Monthly Archives: January 2016

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.

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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.

Blue line is Caito’s institute

OXFORD, Ohio – A successful career in college athletics has always been in Matthew Caito’s pedigree.

Several members of the senior defenseman’s family have competed for Division I schools.

But not in hockey, a seemingly unlikely sport of choice for a 22-year-old raised in Southern California.

His parents, both college athletes originally from New England, encouraged the 5-feet-11, 187-pound Caito to choose hockey, and it was a natural fit.

“They just really started getting me into it, and I really liked it,” Caito said. “Got my first stick when I was really little and I fell in love with it.”

Caito’s father and grandfather both played football for Boston University, and he had uncles that suited up for the Boston College and University of Pittsburgh football teams.

Matthew Caito confronting a Notre Dame player as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito confronting a Notre Dame player as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

His aunts played field hockey, and his mother was a collegiate gymnast.

The increasingly-violent nature of football is why Caito was steered away from the gridiron. However, rinks are rare in the San Diego suburb of Coto de Caza, where he hails from.

With limited local practice facilities, Caito spent of lot of time traveling in search of ice.

“It’s tough – the minimum ride is probably 30 minutes with no traffic, and with traffic it’s probably an hour-plus,” Caito said. “My parents were always good about getting me there, so I really thank them for all of the time and effort that they put into that – getting me to practices every day.”

Caito’s hockey talent was obvious, so during his high school years he was sent across the country to the Salisbury prep school in Connecticut, where he joined current teammate Kevin Morris.

“That’s where you kind of gauge yourself when you’re younger,” Caito said. “Obviously you’ve got to realize you’ve got time to develop, so going back east where it’s easier (to be discovered), that was really the gauging point where maybe I could do something with this.”

Following two years in prep school, Caito spent one season in juniors, playing for Dubuque, where he was second in defenseman points (26) and first among blueliners in assists (19). He finished that campaign with the second-best plus-minus on the team at plus-16.

Matthew Caito as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

During his prep school years, Caito participated an evaluation camp in Oxford with former RedHawk Riley Barber while current MU assistant coach Brent Brekke was in attendance, setting the stage for Caito’s Miami career.

Caito fell in love with the campus as soon as he saw it. Knowing that friends and classmates Jay Williams and Alex Gacek, who were also in east-coast prep schools, were both committed to Miami helped seal his decision.

“I’m like, if there’s more kids like these that are coming in with my class these are going to be a great four years, and it’s been that way,” Caito said.

A goal of Caito’s was to come to Oxford as a true freshman, and after just one season in the USHL, he dressed for Miami on opening night in October of 2012.

Matthew Caito at the outdoor game at Soldier Field in 2013 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito at the outdoor game at Soldier Field in 2013 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

“He’s obviously pretty offensive-minded at times, but he’s very dependable, pretty good defensively,” RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi said. “We just felt like he would be an all-around player for us on the D-side of things.”

All he did his rookie season was lead the RedHawks in defensemen goals, assists and points (5-6-21).

“Obviously he’s tremendously talented and he’s got the work ethic and the right mindset and the good head on his shoulders,” Williams said. “He comes to work every day to make the most of it. Pretty much from Day 1 he’s been first D-pair for us and played 30 minutes a night. Just the experience and the attitude he brings is invaluable to the team.”

He was the lone freshman to play every game in 2012-13, led Miami with 81 blocked shots and he tied for third with a plus-12 rating on a team that advanced to the NCAA regional final in Toledo.

“He just has a knack for seeing the ice,” senior defenseman Taylor Richart said. “Stretch plays that will open up, and he’ll know it’s going to open up before that even happens. I think that’s just having the hockey IQ that he has and just studying the game – he’s always watching video, stuff like that – I think knowing the players and being around the game so much, he knows what’s going to happen before it actually happens.”

Matthew Caito as a sophomore (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito as a sophomore (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Sophomore season was a disappointing one for the RedHawks overall, the lone campaign in the last 10 years they did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but Caito led the team in blocks again with 73.

Matthew Caito as a junior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito as a junior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

He also topped the defense corps in assists (13) and points (16), finishing with more helpers than the second- and third-best D-men combined in that category.

