Analysis: Louie-Louis pair key in MU win
OXFORD, Ohio – After Saturday, Cady Arena might want to add the Kingsmen’s 1963 hit “Louie Louie” to its repertoire.
Or maybe amend the spelling to “Louie Louis”.
The duo of Louie Belpedio and Anthony Louis scored Miami’s first three goals in its 5-0 win over Maine in its series finale, as the Chicago-area pair has netted six of the RedHawks’ nine markers in the first three games of this homestand.
It was an amazing eight days for Belpedio, who struggled mightily in the first period vs. Ohio State last weekend but scored the team’s lone goal in the next stanza. That seemed to turn his game around, and although he is still prone to the occasional turnover, he has been exception at moving the puck, especially on the power play.
Then there’s Louis, whose game has jumped miles ahead from his first three seasons to this homestand that opens his final season in Oxford. It took him 10 games to find the net in 2015-16, and he had three plus an assist this weekend on 15 shots, many of which his hard work created. He seems physically stronger and more driven this fall than at any other time wearing a Miami sweater.
And yet the most-improved offensive player award is in no way clear-cut, as Kiefer Sherwood makes an excellent case for that. Like Louis, he is doing much more at a higher level than filling the scoresheet.
Just based on the three games in this homestand, Carson Meyer looked much more comfortable on the ice from Period 1 to Period 9, and the stats prove that out, as he had three assists in this game and had a goal erased on a delayed, delayed off-side call.
Karch Bachman’s blazing speed and skills make him an easy top-6 forward, and he is just starting to reach his potential. Gordie Green has been feisty and it seems inevitable he will start putting up points soon playing to the right of Bachman and Sherwood.
Throw in Josh Melnick, the most complete forward on the team and on-ice leader despite being a sophomore, and that’s six forwards plus a power play quarterback defenseman we just mentioned that could be elite both in the NCHC and nationally.
And that’s without mentioning Ryan Larkin, who stopped 33 shots for his first shutout. It’s safe to say he’s the real deal and is going to steal some games over his career, and every competitive team needs great goaltending to win critical games.
There’s certainly a lot to like about Saturday’s performance, especially since scoring was a weakness for Miami last season, but before we punch our tickets to the Frozen Four, some perspective…
Maine didn’t get great goaltending. In fact, the Black Bears weren’t a terribly impressive lot. They had two outstanding goals on Friday but sort of mailed it in after Miami went up multiple goals on Saturday.
Still, the RedHawks showed on Friday they could respond while trailing three times to salvage a tie and in this game they were able to step on a team’s throat late, something they haven’t always exceled at.
To accomplish both against Maine, they needed offense from a team that scored just 86 times in 36 times last season and saw its first-round pick that tied for the team’s points lead walk this summer after one year.
Coming off a 15-18-3 season with 14 freshmen and no Jack Roslovic – or Sean Kuraly or Matthew Caito for that matter – we’ll take 2-1-2 at this point with 2.80 goals for per game and an average of just 1.80 against.
– Hate to gloss over Larkin’s performance, but offense was so much more of a concern entering this season, and this team has always found quality kids between the pipes. Now to gush a little: Larkin has been absolutely amazing in his first three home games. He has a .955 save percentage and 1.27 goals-against average at Cady Arena. Keep in mind, this is on a freshman-laden team that has made some defensive mistakes, so he has faced a plethora of high-percentage chances. Miami’s just fine in net, hopefully for the next four years.
– One player we haven’t really talked about is Jared Brandt. The freshman defenseman hasn’t been sexy but has been very effective in his own end and has a physical streak. As the everyday lineup starts to solidify, Brandt’s name should be on it nightly, bringing much-needed stability to a blue line that lost several four-year starters last off-season.
– Despite the score, Miami actually started pretty slowly in this one. Period 1 bore no resemblance to 2 and 3, and the Meyer non-goal may have been a turning point.
– One more peeve: I really, really don’t like reviewing off-sides after a goal. And yes, I’d say that if Maine had had a goal reversed. Going back and waving off a goal for something that happened 30 seconds earlier is the equivalent of taking back a touchdown because six plays earlier because it’s determined the ball really should’ve been placed at the 38 yard line and not the 39. Replay on goals? Sure. Micromanaging tertiary calls like off-sides when they don’t directly contribute to scores? No thanks.
– Final thought: Belpedio and Louis are both from the Chicago area. They scored the first three goals. Miami won 5-0. The same night, the Cubs won 5-0 to advance to the World Series. Heck of a coincidence.
– OK, one more final thought. Sorry for the delay in getting stuff posted. High school football conflicts plus real work, and Sunday was my birthday. Should be more timely moving forward. Thanks for your patience and thanks always for those who read our rambling prose.
FORWARDS: A. Not only is it scary that Miami has Louis-Melnick-Meyer-Sherwood-Bachman-Green as its top six, the third line of Ryan Siroky, Justin Greenberg and Zach LaValle was solid again in this game, albeit it without producing points. Alex Alger played his first home game and impressed with his energy on the fourth line. Conor Lemirande is way better than in his first two seasons. Carter Johnson was a solid grinder on that line as well. That’s all 12.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. It’s weird: As someone who appreciates defense, the good and bad of that aspect seemed somewhat lacking from this game. That’s OK as typically stay-at-home D-men are noticed for bad play a la offensive linemen in football. The game became a lot more physical in the third period, and this corps was involved in much of the carnage, with Grant Hutton dishing out some hits, Belpedio knocking a couple of player around – most notably with an old-school submarine hip check at full speed, and Scott Dornbrock blasting a player in front of the benches, drawing a debatable penalty. Belpedio scored the two goals, which obviously raise the grade, and overall this corps kept its errant turnovers to a minimum.
GOALTENDING: A+. Larkin earned his first career shutout and was in complete control all night. He almost never allows rebounds and was excellent at icing the puck when Miami had the lead, not allowing Maine a chance to get back into the game. Larkin was tested on a 3-on-1 in the final minute but made the save to preserve the shutout. What a performance.
LINEUP CHANGES: Alger replaced Willie Knierim and did a solid job on the fourth line. On defense, Colin Sullivan returned to the lineup as Chaz Switzer was scratched. Andrew Masters was again the backup in net.