Category Archives: analysis

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 Larkin, 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.

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.

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.

Analysis: Nice win but lots more needed

OXFORD, Ohio – It was a fun way to end a not-so-fun streak.

Miami trailed, 2-0 midway through the third period but ended up beating Colorado College, 3-2 in overtime at Cady Arena on Saturday.

The RedHawks (4-8-2) finish the first half of the season with <— that record.

It was a bittersweet win for a number of reasons.

Miami goalie Chase Munroe (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami goalie Chase Munroe (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

PROS: Great comeback. Some of the most intense hockey Miami has played in the final stretch of the game. The RedHawks were physically involved. The win gives the team some momentum heading into the break. Chase Munroe was solid in net, earning his first career win.

CONS: Colorado College was ranked 48th in college hockey entering the weekend. Miami shouldn’t have needed motivation to play the first 50 minutes. Any momentum from this win could be squelched by 20 days off.

Not to be a downer, but the first con should count double. Last season it seemed like the RedHawks were ready to take the NCHC by ice storm after Jay Williams shut the Tigers out for a two-game series, becoming the first MU player to accomplish that feat.

They were the last wins of the season for Miami.

This fall, people see the team record and ask what the team’s problem is. It’s not an east question to answer and most don’t accept the offer to have a few pints and discuss.

As a season ticket holder for 11 years one tries to dwell on the positives, but one has also seen a couple hundred games in this rink and knows to keep perspective after an emotional regular season win or loss. It’s a long season with many, many ups and downs.

The coaches say the process is paramount, but with the exception of the occasional bad bounce and goalies stealing games, process and record typically are directly proportional.

This comeback win with a spectacular ending was great for the team and the fans, but it only counts as one win, and because of the 16 games before it, Miami has to put together a lot more ‘W’s in the next three months.

Other thoughts…

– If you haven’t seen Josh Melnick’s game winner, the link is at the end of this explanation, but it requires setting up because it’s hard to see the puck, even after several views.

Go to the 3:35 mark and change the setting to “slow”. Carson Meyer shoots the puck from along the boards, and it goes out of sight for a second, but keep an eye around Melnick’s right knee. The puck reappears, drops toward the ice and he bats it into the net. Amazing goal.

Link is here:

– Loved seeing Karch Bachman use his speed to create Miami’s first goal. He threw the puck into the corner, chased it down and fed it to Willie Knierim in front of the net. Look forward to seeing him showcase his skills more the next 3½ years.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. Was hovering around a flunking grade halfway through the third period. This corps still didn’t help create a power play goal, but the puck movement and chances were a lot better. Coach Enrico Blasi is still adjusting the lines but overall the line chemistry seemed improved over Friday. Meyer has been a huge help since returning.

DEFENSEMEN: C. Chaz Switzer’s turnover ended up in Miami’s net, and a total breakdown resulted in the odd-man chance that became Colorado College’s second goal. Mistakes will happen but they will get a lot harder to overcome when the RedHawks play the loaded schedule they have awaiting them in January and February.

GOALTENDING: B+. Munroe’s first and second starts were polar opposites. He looked calm on Saturday and nervous in his starting debut. He controlled his rebounds and stopped all of the routine shots in this game. The first goal was on a breakaway. The second was on a 2-on-0 that he made a spectacular initial save on before the follow-up was banged in. So neither were on him.

LINEUP CHANGES: Blasi benched two-thirds of his third line on Saturday – Ryan Siroky and Zach Lavalle. Alex Alger was back in the lineup after sitting for three games, and Knierim returned to the ice and scored the first Miami goal. On defense, Jared Brandt was scratched again but should be fine in three weeks. The Munroe start was a bit of surprise, since regular starter Ryan Larkin played well on Friday, but it worked out well. Perhaps Blasi was sending a message to his team about its overall play in Game 1 of the series, or maybe he thought this was a rare chance to give Larkin a break before an arduous second half.

Analysis: Win Saturday is a must

OXFORD, Ohio – Surely Miami’s winless streak has to end on Saturday, right?

If the RedHawks can’t at least earn one win on its home ice against Colorado College, MU will have to beat a top-20 team to snap its skid, since every one of its remaining opponents is ranked.

The RedHawks skated to their 10th straight non-win on Friday, tying the Tigers, 1-1 at Cady Arena. It was Miami’s third consecutive NCHC deadlock, and the team has yet to win in conference play (0-4-3).