It was another solid season for Caito as a junior, as he went 4-20-24 – again posting Miami defensemen highs in the latter two – and he led the team with a plus-19 rating and in blocked shots with 64. That includes a goal and an assist in the RedHawks’ NCAA Tournament loss to Providence.

“Matty’s decision-making has gotten a lot better at times,” Blasi said. “When he’s playing well he keeps things simple he makes smart plays in the defensive zone and the offensive zone.”

This season, Caito has three goals and six assists for nine points and 32 blocks. All of his goals have come on the power play, and he netted the game winner at Nebraska-Omaha on Jan. 22 in a 3-1 win over the seventh-ranked Mavericks.

That’s a total of 250 blocked shots. In 3½ seasons, Caito has recorded 15 goals and 55 assists for 70 points. He currently ranks ninth in school history in defenseman assists and points and is tied for eighth in markers.

Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart celebrate after winning the NCHC championship in 2015 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart celebrate after winning the NCHC championship in 2015 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

“For the most part he’s been really dependable and reliable back there for us,” Blasi said. “He’s played a lot of minutes and a lot of games for us, and that’s what we thought we saw in the future when we were recruiting him. I would say he’s done everything that we expected him to do.”

In the Cady Arena era, Alec Martinez is the only defenseman with more goals than Caito, and Martinez has won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings.

And then there’s Caito’s durablility. He has missed one game in his career at Miami, and that was the opener in 2014-15. He has played in 142 games and is just 16 shy of cracking the top 10 in team history.

For that to happen, the RedHawks need to play three postseason games, and they are guaranteed two in the best-of-3 first-round series under the NCHC format. Curtis McKenzie and Joe Hartman are currently tied for ninth all-time with 158 games played.

The statistics don’t always do responsible defensemen justice, but Caito has improved in his play across the board, from clearing pucks on the penalty kill to becoming more physical and knocking forwards entering the offensive zone around.

“I’m happy, it’s all like the simple plays and consistency is the big thing I’ve learned since being a freshman and coming in and all that,” Caito said. “Really, playing sound in my own end and making good decisions with the puck is a huge thing. And then offensively, working with Coach Blasi and Coach (Nick) Petraglia and Coach Brekke, just working on finding lanes to the net and finding guys’ sticks – simple stuff that helps you statistically over the years.”

Richart is one of his best friends on the team, and the two have been friends since coming to Oxford. The duo is nicknamed the Rock Brothers because they are so close, and both are similarly solid on defense.

“I knew (Caito) a little bit playing against him in juniors…and when I met him my visit freshman year I knew he was going to be one of the hard workers,” Richart said. “Kind of had his head on straight, and I looked up to him right when I first got here because I knew he was a good defenseman. He knew what he was talking about – defensive partner to (Steve) Spinell – so comes to the rink, works hard every day. He’s a great kid.”

Richart has seen Caito’s improvement first hand over the past four years.

“I think his all-around game defensively, always closing guys off, being tough to play against, a tough-nosed defenseman,” Richart said. “He has that offensive side to him, too, where his shot is great. He knows when to step up into the play, and he knows when to stay back, and I think (his) reading the situation has gotten a lot better with him.”

Matthew Caito as a senior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito as a senior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

And Caito has made Williams’ life much easier in front of him with his tough defensive play.

“He’s so smart with the puck and he’s so steady, and his consistency – you know what you’re going to get,” Williams said. “Good day, bad day, whatever, he’s real steady, real even-keeled. He keeps his emotions in check, and he’s just a tremendous player.”

Caito is set to graduate this spring with a 3.0 grade-point average in sports management with a minor in economics.

His professional future appears bright. Any AHL team would be lucky to have a two-way defenseman with Caito’s talent.

But for the next couple of months, Caito is focused on completing his degree and his senior season, and he reflected on his time at Miami.

“It’s meant so much,” Caito said. “I have my best friends here – I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Just to share it with these guys is awesome. The school is beautiful, everyone around it is great, great community, great experience, and it’s something that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

Secondary scoring huge for Miami

Miami broke out with seven goals on Saturday, and its scorers had a combined nine markers this season entering that game.

