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Analysis: Plenty of good, bad in tie

It was a positive thing to see Miami come back from a first-period, two-goal deficit, but a downer that the RedHawks were unable to hold a late lead.

So appropriately, Miami and Nebraska-Omaha skated to a 3-3 tie on Friday in the weekend series opener at UNO’s Baxter Arena.

First the bad.

The Mavericks’ first goal was a bit lucky. RedHawks forward Ryan Siroky got in position to block a shot in the slot, and the puck appeared to deflect off his skate and into the net. It happens.

But UNO scored again a minute later when Teemu Pulkkinen was left wide open in front of the net for a rebound.

Same thing with the Mavericks’ tying goal. Jake Randolph was practically in his own time zone at the side of the net, and Austin Ortega – one of the most dangerous players in the league – fed him perfectly for the easy goal.

This game marks the two-thirds mark of the regular season for Miami, and still too many opponents are not paying the price in front of the net.

We saw this last week as well. On one UND goal, four Miami players chased the puck as a player crossed into the offensive zone, and that resulted in an easy tic-tac-toe goal when a pass got through all of the RedHawks defenders to wide-open North Dakota skaters.

Miami has improved in a lot of areas as the season has progressed. This is a big one and at this point things aren’t getting better. And they need to. Quickly.

Oh yeah, and the RedHawks took six straight penalties after going on the power play three times to open the game. Penalty No. 5 by Karch Bachman was the killer, as that’s when UNO tied it in the third period.

Now the good.

Let’s look at the goals.

The first power play unit for Miami is just lethal, and that’s how the RedHawks scored their first goal. Anthony Louis got penetration and dropped a pass to Louie Belpedio for the rip.

Miami forward Willie Knierim (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami forward Willie Knierim (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Then Willie Knierim scored. That’s three goals for the 18-year-old true freshman (he turns 19 on Sunday), with all coming in his last 10 games.

Another 6-feet-3 forward, Sean Kuraly, who was a year older when he came to Oxford, scored three times in his first 36 games. We all know how he turned out.

It’s also encouraging how Knierim is scoring goals. He’s not afraid to go into the slot, where he scored from on Friday on a wicked shot. His size is his biggest asset, and he can give opponents fits if he can establish position in front of the net, both by knocking home rebounds and screening goalies.

Then there’s Carson Meyer, who looks like he’s watching the Miami figure skating team this season, as he managed to take a pass at the top of the crease and knock it home while doing part pirouette, part triple axle.

That’s five goals in 10 games for him, and if wasn’t for goalie Ryan McKay, Meyer would be skating away with the team’s rookie of the year award.

Miami has shown that it can come back from deficits on the road in the most hostile of environments, having done so both in Grand Forks and Omaha the past two weekends.

These road trips, while taxing, help build bonds between players, especially with younger teams.

Yeah, the sixth tie of the year wasn’t the outcome Miami had hoped for, but considering the RedHawks were down 2-0 halfway through the first period, the ultimate result isn’t half bad. Or half good.

Other thoughts…

– Let’s go back to the penalties. UNO took three, then Miami took six. It’s so hard to second-guess officiating from a computer monitor, so we’ll have to give the officials the benefit of the doubt. You can’t do that, especially on the road. That isn’t news to anyone, but the parade to the penalty box is something we’re seeing too often in recent weeks. The RedHawks have been shorthanded 23 times the past four games, or 5.8 times per game. By comparison, MU faced just 17 power plays in its previous five contests, an average of 3.4 opportunities. Carson Meyer was whistled twice in this game.

– While Miami’s penchant for free hockey is approaching team record levels, its overtime appearance total is far from historic at the NCAA level. The RedHawks have tied six times, played in nine extra sessions and have three OT wins. The Division I records are 10 ties, 19 overtime games played in and seven wins after regulation. The 10 ties seems to most attainable, and that has been done three times: By Western Michigan in 2010-11 (Miami actually tied the Broncos once that season), Colorado College in 2008-09 and Minnesota State in 2002-03. However, if Miami does chase that record it’s a lot less likely the RedHawks will be in position to make the NCAA Tournament.