After its series finale vs. CC on Saturday, MU is off the next two weeks, then it’s off to Ohio State. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 10 in the USCHO poll.

Here’s the remaining schedule with team rankings.

at No. 10 Ohio State
No. 17 ST. CLOUD (2)
at No. 8 North Dakota (2)
at No. 20 UNO (2)
No. 18 W. MICHIGAN (2)
at No. 17 St. Cloud (2)

(then it really gets fun)

No. 2 DENVER
at No. 1 Minn.-Duluth
No. 8 NORTH DAKOTA

Now back to this series.

The Tigers entered this weekend having lost seven straight and had allowed 31 goals in that span. Only one of their first 14 opponents had been held to one goal, yet Miami was unable to get out of the binary range.

Considering both teams’ woes, it’s sort of fitting that neither team would come away from Friday with a win.

But this can’t happen for Miami on Saturday if it wants to salvage this season.

The RedHawks’ finale against CC is their 17th game of the season. A win would put them at 4-8-5, and they would probably need to go at least 12-5 for get into PairWise-at large consideration.

A tall order, certainly, but a loss in this one would force a 13-4 finish or better. Reference the above remaining schedule to see Miami’s chances, or any NCAA team’s odds of winning 13 of 17 against those opponents.

Twelve wins in 17 would give Miami 43 points with a win vs. Colorado College and 40 with a loss. That could be the difference between an all-important fourth seed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the NCHC’s or a fifth seed and a road trip in a hostile rink to extend its season like in 2015-16.

The RedHawks have a ton of work to do if they hope to get back into NCAA consideration but that workload increases substantially if they can’t pick the only low-hanging fruit remaining on their schedule.

Other thoughts…

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

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

– This game was actually pretty boring, which can be expected when two teams that aren’t playing well show why their records are where they are. But just based on Friday’s 65-minute sample, it doesn’t look like Colorado College has the talent to compete in this league, while Miami is underachieving among other issues. Heading into the second half of the year, the RedHawks are in the better position to turn things around.

Miami forward Karch Bachman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami forward Karch Bachman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– Coach Enrico Blasi has been playing with the lines, and one interesting combination was Gordie Green, Josh Melnick and Karch Bachman. Green was a solid point producer in the USHL but he has just four this season and two since opening night. Bachman has blazing speed and a great shot but he hasn’t been cast into a role in which he can thrive. Green set up Bachman with a couple of great passes and Bachman nearly found the net. It’s a small line with a ton of speed and has a lot of potential.

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

– Speaking of Melnick, he was double-shifted nearly the entire second period, joining the fourth line as well as his own. Colin Sullivan was listed as a forward but played a significant amount of defense and Melnick absorbed much of his ice time up front.

– Can’t take credit for this line – heard it used by Mike Babcock but not sure if he was the originator either – but if Miami’s power play gets much worse the RedHawks want to consider declining penalties. In six minutes on the man advantage Miami generated one shot. MU has not scored a PPG in five games.

– The attendance for this one was a season-low 1,992 despite class still being in session. That’s the worst gate total at Cady since Jan. 9 during the J-term. If this team doesn’t get better expect a half-empty arena the second half of the year.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D+. Colorado College isn’t an impressive lot yet Miami scored just one goal. The RedHawks had some dominant stretches but that should be a given against a team that is 3-11 and ranked in the bottom 20 percent of college hockey. Louis did have eight shots. Justin Greenberg continues to get better on faceoffs and may be the team’s best forward on draws at this point.

DEFENSEMEN: B. This corps kept the mistakes to a minimum, which has not always been the case this season. Grant Frederic quietly seems to get better every game. The strange thing with Miami’s defensemen is that three seasons ago only Matthew Caito appeared to have the green light to join the rush, and the other blueliners would act like they had bungie cords tied to them when they reached the blue line. Now all six/seven jump in all the time, sometimes even going behind opponents’ nets. Can there be a happy medium?

GOALTENDING: B+. Ryan Larkin was solid as usual but didn’t see a ton of high-percentage shots. He continues to do a fantastic job with positioning and controlling rebounds. Not sure what happened on the goal – it was a weird angle and seemed to surprise Larkin. It didn’t look like he saw it very well. What a goalie allows one goal his team should win most nights.

LINEUP CHANGES: Can this team ever get completely healthy? Jared Brandt missed his second straight game with an upper body injury but shouldn’t be out much longer. He has been a solid stay-at-home defenseman on a Miami team that has really needed a solid stay-at-home defenseman. The RedHawks played their other seven defensemen, with Sullivan listed at forward to start the game. At forward, Willie Knierim was a rare scratch and Alex Alger sat for the third straight game.

Analysis: MU still reeling in 3rd period

A week off and the return of two key players were not enough to lift Miami out of the doldrums.

Despite a promising start that saw the RedHawks jump out to a two-goal lead, Cornell rallied to a 4-2 win over MU on Friday.

That makes eight straight games without a win for Miami (3-7-4), its longest winless span in two decades. And in the third period, the RedHawks have allowed 14 goals during their slump. They’ve scored twice.

Closing out games has been a residual theme for Miami over the past decade – since That Game That Will Not Be Mentioned, really – but right now this team is really in a third-period funk.

The parity in college hockey is too great to give games away, and this is the second time during this skid that Miami has done just that. Flip those losses to wins – not a stretch considering MU led by two late in the second period of both games in question – and the RedHawks are 5-5-4.

In the NCHC, one or two games over .500 is good enough for NCAA consideration, and Miami would be right there.

Youth becomes less of an excuse every time this team takes the ice. Yes, the RedHawks still have 14 freshmen on their roster, but they’ve been playing competitive games for two months now and most of these guys come in at 19, 20 or 21 now.

We’ll say it again: Having a young team means so much less in hockey than it does in the Big Two. There’s the older player factor (only Willie Knierim is a true freshman) and these guys play 70-game seasons in juniors prior to college.

Of the previous eight seasons, Miami has advanced in the NCAA Tournament three times. Twice it has been during the freshman-heavy recruiting campaign. The other was 2009-10, a team with eight sophomores and only four seniors, went to the Frozen Four.

That’s not to say this team won’t get better as the season progresses. But there’s no excuse for any team to squander multiple multiple-goal leads late.

The RedHawks play 34 regular season games. This was Game 14, with Game 15 set for Saturday night. Miami returns home to host Colorado College for a pair, which will take the team to the midway point of its schedule.

Granted, four ties essentially equals two wins, but the RedHawks need to string together some W’s quickly or they could be looking at another short postseason and long off-season.

Other thoughts…

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

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

– First a couple of positives. Carson Meyer returned after missing four straight games, and he scored Miami’s first goal. In 10 games he has three markers and eight assists for a freshman-best 11 points.

– Captain Louie Belpedio also was back in the RedHawks’ lineup, having sat the last six with a lower body injury. Miami was outshot in every game he was out – 220-151 in those contests – and the RedHawks actually led, 31-25 in SOG on Friday. On the flip side, he took three penalties down the stretch and Cornell scored Goal No. 4 on the second minor.

Miami forward Karch Bachman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami forward Karch Bachman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– Goals: Other than Meyer, Grant Hutton scored his fourth of the season after posting no goals and five assists in 2015-16. Also, freshman Karch Bachman recorded the first of his college career. This pair led the team in shots: Bachman finished with six and Hutton – a defensive defenseman – ended the night with five.

– Miami was only on the power play twice on Friday while Cornell (6-3-1) had six chances on the man-advantage. That differential of minus-4 opportunities was a season low for the RedHawks. MU was outscored, 1-0 on the man-advantage and obviously lost by one goal overall.

– Talk about a slick highlights reel: Check out the one the Big Red put together for Friday’s game. Or, considering the outcome, maybe just watch the first half.

Analysis: Series big for MU confidence

Just when it seemed like Miami had pulled off a surprise by tying No. 1 Denver once on its home ice at elevation, the RedHawks did it again a night later.

MU and the Pioneers skated to a 2-2 tie in a series that Miami entered as a huge underdog, having lost its previous five.

Like Friday, the RedHawks were severely outshot, 51-26 including 22-3 in the first period (that’s a 37-6 first-period shot advantage for DU on the weekend).

As we’re constantly reminded, especially with a young team, the season is a process, and hanging with the top team in NCAA for six period in a hostile rink a mile above sea level will do wonders for Miami’s confidence.

