Analysis: Early losses haunting Miami
At least Miami will be familiar with its opponent and the rink it will play in next weekend when it opens NCHC Tournament play.
The RedHawks were blown out, 5-0 at Minnesota-Duluth on Friday, ensuring they will finish fifth in their conference and will return to Duluth for a best-of-3 series on March 11-13.
Miami has played so well so often in the second half of this season, but this may be an example of a team falling too far behind and then needing all of its energy just to bounce back into contention.
In this league a team just can’t put itself in a position where it needs to win practically every game. The RedHawks did and are paying the price now.
We’ve seen in three years how ruthlessly competitive the NCHC is, and good teams are going to beat each other in league play.
That’s why giving away games and losing to inferior opponents is so costly. Miami cost itself numerous points with third-period disappearing acts in the first half of this season, which was capped off by a pair of devastating losses at league doormat Colorado College.
Say the RedHawks (15-15-3) only split at CC and turn a pair of other losses into ties or ties into wins. In this most conservative of scenarios, Miami would’ve headed into Duluth ahead of the Bulldogs by five points, needing just a tie to lock up home ice.
And after the extensive travel an NCHC season entails, home ice is certainly an advantage.
If Miami doesn’t make it out of Duluth next season, it would be easy to point at those games and say the RedHawks couldn’t win the big ones.
But those first-half struggles will have played at the very least an equal role in this team’s demise.
– Oh yeah, the game. It’s easier to talk about anything but that. Honestly not much needs to be said. It was a bad night, and teams will have those in this league. It’s just that Miami could ill-afford to come out flat in this game.
– It’s a lot harder to see details on a computer monitor vs., say an HD broadcast or – better yet – being at the rink, but one thing that stood out was a horrible line change that led to the second goal. As much good as the Columbus line has done since being assembled, it needs to do better. Two forwards can’t change in the second period with the long change when the other team has the puck.
– Evan McCarthy made his debut on Friday, which is an interesting move by coach Enrico Blasi on a number of fronts. Obviously Ryan McKay isn’t traveling with the team, and so McCarthy is the only backup option for Miami. Blasi must’ve felt like shaking things up to send a message to his team, which was in all-or-nothing mode at that point because a loss sealed its fate as a No. 5 seed. Also, Williams has logged every minute in net since GoalieGate, and even 10 minutes of rest may help in Saturday’s game in addition to the grueling best-of-3 ahead next week. It was a tough position for McCarthy, making his RedHawks debut in super-hostile territory against a red-hot UMD team. Hopefully the experience makes McCarthy a better goalie down the road and he can give the team depth at that position the next three years.
– Just wondering out loud here, but is flex scheduling a possibility in the future for TV games? Granted the outcome was one-sided, but this game had much more importance that the Western Michigan-North Dakota contest on CBS College Sports that saw the we-also-changed-our-mascot-to-something-Hawks win 8-1. It seems like these final weeks the league and/or network should be able to show the most riveting matchups, and a lot of times that’s an unknown the previous summer when TV schedules are drawn up.
– Senior defenseman Matthew Caito was out again on Friday, missing his third straight game, and that certainly didn’t help. Despite outscoring Colorado College, 7-0 last weekend, the RedHawks didn’t play their best hockey, and it’s obvious their overall play has taken a step back since Caito was injured. Hopefully he will be back for the playoffs next week.
– Is it actually worse to have a No. 5 seed vs. a 6-7-8? Obviously those lower three will face higher-caliber opponents in their best-of-3s — if there is such a thing in this conference — but North Dakota, St. Cloud and Denver are all essentially locked into NCAA Tournament berths. Minnesota-Duluth is tied for 14th in the PairWise and is still fighting for a spot. Remember two years ago when Miami was the No. 8 seed but went to top-seeded St. Cloud and swept?