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NCHC preview: Colorado College

Colorado College played with zero seniors last season but came within two points of home-ice advantage in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

The Tigers took Denver to a third game in their best-of-3 series before finally falling to the Pioneers, but CC was better in practically every metric than in any other season since the formation of the league, finishing 23rd in the all-important PairWise rankings.

Each Wednesday through September, BoB will post a quick Miami-centric preview on one of the NCHC teams as the countdown the opening night begins.

This week we take a look at the Tigers in the first of seven team snapshot installments.

COLORADO COLLEGE TIGERS

NCAA titles: 2 (1950, 1957).

COACH: Mike Haviland (35-96-13 in four seasons).

2017-18 RECORD: 15-17-5.

POSTSEASON: Lost at Denver in NCHC quarterfinal.

RINK (capacity): Colorado Springs World Arena (7,343), Colorado Springs, Colo.

MIAMI VS. COLORADO COLLEGE LAST SEASON: 1-2-1.

ALL-TIME SERIES: 8-8-2.

SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 16-17 – at Colorado College; Jan. 25-26 – at Miami.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Nick Halloran, F Mason Bergh, F Trey Bradley, F Westin Michaud, D Kristian Blumenschein, D Andrew Farny, D Ben Israel, G Alex Leclerc.

KEY NEW FACES: RW Chris Wilkie, F Ben Copeland, F Erik Middendorf, D Bryan Yoon.

KEY LOSSES: F Kade Kehoe, F Branden Makara.

NOTES: Mike Haviland signed a well-deserved five-year extension this off-season after leading the Tigers to their best finish in the NCHC era.

Colorado College had won seven, six, eight and eight games in the first four seasons since joining the league before posting 15 victories in 2017-18.

This is definitely a team on the rise, as it ended last season two games below .500 despite having zero seniors on its roster.

Five players are out from that 2017-18 squad, but those skaters combined for just six points last season. CC has added eight new faces, including junior right wing and Florida Panthers draftee Chris Wilkie.

Wilkie played two seasons with North Dakota, going 6-13-19 before transferring to the Tigers. He sat out last season.

Freshman forward Ben Copeland racked up 62 points with Waterloo of the USHL in 2017-18, and Bryan Yoon was one of the top points-producing defensemen in that league, going 3-32-35 for Tri-City.

Another newbie for the Tigers is forward Erik Middendorf, who has spent the past two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team.

All of Colorado College’s top 14 points leaders from 2017-18 return.

Junior Nick Halloran led the team with 45 points, and senior Mason Bergh finished with 40.

Seniors Ben Israel and Andrew Farny key a defense corps that combined for just nine goals last season. The Tigers will need to tighten up in their own zone, as they allowed an NCHC-worst 35 shots per game, an average that ranked 55th out of 60 in the NCAA.

Last season’s goaltending tandem of Alex Leclerc and Alec Calvaruso returns. Leclerc, a junior, saw the bulk of the playing time, going 15-15-4 in 36 games with a .907 save percentage and 3.21 goals-against average. Calvaruso logged 314 minutes and finished 0-2-1, .909 and 3.06.

And more good news for the Tigers: They recently had their plans for a $38 million on-campus rink green-lighted, as they look to open that facility in 2020.

Miami has struggled against Colorado College, posting just a .500 winning percentage vs. the Tigers all-time despite CC’s doormat status in the formative seasons of the NCHC.

The RedHawks have not won in Colorado Springs since 2015.

These teams meet in mid-November at CC as Miami wraps up a six-game, three-weekend set vs. NCHC opponents.

They hook up again at Cady Arena in late January in the back half of a RedHawks four-game homestand.

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Different foes for Miami in 2018-19

A weekend tournament in Erie, Pa., a pair of New England road trips and rare Oxford visits for three out-of-conference opponents.

Those are some of the RedHawks’ 2018-19 schedule highlights.

Miami will also play an extra series for a 36-game regular season instead of the usual 34. Teams are allowed an additional two games when participating in a tournament or traveling to Alaska so they can recuperate travel expenses.

The RedHawks drop the puck on Oct. 6 vs. Alabama-Huntsville, hosting an unusual Saturday-Sunday weekend series. They are 8-1 all-time vs. the Chargers, who will skate at Cady Arena for just the second time.

Next up is the Ice Breaker Tournament, hosted by Mercyhurst. Miami will play Providence in the opening round and either Notre Dame or the host in the finale.

UMass-Lowell and Colgate visit Oxford the next two weekends. Miami and the Riverhawks have never played on each other’s campus, and Colgate has only played three games on the RedHawks’ home ice, with two of those games coming at Cady Arena in 2011.

