Analysis: MU growth a work in progress
OXFORD, Ohio – The French phrase “comme ci, comme ca” applies perfectly to Friday’s game.
Miami and Maine skated to a 3-3 tie in the series opener and first game played between these teams in Oxford, and like many ties, the overall performance and the outcome was neither good nor bad for the RedHawks.
Here are some of the pros and cons from this contest from Miami’s perspective:
– Anthony Louis has been a good player since setting foot in Oxford, but he appears to have taken a major step up this season. He is playing solid defense, attacking loose pucks and eluding defenders, things he had not done regularly his first three seasons, and that extra effort resulted in a two-goal performance. The second goal especially was the result of beating a defender, something we had not seen him do often previously. He generated nine shots on Friday, many coming because of his hard work.
– Any nervousness from Louis Belpedio was a distant memory. Belpedio struggled early vs. Ohio State, perhaps under the burden of his newly-earned captaincy, but he was fantastic on Friday. He especially stood out quarterbacking the power play, as he puck movement in that capacity was exceptional.
– The man advantage deserves its own bullet point. Miami was only 1-for-8 but the aforementioned puck movement was excellent from the top unit.
– Kiefer Sherwood had seven assists all of last season, but he picked up his third and fourth of the season in this game. He was a feared goal scorer and started to take off in the second half of last season, but he is turning into an all-around force now as he shifts from the wing to center. His brilliant pass to Grant Hutton led to Miami’s first goal, and he picked up the secondary helper in the tying goal on the power play as the RedHawks thanks to solid puck movement in the offensive zone.
– The third line was excellent at puck possession. A pair of sophomores, Ryan Siroky and Zach LaValle, plus senior Justin Greenberg, were arguably Miami’s top threesome in this one, playing a grind-it-out game.
– The wide bodies were solid on the fourth line. Conor Lemirande was a force vs. Ohio State and looks a lot better with the puck this season as well as physically stronger. At 6-feet-6, that’s a scary concept if he continues to improve. Freshman Willie Knierim looked a lot more confident in this game than last week. Patience will be key for fans with Knierim, who is the youngest player on the team and still learning to play with his huge frame. He won’t score 25 goals this season, but watching him develop should be fun the next four years.
– Topping the list is that Maine didn’t look as good as Ohio State, and Miami still couldn’t come away with the win. True, process counts more than wins and losses at this point, but even with a young team, the RedHawks need to win games on home ice, and they have a pair of ties to open their Cady Arena slate.
– Turnovers were costly. Defenseman Chaz Switzer was stripped for Maine’s first goal and normally-solid fellow blueliner Grant Hutton couldn’t handle a deep puck in the third period, ultimately leading to the Black Bears’ final goal. Even reliable Josh Melnick couldn’t clear one in the second period and Maine scored later in the shift with tired Miami players caught on the ice.
– Too many long shifts in the D-zone. Kind of a corollary to the turnovers note, which were obviously a contributing factor, Maine possessed the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods far too often in this game.
– Overall this team is progressing well despite having half of its lineup consist of freshmen. The schedule will get tougher really soon, though, and Miami still has work to do if hopes to compete in the NCHC.
– Could’ve missed the memo, but the linesmen kicked players out of the faceoff circle at an alarming rate, and often it was difficult to see the cause.
– The faceoff thing was more noticeable because this game featured 72 faceoffs and largely lacked flow as a result. A lot of icing and off-sides, plus 13 penalties.
– Offensive zone faceoff, 1.0 seconds left in regulation, not sure why goalie Ryan Larkin wasn’t pulled. Almost every coach at this level or above puts a sixth attacker on in this situation.
FORWARDS: B. This corps scored two of Miami’s goals and fired 29 shots, with Louis netting both markers and accounting for 9 SOG. Karch Bachman did take a bad penalty, firing an opponent’s stick down the ice. Overall the line chemistry seems to be improving.
DEFENSEMEN: C. Defensemen turnovers directly created two goals for Maine, which cannot be overlooked despite the blueliners’ overall solid play. Hutton scored a goal, balancing out him losing the puck, and Belpedio finished with six shots and picked up the primary assist on the tying goal.
GOALTENDING: B. Stopping 18 of 21 doesn’t look great on paper, but Larkin had zero chance on the second goal, the third was an absolute laser and the first was essentially a close-up breakaway. He controlled all of his rebounds and made a couple of high-quality saves.
LINEUP CHANGES: The only change was on defense: Grant Frederic played with Bryce Hatten sat. Frederic looks like he has potential, and his size is impressive, but he was a tough tentative in this one. That will hopefully go away with more playing time.