Category Archives: UNO Mavericks

Miami loses 3-goal lead, game to UNO

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami came within 24 minutes of snapping a three-game losing streak.

Anthony Louis celebrates after scoring a second-period goal (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Anthony Louis celebrates after scoring a second-period goal (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

But the RedHawks, who led by three goals with four minutes remaining in the second period, allowed five consecutive goals down the stretch in a 6-4 loss to Nebraska-Omaha at Cady Arena on Tuesday.

The Mavericks (5-3-1) jumped on top early, as Mason Morelli tipped in a blue line shot by Ian Brady just 7:21 into the first period on the power play.

After that, it was a game of runs, as Miami (3-5-2) scored the next four goals.

The RedHawks tied it with 3:29 left in the frame when Anthony Louis carried the zone, skated along the boards and centered a pass to Josh Melnick, who one-timed the puck home from the high slot.

Miami took the lead on an innocuous wrister by Scott Dornbrock from along the boards that Conor Lemirande redirected home 6:23 into the second period.

Dornbrock picked up another assist when he slid a pass to Louis in the high slot, and Louis buried a shot to the stick side for his 100th career point with 10:09 remaining in the frame.

Just 34 seconds later, the Louis penetrated uncontested and roofed a backhander from the center of the faceoff circle on the short side to make it 4-1.

But UNO cut the lead to two prior to the second intermission, when Steven Spinner stole a Louis pass, skated the length of the ice along the boards and connected with trailing defenseman Joel Messner, who buried a shot to cut the deficit to two.

Jake Randolph made it a one-goal game 83 seconds into the final stanza on a tip-in off a blue line wrist shot by Messner.

The Mavericks tied it when Spinner picked off a Melnick pass in the neutral zone, skated in and went top shelf for a shorthanded goal with 14:13 left in regulation.

That ended the night for Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, the RedHawks only goalie used this season to that point, as he gave way to freshman Chase Munroe, who made his MU debut.

Munroe was greeted rudely, as Luc Snuggerud’s slap pass from the blue line found the blade of David Pope’s stick for a redirection goal that gave UNO a 5-4 lead with 8:05 to play.

The Mavericks sealed it when Morelli scored an empty netter after Austin Ortega intercepted a Louis centering pass from behind the net.

The RedHawks have surrendered 17 goals in their last three games and have been outscored, 9-0 during their current four-game skid.

Louis finished with three points, giving him 101 for his career and a team-high 14 on the season, including a Miami-best nine goals. All of his points have come in the last eight games.

Melnick recorded a goal and an assist for his first multi-point game of the season, and Dornbrock ended the game with a pair of helpers, his first two-assist game since Jan. 29.

Miami drops to 0-3 in the NCHC.

The series finale will be at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

NCHC Snapshot: Nebraska-Omaha

Nebraska-Omaha struggled down the stretch and ended up finishing 8-15-1 (.354 winning percentage) in the NCHC, taking sixth in the conference in 2015-16.

The Mavericks tied Miami in Oxford Nov. 20, but the RedHawks would claim the extra point in the NCHC standings on a Louie Belpedio rebound goal in the series finale the next night.

UNO finished the year 18-17-1 (.514), taking sixth overall and was eliminated from the NCHC Tournament in the first round, as the Mavericks were swept by Denver.

NCAA TITLES: None.

COACH: Dean Blais (8th season, 129-116-25, .524 winning percentage).

2015-16 RECORD: 18-17-1 (8-15-1, sixth in NCHC, .514 winning percentage).

POSTSEASON RESULT: Swept by Denver in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

RINK (capacity): Baxter Arena, Omaha, Nebraska (7,898).

LAST SEASON VS. MIAMI: 1-2-1 (In Oxford Nov. 20-21, 3-3 tie, 3-2 win/ In Omaha Jan. 22-23, 3-1, 7-3 losses to the RedHawks).

ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 18-11-4.

SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: In Oxford Nov. 11-12; in Omaha Jan. 20-21.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Austin Ortega, F Justin Parizek, D Luc Snuggerud (141st overall pick by CHI in 2014).

KEY NEW FACES: F Colin Grannary (Delta, British Columbia/Merritt-BCHL), D Ryan Jones (Crown Point, Ind./Lincoln USHL), G Kris Oldham (TBL 153rd pick in 2015).