– The NCHC points race is crazy right now, as two points separate third place and seventh. Miami is currently in seventh, but a win Saturday would mean the RedHawks would be no worse than sixth heading home for the Western Michigan series, and they could go as high as third. After this weekend, Miami will have 10 games remaining and will play each of the top four teams in the league in terms of points, plus the sixth-best team (St. Cloud State). The RedHawks’ final five opponents are ranked Nos. 7, 14, 3, 2 and 9 in the PairWise. That means plenty of opportunity to move up, will they will have to earn it against some of the best teams in Division I.

Miami forward Justin Greenberg (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami forward Justin Greenberg (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

LINEUP CHANGES: Justin Greenberg has missed consecutive games. He had been in the lineup 53 straight contests prior. Alex Alger has dressed in his place in the last two games. For the sixth time in a row, the defensive six and goaltender were the same, as Coach Enrico Blasi seems to be set at those spots for the stretch run.

Miami ties yet again vs. UNO

Another tie moved Miami into a tie for the NCHC record for most ties in a season.

The RedHawks played in their ninth overtime contest of the campaign as they skated to a 3-3 draw at Nebraska-Omaha on Friday.

Several teams have finished with six ties since the NCHC’s inception in 2013-14, but Miami has a great chance of establishing a new league mark since it still has 11 games remaining in its regular season.

The NCAA record is 10 stalemates, held by three teams including current conference foes Colorado College and Western Michigan.

The Mavericks (13-8-4) scored twice in a 59-second span midway through the first period.

Steven Spinner whipped a shot from the high slot that appeared to deflect off the skate of the RedHawks’ Ryan Siroky and into the net 9:32 into the game.

Justin Perizek’s shot from the side of the net was stopped by RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin, but the rebound came to Teemu Pulkkinen, who batted it in with 9:29 left in the opening frame.

With 2:47 left in the first period, Anthony Louis fed Louie Belpedio for a one-time blast on the power play as Miami cut the lead in half.

The RedHawks (8-9-6) tied the score at two with 8:16 left in the opening stanza as Scott Dornbrock fired a shot from the blue line that was knocked down in the slot, and Willie Knierim corralled the rebound, wiring one just under the crossbar.

Miami's Carson Meyer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Carson Meyer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami took its only lead of the game 21 seconds into the third period, as Louis centered a puck to the top of the crease for an off-balance Carson Meyer, who acrobatically tapped the puck home.

On a power-play rush, the Mavericks evened it at three as Austin Ortega fed Jake Randolph at the side of the cage for a one-timer with 6:16 remaining in regulation.

The RedHawks earned the extra point late in overtime as Gordie Green slid a pass to Dornbrock on the left wing, and Dornbrock played the puck off his skate to his stick before burying it.

Meyer finished with a goal and an assist, and Louis also tallied two points – both on helpers. Meyer has points in nine of 10 games since returning from his illness, going 5-7-12 in that stretch.

Louis extended his points streak to a team-best eight games. He has four goals and eight assists during his streak and four multi-point games in his last five contests, giving him 117 points for his career, 35th on the team’s all-time leaderboard.

Miami started the game with three straight power plays, scoring on one, but UNO had six consecutive chances on the man-advantage to end it, netting the tying goal on its fifth chance.

Six ties for the season is one off MU’s all-time record. The team skated to seven draws in 2009-10, the last time it advanced to the Frozen Four.

The RedHawks remain in seventh place in the NCHC but are just two points out third place in the ultra-tight conference.

These teams wrap up their weekend series at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday.

Miami win streak ends in North Dakota

Miami again trailed, 3-1 after two periods on Saturday, but unlike the night before, there would be no late heroics.

Neither team scored in the final stanza and the RedHawks fell at No. 7 North Dakota by that two-goal margin, splitting the weekend series.

Miami had scored five unanswered goals on Friday to pull off a 6-3 win. The loss snaps a five-game winning streak and six-game unbeaten stretch.

UND got on the board first, as Zach Yon took advantage of a turnover, fed ahead to Dixon Bowen who separated from his defenseman, skated wide toward to net and beat RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin just 3:00 into the game.

