Analysis: Margin for error low for Miami
OXFORD, Ohio – The better team won both games this weekend at Cady Arena.
Unfortunately for Miami, that meant after winning the series opener against Denver, the RedHawks fell to the Pioneers, 5-3 in the finale on Saturday.
The strange thing about Game 2 was Miami was badly outplayed in the first period but came away from that frame with the lead.
The RedHawks were much improved in the second and third periods but were outscored in both.
Typically in the ultra-competitve NCHC, teams splitting against a ranked in-conference team is OK, so long as they are beating the bottom dwellers.
The problem for Miami is it dug itself such a deep hole that 1-1 weekends are no longer suffice if it hopes to get back into NCAA Tournament contention.
At 24th in the PairWise, the RedHawks still have much work remaining before any serious NCAA talks can begin. And Miami now will play the majority of its nine remaining games away from Cady Arena.
As mentioned before, strength of schedule will help Miami if it gets to .500 or above, but one caveat as we move forward: The NCAA now requires teams to post at least a .500 winning percentage to qualify for an at-large bid.
But judging from its positioning in PairWise (24th) vs. its record (two games under .500), this looks like it will probably be a self-policing situation. Just wanted to throw it out there.
A 6-3 finish to the regualar season would suffice the winning percentage requirement, assuming Miami can win at least one in the best-of-3, and there’s a good chance that in that scenario that series would be played in Oxford.
It may take a 7-2 mark plus a trip to Minneapolis to get into the top 14 in PairWise, which is probably where Miami would need to advance to for a fairly safe NCAA berth.
The RedHawks’ small margin for error makes next weekend so important and such a high-risk, high-reward series, since wins will be tough to come by against the second-ranked (in the PairWise) Huskies but could be very lucrative.
– Back to the game…too many turnovers, especially in the first period when Miami seemingly was essentially in penalty kill mode for 20 minutes. Forwards didn’t seem to get back on D or backcheck very well, and after standing on his head for the first four periods of the weekend, senior goalie Jay Williams led in a couple of outside shots he normally stops. The flip side of that is: Denver is a very good team that played a very good game in most facets (goalie Tanner Jaillet wasn’t that great would be the only knock on the Pioneers in this one).
– Jack Roslovic’s set-up of Kiefer Sherwood was world class and was shown repeatedly on the big screen, as it should have been. A world-class play by a world-class player. He still needs to stop trying to carry the puck through three and four players, which he was probably able to get away with at the last level.
– Obviously skaters cannot record saves, but both Alex Gacek and Chris Joyaux kept pucks from going into the net by sprawling across the crease. Great effort by both on their respective “saves”.
– Our nightly GoalieGate update: There is no update. Ryan McKay was scratched again on Saturday, and it’s unknown if/when he will return. One thing of note regarding goalies: Ryan Larkin is with the team but is recovering from an upper body injury and is out for the season. Larkin, the cousin of Detroit Red Wings star Dylan Larkin, came to Oxford earlier this month to start on classwork and will be a freshman this fall. Good move by him and by the program.
FORWARDS: C. They scored all three goals, but as mentioned above, the backchecking and defense by this group left much to be desired, and they turned the puck over way too much. Nice to see the Roslovic-Sherwood combo generating offense as well as Kuraly scoring by driving the net. So glad to see Alex Gacek having a solid senior season.
DEFENSEMEN: C. Kind of a comme ci, comme ca game for this group. No standouts for either good or bad reasons. It does bear mentioning that Louie Belpedio has been much more solid overall since returning from Finland.
GOALTENDING: C-. Tough call here. Williams was the difference in the first period but was 16 of 21 the final 40 minutes. To be fair, he had zero chance on the first goals, and on the fourth one Shore ended up with puck all alone in the slot for multiple seconds after an unfortunate bounce for Miami. And Williams made the initial save on the third goal. The second and fifth ones were two he would’ve wanted back, but the fifth one was a laser that found the top corner of the net.
LINEUP CHANGES: None again. This is the fifth straight game Coach Enrico Blasi has gone with these 18 skaters plus Williams in net.