Miami goes down 3, wins in OT
OXFORD, Ohio – It was a bizarre night for Miami’s offense.
The RedHawks eclipsed the 240-minute scoreless mark – equivalent to four full games – for the first time in school record, and then scored four times to erase a three-goal deficit in a 4-3 overtime win over No. 12 North Dakota at Cady Arena on Friday.
Miami trailed, 3-0 eight minutes into the second period before netting four straight goals, capped off by Ben Lown’s game winner 59 seconds into the extra session.
That snapped a five-game losing streak for the RedHawks and a five-game winless stretch vs. the Fighting Hawks (0-4-1).
MU had not scored a goal since the first game of its home series vs. St. Cloud State on Feb. 9 and establishing the team record for the longest scoring drought at 240:24.
RECAP: Grant Mismash fired a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle that snuck inside the far post through a screen 13:54 into the first period.
Christian Wolanin made it 2-0 shortly into a two-minute 5-on-3 on a one-time blast off a feed by Colton Poolman at the 2:17 mark of the second period.
Five minutes later, North Dakota (14-11-8) extended its lead to three when Johnny Simonson tapped in a loose puck in the crease after Simonson was denied by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on a breakaway.
After making the save, Larkin was taken out by a pursuing teammate, leaving the net empty for the trailing Simonson.
But 48 seconds after that goal, Josh Melnick slid a pass through two defenders to Alec Mahalak in the slot, and Mahalak buried the first marker of his career just under the crossbar on the glove side.
The RedHawks (11-17-3) cut the deficit to one when Phil Knies took a feed from Kiefer Sherwood wrapped around the back of the net and tucked it past goalie Cam Johnson 1:42 into the third period.
Miami tied it just 2:18 later when Melnick threaded one to Gordie Green at the faceoff dot, and Green’s shot hit a body and popped over Johnson into the back of the net.
Grant Hutton stole a puck along the boards and in the same motion batted the puck ahead to Lown on the right wing, and Lown skated into the faceoff circle and went far post for the game winner 59 seconds into overtime.
STATS: Lown and Melnick both finished with two points, with Lown going 1-1-2 and Melnick picking up a pair of helpers.
It was Lown’s third career multi-point game, and Melnick – the team leader in assists – has recorded at least two five times this season.
Knies is now second on the RedHawks in goals with 11.
— Miami may have snapped out of its offensive funk, but its power play is still MIA. Despite six chances, this was the fifth straight game in which the RedHawks have not scored on the man advantage.
— But the PK has fared better, going 18-for-20 (90.0 percent) in that span.
— It was also the fifth consecutive contest in which Miami has failed to score in the first period.
THOUGHTS: This was one of those here-we-go-again-is-there-a-nearby-deep-frier-I-can-stick-my-head-in type of starts during which the RedHawks were down multiple goals 22 minutes in and behind three a few minutes after.
Larkin probably would’ve liked the first one back and the second was on a 5-on-3, so those weren’t exactly caused by poor skater play.
All-world forward Shane Gersich got behind the defense on the third goal, so yeah, that one is on that corps.
And Miami outshot North Dakota in the first period – all three and overtime in fact – so it’s not like the RedHawks didn’t show up.
That’s what makes this win so impressive. Three-goal leads can snowball, especially against teams like Miami that are struggling for wins.
With not much to play for, the RedHawks stunned a Fighting Hawks team that has tons to play for each night.
Miami’s fate is nearly sealed in the conference, and UND is fighting for home-ice advantage in the league tournament and is on the NCAA bubble.
The RedHawks may be fighting very long odds to get back to the NCAA Tournament, but at least they showed on Friday they are going to fight.
— North Dakota may be down a bit this season but this team still skates and moves the puck very well. The Fighting Hawks’ fans also numbered in triple digits. And they were vocal.
— Hutton’s play on the overtime winner shows why pro teams are salivating. He stole the puck along the boards and sent a perfect outlet pass to Knies in one motion. If he didn’t get the puck ahead that quickly, North Dakota would’ve had a player in Knies’ face as he penetrated the zone.
This guy has a great chance to play in the NHL in a couple of years.
— Melnick’s assist on Mahalak’s goal may have actually been intended for Green. Both were between the faceoff circles, and when it slid past Green, Mahalak stepped into it. Miami went back to that play for its third goal, as Melnick fed Green with both in nearly identical spots.
FORWARDS: B. Melnick’s passing was at a peak level in this game, as both of his assists came from the corner along the goal line to the edge of the slot. Freshmen Lown and Knies both scored and have both improved drastically as the season has progressed. Knies also blocked four shots. Carter Johnson didn’t get a point but his steal ultimately led to the Melnick-to-Green goal that tied it. Overall this corps was solid defensively as well, especially on the penalty kill.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. Mahalak scored, Hutton’s play on the game-winner was amazing and Louie Belpedio picked up an assist on Mahalak’s goal. It was a good night for this group, as North Dakota finished with just 17 shots despite six power plays. The one blemish is that Rourke Russell did get beat on the third UND breakaway that led to a goal, and he also inadvertently took out his own goalie on that play.
GOALTENDING: C+. Yes, Larkin allowed three goals on 17 shots (.824), but he faced a handful of Grade-A chances and was taken out of the play on one of those goals. The first one was stoppable, but the second was a 5-on-3 missile from the high slot. He also held UND off the scoreboard the final 33 minutes, allowing Miami to come back.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: Carter Johnson was back in the lineup while Zach LaValle sat. Johnson contributed to Green’s goal.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This is what the second half of the season in this league should be about: Thrilling, well-played games between teams ranging from good to top-ranked.
That’s how it was every weekend down the stretch three years ago when Miami won the NCHC Tournament.
As a fan, as soon as a game ended you couldn’t wait to get back to the rink the next night or weekend.
This season definitely hasn’t gone as planned, but this night was a reminder of how entertaining meaningful games in this league are in late winter.
From the RedHawks and their fans’ perspective, the only thing lacking was the standings relevance, as Miami is competing for neither a league title nor home-ice advantage.
Hopefully the full stretch-run experience will return to Cady Arena next season.
Posted on February 24, 2018, in 2017-18 and tagged 2017-18 miami redhawks, ben lown, grant hutton, josh melnick, NCHC, north dakota fighting hawks, North Dakota Fighting Sioux, phil knies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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