NOTES: Nebraska-Omaha has finished third, third and sixth in the eight-team NCHC in three seasons.

The Mavericks scored 103 goals last season, the top scorer, Jake Guentzel, who has graduated, notched 19 goals in 35 games, while dishing out 27 assist.

Austin Ortega is the team’s top returning scorer with 36 points, including a team-best 21 goals, and Ortega was first on the team in power-play goals (seven).

The Mavericks blue line stays well intact as the team returns all but one defenseman. Nebraska-Omaha’ top D-man, Luc Snuggerud, lead his defensive corps in points with 18, lighting the lamp four times.

Goalie Even Weninger returns between the pipes for the Mavericks, having gone 13-8-0 in a team-high 21 games a season ago. Weninger will have freshman netminder Kris Oldham looking to split time in the crease for the Mavs.

Nebraska-Omaha have added seven freshman to join the already young program. The Mavericks will only have three seniors for the 2016-17 campaign, while piling up 17 underclassman.

The Mavs jumped out to a great 6-0 start last year before dropping their final eight games, including being swept by Denver in the NCHC tournament. Nebraska-Omaha would like to play better in the third period of games, as they were outscored 39-26 in the final frame.

Secondary scoring huge for Miami

Miami broke out with seven goals on Saturday, and its scorers had a combined nine markers this season entering that game.

While it’s obviously insane to expect that kind of offense from second-, third- and fourth-line forwards on a regular basis, the RedHawks – at least for one night in a 7-3 win vs. Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena – appeared to be over the forcefield-across-the-threshold-of-the-net blues that plagued them for many of their first 22 contests.

The reaction from 800 miles to east, behind a computer screen in a cozy back room, was 50 percent what-in-the-world-is-going-on-but-this-is-awesome and 50 percent it’s-about-time-some-of-those-shots-that-had-been-whistling-just-wide-or-off-posts-the-past-four-months-finally-found-twine.

The obvious question no one has the answer to is: Is the drought finally over or was this a three-hour reprieve?

Miami entered this weekend 53rd out of 60 in Division I in offense. The RedHawks aren’t that bad.

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

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

Miami scored seven times on Saturday, and only one of those was by a usual sniping suspect: Anthony Louis.

The RedHawks aren’t that good. No team is.

The word of the night, and the series, and the past nine days for that matter dating back to the Bowling Green win, is encouraging.

Two more words could determine how the rest of this season goes for MU: Secondary scoring.

Team leader Jack Roslovic, who had nine tallies this season, has one goal in his last 10 games. Josh Melnick is second overall with six but has one marker in 11 tilts.

Miami has still won three straight.

This team has seven excellent defensemen and two fantastic goalies. It doesn’t need to lead the NCAA in goals.

The RedHawks are now at 2.38 per game, up to 49th, and an average of 3.17 during their current 4-1-1 run. If they can come close to that clip, the back end should take care of the rest, and this could be a fun couple of months.

Only once in the past 11 games has Miami allowed more than three goals, so three should be enough most nights.

Back to the secondary scoring.

Could Kevin Morris could find the net a few more times during the stretch run like he did in both ends of this series?

Or is it a reach to suggest that Zach LaValle, who seems to get better every game, could start pumping in the occasional goal?

How about an occasion tally – not three a night, obviously – from wide-bodied Conor Lemirande, who showed an ability to use his hands to find the net and was able to tip in a shot while in the goalie’s face (with help from linemate and cousin Andrew Schmit, who picked up primary assists on two of his goals)?

Miami's Sean Kuraly (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Sean Kuraly (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The biggest question of this set is Sean Kuraly, since he has the potential to generate the most offense of this group.

Can he continue to play at the level he has the last three games, during which he has six points?

These don’t seem like outrageous questions to anyone who has seen this team frequently, and if the answer is “yes” to most, that goals-per-game average should continue to improve along with the team’s win total.

It was just one game, of course, but that’s on top of two other wins vs. highly-ranked teams, which has to have a confidence carryover for the entire team heading into a crucial four-game homestand and the second half of the NCHC slate.

Other thoughts…

– Miami did get a little sloppy with the big lead and could’ve finished better. Amazingly, the RedHawks were actually outshot overall, 30-27 after netting six goals on 12 shots in the second period.