While it’s obviously insane to expect that kind of offense from second-, third- and fourth-line forwards on a regular basis, the RedHawks – at least for one night in a 7-3 win vs. Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena – appeared to be over the forcefield-across-the-threshold-of-the-net blues that plagued them for many of their first 22 contests.

The reaction from 800 miles to east, behind a computer screen in a cozy back room, was 50 percent what-in-the-world-is-going-on-but-this-is-awesome and 50 percent it’s-about-time-some-of-those-shots-that-had-been-whistling-just-wide-or-off-posts-the-past-four-months-finally-found-twine.

The obvious question no one has the answer to is: Is the drought finally over or was this a three-hour reprieve?

Miami entered this weekend 53rd out of 60 in Division I in offense. The RedHawks aren’t that bad.

Miami's Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami scored seven times on Saturday, and only one of those was by a usual sniping suspect: Anthony Louis.

The RedHawks aren’t that good. No team is.

The word of the night, and the series, and the past nine days for that matter dating back to the Bowling Green win, is encouraging.

Two more words could determine how the rest of this season goes for MU: Secondary scoring.

Team leader Jack Roslovic, who had nine tallies this season, has one goal in his last 10 games. Josh Melnick is second overall with six but has one marker in 11 tilts.

Miami has still won three straight.

This team has seven excellent defensemen and two fantastic goalies. It doesn’t need to lead the NCAA in goals.

The RedHawks are now at 2.38 per game, up to 49th, and an average of 3.17 during their current 4-1-1 run. If they can come close to that clip, the back end should take care of the rest, and this could be a fun couple of months.

Only once in the past 11 games has Miami allowed more than three goals, so three should be enough most nights.

Back to the secondary scoring.

Could Kevin Morris could find the net a few more times during the stretch run like he did in both ends of this series?

Or is it a reach to suggest that Zach LaValle, who seems to get better every game, could start pumping in the occasional goal?

How about an occasion tally – not three a night, obviously – from wide-bodied Conor Lemirande, who showed an ability to use his hands to find the net and was able to tip in a shot while in the goalie’s face (with help from linemate and cousin Andrew Schmit, who picked up primary assists on two of his goals)?

Miami's Sean Kuraly (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Sean Kuraly (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The biggest question of this set is Sean Kuraly, since he has the potential to generate the most offense of this group.

Can he continue to play at the level he has the last three games, during which he has six points?

These don’t seem like outrageous questions to anyone who has seen this team frequently, and if the answer is “yes” to most, that goals-per-game average should continue to improve along with the team’s win total.

It was just one game, of course, but that’s on top of two other wins vs. highly-ranked teams, which has to have a confidence carryover for the entire team heading into a crucial four-game homestand and the second half of the NCHC slate.

Other thoughts…

– Miami did get a little sloppy with the big lead and could’ve finished better. Amazingly, the RedHawks were actually outshot overall, 30-27 after netting six goals on 12 shots in the second period.

– It was comical that when UNO scored late, the scoreboard operator initially gave the score to Miami, as the top of the screen read 8-2. Force of habit from the previous period, perhaps.

– Coach Enrico Blasi’s starting 19 were the same on Saturday as Friday. Evan McCarthy was still listed as the backup goalie.

– Speaking of Blasi, let’s give some credit to the coaching staff as well for this mid-season turnaround. Two weeks ago Miami was 6-11-3 and one point away from the NCHC cellar. Somehow they got this team to turn it around and win a couple of close games, followed by this not-to-close game.

– Segueing again, if Louis doesn’t score with two seconds left to beat Bowling Green last weekend, does Miami go into Omaha Friday and Saturday and pound the seventh-ranked team in Division I back-to-back nights on its own rink? Probably not?

Miami scores 7, sweeps UNO

Miami took out a half season of offensive frustrations on Nebraska-Omaha.

The RedHawks, who had not scored more than four goals in any game this season, struck for six in the second period alone in a 7-3 win over the No. 7 Mavericks at Baxter Arena on Saturday, completing a series sweep.

That extended MU’s winning streak to three games. Miami beat UNO, 3-1 on Friday following a 2-1 victory vs. Bowling Green last weekend. The RedHawks have lost just one of their last six games (4-1-1).

