Analysis: Last 10 regular season games huge
A season of extremes continues for Miami.
Since up a four-game road stretch with a 6-3 comeback win at North Dakota, courtesy of five straight third-period goals on Jan. 14, the RedHawks went 0-2-1 to wrap up the away set.
That was capped off by a 2-0 loss at Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday, representing the first time Miami has been shut out by an opponent this season.
A quick season recap: The RedHawks lost their season opener and were unbeaten in their next five (3-0-2). Then came Miami’s longest winless streak in a quarter century, a 10-game skid in which the team was 0-7-3. But wait, the RedHawks won their next five.
And now Miami is winless in its last three, having scored just three goals in that span.
Normally in this league good teams can absorb this types of hiccups, but because of the RedHawks’ 3-8-5, they can’t afford them.
Yes, Miami is a good team, with the potential to be a very good team, but the Coach Enrico Blasi and the RedHawks truly have their backs up against the boards.
They have one of, if not the, toughest remaining schedule of any team in college hockey. We went through the final five opponents yesterday.
And without advancing to Minneapolis and the Frozen Faceoff, Miami would need to finish 7-3 and take its first-round NCHC opponent to three games just to warrant NCAA consideration.
A 6-4 finish and the RedHawks would need to qualify for Minny and win a game there at the bare minimum.
Of course there’s another way: Paraphrasing Major League for the tiny tots that may be reading, win the whole thing. That is, the NCHC Tournament.
So there are multiple paths to Cincinnati and the NCAA regionals, but they are as smooth as the late third-period ice at Value City Arena.
With the importance of the Miami’s remaining 10 games, in a way, the RedHawks’ playoff season has already begun.
– So in terms of standings, this loss hurts because UNO is now four points ahead of Miami, which is a difference of multiple wins. Even if the RedHawks had tied and lost the sideshow events, they would’ve gained a point and remained within two points of the Mavericks. It’ll be a lot harder to catch them now. Getting into the top four is so important because it means home-ice advantage for the first round of the NCHC Tournament after teams have flown across the midwest for five months in addition to carrying full class loads. A 7-3 finish should do that, considering Miami plays most of the teams it is competing with for seeding down the stretch. Hey, at least six of the final 10 are in Oxford.
– The RedHawks deserved a better fate than being blanked in this one, but Evan Weninger stopped 30 shots to post the zero. It happens from time to time, especially on the road.
– On the first goal, Steven Spinner – which is tough to type for a Miami fan/writer because the tendency is to type Steven Spinell – made an incredible backhand pass across the top of the crease. Anthony Louis was way late covering the goal scorer, Frederik Olofsson.
– On the second goal, Louie Belpedio just turned it over at the blue line and Spinner went in for a sweet breakaway goal. This is the third time the captain has coughed one up that has directly resulted in a goal against.
– The same 19 from Friday’s lineup card dressed on Saturday. That meant a third straight game without Justin Greenberg.
– So Saturday’s game was supposed to be televised on Fox College Sports, but it was unavailable to much of the country, including those (like myself) who have DirecTV and the premium sports tier. But five of the next seven Miami games will be televised nationally, including Friday’s games, which will be carried on CBS College Sports.