And let’s face it, that confidence couldn’t have been in a great place after a pair of demoralizing losses at home to UNO last weekend.

At the same time, confidence builder or not, the RedHawks (3-6-4) are still winless in league play with two of a possible 18 points a quarter of a way through their NCHC schedule. They have three wins in 13 games and haven’t picked up a victory in November, with their last coming on Oct. 28.

Youth breeds inconsistency, something we’ve been reminded of often the first two months of this season, and while it can be incredibly frustrating, weekends like this show that at least Miami appears headed in the right direction overall.

Other thoughts…

Miami goalie Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami goalie Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– You know what is consistent for Miami? Ryan Larkin. He posted a .963 save percentage this weekend, making 87 saves on 90 shots. The RedHawks have certainly had rough patches this season, but imagine if Larkin wasn’t between the pipes.

– Willie Knierim hasn’t looked completely confident at times this season, but hopefully his rebound goal will springboard his overall game. After the puck hit goalie Tanner Jaillet, it popped into the air and Knierim banged it home before it hit the ice. It was a goal-scorer’s goal and from in close, and area the wide-body could have a lot of collegiate success as he adapts to this level.

– With injuries and such plaguing a Miami team that was never terribly deep, Colin Sullivan played forward on Friday and shifted back to defense on Saturday. Coach Enrico Blasi loves guys he can play anywhere, and Sullivan can do just that, plus the fifth-year senior provides experience on a team lacking in that department. Defenseman Bryce Hatten sat out on Saturday after playing Friday, and forward Alex Alger returned to the lineup sheet.

– The upcoming off weekend is bittersweet, as Miami would probably like to capitalize on the momentum it built this weekend, but at the same time it can certainly use another week to heal. Louie Belpedio should be ready and will fortify the blueline substantially, and Carson Meyer may be ready to go as well.

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

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

– Justin Greenberg has really stepped up not only on the PK but in the faceoff circle. He was 11-5 on draws Saturday and 20-10 for the weekend.

Analysis: Woeful defense led to sweep

OXFORD, Ohio – A weekend that started off with so much promise turned into a pair of mistake-laden losses that have a Miami team that showed so much promise in the opening weeks skating backwards.

The RedHawks led 4-1 on Friday before allowing the final five goals in a 6-4 loss and were beaten soundly, 6-2 at Cady Arena on Saturday after rallying from two down to tie the score.

MU (3-6-2) netted four of the first five goals this weekend but surrendered 11 of the final 13.

The RedHawks have allowed 23 goals in their four NCHC games – or 5.75 per contest – as they have dropped to 44th in the NCAA in overall team defense.

Most disturbing is special teams, as Miami was tops in college hockey on the PK a couple of weeks ago but has given up nine power play goals and two more shorthanded in the last four games, killing penalties at an anemic 65.3 percent clip.

The most important stat is wins and losses, and Miami has dropped its last five, getting outscored 11-0 in the third period during its current skid.

The absence of Louie Belpedio has hurt this team on several fronts, as the RedHawks were 3-2-2 with him in the lineup and 0-4 since. Without their captain, they seem less focused, the compete level has been inconsistent, and paramount is the loss of 20-plus minutes of play from their best all-around defenseman.

And the latter has a trickle-down effect, as everyone gets bumped up a spot in the D pecking order, and as a result the entire group has had its struggles.

Of course it doesn’t help when starting goalie Ryan Larkin goes down with an injury, or that stud freshman Carson Meyer may miss several weeks.

No one will feel sorry for Miami, especially not No. 1 Denver, the team the RedHawks play next weekend at altitude after getting drubbed in five straight third periods.

We’re already one-third of the way through the regular season, and Miami needs to turn this thing around fast or we could be in for a very long winter.

Other thoughts…

– Like Friday, the RedHawks again allowed too many players to skate into the slot uncontested. Snuggerud was left alone for the third UNO (6-3-1) goal. He scored again by beating Scott Dornbrock to the net for a backhander. The physical game got away from Miami entirely this weekend, especially around the net. The RedHawks might as well have placed a welcome mat in orange and black at the top of their crease both nights.

– Let’s insert some positive: Despite everything that’s happened in six weeks, Kiefer Sherwood continues to get better every game. He dominates play for portions of games, not just with his shot but with puck possession and high-level passing. He’s a certifiable nightmare on the power play, as defenders have to come out to protect against his shot, opening up other avenues for Miami.

