton.
We’ll say it again: The defense will be fine. Heck, Colin Sullivan was scratched in this game and he scored a beautiful goal last Friday and made very few mistakes last weekend.
The goaltending? Two fourth-year starters there. Can’t get more experienced there in college.
With the 2015-16 team, the question is always been about scoring enough goals. Three games into the season, Miami is already scoring at an OK clip, and the offense should only improve.
– Can’t say enough about how much better senior Alex Gacek has been this season. He kills penalties, he passes, he hits people – which almost defies physics at his size – he defends, he’s doing pretty much everything. Gacek finished strong in 2014-15 and it was hoped that would carry over to this season, but he has exceeded those expectations.
– Also impressed with the step up taken by senior Kevin Morris. He’s been seemingly everywhere so far this season.
– On defense, senior Chris Joyaux seems to have taken a big step forward as well. He was scratched for the season opener last week but has really earned a spot in the lineup with his play since.
– Senior Taylor Richart has been shooting and generally getting involved in the offense a lot more, which is a good thing. He had a shot redirected into the net last week, and he was firing from the blue line again on Saturday and pinched into the play several times. He’s such a smart player that he can be trusted to pick his spots while jumping in without getting caught.
– How about that Crash Cousins line? Andrew Schmit scored the first goal, and the whole line of him, Conor Lemirande and Ryan Siroky played well together. On a team that really only has two scoring lines at present, it was great to see this trio step up.
– Let the controversy begin: Josh Melnick is the best overall forward on the team right now. He’s an absolute pest on the PK (and how much confidence does Coach Enrico Blasi have in him to put a freshman right into the mix on the top PK unit?), he passes incredibly well, he goes into corners and win battles, he scores, he defends very well and steals pucks. Three games in, this kid is the biggest story on the team, especially since everyone knew Roslovic was going to be unreal. Roslovic hasn’t disappointed, Melnick has just been that good. And oh yeah, that winning goal? Melnick made that happen with a picture-perfect centering feed to Morris from along the boards.
– The penalty killing has been excellent. Miami allowed just two shots on three man advantages and is now 12 of 13 (92.3 percent) early in the season. Again, defense, goaltending, not a surprise this is a strength for the RedHawks. Add in a rejuvenated Gacek and Morris, plus Melnick up top and this team could stay above 90 percent this season. The power play on the other hand…but that will get better. Let’s hope.
– Kudos to Miami fans and event organizers who helped get Red and White fans in the seats for this game. RedHawks fans easily outnumbered Ohio State fans in the Buckeyes’ own rink and made a lot of noise. It’s possible there were more Miami fans at this game than at either for opening weekend at Cady.
FORWARDS: B. Miami missed some shots it should’ve buried early but got the big one from Roslovic when it needed it. In addition to the others mentioned above, Anthony Louis was more involved all around although he didn’t get on the scoresheet. Sherwood was OK in the opener, scratched for Game 2 and much more of a factor in this game. Overall there was a lot to like from this group, but the RedHawks’ opponent was nowhere near Providence level.
DEFENSEMEN: C. Belpedio fell into the boards with the puck, which directly resulted in the first goal against. On the second one, it looked like freshman Grant Hutton lost Anthony Greco as he skated to the net, resulting in the one-timer. Sophomore Scott Dornbrock, Joyaux and Belpedio all took penalties, and for the latter, that’s four minors in three games. Dornbrock struggled early but got better.
GOALTENDING: A-. McKay stopped 25 of 27 shots (.926) but after Belpedio slipped on the first goal, McKay was left out of position (he understandably couldn’t have anticipated Belpedio losing the puck there), and the second one was a point-blank one-time run he had no chance on. McKay didn’t face many other tough chances until the six minute of the third period, when Miami took a shift off and McKay had to make three great saves. He’s been very solid so far this season.
LINEUP CHANGES: Sherwood was dressed in place of senior Michael Mooney, and Dornbrock played in place of Sullivan. One could envision Blasi going with the same 12 forwards tonight, and which defenseman will sit is anyone’s guess, but Sullivan certainly should not be scratched every night. McKay started for the second straight game, which was interesting because Jay Williams was in net for the opener, so it’s unclear what Blasi will do for the finale. Knowing Blasi he won’t let Williams rot on the bench over one game, especially since numerous goals scored in that tilt weren’t his fault.