Analysis: Columbus line thriving

OXFORD, Ohio – In its second game since being assembled, the all-Columbus line accounted for a pair of goals.

That was the difference on Saturday in Miami’s 3-2 upset win over No. 3 St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.

It was a risky move by Coach Enrico Blasi, as the RedHawks’ offense was scoring at its best clip of the season.

It was senior center Sean Kuraly scoring the go-ahead goal that made it 2-1 midway through the second, and minutes later freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood banged home the third Miami tally.

Freshman forward Jack Roslovic set up the latter with an NHL-caliber pass through multiple defenders and the top of the SCSU crease.

Scoring has been an issue all season, and Miami was held to one goal on Friday but quietly there is cause for optimism.

Josh Melnick (right) celebrates his goal with teammate Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Josh Melnick (right) celebrates his goal with teammate Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The Columbus line lit the lamp twice in this game. The Garden Gnome line (Josh Melnick-Anthony Louis-Alex Gacek) netted the other two this weekend.

The combination of Kevin Morris and Zach LaValle have lit the lamp four times in the past seven games, and the Crash Cousins line accounted for three – all on Conor Lemirande’s hat trick – two weeks ago at UNO.

This team won’t make people forget about the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers, granted, but in a brutal six-game stretch that saw the RedHawks face UNO on the road and Denver and St. Cloud State at home, Miami averaged 3.3 goals.

The back-to-back losses were tough because they were at home and every game is so important now, but ultimately Miami went 4-2 during arguably its toughest three-week stretch of the season and played some very good hockey in the process.

These guys hung with the third-best team in Division I for most of the weekend.

Now the RedHawks will have to take that success to the road, where they play five of their final seven regular season games.

Other thoughts…

– The RedHawks did not get a PairWise boost from this win. In fact, they dropped a spot despite beating the second-ranked team in college hockey. That means it’s more likely Miami will have to win the NCHC Tournament to secure an NCAA berth. But the RedHawks have gone to the NCHC final both seasons of the league’s existence, winning one title and posting a 7-2 overall record in the conference tourney.

– Ryan McKay was still not with the team this weekend. He is still on an indefinite suspension, but he is still in Oxford. Not sure what’s going on behind the scenes, but while McKay’s actions when he left his last start were clearly wrong, it’s been four weeks and he’s a senior. Here’s hoping he and the coaching staff can make amends soon. It’s hard to watch a player’s final stretch run go down like this, especially somehow who has contributed so much to this team. The Brotherhood is more than just lip service, right?

– SCSU entered play with a power play north of 31 percent, the second-best clip in Division I, but Miami allowed just five man-advantage opportunities on the weekend and killed all of them. The RedHawks retain the title of college hockey’s top PK unit at 93.5 percent.

– Very disappointed that only 2,534 watched Miami’s biggest home win of the season. North Dakota isn’t coming to Oxford this season, so this is the best team that visits Cady Arena. Granted Miami isn’t ranked, but really? Less than 70 percent of capacity? Still, that almost doubled the attendance for the Miami-Bowling Green basketball game played a few blocks north hours earlier.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. It was a fantastic second period, especially by the newly-formed Columbus line. Melnick scored as well, but linemate Alex Gacek got beat 1-on-1 for the first SCSU goal. And yes, that fourth line was caught deep again on a St. Cloud goal. Freshmen Jack Roslovic, Melnick and Kiefer Sherwood have been three of the best Hawks in terms of offensive production recently, which bodes well for the next couple of seasons. Kuraly is the hottest with 10 points in seven games.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Speaking of freshmen, really liked the play of Grant Hutton this weekend. Beyond the two assists he played very well in his own end. Colin Sullivan had a rare start and did his typical solid thing. Louie Belpedio scared everyone in the first period when he went down the tunnel but he returned and picked up a key assist. Holding SCSU to 23 shots is an impressive body of work.

GOALTENDING: B+. Williams probably should’ve had the first goal with his glove, but as usual, he got better as the game went on. He stole the show in the third period with 11 saves, including several on excellent scoring chances. Williams had no chance on the tic-tac-toe second goal.

LINEUP CHANGES: Blasi went with Devin Loe over Andrew Schmit on the fourth line. Loe had sat eight straight games and is another player you’d like to see on the ice more, although he went minus-1. Sullivan had not dressed in six contests and replaced Chris Joyaux, who was a scratch for the first time since opening night.

Advertisements

Posted on February 7, 2016, in 2015-16, St. Cloud State Huskies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: