Miami secures last in NCHC with loss
OXFORD, Ohio – The preseason NCHC poll picked Miami to finish last in the conference.
The RedHawks proved those voters correct as No. 12 Western Michigan pounded them 6-1 at Cady Arena on Saturday, sealing eighth place in the eight-team league.
Miami (11-21-4) actually tied Omaha for the bottom spot but lost the tiebreaker. The RedHawks will head to St. Cloud State next weekend in a best-of-3 NCHC Tournament opening-round series.
Wade Allison recorded a hat trick and added an assist, and Colt Conrad ended the night with a goal and three helpers to pace the Broncos (20-13-1).
RECAP: Just 57 seconds in, Allison stole the puck at his own blue line, setting up a 2-on-1 as he tapped home a return feed from Dawson DiPietro.
With 6:06 left in the opening period, WMU’s Colt Conrad threw a hard pass from the top of the faceoff circle to DiPietro, who tipped it in from the side of the crease on the power play to extend the Broncos’ lead to two.
Western Michigan’s Ethen Frank made it 3-0 when he skated into the zone on the right wing and ripped a shot past goalie Ryan Larkin from the top of the faceoff circle five minutes into the second period.
The Broncos scored each of the next two goals 12 seconds into power plays.
Conrad held the puck in on a clearing attempt, drove the net and whipped it under the crossbar with 12:24 left in the second period, and Allison held the puck behind the Miami net, maneuvered the puck onto the end of his stick and threw it around the net and in to make it 5-0 with six minutes left in the that frame.
Ben Lown scored Miami’s lone goal on a laser from the high slot that snuck inside the far post three minutes into the third period, but a faceoff-dot wrister from Allison capped the scoring 57 seconds later.
STATS: It was Lown’s first goal in 21 games and the first assist for Knies in 17 contests.
— Miami was outshot, 25-9 the first two periods.
— The RedHawks allowed three power play goals on five chances and were 0-for-3 themselves on the man advantage with just two shots.
— Opponents have scored 25 goals in Miami’s last five games.
THOUGHTS: Nothing to see here: Western Michigan scored in the opening minute and sent a number of fans to the exits by the end of the second period with a five-goal lead.
At least Friday created the illusion of being close for the first two periods.
Ticket face value for these games was $25 each, and in terms of bang for the entertainment buck, this weekend rated lower than Howard the Duck.
— Mike Babcock and other have famously said that it takes no skill to kill penalties.
Regardless of any talent disparity, Miami’s PK has been abysmal for quite a while, and a poor penalty kill has been directly proportional to the RedHawks’ overall struggles.
Miami finished the regular season 59th out of 60 in the NCAA in at 73.5 percent. During the RedHawks’ final 24 games they were 65.8 percent on the PK and 61.8 percent over their last 10 contests.
FORWARDS: D-. Not much positive other than the Lown goal. An undisciplined offensive-zone penalty by Casey Gilling penalty ended up in the Miami net 12 seconds later. Like Friday, Miami’s top forwards had very few shots, and no one up front had more than two SOG.
DEFENSEMEN: D. Not many highlights here except a couple of big Grant Hutton hits. Liked the play from the big guys – Bray Crowder and Andrew Sinard.
GOALTENDING: D. There were a couple of shots Larkin had no chance on but others were stoppable. Overall he finished 20 of 25 (.800). Jordan Uhelski was 6-for-7 (.857) in relief.
LINEUP CHANGES: Rourke Russell was scratched for the first time this season, as Sinard replaced him.
Up front Carter Johnson dressed and Christian Mohs sat.
STANDINGS: At 5-17-2, Miami finished last in the NCHC for the second straight season and was seventh in 2016-17. As a result, the RedHawks will head to the road for the first round of the league tournament for the fourth straight season.
Both MU and Omaha ended the regular season with 18 points, but the tiebreaker came down to goal differential in head-to-head games, and the Mavericks outscored the RedHawks by one in their four meetings, 11-10.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami went 3-12-1 to end the 2013-14 regular season and finished last in the conference, setting up a series at top-seeded St. Cloud State.
The RedHawks swept the Huskies on a clinching goal by Justin Greenberg in the closing seconds of Game 2 and came within a goal of winning the NCHC championship.
So there is hope.
But it would’ve been nice to see an inkling of improvement from this team in the waning games of the regular season, and it never happened.
Five straight losses and a woeful 2-16-4 record since mid-November.
It would be quite a story if the RedHawks could somehow advance to the Frozen Faceoff with their resume.