– It was comical that when UNO scored late, the scoreboard operator initially gave the score to Miami, as the top of the screen read 8-2. Force of habit from the previous period, perhaps.

– Coach Enrico Blasi’s starting 19 were the same on Saturday as Friday. Evan McCarthy was still listed as the backup goalie.

– Speaking of Blasi, let’s give some credit to the coaching staff as well for this mid-season turnaround. Two weeks ago Miami was 6-11-3 and one point away from the NCHC cellar. Somehow they got this team to turn it around and win a couple of close games, followed by this not-to-close game.

– Segueing again, if Louis doesn’t score with two seconds left to beat Bowling Green last weekend, does Miami go into Omaha Friday and Saturday and pound the seventh-ranked team in Division I back-to-back nights on its own rink? Probably not?

Miami scores 7, sweeps UNO

Miami took out a half season of offensive frustrations on Nebraska-Omaha.

The RedHawks, who had not scored more than four goals in any game this season, struck for six in the second period alone in a 7-3 win over the No. 7 Mavericks at Baxter Arena on Saturday, completing a series sweep.

That extended MU’s winning streak to three games. Miami beat UNO, 3-1 on Friday following a 2-1 victory vs. Bowling Green last weekend. The RedHawks have lost just one of their last six games (4-1-1).

Miami's Conor Lemirande (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Conor Lemirande (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Sophomore forward Conor Lemirande, who had netted one career goal entering this contest, recorded the first Miami hat trick of the season.

Miami opened the scoring when senior forward Andrew Schmit passed a puck off the boards behind the net, and the carom came to Lemirande, who buried it from the side of the net with 4:02 left in the first period.

The net seemed to double in size once the middle stanza began.

Senior center Sean Kuraly centered a puck from along the boards to classmate and forward Kevin Morris, who one-timed one home from the slot 42 seconds into that frame.

Kuraly made it 3-0 just over two minutes later when he slammed home a one-touch pass from Morris at the inside edge of the faceoff circle.

The Mavericks cut the lead to two when Ryan Galt played a puck on net, and when RedHawks senior goalie Jay Williams did not handle it cleanly, Mason Morelli jammed it home with 11:54 left in the period.

Lemirande answered, taking a pass from senior forward Alex Gacek from the corner and beating UNO goalie Kirk Thompson on the stick side midway through the period.

Lemirande completed his hat trick with 6:58 to play in the frame, tipping home a Schmit shot from the blue line to give Miami a 5-1 lead.

The RedHawks would add two more tallies in the next three minutes. Junior forward Anthony Louis ripped a cross-crease pass from Kuraly past Thompson, and Kuraly set up a goal by forward Zach LaValle.

Kuraly slid a pass from behind the net to the wide-open freshman in the shot, and LaValle wired it past Thompson on the blocker side to cap off Miami’s scoring.

Nebraska-Omaha did add a pair of scores on slap shots from the blue line to cut the final deficit to four.

It was the first six-goal period for Miami since Feb. 26, 2010 vs. Ohio State.

Kuraly finished with a career-best four points (1-3-4), and his three assists tied a career high.

Lemirande became the only active RedHawk with a hat trick in his career. This season, no one on the team had scored more than one goal in any game.

In its last six games, Miami has scored 18 second-period goals vs. UNO, including 12 in its last four. The last time the RedHawks netted at least seven goals in a game was Dec. 5, 2014 vs. Nebraska-Omaha in Oxford.

Lemirande now has six career points, with four coming against the Mavericks.

LaValle finished with a goal and two assists, Morris notched a marker and an assist and Schmit ended the night with a pair of helpers.

LaValle had never recorded more than one point in a game, and it was the second career two-point tilt for Schmit.

With the three points on Saturday and six for the weekend, MU vaulted Western Michigan and moved into a tie for fifth with UNO at 16 points in the NCHC standings. The RedHawks also improved to 20th in the PairWise rankings.

Miami opens a four-game homestand with a two-game series vs. Denver on Jan. 29-30.

Analysis: Miami thriving late in games?

Following Miami’s painful struggles late in games earlier this season, the RedHawks have now pulled off back-to-wins in the closing minutes.

The RedHawks beat No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha, 3-1 at Baxter Arena on Friday, thanks largely to senior defenseman Matthew Caito’s one-timer that put MU ahead for good with 2:03 left.