Miami's Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami (8-9-5) answered 44 seconds later, as Josh Melnick stole the puck along the boards and kicked it out to Carson Meyer in the high slot, who threw a pass to Anthony Louis at the side of the net for a one-time tap in.

North Dakota (13-7-3) went ahead for good when Shane Gersich entered the zone and sent a pass to Tyson Jost, who slid one across the slot to Austin Poganski for a tap-in with 11:36 left in the opening frame.

UND scored the final goal shorthanded, as Joel Janatuinen stripped Louis in the Miami defensive zone and dropped a pass to Rhett Gardner, who whipped one past Larkin with 15:47 remaining in the middle stanza.

North Dakota dominated in shots, 34-15, reaching double digits each period while holding the RedHawks to six or fewer in all three frames.

Louis’ goal gives him a seven-point point streak, the longest by any Miami player this season. He now has 115 career points, tied for 35th with Marty Guerin and Bobby Marshall on the all-time list.

Melnick has picked up points in six straight games, with five markers and four assists in that span.

The RedHawks fell into a tie for sixth in the NCHC with St. Cloud – as both have 16 points – and they slipped one spot to 21st in the PairWise rankings.

Miami heads will head to Nebraska-Omaha for two games next weekend.

Analysis: Third period turnaround, Part II

It would have been hard to imagine anyone saying what a strong third-period team Miami is during the team’s 10-game winless streak earlier this season.

That’s exactly what the RedHawks are at present, with a five-goal third period solidifying that assessment in a 6-3 win at No. 7 North Dakota on Friday.

To revisit after this win: Miami was outscored, 14-3 in the final stanza during its skid. The RedHawks (8-8-5) have lit the lamp 18 times in the third period and overtime during their winning streak.

Their opponents? Twice.

Neither a psychologist nor a hockey coach, so this is speculation based on observation, but two of the key reasons for the turnaround late in games are better stamina and better confidence.

We’ve said repeatedly that youth is not an excuse for that miserable 3-8-5 start, but it definitely seems like this team is in better hockey shape than it was in November.

Getting acclimated to the program for the younger players has likely helped, as college is obviously a big jump from the NAHL and USHL.

The team looks more confident in every aspect, from warm-ups to the final horn. Of course that’s a chicken-and-egg argument, as winning wields confidence, which wields wins, etc.

One of the best things about this win is it comes without a caveat.

With Colorado College, it was yeah but Miami should beat Colorado College. Then it was Ohio State, and yeah but OSU plays in the weaker Big Ten. Then St. Cloud’s ‘yeah but’ was that the team was struggling a bit and the games were in Oxford.

There’s never a ‘yeah but’ with a win in Grand Forks. Ever.

Other thoughts…

– As one following the game from 1,000-plus miles away, it got to 3-1 and the mentality went to, oh well, try for the split tomorrow. Let’s face it, that was and still is the realistic goal of this weekend anyway. Miami already has that and is playing with house money on Saturday. That said, a sweep is obviously a possibility now, but expect North Dakota to come out like the early-80s Islanders teams in the first period.

– When we first evaluated Miami’s record after the team fell to 3-8-5 (hey, maybe that’s the reason for the 5-0-1 run, viva Blog of Brotherhood!), it was looking like the team would have to go at minimum 13-5 the rest of the way to get to 16-13-5 and warrant consideration for an NCAA at-large. Now it’s 8-5, which seems much more doable, especially the way the RedHawks are playing. But the rest of the schedule is a murderer’s row of elite teams: Three more against UND (12-7-3) – Saturday in Grand Forks and a pair in Oxford to close out the regular season – two in Omaha, two in St. Cloud, two in Duluth and two at home against Western Michigan and Denver, both top-10 teams. There’s certainly reason for optimism but Miami is still paying the price for that awful start.

– Coinciding with Miami’s wins is the team’s rejuvenated power play. The RedHawks were held without a PPG for six straight games but have netted goals on the man advantage in four straight contests, scoring five in that stretch.