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

– Speaking of the power play, Coach Enrico Blasi went with five forwards numerous times with Josh Melnick at the point. He obviously trusts the defense of Melnick, who effectively ran the point, but without Belpedio it may be his way of saying none of the other D-men have earned that high-profile playing time. Miami did allow two SHGs this weekend, although neither were the result of his five-forward units. And using that many forwards on the first unit leaves even fewer offensive-minded bodies up front for the second line, which has been mostly ineffective this season.

– If UNO is in the bottom half of this league, the NCHC is absolutely loaded. This is a very good team, and not surprisingly is well coached by Dean Blais.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D+. Sherwood has two rips for goals and these guys showed some signs of life but did little on a five-minute power play in the third period and combined for just 21 shots despite 13 minutes of power play time. On a positive note, Melnick and Justin Greenberg were much better on faceoffs, an area in which Miami has struggled seemingly since Pat Cannone and Carter Camper graduated.

DEFENSEMEN: D-. Without Belpedio this group is contributing almost nothing offensively and are committing too many egregious turnovers. Normally-reliable Grant Hutton had a miserable weekend, including a giveaway that directly led to UNO’s second goal. Dornbrock got beaten badly on Goal No. 6. The Mavericks finished with just 26 shots, but too many were high-percentage chances. This group needs to get a lot better, especially in front of its own net, and that needs to happen quickly.

GOALTENDING: D+. Six goals against, it’s easy to blame goaltending, but Chase Munroe faced a ton of A-plus chances in his starting debut. Three of his goals against were on the power play, including a 5-on-3 tally. The first was on a PP scramble in front of the net, the second was basically a 2-on-0 on a power play, No. 3 was scored after yet another player was left open in the slot, the fourth was a 5-on-3 but was probably the one Munroe would’ve most likely wanted back, No. 5 was a breakaway and the sixth was on a player crashing the net, and Munroe was unable to hold the post. Certainly not a memorable debut but he was not the reason Miami lost.

LINEUP CHANGES: Munroe for Larkin was the most notable. The only other switch was Bryce Hatten in basically the sixth defense spot in favor of Chaz Switzer.

Analysis: Miami found a way to win

OXFORD, Ohio – It’s a pretty safe bet that none of the footage from the first two periods of Friday’s game will make any highlight reels.

But the third period and overtime made up for the relatively action-free first 40 minutes of hockey, culminating in an OT winner by Anthony Louis as Miami edged Bowling Green, 2-1 at Cady Arena.

The Falcons recorded 14 shots on goal through the first two yawn-inducing periods. The RedHawks fared even worse, generating just 10. And most of those 24 were low-percentage chances, easily swallowed up by goaltending equipment.

To BGSU’s credit, that was probably the game plan. The Falcons (0-6-1) had allowed 29 goals in six games and did not have the speed or skill to match Miami’s top two lines.

So they played tight D. And very well.

Miami (3-1-2) struggled to create any kind of transition and seemed to have no room to complete passes anywhere on the ice.

But while the RedHawks’ offense was non-existent most of the night, they still found a way to win. And they found a way to win after squandering a one-goal lead late.

This won’t be the only time this season Miami has to play a team that suffocates its forwards, and the RedHawks will still need to find a way to earn victories like they did on Friday.

Other thoughts…

– First, Josh Melnick coming off late in the third period is a major concern. He took a shift with two minutes left in regulation, did not appear to get hit or fall awkwardly and left the ice showing no ill effects, yet he was not on the bench for overtime. In the Captain Obvious statement of the day, Miami cannot to be without Melnick for any length of time, even if that length is a few shifts.

– Miami also had to play with five defensemen for the majority of the second period, as Jared Brandt left after suffering what appeared to be a high hit along the boards. Brandt has been one of the team’s top shutdown defensemen early this season. He returned and appeared 100 percent for the balance of the game.

– Not a fan of criticizing officiating, which was pretty solid most of the game, but it’s baffling that Carter Johnson was assessed a major for interference in the third period but Bowling Green was handed a minor for a boarding penalty during which Louie Belpedio was slammed from behind after being lined up for a couple of seconds. Across the board, hockey has been rightly cracking down on those types of hits, and Belpedio’s numbers were clearly visible the entire time he was along the boards. The reasoning is most likely because the Falcons player remained down for some time while Belpedio bounced right back up, which should not be the way penalties should be decided, if for no other reason because it encourages embellishment. But BGSU did not score on its five-minute power play and Miami netted the game winner after the boarding call, so all was ultimately good for the RedHawks.