Miami's Conor Lemirande (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Conor Lemirande (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Sophomore forward Conor Lemirande, who had netted one career goal entering this contest, recorded the first Miami hat trick of the season.

Miami opened the scoring when senior forward Andrew Schmit passed a puck off the boards behind the net, and the carom came to Lemirande, who buried it from the side of the net with 4:02 left in the first period.

The net seemed to double in size once the middle stanza began.

Senior center Sean Kuraly centered a puck from along the boards to classmate and forward Kevin Morris, who one-timed one home from the slot 42 seconds into that frame.

Kuraly made it 3-0 just over two minutes later when he slammed home a one-touch pass from Morris at the inside edge of the faceoff circle.

The Mavericks cut the lead to two when Ryan Galt played a puck on net, and when RedHawks senior goalie Jay Williams did not handle it cleanly, Mason Morelli jammed it home with 11:54 left in the period.

Lemirande answered, taking a pass from senior forward Alex Gacek from the corner and beating UNO goalie Kirk Thompson on the stick side midway through the period.

Lemirande completed his hat trick with 6:58 to play in the frame, tipping home a Schmit shot from the blue line to give Miami a 5-1 lead.

The RedHawks would add two more tallies in the next three minutes. Junior forward Anthony Louis ripped a cross-crease pass from Kuraly past Thompson, and Kuraly set up a goal by forward Zach LaValle.

Kuraly slid a pass from behind the net to the wide-open freshman in the shot, and LaValle wired it past Thompson on the blocker side to cap off Miami’s scoring.

Nebraska-Omaha did add a pair of scores on slap shots from the blue line to cut the final deficit to four.

It was the first six-goal period for Miami since Feb. 26, 2010 vs. Ohio State.

Kuraly finished with a career-best four points (1-3-4), and his three assists tied a career high.

Lemirande became the only active RedHawk with a hat trick in his career. This season, no one on the team had scored more than one goal in any game.

In its last six games, Miami has scored 18 second-period goals vs. UNO, including 12 in its last four. The last time the RedHawks netted at least seven goals in a game was Dec. 5, 2014 vs. Nebraska-Omaha in Oxford.

Lemirande now has six career points, with four coming against the Mavericks.

LaValle finished with a goal and two assists, Morris notched a marker and an assist and Schmit ended the night with a pair of helpers.

LaValle had never recorded more than one point in a game, and it was the second career two-point tilt for Schmit.

With the three points on Saturday and six for the weekend, MU vaulted Western Michigan and moved into a tie for fifth with UNO at 16 points in the NCHC standings. The RedHawks also improved to 20th in the PairWise rankings.

Miami opens a four-game homestand with a two-game series vs. Denver on Jan. 29-30.

Analysis: Miami thriving late in games?

Following Miami’s painful struggles late in games earlier this season, the RedHawks have now pulled off back-to-wins in the closing minutes.

The RedHawks beat No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha, 3-1 at Baxter Arena on Friday, thanks largely to senior defenseman Matthew Caito’s one-timer that put MU ahead for good with 2:03 left.

Miami also beat Bowling Green on Oxford last weekend on a marker by senior forward Anthony Louis in the final seconds.

This game was payback for earlier in the season when the Mavericks stole four points from the RedHawks in the Oxford series. A third-period goal helped UNO earn a tie in the first game of that set, and Nebraska-Omaha took the finale in overtime.

Coming out on the wrong side numerous times in the first half of this campaign had two possible outcomes: 1) Crash and burn, let’s try it again next fall, or 2) get stronger, learn how to deal with those situations and start winning.

At least in the last seven days, Miami looks like it has chosen the latter.

It’s obvious 22 games into this season that this isn’t the 2007-08 RedHawks in terms of talent, or even the 2014-15 team. Miami clearly doesn’t have that kind of offensive firepower.

But there’s still plenty of talent there, and the freshmen development – Ryan Siroky, Kiefer Sherwood, Josh Melnick, Grant Hutton, Zach LaValle – has been steady. Jack Roslovic needs to get going again, but he is likely the most talented of all the RedHawks and the smart money is on him heating up again soon.