Miami's Gordie Green (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Gordie Green (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– Gordie Green has four points in four games after recording that many in the first 17. If we had to pick a most-improved player from October to now, he would certainly be one of the top candidates. He scored the first goal of the game on Friday. He scored once in those first 17 games but has found the net three times in the last four. Miami welcomes those contributions, because…

– On that note, this team is still incredibly top-heavy in terms of points. Forward leaders: Anthony Louis 27, Kiefer Sherwood 25, Josh Melnick 19, Carson Meyer 19, Green 8, then the next highest is five. So after the top two lines and No. 1 power play unit Miami’s offense is nearly non-existent.

Miami shocks UND with 5 late goals

The comeback at Ohio State seemed impressive, but Miami topped that on Friday.

After falling behind by two, the RedHawks scored five unanswered goals to beat No. 7 North Dakota, 6-3 at Ralph Engelstad Arena, extending their winning streak to five games and their stretch of unbeaten contests to six.

Miami (8-8-5) was down, 3-1 entering the third period, with its lone goal coming by Gordie Green 3:30 into the game on a shot by Zach Lavelle that deflected off Green’s skate at the side of the net.

Anthony Louis cut the deficit to one just 55 seconds into the final stanza when he slammed a loose puck home from the top of the crease.

The RedHawks tied it 4:03 into that frame when Carson Meyer took a pass on the right wing, skated in alone and backhanded it home.

Thanks to a similar set-up, Karch Bachman got behind the defense at the same spot, took it in and scored on the forehard to make it 4-3 with 12:11 left in regulation.

After a North Dakota (12-7-3) goalie change, Ryan Siroky stickhandled at the top the crease and shoveled one through the five hole with 8:59, extending Miami’s lead to two.

Miami's Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami took advantage of a major power play, as Louie Belpedio ripped one from the blue line to cap off the scoring onslaught with 4:02 to play.

Belpedio ended the night with a game-high three points on a goal and two assists. Louis finished with a marker and a helper, with Kiefer Sherwood and Josh Melnick also adding two points on a pair of assists.

Several RedHawks extended points streaks. Louis and Sherwood have recorded points in six straight, with Louis going 3-6-9 and Sherwood recording a 4-6-10 line in that span.

Louis has three straight multi-point games and moved into a tie with Andy Greene and Andy Cozzi for 37th on the team’s all-time points leaderboard with 114.

Melnick has tallied points in five games in a row, scoring five times and picking up three helpers. Belpedio has six points in three games.

With the win, the RedHawks jumped eight spots in the PairWise to 20th. Miami remains tied for fifth in the NCHC but has two games in hand over St. Cloud State, as both teams have 16 points.

North Dakota and Western Michigan are just one point ahead of the pair.

Miami and UND wrap up the weekend series at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday.

Photos: St. Cloud State at Miami

Images from the series between St. Cloud State and Miami played at Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio, on Jan. 7-8, 2017. All photos by Cathy Lachmann/BoB.

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Analysis: Why the sudden turnaround?

OXFORD, Ohio – One of the more captivating things about hockey is how teams that appear dead on the frozen water at one point of a season can quickly reverse that negative trend.

The Miami everyone wanted to play in November and early December has made a significant move in the conference and PairWise the past month, as it won its fourth straight game on Saturday, 4-1 over St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.

The RedHawks (7-8-5) were in last place in the NCHC after their 10th straight non-win on Dec. 9 and dipped as low as 42nd out of 60 teams in the all-important PairWise Rankings, which determine at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament and seeding.

Thirty days later, Miami has shifted into a tie for fifth in the conference and is a point away from fourth. In theory the RedHawks could move as high as third with a pair of wins next week.

MU is up to 28th in PairWise and has much work to do to warrant at-large consideration, but the team is still up 14 spots in a month with plenty of hockey remaining against high-quality opponents.

So what’s the difference? A quick summary…

Health. A young Miami team already lacking a ton of depth couldn’t catch a break in this department the first 16 games. Carson Meyer, Louie Belpedio, Ryan Larkin, Jared Brandt and Josh Melnick – all major contributors on RedHawks Version 2016-17 – missed a combined 15 games with various injuries and illnesses. All are currently healthy now and playing at a high level.

