Analysis: SCSU transition killed Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – Sometimes in hockey the final score is not indicative of the game itself.

That was the case on Friday, when St. Cloud State beat Miami, 5-1 at Cady Arena despite being badly outshot and having the RedHawks dictate play for much of the night.

That’s not in any way to say the wrong team won, as the Huskies were masterful at creating chances off of the transition and burying shots when they had their opportunities.

In a way it was a microcosm of the season: SCSU finished its chances and Miami did not. That’s a key reason the Huskies have eight players with 20 or more points and the RedHawks have one.

Against a team as good as St. Cloud State, a team has to convert its chances, and Miami had plenty in the first period but went into the first intermission down one.

At that point it felt like the night might have been lost.

Josh Melnick celebrates after scoring Miami's goal (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Josh Melnick celebrates after scoring Miami’s goal (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

To the RedHawks’ credit, Melnick scored 15 seconds into the second period to tie it, but MU spent way too much time chasing Huskies down the ice the rest of the game, and SCSU made Miami pay.

Time is quickly running out on the RedHawks if they hope to have any chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament or home-ice advantage for the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

Miami remained 24th in the PairWise and would need to climb to at least 14th for an at-large, which would require at least at 6-2 record and a first-round NCHC win (preferably a sweep). That’s the bare minimum, and a win on Saturday would be a great start.

In terms of NCHC standings, the RedHawks are tied for fifth but are only three points out of fourth with fourth-place Minn.-Duluth and the two lowest teams – Western Michigan and Colorado College – left on the schedule.

It comes down to winning, and Miami will need to do a lot of that in the next few weeks or it will need to run the table in the NCHC Tournament to get into the NCAAs.

Other thoughts…

– Starting to think the Conor Lemirande hat trick may not have been the best thing for the Crash Cousins line, as they were caught down the ice twice on odd-man chances that resulted in St. Cloud State goals. That’s at least three times since the offensive breakout game at UNO. The grind line’s job is to neutralize the other team’s offense and to make sure nothing bad happens for 30 seconds, and this line is becoming way too aggressive since its three-goal game.

– Sean Kuraly was moved to center of the Kiefer Sherwood and Jack Roslovic line, and they created tons of scoring chances but couldn’t find the net. Roslovic has been outstanding the past couple of weekends, and after fanning on two first-period chances from the left side of the net, he set up countless more for others.

– Of course loading up a line comes at a cost to another, and Justin Greenberg’s line with Kevin Morris and Zach LaValle did little (Morris did have five shots but non high quality).

– All in favor of defensemen pinching in the right spots, but one really has to pick one’s spots against a high-powered team like St. Cloud, and too many times Miami’s D got caught in this one. This RedHawks team is not built to match speed and offensive chances with a team like the Huskies, so expect a lot more conservative play on Saturday unless the Huskies have the lead late.

– Like the idea of the red and white checkered effect in the stands, but most did not adhere to it. Section 12 was white, and the only white Miami attire this fan has is his jersey, which did come down off the mantle, but it’s coat weather at the rink, and few have white coats. Maybe they could coordinate with the pre-meds next time they attempt this?

GRADES

FORWARDS: D. For a team that had 36 shots – 32 by the forwards – only a handful were quality chances, and almost all of them were created by the Roslovic line. One exception was the goal, of course, and honestly, the shot by Gacek should’ve been handled cleanly and Melnick shouldn’t have had a rebound opportunity. Anthony Louis was not tough on defense and gave too much space when SCSU scored its first goal. On the next two the Crash Cousins line got caught deep.

DEFENSEMEN: C-. As mentioned above, too much pinching and too many high quality shots against. Louie Belpedio has been very good since returning from World Juniors for the most part but did not have a strong game, going minus-3. Even dependable Taylor Richart made an errant pass in the offensive zone that ultimately ended up in the net. And they did not contribute on offense, although Grant Hutton did have a small hand in Miami’s lone goal by holding a puck in the zone, giving his a secondary assist.

GOALTENDING: C-. Sort of like last Saturday, Jay Williams had no chance on some goals, made a couple of great saves and gave up a goal he would’ve liked back. The first goal was an NHL-caliber backhand. No. 2 was on a breakaway, and neither goalie has been great on those this season. The third one snuck through on the backhand, and Williams should have been able to make the stop. SCSU’s fourth and fifth goals were on odd-man chances with wide-open players at the side of the net. He did make an unbelievable save on a point-blank one-time chance in the second period. If Ryan McKay was an option, Game 2 would be a good time to change it up in net with 10 goals against in two games, but it looks like Williams in the team’s only real option right now.

LINEUP CHANGES: Coach Enrico Blasi switched pairings and tweaked lines but went with the same 19 for the sixth straight game. With consecutive decisive losses a change or two might be in the cards for Saturday’s finale.

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Posted on February 6, 2016, in 2015-16, analysis and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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