Analysis: Goaltending, D key Miami win
OXFORD, Ohio – Five minutes in, it looked like a bad Friday night was in store for Miami and its fans.
RedHawks senior goalie Ryan McKay allowed a weak shot from Western Michigan’s Paul Stokyewych to slip through his legs for the first goal of the game after Miami dominated play to that point.
But the RedHawks bounced back from the early deficit to beat the Broncos, 2-1 at Cady Arena.
McKay looked shaky through the first period and didn’t appear to see the puck well, but he was an absolute rock the final 40 minutes, especially the last 20 when the team needed him most.
And that’s exactly what Miami needs every night right now.
Including the two goals tonight, the RedHawks have scored three times in three games and are averaging just 2.00 markers per game. They have not netted more than three in any contest this season.
Right now it’s freshmen Jack Roslovic and Josh Melnick and the defense corps, believe it or not, scoring for Miami. That’s it.
Think that’s an exaggeration? Forwards not named Roslovic and Melnick have scored a total of four goals through the team’s first nine games and one in the last five.
This is not to doom-and-gloom a win, because the offense will get better. And the RedHawks have a highly-experienced defense corps and senior goaltending tandem who all knew what they were getting into this season with severe losses up front.
– For a game with only three goals scored, it was highly entertaining. Miami played great the first period, so well there was almost no need for the Zamboni to scrape the RedHawks’ end after the first intermission. MU played pretty well in the second as well and not as great in the final stanza, but overall deserved this win.
– Western Michigan is much better than in 2014-15. This was my first look at the Broncos this season after seeing them play Miami seven times last season, and they move the puck better, play even better defense and have better offensive weapons. The goaltending was also exemplary on Friday. The win for the RedHawks was quality, and a sweep will be difficult to accomplish but meaningful if they do.
– Miami coach Enrico Blasi is not only shaking up the forward lines but the defensive pairings as well. He broke up top pairing senior Matthew Caito and sophomore Louie Belpedio, possibly because Belpedio hasn’t stepped up from his freshman campaign as hoped and expected. The forward line of Andrew Schmit-Josh Melnick-Anthony Louis played well together, and the Ryan Siroky-Kiefer Sherwood-Conor Lemirande line was also solid despite the former two being freshmen and the latter being a sophomore.
– There were just seven total penalties called – two of which were coincidental – in a game that was very physical early with some plays bordering on illegal, so expect another hard-hitting game on Saturday with stickwork and hits that might cross the line at times.
– The crowd fell a hair short of 3,000, which is disappointing, but it was a loud group that created a solid home atmosphere.
– Friday was the first attempt at a fan tunnel down the hall where Miami’s players come onto the ice for introductions, and we were fortunate enough to participate. This was a very cool concept that is in its infancy and has room to evolve. Certain season ticket holders and some students were chosen to stand right next to red carpet on which the players walk to reach the ice. It appeared to go very well.
FORWARDS: B. The two goals scream “here we go again with little offense”, but some credit belongs to the WMU D-corps, which is relentless at getting sticks in lanes, and Broncos goalie Collin Olson, who was 36-for-38. As mentioned above, a couple of line combinations worked really well. Roslovic’s goal was just sick, as no goalie in the NHL would’ve stood a chance to stop it, and the Schmit-Melnick goal was a beautiful thing to watch. It felt like these guys were on the right track, at least for this game.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. Neither team had a clear-cut odd-man break until the third period, but Miami had a blueline breakdown on a power play that led to a breakaway (which McKay stopped). It was a makeshift man-advantage unit with Caito and senior Taylor Richart on defense. There was also a point in that frame in which a WMU forward was left completely alone in the slot and fortunately for the RedHawks missed the net with his ensuing shot. It looked like sophomore Scott Dornbrock left his post on that play. But that was it in terms of quality chances. Caito has made numerous obvious shut-down defensive plays recently, and with two seconds left in regulation he went down to block a centering feed that could’ve led to the tying goal. Chris Joyaux is off to a great start to his senior campaign as well and played with Belpedio in this game.
GOALTENDING: A-. The first goal was bad, no doubt. But McKay stopped the next 23, including a breakaway to pick up his 33rd career win. His first 20 minutes were a bit shaky, but when he saw more action he got better. It bears repeating: If this team is going to have success early this season it needs strong goaltending in addition to quality defense. For the most part it got both on Friday.
LINEUP CHANGES: Richart was out for both games last weekend (banged up?) but returned for this game. He’s become a staple on defense and his presence is missed when he doesn’t play. Colin Sullivan was the odd man out on D in this game. Forwards Michael Mooney and Devin Loe both sat for the second straight game. McKay returned to net after senior Jay Williams started the finale in St. Cloud. McKay has played in eight of Miami’s nine games.