Third-period turnaround. As documented previously, Miami was outscored, 14-3 during its 0-7-3 run in the third period. During their winning streak, the RedHawks have netted 11 goals in the last frame. Opponents: 2. They’re finishing stronger and appear in better shape than earlier in the campaign. Miami found ways to lose games it led the first couple of months and now is pulling them out late.

Power play. With plenty of minutes under its belt as a unit, the Belpedio-Melnick-Anthony Louis-Kiefer Sherwood-Meyer group has impressed with its puck movement, and after going six straight games without a goal on the man-advantage (0-for-19), Miami is 4 of 13 (30.8 percent) in the three contests since.

Melnick on fire. The sophomore scored one time in the first 16 games but has found the net in four straight, netting five goals and setting up another in that span. That includes two overtime winners and the tying goal on Friday. He wins the hardest-to-figure-out-how-he-scored award, as after watching his Saturday goal live and several more times on replay it was still unclear how the redirected the puck in. Both OT goals were highlight-reel quality but also required slow-mo.

Confidence in other forwards. Forgive if anyone is left out, but among freshmen, Gordie Green is getting better every game, so is Willie Knierim. Alex Alger is a solid fourth-line pest, and Karch Bachman has a great shot and better speed, and he has huge upside.

Defense is a little more stable. Miami isn’t quite where it was last season, but that’s because Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart were about as steady as it gets in the NCAA in terms of shut-down D-men. With their departure the returning blueliners are higher in the depth chart consistently facing better forwards, and it’s a tough adjustment. But Grant Hutton, who was so strong as a freshman, is becoming more consistent, and Grant Frederic continues to improve and has been better about staying out of the box. The RedHawks allowed 90 shots in a weekend series in Denver – remarkably tying both games – but has surrendered an average of just 24.0 in the eight games since and had outshot opponents in seven straight before Saturday’s game.

Sherwood is taking over portions of games. There are times now when no one can take the puck away from Sherwood, and he’s exponentially tougher to defend with his passing game evolving. His double-clutch before sliding a pass through to Green for Miami’s second goal on Saturday is a prime example: Teams can no longer play for that lethal shot from the left faceoff circle. The NCHC clearly has the scouting report on Sherwood’s happy zone, but he is moving around on power plays and inflicting damage elsewhere, having adjusted to the conference’s adjustment. And he scored the RedHawks’ first shorthanded goal of the year to open the scoring.

And of course, a little puck luck. As everything seemed to be going wrong for Miami, that intangible made things worse at times, as the RedHawks hit posts and were victimized by bad bounces. The Hockey Gods appear to be balancing things out recently, as opponents are drawing iron and not getting breaks they were the first couple of months.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. This corps scored a goal shorthanded, at even strength and on the power play. The forwards really didn’t generate a ton of chances, but they cashed in on the Grade-A opportunities. And St. Cloud State always seemed to have sticks and bodies in the shooting lanes. If we had to nit-pick, the bottom two lines didn’t do a whole lot and haven’t scored much all season. We could also mention that 12 forwards managed just 17 shots and a few were weak one at an idle goalie.

DEFENSEMEN: B. It’s been a gradual process, but the blueliners are getting beaten less often than in weeks past. The Huskies entered this weekend averaging nearly 3½ goals per game but had limited chances and just one marker in this game, thanks largely to this group. This was one of Hutton’s better games, and he added the cherry on top with the ENG in the final minute after intercepting the puck at center ice. Scott Dornbrock blocked five shots.

Ryan Larkin makes one of his 28 saves on Saturday (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Ryan Larkin makes one of his 28 saves on Saturday (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

GOALTENDING: A. Notice how goaltending wasn’t mentioned before. The reason is that Larkin has been steady throughout, and without him Miami would not have seven wins. That said, he was even better than usual in this game, stopping 28 shots, with his lone blemish being a heat-seeking laser off a drop pass. Larkin faced some difficult shots but as is his MO allowed a very limited number of rebounds.

LINEUP CHANGES: Same six on D, same goalie, just one change up front. Carter Johnson was scratched for the first time this season in favor of Alger. With four straight wins and the team playing its best hockey of the season, the lineup card probably won’t change a whole lot.