Miami also beat Bowling Green on Oxford last weekend on a marker by senior forward Anthony Louis in the final seconds.

This game was payback for earlier in the season when the Mavericks stole four points from the RedHawks in the Oxford series. A third-period goal helped UNO earn a tie in the first game of that set, and Nebraska-Omaha took the finale in overtime.

Coming out on the wrong side numerous times in the first half of this campaign had two possible outcomes: 1) Crash and burn, let’s try it again next fall, or 2) get stronger, learn how to deal with those situations and start winning.

At least in the last seven days, Miami looks like it has chosen the latter.

It’s obvious 22 games into this season that this isn’t the 2007-08 RedHawks in terms of talent, or even the 2014-15 team. Miami clearly doesn’t have that kind of offensive firepower.

But there’s still plenty of talent there, and the freshmen development – Ryan Siroky, Kiefer Sherwood, Josh Melnick, Grant Hutton, Zach LaValle – has been steady. Jack Roslovic needs to get going again, but he is likely the most talented of all the RedHawks and the smart money is on him heating up again soon.

Anthony Louis is doing his annual getting-hot-in-the-second-half thing. Sean Kuraly looks so much better than he did in October when he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Alex Gacek is having his best season, and it’s fun to watch his supersonic speed.

The defense is so good that poor Colin Sullivan – a top six on almost every team in Division I – can’t get into the lineup consistently. Scott Dornbrock, who was maybe the No. 5 or 6 blueliner coming in, has been a rock the last few games, and the three seniors on that corps are playing like Miami seniors should.

Williams2

Jay Williams

And let’s not discount goaltending. Since the Ryan McKay meltdown, Jay Williams is 2-0 with a 0.80 goals-against average and a .968 save percentage.

Not piling on McKay, but all along it looked like this team needed something to fire it up. Perhaps in some way that was it. College seniors like Williams who are in the final stretch run of their amateur careers can do amazing things when given the opportunity.

Miami will need to win a lot more games like this: Low-scoring, tight-checking contests against top 10 teams. But for two games at least, the RedHawks appear up for the challenge, and there is still plenty of time for them to get back into NCAA Tournament contention.

Other thoughts…

– 76 faceoffs. Yikes. The officials probably have sore jaws from using their whistles. Still too many off-sides and icing violations for late January, and Miami won less than half of those draws.

– Overall, Miami has been much better in the third period in recent games. In their last six contests, the RedHawks have outscored opponents, 7-3 in the final stanza.

– Speaking of officiating, it was pretty bad both ways. The penalties were inconsistent, and even the announcers were stunned that Zach LaValle’s goal was overturned. For those who didn’t see, LaValle backhanded a loose puck after UNO goalie Zach Blankenburg made an initial save. Blankenburg was sprawled out, and LaValle grazed him with his skate as he addressed the puck, but the goalie was in no way interfered with.

– But Miami kept up the surge in that second period, outshooting the Mavericks, 15-6 after an evenly-played, slow-paced first frame.

– This game was nationally broadcast on CBS College Sports, but for a brand-new arena that looked beautiful, the in-game camera was way too far away, making it difficult to follow the puck at times even in HD.

Starman

Star Man

– While Ben Holden and the Starmen do a great job with all college hockey broadcasts – this one being no exception – the lovefest for Austin Ortega was Pat Cannone-esque over the top. And their nickname of California Hot Sauce is a stretch at best. Actually, isn’t the Ortega brand best known for its taco sauce?

– Apparently Miami has truly reached the big time, as play-by-play announcer Greg Waddell was picked up from the Omaha airport via limo.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B-. Not a fan of the Roslovic-Justin Greenberg-Sherwood line combination, although it did produce the first goal. For the most part, there’s no chemistry between the trio, and Sherwood scored after seizing a loose puck caused by Greenberg absorbing a hit, which while a good hockey play has nothing to do with players jelling.