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

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

– Yes, Carson Meyer scored the goal and picked up an assist on the other, so it’s easy to point to him as a hero in this game. But from the first game of this homestand to this one, he has gotten significantly better in every facet, which is partly why he is in position to pick up points.

– Louis is up to 94 career points, pulling to within six of the elusive 100-point club. Fifty Miami players have reached that mark. It’s amazing how much Louis’ all-around game has improved from junior year to this one. And oh yeah, he forced a turnover at center ice, which was picked by Melnick, leading to the first goal.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C-. It was trending toward ‘F’ land after two periods, but obviously two goals bolsters their collective grade. Lines 2-4 were nearly non-existent all night, which Bowling Green’s defense deserves much credit for. As much credit as Louis deserves, he didn’t pick up Mark Friedman when he scored from point-blank range to tie it.

Ryan Larkin makes one of his 20 saves on Friday (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Ryan Larkin makes one of his 20 saves on Friday (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

DEFENSEMEN: B+. During this homestand, this corps hasn’t done too much to get noticed, and that’s meant as a compliment. They came up big during the major PK, especially Scott Dornbrock, who stepped up his play in the third period for the second straight game.

GOALTENDING: A-. It looked like Ryan Larkin got a piece of the tying goal, but it still slipped over his blocker. It’s probably one that he should’ve had, but it was still a great shot from in close. He stopped 20 of 21 shots and has allowed just one goal in two games and six in his last five. He gives Miami a chance to win every night and is spoiling fans.

LINEUP CHANGES: Coach Enrico Blasi did not change any of the forwards from last Saturday, playing Alex Alger over Willie Knierim for the second straight game. Alger had an assist on Saturday and was absolutely robbed by Chris Nell on a would-be goal in the first period of this game. Blasi continues to get all eight of his defensemen playing time, as Colin Sullivan sat in favor of Bryce Hatten. Larkin has still logged every minute in net – 370-plus at present – and Andrew Masters again served as the backup.

Analysis: Louie-Louis pair key in MU win

OXFORD, Ohio – After Saturday, Cady Arena might want to add the Kingsmen’s 1963 hit “Louie Louie” to its repertoire.

Or maybe amend the spelling to “Louie Louis”.

Louie Belpedio scored two goals on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Louie Belpedio scored two goals on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The duo of Louie Belpedio and Anthony Louis scored Miami’s first three goals in its 5-0 win over Maine in its series finale, as the Chicago-area pair has netted six of the RedHawks’ nine markers in the first three games of this homestand.

It was an amazing eight days for Belpedio, who struggled mightily in the first period vs. Ohio State last weekend but scored the team’s lone goal in the next stanza. That seemed to turn his game around, and although he is still prone to the occasional turnover, he has been exception at moving the puck, especially on the power play.

Then there’s Louis, whose game has jumped miles ahead from his first three seasons to this homestand that opens his final season in Oxford. It took him 10 games to find the net in 2015-16, and he had three plus an assist this weekend on 15 shots, many of which his hard work created. He seems physically stronger and more driven this fall than at any other time wearing a Miami sweater.

And yet the most-improved offensive player award is in no way clear-cut, as Kiefer Sherwood makes an excellent case for that. Like Louis, he is doing much more at a higher level than filling the scoresheet.

Just based on the three games in this homestand, Carson Meyer looked much more comfortable on the ice from Period 1 to Period 9, and the stats prove that out, as he had three assists in this game and had a goal erased on a delayed, delayed off-side call.

Karch Bachman’s blazing speed and skills make him an easy top-6 forward, and he is just starting to reach his potential. Gordie Green has been feisty and it seems inevitable he will start putting up points soon playing to the right of Bachman and Sherwood.

Throw in Josh Melnick, the most complete forward on the team and on-ice leader despite being a sophomore, and that’s six forwards plus a power play quarterback defenseman we just mentioned that could be elite both in the NCHC and nationally.

And that’s without mentioning Ryan Larkin, who stopped 33 shots for his first shutout. It’s safe to say he’s the real deal and is going to steal some games over his career, and every competitive team needs great goaltending to win critical games.

