Analysis: Woeful defense led to sweep
OXFORD, Ohio – A weekend that started off with so much promise turned into a pair of mistake-laden losses that have a Miami team that showed so much promise in the opening weeks skating backwards.
The RedHawks led 4-1 on Friday before allowing the final five goals in a 6-4 loss and were beaten soundly, 6-2 at Cady Arena on Saturday after rallying from two down to tie the score.
MU (3-6-2) netted four of the first five goals this weekend but surrendered 11 of the final 13.
The RedHawks have allowed 23 goals in their four NCHC games – or 5.75 per contest – as they have dropped to 44th in the NCAA in overall team defense.
Most disturbing is special teams, as Miami was tops in college hockey on the PK a couple of weeks ago but has given up nine power play goals and two more shorthanded in the last four games, killing penalties at an anemic 65.3 percent clip.
The most important stat is wins and losses, and Miami has dropped its last five, getting outscored 11-0 in the third period during its current skid.
The absence of Louie Belpedio has hurt this team on several fronts, as the RedHawks were 3-2-2 with him in the lineup and 0-4 since. Without their captain, they seem less focused, the compete level has been inconsistent, and paramount is the loss of 20-plus minutes of play from their best all-around defenseman.
And the latter has a trickle-down effect, as everyone gets bumped up a spot in the D pecking order, and as a result the entire group has had its struggles.
Of course it doesn’t help when starting goalie Ryan Larkin goes down with an injury, or that stud freshman Carson Meyer may miss several weeks.
No one will feel sorry for Miami, especially not No. 1 Denver, the team the RedHawks play next weekend at altitude after getting drubbed in five straight third periods.
We’re already one-third of the way through the regular season, and Miami needs to turn this thing around fast or we could be in for a very long winter.
– Like Friday, the RedHawks again allowed too many players to skate into the slot uncontested. Snuggerud was left alone for the third UNO (6-3-1) goal. He scored again by beating Scott Dornbrock to the net for a backhander. The physical game got away from Miami entirely this weekend, especially around the net. The RedHawks might as well have placed a welcome mat in orange and black at the top of their crease both nights.
– Let’s insert some positive: Despite everything that’s happened in six weeks, Kiefer Sherwood continues to get better every game. He dominates play for portions of games, not just with his shot but with puck possession and high-level passing. He’s a certifiable nightmare on the power play, as defenders have to come out to protect against his shot, opening up other avenues for Miami.
– Speaking of the power play, Coach Enrico Blasi went with five forwards numerous times with Josh Melnick at the point. He obviously trusts the defense of Melnick, who effectively ran the point, but without Belpedio it may be his way of saying none of the other D-men have earned that high-profile playing time. Miami did allow two SHGs this weekend, although neither were the result of his five-forward units. And using that many forwards on the first unit leaves even fewer offensive-minded bodies up front for the second line, which has been mostly ineffective this season.
– If UNO is in the bottom half of this league, the NCHC is absolutely loaded. This is a very good team, and not surprisingly is well coached by Dean Blais.
FORWARDS: D+. Sherwood has two rips for goals and these guys showed some signs of life but did little on a five-minute power play in the third period and combined for just 21 shots despite 13 minutes of power play time. On a positive note, Melnick and Justin Greenberg were much better on faceoffs, an area in which Miami has struggled seemingly since Pat Cannone and Carter Camper graduated.
DEFENSEMEN: D-. Without Belpedio this group is contributing almost nothing offensively and are committing too many egregious turnovers. Normally-reliable Grant Hutton had a miserable weekend, including a giveaway that directly led to UNO’s second goal. Dornbrock got beaten badly on Goal No. 6. The Mavericks finished with just 26 shots, but too many were high-percentage chances. This group needs to get a lot better, especially in front of its own net, and that needs to happen quickly.
GOALTENDING: D+. Six goals against, it’s easy to blame goaltending, but Chase Munroe faced a ton of A-plus chances in his starting debut. Three of his goals against were on the power play, including a 5-on-3 tally. The first was on a PP scramble in front of the net, the second was basically a 2-on-0 on a power play, No. 3 was scored after yet another player was left open in the slot, the fourth was a 5-on-3 but was probably the one Munroe would’ve most likely wanted back, No. 5 was a breakaway and the sixth was on a player crashing the net, and Munroe was unable to hold the post. Certainly not a memorable debut but he was not the reason Miami lost.
LINEUP CHANGES: Munroe for Larkin was the most notable. The only other switch was Bryce Hatten in basically the sixth defense spot in favor of Chaz Switzer.