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

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

Roslovic is too good to have his offensive prowess stifled and needs to play on a line that enhances his game instead of hindering it. Liking the Louis-Melnick-Gacek line though. Louis was everywhere in this game, and Melnick had one of his best efforts in recent history as well. Bottom line: They generated two goals – should’ve been three with LaValle’s shot – and one was an empty netter. But the effort was solid, and this corps should be able to continue building from this game.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Caito’s game winner was the biggest play of the game. Hutton and Dornbrock stepped up in this one, and the rest of this group played at its usual high level. The double minor to Chris Joyaux did lead to UNO’s lone goal, although the case could’ve been made that it should’ve been coincidentals after the retaliation slashes Joyaux too. But still, this Mavericks team is too potent to get five power plays.

GOALTENDING: A+. Here’s where the game was won. Williams stopped 27 of 28 shots, and the one that got by was a rip by one of the top scorers in college hockey on a one-timer off a pass through the slot on the power play. Williams had no chance on it. He made the save of the year with his glove in the first period off a one-timer from right on the doorstep in the first period, shut down another excellent chance off a passing play through the offensive zone and made a big stop after Miami had taken the lead to preserve the win. With Miami’s lack of offense, the pressure on Williams must be intense, and he has stepped up the challenge back-to-back games.

LINEUP CHANGES: None. This is about the time of year that Coach Enrico Blasi likes to settle on 18 skaters and stick with it for the most part, and it looks like this is the group he likes for the stretch run. Michael Mooney and Colin Sullivan were scratched for the second straight game, and Devin Loe has not dressed in any of the last four. Ryan McKay also sat again, as third goalie Evan McCarthy remained in the active backup role for the second consecutive tilt.

Late goal lifts Miami over No. 7 UNO

Miami’s power play could not have picked a better time to break out of its funk.

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Senior defenseman Matthew Caito ripped home the decisive goal late in the third period as the RedHawks took down No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha, 3-1 at Baxter Arena on Friday.

The win snapped a seven-game road losing streak for Miami and vaulted the RedHawks into a tie for 23rd in the PairWise rankings, which determine qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

There was no flow in a first period that ended scoreless.

Early in the second period, Miami freshman forward Zach LaValle appeared to open the scoring with a behind-the-back backhand that slid into the net. It was ruled a goal on the ice but was reversed by the officials, claiming LaValle interfered with the goaltender.

But the RedHawks (8-11-3) kept the pressure on, and classmate and fellow forward Kiefer Sherwood bounced off a defender, seized the puck and whipped a wrister home from the slot after skating in from along the boards with 6:13 left in the middle frame.

The Mavericks (15-7-1) tied it 3:32 into the third period when a wide-open Austin Ortega ripped a one-timer into the net off a pass through the crease.

Miami junior forward Anthony Louis won a battle along the boards with a strong stick, skated to the side of the net and threaded a pass through the slot to the top of the opposite faceoff circle, where Caito blasted the go-ahead goal into the top of the net with 2:03 left.

Senior forward Kevin Morris added an empty netter with 27 seconds remaining to cap the scoring.

Caito finished with a goal and an assists, and senior goalie Jay Williams stopped 27 shots, including a grade-A chance on a one-timer from point-blank range, to earn his third straight win and the RedHawks’ second overall as well.

Louis now has four points in his last three games (1-3-4), and freshman Josh Melnick also has a three-game point streak, picking up a helper in each.

MU entered this game 1-for-20 in its last eight games on the man advantage.

The RedHawks moved to within a point of Western Michigan for sixth place in the NCHC standings and are three back of the Mavericks, meaning Miami could catch UNO with a win in Game 2 of the road set.

The teams wrap up the series in Omaha at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday.

Miami heads to Nebraska-Omaha

WHO: Miami RedHawks (7-11-3) at No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (15-6-1).

WHERE: Baxter Arena, Omaha, Neb..

WHEN: Friday–8:37 p.m.; Saturday–8:07 p.m.

TV: Friday–CBS College Sports (DirecTV Ch. 221); Saturday–None.

NEBRASKA-OMAHA RADIO: KZOT-AM (1180), Omaha, Neb..

MIAMI RADIO: WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio; WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.

NOTES: Despite its impressive record, Nebraska-Omaha has lost three of four games, earning a split in North Dakota after getting swept in Denver.

The Mavericks are averaging 3.2 goals per game, thanks largely to the tandem of juniors Austin Ortega and Jake Guentzel.

Ortega is tied for fifth in college hockey with 17 goals, including seven game winners, and Guentzel in tops in the NCHC with points (11-21-32) and has a plus-17 rating.

