Monthly Archives: February 2018

Photos: Western Michigan at Miami

Images from the series between Western Michigan at Miami at Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio, on Feb. 2-3, 2018. All photos by Cathy Lachmann/BoB.

 

Blown lead again costs Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – Groundhog Day should’ve been on Saturday instead of Friday.

Miami, seemingly caught in a never-ending loop of evaporating leads, yet again saw a two-goal advantage vanish in a 3-2 loss to Western Michigan at Cady Arena on Saturday.

A sweep of the Broncos that would have seen the RedHawks climb to within a game of .500 instead ended in a mercurial weekend split.

After playing so well on Friday and taking a 2-0 lead on Saturday, holding that advantage would’ve pulled Miami within four points of an injury-plagued WMU team that is without its best offensive weapon.

The Broncos would’ve been in a three-way tie for fourth place, and finishing in the top four in this conference is so important because it means home-ice advantage for the NCHC Tournament.

Instead, Miami is now 10 points behind WMU, and with eight games left, closing that gap will be nearly impossible with the RedHawks’ remaining schedule.

RECAP: The RedHawks caught an early break, as a Western Michigan goal midway through the first period was waved off after a review because it was determined the play was off-side.

Carter Johnson celebrates after scoring his first career goal (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami took advantage, as in the final minute of the opening frame, Casey Gilling whipped a shot just under the crossbar on the near side to put his team ahead.

The RedHawks went up by two when Carter Johnson tipped home a blue-line blast by Louie Belpedio at the 1:46 mark of the second period for his first collegiate goal.

But the Broncos ran off three straight goals in that decisive middle stanza.

Ethen Frank streaked through the slot, took a feed from Austin Rueschhoff and beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on his backhand less than two minutes later to make it 2-1.

Western Michigan tied it with exactly four minutes left in that frame on another Frank goal. Frank was a trailer on a 2-on-2, and he took a pass in the high slot from Dawson DiPietro and buried it.

Just 74 seconds later, the Broncos took their first lead of the weekend when Lawton Courtnall stole the puck from Conor Lemirande, went coast-to-coast and beat Larkin on the glove side from the slot.

Miami outshot WMU, 8-0 in the third period and had 7:36 of power play time but was unable to generate the equalizer.

THOUGHTS: From its highest-profile games to Saturday, damage control has been a decade-long issue for Miami teams.

Once again, a pair of critical goals against occurred in quick succession.

A glance at the RedHawks’ collapses this season alone:

– Game 2: Kasper Bjorkqvist scored the game winner one second left to lift Providence to a 2-1 win.

– Game 8: Miami led 1-0 after one period, Colorado College tied it in the second and Westin Michaud netted the winner in the final second of the second period.

– Game 11: Miami and Minnesota-Duluth were tied, 1-1 late in the third period, but Jared Thomas and Scott Perunovich found the net 76 seconds apart as the Bulldogs won, 3-1.

– Game 14: Miami was 36 seconds away from a win and sweep at Bowling Green, but Alec Rauhauser found the net with the extra attacker as the Falcons salvaged a 2-2 tie.

– Game 18: Like this weekend, Miami had beaten Western Michigan in the opener in Kalamazoo. But in the finale, the RedHawks blew a 3-1 lead as Wade Allison recorded a natural hat trick, cutting the deficit to one midway through the second period, tying it with 4:02 left in regulation and winning it in overtime.

– Games 21-22: Not blown leads but just pointing out how Miami has let games get away. In Game 21, UNO ran off 11 goals vs. Miami, a quarter-century worst mark for the RedHawks, and the Mavericks scored consecutive goals 41 seconds and seven (!!!) seconds apart. The next night, UNO scored four times in a 10:53 span of the second period, and the RedHawks tried to come back but fell short, 4-3. Three of those goals against were in a 5:13 window.

– Game 24: Another blown two-goal lead. Miami led, 4-2, but Colorado College cut the deficit to one late in the second period and Trevor Gooch tied it midway through the final stanza.

– Game 26: Miami was ahead, 2-0 but allowed the final three goals in the second period, including two 74 seconds apart.

— Weird that WMU was whistled for too many men twice in the first 3:18 minutes of the first period.

— Miami actually held the Broncos without a SOG the entire third period.

LINEUP CHANGES: None.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C. Congratulations to Johnson for his first career goal on a sweet tip-in, and this corps – as well as the entire team – was solid for the first half of the game but seemed to run out of gas down the stretch. Gilling’s goal was a snipe, and it’s pretty obvious he’s going to be a major part of this team for the next three-plus years. Lemirande’s turnover hurt on the third goal, and it’s been a recurring theme that trailers have scored against Miami because no one has picked them up.

DEFENSEMEN: B-. A decent but not great night for the corps. Louie Belpedio picked up assists on both Miami goals. Western Michigan did miss a few Grade-A chances and hit multiple posts. The trailer issue applies to the blueliners as well. Miami has gotten burned far too many times this season when opponents have entered the zone unabated.

GOALTENDING: D+. Larkin only made 13 saves and should’ve made at least one stop on the three WMU goals. He does see a lot of Grade-A chances but Miami needs him to stop more pucks.