Big third keys Miami win over St. Cloud

OXFORD, Ohio – The third period that was the bane of Miami the first half of the season has become the team’s best friend.

From right to left, Kiefer Sherwood, Louie Belpedio and Anthony Louis celebrate during Saturday's win (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

From right to left, Kiefer Sherwood, Louie Belpedio and Anthony Louis celebrate during Saturday’s win (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The RedHawks scored three times in the final stanza to secure a 4-1 win over No. 20 St. Cloud State at Cady Arena on Saturday as Miami recorded its first weekend series sweep since last February.

MU also extended its winning streak to four games and is now unbeaten in its last five. The RedHawks had gone 0-7-3 prior to their winning streak.

Miami (7-8-5) tallied its first shorthanded goal of the season midway through the first period when Kiefer Sherwood stole the puck at center ice, skated in and buried a shot on the far side just under the crossbar.

The score remained 1-0 until the crucial third period. Sherwood double clutched before threading a pass through two defenders and onto the tape of Gordie Green, who scored from the side of the net with 18:58 left in regulation.

The Huskies (9-10-1) cut the MU lead in half with 6:02 to play when Jimmy Schuldt left a drop pass for Jake Wahlin, who wired one past RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin.

But Miami regained its two-goal lead 72 seconds later when a power-play blast from the blue line by Louie Belpedio was tipped home by Josh Melnick, making it 3-1.

Grant Hutton intercepted the puck, skated in uncontested and tapped home the RedHawks’ final goal with 43 seconds left.

Miami had scored nine third-period goals in its first 16 games but has netted 11 in its past four contests and at least two in each game during its winning streak.

Melnick extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with five in that span. Sherwood has four markers in his last four contests.

Sherwood finished with a goal and an assist, giving him points in five straight and eight during his streak. Anthony Louis picked up a season-high two helpers and also had a five-game point streak (2-5-7).

That gives Louis 112 points for his career, tying him for 39th on the team’s all-time career leaderboard with Pete Shipman and Rob Vanderydt.

Larkin stopped 28 shots to earn his third consecutive victory.

The win moved Miami into a tie for fifth with the Huskies in the NCHC standings with 13 points, and the RedHawks are just one behind fourth-place Western Michigan.

MU jumped one spot to 28th in the PairWise Rankings.

The RedHawks’ next four games will be on the road. They will travel to North Dakota next weekend for two games and head to Nebraska-Omaha the following weekend for a pair.

Analysis: Miami thriving in overtime

OXFORD, Ohio – After playing enough free hockey, Miami has gotten quite good at it.

Having gone to the extra session eight times in 19 games, the RedHawks won their third overtime game of the season on Friday, 3-2 over St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.

The paragraph would’ve generated ample laughter if written six weeks ago, but Miami has been clutch late in games.

The biggest statistical difference between the RedHawks’ 0-7-3 stretch and their current 3-0 run? They were outscored, 14-3 in the third period and beyond during the former and have notched 10 goals to their opponents’ one in the three since, all wins.

Miami celebrates after Josh Melnick's overtime game winner (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami celebrates after Josh Melnick’s overtime game winner (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Instead of giving games away late, Miami is pulling off wins thanks to third-period rallies.

Two of those three wins have been decided in overtime, with Josh Melnick netting the game-winning markers in both. He also scored late in the first period at Ohio State with five seconds left in the first period to cut Miami’s deficit to one, 2-1, completely changing the course of that eventual 6-3 MU win.

Yes, St. Cloud State has dropped to No. 20 and was without a top player and coach Bob Motzko, holdovers from the World Juniors who were unable to reach Oxford by game time, but the Huskies are still an excellent, well-coached team that is outstanding at shutting down shooting lanes.

The RedHawks definitely had to earn this win, and despite all of their first-half issues are just two games under .500 with a chance to climb into a tie for fifth in the NCHC with another win on Saturday parlayed with a Nebraska-Omaha loss (the Mavericks fell to North Dakota, 9-1 on Friday).