Justin Parizek and Jake Randolph have added ample secondary scoring, with 21 and 20 points, respectively.

Evan Weninger is having an outstanding year in net for UNO, posting a .942 save percentage to go along with a 1.99 goals-against average in 12 games.

However, Miami could catch a break, as his status is uncertain after suffering an ankle injury. He did not make the trip to North Dakota last weekend.

Kirk Thompson has a 2.93 GAA and a save percentage of .881.

Speaking of goalie issues, the RedHawks’ netminding situation is also unclear after senior Ryan McKay was scratched last weekend. Senior Jay Williams was very good last week in a win over Bowling Green and should play at least one game this weekend.

Miami enters this weekend six points behind the fifth-place Mavericks in the NCHC standings.

When these teams met earlier this season in Oxford, UNO went 1-0-1, thanks to some late heroics, including an overtime winner in the finale.

Photos: Nebraska-Omaha at Miami

Images from the series played at Cady Arena in Oxford on Nov. 20-21, 2015. All photos by Cathy Lachmann.

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Analysis: Uphill NCHC climb ahead for Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami seemed to find every conceivable way to record non-wins the last two weekends.

The RedHawks got blown out, then gave up the tying goal in the closing minutes and the winner in overtime last weekend. Friday it was a mid-third period goal against that ultimately induced a tie, and Saturday another overtime winner allowed in a 3-2 loss to Nebraska-Omaha at Cady Arena.

Quick thoughts and observations on the finale and then we’ll look ahead, since the can’t-close-out-wins angle has been beaten to death, both on the ice and in writing here.

– One has to feel back for sophomore defenseman Scott Dornbrock, who played so well all weekend before the somewhat unlucky decisive goal in OT went in after he couldn’t hold the puck in the zone and got beaten the outside. Whether he should’ve played that more conservatively or not, he didn’t deserve that fate to end the weekend.

– Once again, Miami looked solid overall but didn’t do enough to win. The problem on this night was finishing, which has been a recurring problem. Sometimes the puck just won’t find the net, but when it happens on many nights it makes one question the team’s shooting accuracy.

– Preface by saying UNO found a way to earn the tie Friday and the win Saturday, the following is in no way a sour grapes commentary, but the officiating was flat-out brutal this weekend, especially the finale. Sean Kuraly was assessed a boarding major that resulted in the second Mavericks goal, and no one in the building thought it warranted five minutes. The linesman actually made that call, which neither referee saw or thought was worthy of a penalty, which makes that even tougher to stomach. Defenseman Louie Belpedio was assessed a tripping penalty for a legal check, and many obvious called against both teams were missed while other non-calls were whistled. And let’s not get Josh Melnick getting called for breathing on a player in the first minute of overtime. Most fans thought we had seen the last of Brian Aaron when the CCHA folded, but there he was in Oxford this weekend, blowing call after call again.

– On a more positive note, Anthony Louis and Kiefer Sherwood scored the RedHawks’ goals and are starting to pile up points. Louis always seems to start slowly before lighting up the scoresheet the second half of the season, and Sherwood’s 2014-15 USHL campaign indicates good things are ahead for the freshman, who is getting better every game and is becoming an exciting player to watch. Seeing players improve is one of the biggest thrills of watching a college hockey team regularly, and his evolution is fun to witness.

Now a look at where Miami goes from here. Physically, the RedHawks go to Colorado College, which is 0-12, for a two-game series in two weeks.

The term ‘must-win games’ is way overused, and that’s not really the case here, but a sweep of those contests and the resulting six points would be extremely helpful in getting the team back on track. Anything less and Miami will head into 2016 below .500 and likely in the bottom half of the NCHC standings with every other league team having games in hand over the RedHawks.

The latter part of the last sentence is important: Miami has logged eight league games. Everyone else has played six except Denver, which has just four in the books. Tied for fifth with 8 of 24 possible points is bad enough, and now the RedHawks will play CC in two weeks then just two more NCHC games until Jan. 22.

Some context: Last season it took 41 points to earn home-ice advantage for the NCHC Tournament and 50 to win the Penrose – the No. 1 seed and a home date with Colorado College in the first round.

Miami has eight points in eight games and would need 33 more to reach the 2014-15 threshold for home-ice. That’s 11-5 or the equivalent in tie/3-on-3/shootout points against a murderer’s row conference schedule.