Anthony Louis is doing his annual getting-hot-in-the-second-half thing. Sean Kuraly looks so much better than he did in October when he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Alex Gacek is having his best season, and it’s fun to watch his supersonic speed.

The defense is so good that poor Colin Sullivan – a top six on almost every team in Division I – can’t get into the lineup consistently. Scott Dornbrock, who was maybe the No. 5 or 6 blueliner coming in, has been a rock the last few games, and the three seniors on that corps are playing like Miami seniors should.

Williams2

Jay Williams

And let’s not discount goaltending. Since the Ryan McKay meltdown, Jay Williams is 2-0 with a 0.80 goals-against average and a .968 save percentage.

Not piling on McKay, but all along it looked like this team needed something to fire it up. Perhaps in some way that was it. College seniors like Williams who are in the final stretch run of their amateur careers can do amazing things when given the opportunity.

Miami will need to win a lot more games like this: Low-scoring, tight-checking contests against top 10 teams. But for two games at least, the RedHawks appear up for the challenge, and there is still plenty of time for them to get back into NCAA Tournament contention.

Other thoughts…

– 76 faceoffs. Yikes. The officials probably have sore jaws from using their whistles. Still too many off-sides and icing violations for late January, and Miami won less than half of those draws.

– Overall, Miami has been much better in the third period in recent games. In their last six contests, the RedHawks have outscored opponents, 7-3 in the final stanza.

– Speaking of officiating, it was pretty bad both ways. The penalties were inconsistent, and even the announcers were stunned that Zach LaValle’s goal was overturned. For those who didn’t see, LaValle backhanded a loose puck after UNO goalie Zach Blankenburg made an initial save. Blankenburg was sprawled out, and LaValle grazed him with his skate as he addressed the puck, but the goalie was in no way interfered with.

– But Miami kept up the surge in that second period, outshooting the Mavericks, 15-6 after an evenly-played, slow-paced first frame.

– This game was nationally broadcast on CBS College Sports, but for a brand-new arena that looked beautiful, the in-game camera was way too far away, making it difficult to follow the puck at times even in HD.

Starman

Star Man

– While Ben Holden and the Starmen do a great job with all college hockey broadcasts – this one being no exception – the lovefest for Austin Ortega was Pat Cannone-esque over the top. And their nickname of California Hot Sauce is a stretch at best. Actually, isn’t the Ortega brand best known for its taco sauce?

– Apparently Miami has truly reached the big time, as play-by-play announcer Greg Waddell was picked up from the Omaha airport via limo.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B-. Not a fan of the Roslovic-Justin Greenberg-Sherwood line combination, although it did produce the first goal. For the most part, there’s no chemistry between the trio, and Sherwood scored after seizing a loose puck caused by Greenberg absorbing a hit, which while a good hockey play has nothing to do with players jelling.

Miami's Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Roslovic is too good to have his offensive prowess stifled and needs to play on a line that enhances his game instead of hindering it. Liking the Louis-Melnick-Gacek line though. Louis was everywhere in this game, and Melnick had one of his best efforts in recent history as well. Bottom line: They generated two goals – should’ve been three with LaValle’s shot – and one was an empty netter. But the effort was solid, and this corps should be able to continue building from this game.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Caito’s game winner was the biggest play of the game. Hutton and Dornbrock stepped up in this one, and the rest of this group played at its usual high level. The double minor to Chris Joyaux did lead to UNO’s lone goal, although the case could’ve been made that it should’ve been coincidentals after the retaliation slashes Joyaux too. But still, this Mavericks team is too potent to get five power plays.

GOALTENDING: A+. Here’s where the game was won. Williams stopped 27 of 28 shots, and the one that got by was a rip by one of the top scorers in college hockey on a one-timer off a pass through the slot on the power play. Williams had no chance on it. He made the save of the year with his glove in the first period off a one-timer from right on the doorstep in the first period, shut down another excellent chance off a passing play through the offensive zone and made a big stop after Miami had taken the lead to preserve the win. With Miami’s lack of offense, the pressure on Williams must be intense, and he has stepped up the challenge back-to-back games.

