Outmatched Miami held off Denver
OXFORD, Ohio – Despite being outshot by more than a 2-to-1 margin, Miami found a way to hold off No. 5 Denver.
Three times the RedHawks led by two goals but saw that margin shrink to one each time as they escaped with a 4-3 win over the Pioneers at Cady Arena on Friday.
Denver (11-6-4) practically played keep-away with the puck all night, won the overwhelming majority of battles to loose pucks, had a better passing game, etc.
Miami (9-8-2) was outplayed in pretty much every aspect except the one that counts: Scoring goals.
The final shot total was 47-19 in favor of the Pioneers, and the disparity was amazingly consistent: DU 16-16-15, Miami 6-7-6.
RECAP: Casey Gilling scored 70 seconds in after a strange carom off the boards left him with the puck alone in front of a wide-open net.
Freshman defenseman Rourke Russell slammed home a rebound early in the second period to make it 2-0.
Denver cut the lead to one later that frame, but Miami went back up by two when Josh Melnick made a ridiculous behind-the-back pass to Gilling for a blast from the top of the faceoff circle.
That made it 3-1, and the Pioneers again cut the lead to one before Louie Belpedio ripped one home directly off a faceoff win by Melnick.
Denver scored again late and nearly tied it in the closing seconds.
STATS: Gilling finished with two goals and an assist for a career-best three points, and he was 11-6 on faceoffs. Melnick picked up a pair of helpers on each of the critical late goals. Goalie Ryan Larkin stopped 44 shots.
Dylan Gambrell scored twice on 12 – yes, 12 – shots on goal to pace Denver.
Miami was 2-for-4 on the power play and held the Pioneers to 0-for-5.
THOUGHTS: The process may have been ugly from a Miami perspective, but this Denver team is easily the best the RedHawks has hosted all year. The Pioneers’ skating, speed, defense and finishing ability shined in this game, and they are far more skilled than MU.
But despite being outmatched and not playing its best, Miami still found a way to win.
The RedHawks will need to beat a lot of ranked teams down the stretch if they hope to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.
From an entertainment perspective this game ranked as one of the best at Cady Arena this season, as Denver came close to tying it a couple of times in the closing moments.
– Gilling is quickly moving up the Miami forward depth chart. He now has 11 points, with six coming in the last five games, and his hockey IQ extremely high. His faceoff percentage is top on the team.
– Despite being in the J-term, the RedHawks’ brought in a “sold-out” crowd of 2,277 without a student section. The university bought its tickets and gave them to faculty, which could potentially add new fans, especially with the excitement level of this game.
– We’re tweaking the write-up format a little so we can get to the key points quicker, make for easier reading and try to conserve a limited amount of weekend free time. And we’re coming to the conclusion that if we can’t pump out a gamer within a few hours of the final whistle it serves little purpose. So we’re going with one story with the recap included. Reader input is always welcome.
FORWARDS: C. As is too often the case, Miami just doesn’t get much contribution by forwards not named Melnick or Gordie Green, and it’s now safe to throw Gilling into that list. Conor Lemirande played a lot on the PK and had a solid game overall. He picked up an assist and went plus-1. This corps finished with just 10 shots.
DEFENSEMEN: C+. The good: Belpedio scored the eventual game winner, Russell also found the net and blocked six shots. The bad: Overall this corps was unable to contain Denver’s super-talented forwards, who were able to skate around in Miami’s offensive zone seemingly at will. Chaz Switzer added three blocks including a critical one in the final minute that may have prevented a goal.
GOALTENDING: A-. Rarely does a goalie deserve this high of a grade after allowing three goals, but Larkin made 44 saves for a .936 save percentage, and without a strong presence in net Miami would’ve lost for sure. Didn’t get a great look at the first Denver goal but the second and third ones were nearly unstoppable.
LINEUP CHANGES: None. This is the second straight game in which the same 19 were on the lineup card.
WRAP-UP: Miami was held to its second-lowest shot total of the season and allowed 13 more SOG than in any game of 2017-18 and was able to beat the fifth-ranked team in Division I.
The hockey gods were with the RedHawks in this one.