Sure, Miami had some bad luck with key injuries and illnesses early, but the team just didn’t look confident in these clutch situations the first two months of the season. The RedHawks found ways to lose, but now they’re finding ways to win these tight contests against quality opponents.

Even if it isn’t showing up on the score sheet, you can see certain players evolving, which from a fan perspective is one of the most fun things about college hockey.

Carson Meyer and Ryan Larkin have been the co-valedictorians of this Miami freshman hockey class to this point, no doubt, but Gordie Green is playing with so much more confidence, and so is Willie Knierim, who has a ton of upside largely – pun somewhat intended – because of his size. a great example. So is Karch Bachman, who has blazing speed and a wicked wrister but doesn’t seem to get put into situations that could garner success.

Defenseman Grant Frederic also quietly seems to get better every game, and Jared Brandt has been that steady defensive D-man Miami always seems to bring in to shore up that corps.

This team is so much better now that in was during the 0-7-3 skid, and a key win like this is a major validation of that statement.

Other thoughts…

– Not sure I’ve seen a game in which dumb penalties have resulted in all of the final three critical goals. Miami’s Colin Sullivan, a fifth-year senior who we’ve praised here repeatedly and at times questioned why he hasn’t played more, drove a player into the boards late in the third period of a 1-1 game despite seeing the number on the back of his jersey from the Indiana border. And St. Cloud went ahead on a power play goal it scored as a result, but fortunately for Miami the Huskies took an even dumber penalty a half minute later, and the RedHawks’ Melnick scored both the tying and go-ahead goals on the resulting major.

– (continued) With his team leading, 2-1, Jacob Benson targeted the head of Meyer on an open-ice hit and rightly drew a five-minute major and was booted from the game. Fortunately Meyer wasn’t hurt, but Melnick scored both of his goals on that penalty, which were the tying and game-winning goals. Guessing Benson isn’t a really popular player on SCSU right now.

– Is it really that hard for linesmen to drop pucks for faceoffs? Does anyone really want to see multiple re-drops?

– The power play. Miami had its struggles early on the man-advantage but scored both of its late goals on Melnick PPGs, giving the RedHawks three tallies in their last 10 chances over the past two games. They were 0-for-19 in their previous six contests. Still looking for that first shorty though – MU is one of only nine D-I teams without one this season.

– On a personal note, a win like this, and the OSU one, and the Colorado College one, make it a lot more fun to come to the rink. I can’t wait for Saturday’s game. At 3-8-5, it was harder to get psyched for the 65-minute drive to Cady Arena.

– Understand the J-term concept but still hate seeing the rink mostly void of students and fans overall. The attendance was 1,717. Not much expected for Game 2 either.

– On another personal note, I apologize for not doing more in terms of pro and FutureHawks updates the first half of the season. Lots going on, but hope to rectify that during this critical final months of the season, and we promise to write some player features down the stretch. Thanks for everyone’s patience and understanding.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B+. This was a tough gig for this group, as Miami’s forwards faced a quality group of shut-down defensemen and goalie, but they managed three goals, all in the final 10 minutes of regulation and OT. Finishing with 34 shots is good, but a few too many were weak looks with no traffic that had zero chance to hitting the net. In addition to the obvious (Melnick-Louis), really liked Meyer’s all-around game, and Kiefer Sherwood and Justin Greenberg have really improved on their faceoffs, although I admit I’ve never seen anyone win draws consistently like Sherwood does, dropping to one knee each time.

DEFENSEMEN: B-. In 11 years of watching every minute of every game at Cady Arena, I’ve never seen a group that is so hard to grade. Grant Hutton got beaten badly on a drive to the net that was stopped by Larkin but was solid otherwise. Scott Dornbrock didn’t have a particularly strong game. Louie Belpedio was excellent overall and picked up two helpers. Miami seriously missed him as a the power play quarterback when he was injured.

GOALTENDING: B+. Larkin had no chance on the first SCSU goal, as he made the initial save on a point-blank rip but no one picked up the goal scorer. The second one was on the power play and hit a post before dropping at the top of the crease for a tap-in. He was 29 of 31 for a .935 save percentage. He did seem a hair shaky early but was outstanding the final 40-plus minutes.