There’s certainly a lot to like about Saturday’s performance, especially since scoring was a weakness for Miami last season, but before we punch our tickets to the Frozen Four, some perspective…

Maine didn’t get great goaltending. In fact, the Black Bears weren’t a terribly impressive lot. They had two outstanding goals on Friday but sort of mailed it in after Miami went up multiple goals on Saturday.

Still, the RedHawks showed on Friday they could respond while trailing three times to salvage a tie and in this game they were able to step on a team’s throat late, something they haven’t always exceled at.

To accomplish both against Maine, they needed offense from a team that scored just 86 times in 36 times last season and saw its first-round pick that tied for the team’s points lead walk this summer after one year.

Coming off a 15-18-3 season with 14 freshmen and no Jack Roslovic – or Sean Kuraly or Matthew Caito for that matter – we’ll take 2-1-2 at this point with 2.80 goals for per game and an average of just 1.80 against.

Other thoughts…

– Hate to gloss over Larkin’s performance, but offense was so much more of a concern entering this season, and this team has always found quality kids between the pipes. Now to gush a little: Larkin has been absolutely amazing in his first three home games. He has a .955 save percentage and 1.27 goals-against average at Cady Arena. Keep in mind, this is on a freshman-laden team that has made some defensive mistakes, so he has faced a plethora of high-percentage chances. Miami’s just fine in net, hopefully for the next four years.

– One player we haven’t really talked about is Jared Brandt. The freshman defenseman hasn’t been sexy but has been very effective in his own end and has a physical streak. As the everyday lineup starts to solidify, Brandt’s name should be on it nightly, bringing much-needed stability to a blue line that lost several four-year starters last off-season.

– Despite the score, Miami actually started pretty slowly in this one. Period 1 bore no resemblance to 2 and 3, and the Meyer non-goal may have been a turning point.

– One more peeve: I really, really don’t like reviewing off-sides after a goal. And yes, I’d say that if Maine had had a goal reversed. Going back and waving off a goal for something that happened 30 seconds earlier is the equivalent of taking back a touchdown because six plays earlier because it’s determined the ball really should’ve been placed at the 38 yard line and not the 39. Replay on goals? Sure. Micromanaging tertiary calls like off-sides when they don’t directly contribute to scores? No thanks.

– Final thought: Belpedio and Louis are both from the Chicago area. They scored the first three goals. Miami won 5-0. The same night, the Cubs won 5-0 to advance to the World Series. Heck of a coincidence.

– OK, one more final thought. Sorry for the delay in getting stuff posted. High school football conflicts plus real work, and Sunday was my birthday. Should be more timely moving forward. Thanks for your patience and thanks always for those who read our rambling prose.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A. Not only is it scary that Miami has Louis-Melnick-Meyer-Sherwood-Bachman-Green as its top six, the third line of Ryan Siroky, Justin Greenberg and Zach LaValle was solid again in this game, albeit it without producing points. Alex Alger played his first home game and impressed with his energy on the fourth line. Conor Lemirande is way better than in his first two seasons. Carter Johnson was a solid grinder on that line as well. That’s all 12.

DEFENSEMEN: B+. It’s weird: As someone who appreciates defense, the good and bad of that aspect seemed somewhat lacking from this game. That’s OK as typically stay-at-home D-men are noticed for bad play a la offensive linemen in football. The game became a lot more physical in the third period, and this corps was involved in much of the carnage, with Grant Hutton dishing out some hits, Belpedio knocking a couple of player around – most notably with an old-school submarine hip check at full speed, and Scott Dornbrock blasting a player in front of the benches, drawing a debatable penalty. Belpedio scored the two goals, which obviously raise the grade, and overall this corps kept its errant turnovers to a minimum.

GOALTENDING: A+. Larkin earned his first career shutout and was in complete control all night. He almost never allows rebounds and was excellent at icing the puck when Miami had the lead, not allowing Maine a chance to get back into the game. Larkin was tested on a 3-on-1 in the final minute but made the save to preserve the shutout. What a performance.

LINEUP CHANGES: Alger replaced Willie Knierim and did a solid job on the fourth line. On defense, Colin Sullivan returned to the lineup as Chaz Switzer was scratched. Andrew Masters was again the backup in net.