LINEUP CHANGES: None. This is about the time of year that Coach Enrico Blasi likes to settle on 18 skaters and stick with it for the most part, and it looks like this is the group he likes for the stretch run. Michael Mooney and Colin Sullivan were scratched for the second straight game, and Devin Loe has not dressed in any of the last four. Ryan McKay also sat again, as third goalie Evan McCarthy remained in the active backup role for the second consecutive tilt.

Late goal lifts Miami over No. 7 UNO

Miami’s power play could not have picked a better time to break out of its funk.

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Senior defenseman Matthew Caito ripped home the decisive goal late in the third period as the RedHawks took down No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha, 3-1 at Baxter Arena on Friday.

The win snapped a seven-game road losing streak for Miami and vaulted the RedHawks into a tie for 23rd in the PairWise rankings, which determine qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

There was no flow in a first period that ended scoreless.

Early in the second period, Miami freshman forward Zach LaValle appeared to open the scoring with a behind-the-back backhand that slid into the net. It was ruled a goal on the ice but was reversed by the officials, claiming LaValle interfered with the goaltender.

But the RedHawks (8-11-3) kept the pressure on, and classmate and fellow forward Kiefer Sherwood bounced off a defender, seized the puck and whipped a wrister home from the slot after skating in from along the boards with 6:13 left in the middle frame.

The Mavericks (15-7-1) tied it 3:32 into the third period when a wide-open Austin Ortega ripped a one-timer into the net off a pass through the crease.

Miami junior forward Anthony Louis won a battle along the boards with a strong stick, skated to the side of the net and threaded a pass through the slot to the top of the opposite faceoff circle, where Caito blasted the go-ahead goal into the top of the net with 2:03 left.

Senior forward Kevin Morris added an empty netter with 27 seconds remaining to cap the scoring.

Caito finished with a goal and an assists, and senior goalie Jay Williams stopped 27 shots, including a grade-A chance on a one-timer from point-blank range, to earn his third straight win and the RedHawks’ second overall as well.

Louis now has four points in his last three games (1-3-4), and freshman Josh Melnick also has a three-game point streak, picking up a helper in each.

MU entered this game 1-for-20 in its last eight games on the man advantage.

The RedHawks moved to within a point of Western Michigan for sixth place in the NCHC standings and are three back of the Mavericks, meaning Miami could catch UNO with a win in Game 2 of the road set.

The teams wrap up the series in Omaha at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday.

Miami heads to Nebraska-Omaha

WHO: Miami RedHawks (7-11-3) at No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (15-6-1).

WHERE: Baxter Arena, Omaha, Neb..

WHEN: Friday–8:37 p.m.; Saturday–8:07 p.m.

TV: Friday–CBS College Sports (DirecTV Ch. 221); Saturday–None.

NEBRASKA-OMAHA RADIO: KZOT-AM (1180), Omaha, Neb..

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

NOTES: Despite its impressive record, Nebraska-Omaha has lost three of four games, earning a split in North Dakota after getting swept in Denver.

The Mavericks are averaging 3.2 goals per game, thanks largely to the tandem of juniors Austin Ortega and Jake Guentzel.

Ortega is tied for fifth in college hockey with 17 goals, including seven game winners, and Guentzel in tops in the NCHC with points (11-21-32) and has a plus-17 rating.

Justin Parizek and Jake Randolph have added ample secondary scoring, with 21 and 20 points, respectively.

Evan Weninger is having an outstanding year in net for UNO, posting a .942 save percentage to go along with a 1.99 goals-against average in 12 games.

However, Miami could catch a break, as his status is uncertain after suffering an ankle injury. He did not make the trip to North Dakota last weekend.

Kirk Thompson has a 2.93 GAA and a save percentage of .881.

Speaking of goalie issues, the RedHawks’ netminding situation is also unclear after senior Ryan McKay was scratched last weekend. Senior Jay Williams was very good last week in a win over Bowling Green and should play at least one game this weekend.

Miami enters this weekend six points behind the fifth-place Mavericks in the NCHC standings.

When these teams met earlier this season in Oxford, UNO went 1-0-1, thanks to some late heroics, including an overtime winner in the finale.