LINEUP CHANGES: Chaz Switzer and Bryce Hatten both sat on defense for the second straight game, and this is about the time the starting 18 solidifies, so they may be the odd men out down the stretch. Hatten was injured almost all of 2015-16 and Switzer logged 121 USHL games before turning 19 and heading to Oxford, so both have bright futures, but their games are still evolving. Karch Bachman was out with an illness last week but returned, sending Alex Alger to the stands. Alger has been a pest and has played well as a fourth-liner, and one wonders if his playing time would be more substantial had he not been absolutely robbed on a blast from the slot earlier this season and rang one off the post on another. Will Ryan Larkin be in net for the remainder of Miami’s games? There’s a good chance, although Chase Munroe’s win vs. Colorado College had to help the team overall, as he proved himself a solid backup.

Melnick’s late 2 lift Miami over St. Cloud

OXFORD, Ohio – The Mel Man definitely delivers late.

Josh Melnick scored the tying and game-winning goals – with the latter coming in overtime – both on a power play stemming from a major penalty as Miami edged out No. 20 St. Cloud State, 3-2 at Cady Arena on Friday.

Miami's Josh Melnick (37) bangs home the game-winning goal in overtime (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Josh Melnick (37) bangs home the game-winning goal in overtime (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Melnick had scored one goal in the first 16 games of the season but has found the net in three straight, with four tallies overall in that stretch. It was also the first multi-goal game of the sophomore’s career.

The game was scoreless until 6:13 remained in the second period, when the Huskies’ Mikey Eyssimont corralled a loose puck in the slot and fed Patrick Newell on the side of the net, and after RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin denied the initial point-blank backhander by Newell, Eyssimont was there at the side of the net to jam home the rebound.

The goal by St. Cloud State (9-9-1) was the only marker of the contest until the final nine minutes of regulation and overtime, which more than made up for the first 51 low-scoring minutes.

Miami’s Carson Meyer tried to put a shot on from a bad angle, but it hit a sliding defender. The puck bounced right back to Meyer at the side of the net, and he centered one to Anthony Louis in the slot, and Louis buried the one-timer through the five hole to tie it with 8:14 remaining.

After the RedHawks’ Colin Sullivan was assessed a minor for cross checking, Eyssimont sent a cross-ice pass to Jacob Benson, who ripped one off the post. The rebound popped into the air and hit the chest of teammate Blake Winiecki, who tapped the puck in to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead with 2:59 remaining.

Thirty-four seconds later, Benson was kicked out of the game for contact to the head of Meyer for an open-ice hit.

And Melnick took it from there.

An offensive-zone pass by Kiefer Sherwood hit a St. Cloud State skate and came back to Sherwood, who threaded a pass through traffic to a wide-open Melnick at the side of the net, and Melnick hammered it home to tie the score on a 6-on-4 with 56 seconds left in regulation.

At the 1:23 mark of overtime, Louis put a close-range shot on net, and the rebound popped out to Melnick, who made a quick toe drag before whipping the puck into the cage to win it.

It was the third straight win for Miami (6-8-5) following an 0-7-3 stretch, and the RedHawks are now unbeaten in their last four – their longest such span since last January.

They have gone to overtime in eight of their 19 contests, winning three and tying the other five.

Since its lowest point, Miami has climbed 11 spots in the PairWise rankings – used to determine NCAA Tournament seeding – to 29th, and while MU remains in seventh place in the NCHC, it is just two points behind Nebraska-Omaha and three back of SCSU with a chance to tie the Huskies with a win on Saturday.

Melnick has five points during his current three-game points streak (4-1-5) and has three multi-point games in his last six.

Louis finished with a goal and an assist, giving him points in four consecutive contests (2-3-5). He moved into solo control of 42nd place on Miami’s all-time points leaderboard with 110, passing former long-time NHLer Brian Savage.

Meyer has the longest points streak on the team at six games, going 3-5-8 since coming back from an illness. He has recorded a helper in four straight.

Ryan Larkin stopped 29 shots to earn the win for Miami.

These teams wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.