Analysis: Miami thriving in overtime

OXFORD, Ohio – After playing enough free hockey, Miami has gotten quite good at it.

Having gone to the extra session eight times in 19 games, the RedHawks won their third overtime game of the season on Friday, 3-2 over St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.

The paragraph would’ve generated ample laughter if written six weeks ago, but Miami has been clutch late in games.

The biggest statistical difference between the RedHawks’ 0-7-3 stretch and their current 3-0 run? They were outscored, 14-3 in the third period and beyond during the former and have notched 10 goals to their opponents’ one in the three since, all wins.

Miami celebrates after Josh Melnick's overtime game winner (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami celebrates after Josh Melnick’s overtime game winner (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Instead of giving games away late, Miami is pulling off wins thanks to third-period rallies.

Two of those three wins have been decided in overtime, with Josh Melnick netting the game-winning markers in both. He also scored late in the first period at Ohio State with five seconds left in the first period to cut Miami’s deficit to one, 2-1, completely changing the course of that eventual 6-3 MU win.

Yes, St. Cloud State has dropped to No. 20 and was without a top player and coach Bob Motzko, holdovers from the World Juniors who were unable to reach Oxford by game time, but the Huskies are still an excellent, well-coached team that is outstanding at shutting down shooting lanes.

The RedHawks definitely had to earn this win, and despite all of their first-half issues are just two games under .500 with a chance to climb into a tie for fifth in the NCHC with another win on Saturday parlayed with a Nebraska-Omaha loss (the Mavericks fell to North Dakota, 9-1 on Friday).

Sure, Miami had some bad luck with key injuries and illnesses early, but the team just didn’t look confident in these clutch situations the first two months of the season. The RedHawks found ways to lose, but now they’re finding ways to win these tight contests against quality opponents.

Even if it isn’t showing up on the score sheet, you can see certain players evolving, which from a fan perspective is one of the most fun things about college hockey.

Carson Meyer and Ryan Larkin have been the co-valedictorians of this Miami freshman hockey class to this point, no doubt, but Gordie Green is playing with so much more confidence, and so is Willie Knierim, who has a ton of upside largely – pun somewhat intended – because of his size. a great example. So is Karch Bachman, who has blazing speed and a wicked wrister but doesn’t seem to get put into situations that could garner success.

Defenseman Grant Frederic also quietly seems to get better every game, and Jared Brandt has been that steady defensive D-man Miami always seems to bring in to shore up that corps.

This team is so much better now that in was during the 0-7-3 skid, and a key win like this is a major validation of that statement.

Other thoughts…

– Not sure I’ve seen a game in which dumb penalties have resulted in all of the final three critical goals. Miami’s Colin Sullivan, a fifth-year senior who we’ve praised here repeatedly and at times questioned why he hasn’t played more, drove a player into the boards late in the third period of a 1-1 game despite seeing the number on the back of his jersey from the Indiana border. And St. Cloud went ahead on a power play goal it scored as a result, but fortunately for Miami the Huskies took an even dumber penalty a half minute later, and the RedHawks’ Melnick scored both the tying and go-ahead goals on the resulting major.

– (continued) With his team leading, 2-1, Jacob Benson targeted the head of Meyer on an open-ice hit and rightly drew a five-minute major and was booted from the game. Fortunately Meyer wasn’t hurt, but Melnick scored both of his goals on that penalty, which were the tying and game-winning goals. Guessing Benson isn’t a really popular player on SCSU right now.

– Is it really that hard for linesmen to drop pucks for faceoffs? Does anyone really want to see multiple re-drops?

– The power play. Miami had its struggles early on the man-advantage but scored both of its late goals on Melnick PPGs, giving the RedHawks three tallies in their last 10 chances over the past two games. They were 0-for-19 in their previous six contests. Still looking for that first shorty though – MU is one of only nine D-I teams without one this season.

– On a personal note, a win like this, and the OSU one, and the Colorado College one, make it a lot more fun to come to the rink. I can’t wait for Saturday’s game. At 3-8-5, it was harder to get psyched for the 65-minute drive to Cady Arena.

– Understand the J-term concept but still hate seeing the rink mostly void of students and fans overall. The attendance was 1,717. Not much expected for Game 2 either.

– On another personal note, I apologize for not doing more in terms of pro and FutureHawks updates the first half of the season. Lots going on, but hope to rectify that during this critical final months of the season, and we promise to write some player features down the stretch. Thanks for everyone’s patience and understanding.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B+. This was a tough gig for this group, as Miami’s forwards faced a quality group of shut-down defensemen and goalie, but they managed three goals, all in the final 10 minutes of regulation and OT. Finishing with 34 shots is good, but a few too many were weak looks with no traffic that had zero chance to hitting the net. In addition to the obvious (Melnick-Louis), really liked Meyer’s all-around game, and Kiefer Sherwood and Justin Greenberg have really improved on their faceoffs, although I admit I’ve never seen anyone win draws consistently like Sherwood does, dropping to one knee each time.

DEFENSEMEN: B-. In 11 years of watching every minute of every game at Cady Arena, I’ve never seen a group that is so hard to grade. Grant Hutton got beaten badly on a drive to the net that was stopped by Larkin but was solid otherwise. Scott Dornbrock didn’t have a particularly strong game. Louie Belpedio was excellent overall and picked up two helpers. Miami seriously missed him as a the power play quarterback when he was injured.

GOALTENDING: B+. Larkin had no chance on the first SCSU goal, as he made the initial save on a point-blank rip but no one picked up the goal scorer. The second one was on the power play and hit a post before dropping at the top of the crease for a tap-in. He was 29 of 31 for a .935 save percentage. He did seem a hair shaky early but was outstanding the final 40-plus minutes.

LINEUP CHANGES: Chaz Switzer and Bryce Hatten both sat on defense for the second straight game, and this is about the time the starting 18 solidifies, so they may be the odd men out down the stretch. Hatten was injured almost all of 2015-16 and Switzer logged 121 USHL games before turning 19 and heading to Oxford, so both have bright futures, but their games are still evolving. Karch Bachman was out with an illness last week but returned, sending Alex Alger to the stands. Alger has been a pest and has played well as a fourth-liner, and one wonders if his playing time would be more substantial had he not been absolutely robbed on a blast from the slot earlier this season and rang one off the post on another. Will Ryan Larkin be in net for the remainder of Miami’s games? There’s a good chance, although Chase Munroe’s win vs. Colorado College had to help the team overall, as he proved himself a solid backup.

Posted on January 7, 2017, in 2016-17, St. Cloud State Huskies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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