FINAL THOUGHTS: A 6-2 finish or better is the only way Miami could re-gain at-large consideration after yet another blown lead costs this team valuable league points and costs the RedHawks in the PairWise.

The RedHawks are now 25th and would need to be over .500 to earn a berth.

Miami isn’t as talented as some of the teams in this conference but as documented above, it should have a better record than 10-13-3.

The window is closing quickly for the RedHawks, who will host a St. Cloud State team that is No. 2 in the PairWise.

Miami ends skid, tops WMU

OXFORD, Ohio – Often a team can actually gain momentum after taking a penalty when it comes up with a critical kill.

That was the case on Friday when Miami turned a potentially disastrous start into a 4-2 win over Western Michigan at Cady Arena.

The RedHawks came out sluggish, getting outshot 4-1 in the opening minutes. Not the start to a four-game homestand they wanted after an 0-3-1 road trip.

Then they were whistled for a pair of penalties, setting up a two-minute two-man advantage for the Broncos.

But Miami killed the majority of the 5-on-3 and a WMU minor wiped out the rest. The RedHawks were a different team the balance of the game and ultimately snapped their five-game winless streak.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

RECAP: The first period was scoreless, but Miami finally broke through when Kiefer Sherwood stole a pass in the offensive zone, threw a shot at the net that hit the end boards and caromed to a wide-open Ben Lown, who tapped it in 1:08 into the middle stanza.

The RedHawks made it 2-0 when Gordie Green batted in a bad-angle rebound off a shot from the blue line by Louie Belpedio at the 4:47 mark of that frame.

Western Michigan’s Corey Schueneman beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin high on the glove side for a 5-on-3 goal with 10:18 left in the second period.

But Miami answered with a two-man advantage of its own when Grant Hutton wired a shot through from the top of the faceoff circle off a feed by Alec Mahalak with less than four minutes remaining in the middle frame, making it 3-1.

The RedHawks sealed it with 3:26 left in regulation on a Belpedio wrister from the center of the faceoff circle.

Ethan Frank capped the scoring with a blast that beat Miami’s Ryan Larkin directly off a faceoff in the closing seconds.

STATS: Belpedio finished with a goal and an assist, and Sherwood and Josh Melnick recorded two assists each.

It was the second straight multi-point game for Belpedio and the third in a row for Sherwood, who extended his team-best points streak to eight games.

Melnick has 10 points in his last nine games, and he was 12-6 on faceoffs.

Larkin stopped 20 shots to earn the win.

THOUGHTS: This win was obviously much needed and much appreciated, and Miami played well and deserved it.

That said, it also comes with a little frustration because the RedHawks showed how well they’re capable of playing, and if they did that more they wouldn’t be in such a dire spot.

Full disclosure on this win: WMU is seriously banged up, most notably missing stud Wade Allison who was 15-15-30 in 22 games. He’s likely lost for the season.

That definitely hurt the Broncos’ offensive attack, and they generated just two shots on five power plays that included multiple minutes of 5-on-3 action.

Still, this was the best overall home game Miami has played since beating Duluth on Nov. 18.

The RedHawks are capable of playing with these NCAA Tournament-bound teams, they just haven’t done it nearly enough, especially as of late.

— NCHC contests typically don’t feature a lot of 5-on-3s, but there were three in this game and would’ve been a fourth had Miami not possessed the puck through a delayed penalty until the power play expired.

Both teams scored once on the two-man advantage.

— The power play has been particularly explosive for Miami as of late, racking up 10 goals on the man-advantage the past five games. MU is converting at a 35.7 percent rate during that clip.

Unfortunately, that positive work during this stretch has been negated by a 54.5 PK percentage, as they are just 12-for-22 since the start of their road series at UNO.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C+. As a group, RedHawks forwards only had 16 shots and nearly half came on the power play. They accounted for two of the goals (Green and Lown). Sherwood struggled in the first half but has regained that 2016-17 form, and he stepping up on defense as well. His steal led to the first Miami goal.

DEFENSEMEN: B+. Hutton and Belpedio both scored, and after the whole team struggled out of the game, the blueliners did a good job of limiting Western Michigan’s scoring chances. Hutton was exceptional in his own end and deserved first star, not third, as he won loose puck battles and muscled people off the puck all night. It was a physical game and this corps was up to the challenge.

GOALTENDING: B-. Like many starts this season, Larkin was solid, controlled his rebounds and stopped the routine shots but didn’t come up with either of his toughest chances.

Miami’s Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

LINEUP CHANGES: Thank heavens Grant Hutton missed last Saturday’s game due to illness and not something worse. He was back in the lineup after missing just the second game of his career last weekend.

His return sent Grant Frederic back to the scratch list.

Up front, Willie Knierim was back on the lineup card as Zach LaValle did not dress. Carter Johnson suited up for the third straight contest.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This win gets Miami to within three points of seventh place, and while home ice is still a longshot, the bottom half of the league is clumped together and the RedHawks still have a game in hand over most.

If the RedHawks play like they did on Friday, they could make a run at an NCAA berth. But consistency has not been MU’s MO in 2017-18.