Doable? Certainly. Uphill climb. Certainly again.

To reach 50 it would take a 14-2 finish. Not happening. And that’s a knock on Miami, more of a statement about how tough it is to almost run the table in this league, even for a top-five team, which the RedHawks are not at this point.

The good news: The toughest series are over. No more North Dakota and Miami already played at St. Cloud State. SCSU does come to Oxford, and the RedHawks go to UNO in late January, but the other NCHC games remaining for MU are two at home vs. Denver, two at Western Michigan and four each vs. Colorado College and a Minnesota-Duluth team that is 5-5-3 with a losing NCHC record.

To simplify: Miami needs to start winning games consistently.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C. Thirty-two shots overall – 25 by this group – is pretty good, especially considering Miami was shorthanded for over 14 minutes, but the finishing thing has become a major concern. The goals were both great, and overall this corps played well defensively, but it’s really time to start scoring goals. Louis became the third Miami forward to score his third goal this season in this game, and we’re 14 games into the season.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Miami held UNO to 25 shots, and the first two goals were not at all on this group. Another workmanlike effort from the D-corps.

GOALTENDING: C+. It was sort of a similar game to Friday for Ryan McKay – one bad goal (the first one, off a huge rebound) and a solid showing otherwise against not a lot of high-percentage shots. It was another contest in which he certainly didn’t lose the game for Miami, but he didn’t win it either.

Miami defenseman Colin Sullivan (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami defenseman Colin Sullivan (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

LINEUP CHANGES: It was the same 19 as Friday. Forward Zach LaValle was still out of the lineup with a presumed upper-body injured, forward Michael Mooney was scratched, and defenseman Colin Sullivan sat again. Two thoughts: 1) Can Sullivan play forward? He’s super experienced at the college level, and let’s face it: After the top two lines there’s not much offensive contribution anyway (someone else credible mentioned the possibility this weekend). With seven talented defensemen, it’s tough to decide who sits each night, but you hate to see someone who would be in the lineup every night for 80 percent of NCAA team benched for long stretches. And 2) the smart money is on Jay Williams seeing a game in net in two weeks since McKay seems to play better when he doesn’t play numerous consecutive games and the games in two weeks will be at a high altitude.

Miami drops final ’15 home game to UNO

OXFORD, Ohio – One-goal games decided late continue to haunt Miami.

The RedHawks lost their second overtime game in eight days as they fell, 3-2 to Nebraska-Omaha at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Miami also settled for a tie on Friday despite leading the first half of the third period.

The loss snapped the RedHawks’ five-game unbeaten streak and sent them to a season-worst two games below .500.

Miami never led in the series finale, and the Mavericks jumped on the board just eight-plus minutes into the game. A David Pope rip from the top of the left faceoff circle was stopped by RedHawks senior goalie Ryan McKay, but the rebound came to the opposite side, and Austin Ortega slammed it home.

After a major penalty was assessed to Miami senior center Sean Kuraly, Brian Cooper intercepted a clearing attempt by senior forward Kevin Morris and banged it home 3:51 into the middle frame, making it 2-0.

The RedHawks battled back with a pair of late goals in the second period to tie it.

Miami forward Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Junior center Anthony Louis backhanded one top shelf from the slot with 3:42 left in that stanza, and freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood ripped a shot just under the crossbar with 43 seconds left to even it heading into the second intermission.

But after a bouncing puck eluded Miami sophomore defenseman Scott Dornbrock at the blue line, UNO’s Tyler Vesel skated around Dornbrock and fed Jake Rudolph for the game winner with 1:46 left in overtime.

The RedHawks are now 0-2 in the extra session this season.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Louis finished with a goal – his third in five games and his second in of the weekend – and an assist, giving him seven points in six games (3-4-7). Sherwood ended the weekend with a goal and two helpers, both of which came on Friday.

UNO spent over 14 minutes on the power play, compared to seven for Miami.

The RedHawks are now tied with Minnesota-Duluth for fifth place in the NCHC with eight points, and Miami has played more league games than any team in the conference (8).

This was the final home game of the calendar year for Miami, which is off next weekend and wraps up its 2015 schedule with a pair of games at Colorado College on Dec. 4-5.