UML is 1-0-1 vs. Miami with a neutral-ice tie in 2003 and an opening-round NCAA Tournament win in 2012. The Raiders and RedHawks split a 2011 series in Oxford, and Miami hammered Colgate, 14-2 in the only other series meeting on MU’s campus at Goggin.

Miami is 4-2 vs. the Raiders all-time.

After six straight conference games, the RedHawks head to New Hampshire, hooking up with the Wildcats for the first time since 2011. Miami is 1-2-1 at UNH and 5-6-1 in the history of the series.

Providence is the lone non-conference carryover from 2017-18. These teams will face off three times this regular season, including the Ice Breaker opener. They will play at Cady Arena on Jan. 4-5.

The Friars are 9-5-3 vs. the RedHawks including three straight wins. The last neutral-site game between these teams was the 2015 NCAA Tournament opener which PC won, 7-5.

Miami is 2-3-1 at Providence all-time and has played the Friars 12 times the past seven seasons.

The RedHawks will finish their campaign with 16 straight in-conference contests.

Dropping off the schedule from 2017-18 are Maine, Connecticut, Bowling Green and Cornell.

Starting with the first weekend in October, Miami hits the ice nine straight weeks to open the season. Dec. 1 is its final game of the first half, and the RedHawks do not play again until their lone exhibition vs. Guelph on Dec. 30.

They return to regular season action Jan. 4 at Providence then skate every weekend except one until the postseason, with the exception being Feb. 15-16.

Our thoughts: For better or worse, this is definitely not as difficult a schedule as Miami faced last season. Cornell was well embedded in the top five, Bowling Green challenged for the top 20 all season and Maine ended up in the middle of the pack.

Two of 2018-19’s non-league opponents, UAH and New Hampshire, finished in the bottom 10 of the NCAA.

Once again it will be a difficult finish for the RedHawks, as they face the defending national champions in four of their final 12 games and also travel to both St. Cloud and Denver, both of which were top five teams in 2017-18.

By the way, Bowling Green should be back on the schedule next season, but scheduling conflicts prevented the in-state foes from hooking up in the upcoming campaign.

A look at the 2018-19 schedule with opponents’ records in 2017-18 and Miami’s all-time head-to-head history:

NOTE: The next seven Wednesdays, BoB will preview each of Miami’s seven NCHC foes as we count down to the start of the 2018-19 season.

Home games in CAPS.

Date Opponent ’17-’18 record PairWise MU vs. all-time
Oct. 6-7 ALA.-HUNTSVILLE 12-23-2 51 8-1
Oct. 13 Providence! 24-12-4 7 5-9-3
Oct. 14 Mercyhurst/N. Dame! 21-12-4/25-9-2 23/2 0-0/39-18-10
Oct. 19-20 UMASS-LOWELL 17-20-2 36 0-1-1
Oct. 26-27 COLGATE 17-17-6 27 4-2
Nov. 2-3 at Nebraska-Omaha 17-17-2 19 20-17-6
Nov. 9-10 NORTH DAKOTA 17-13-10 14 6-13-3
Nov. 16-17 at Colorado Coll. 15-17-5 24 8-8-2
Nov. 23-24 at New Hampshire 10-20-6 52 5-6-1
Nov. 30-Dec. 1 ST. CLOUD STATE 25-8-6 1 17-16-2
Dec. 30 GUELPH@ 24-11 NA NA
Jan. 4-5 at Providence 24-12-4 7 5-9-3
Jan. 11-12 at W. Michigan 15-19-2 28 66-55-11
Jan. 18-19 MINN.-DULUTH 21-16-3* 12 4-15-2
Jan. 25-26 COLO. COLLEGE 15-17-5 24 8-8-2
Feb. 1-2 at St. Cloud State 25-8-6 1 17-16-2
Feb. 8-9 NEBRASKA-OMAHA 17-17-2 19 20-17-6
Feb. 22-23 at Denver 22-9-8 5 11-14-3
March 1-2 at Minn.-Duluth 21-16-3* 12 4-15-2
March 8-9 W. MICHIGAN 15-19-2 28 66-55-11

POSTSEASON

March 15-17 NCHC Tournament# TBA TBA TBA
March 22-23 Frozen Faceoff$ TBA TBA TBA
March 29-31 NCAA regionals TBA TBA TBA
April 11-13 Frozen Four% TBA TBA TBA

*-won NCAA championship in 2017-18
!-Ice Breaker Tournament, Erie, Pa.
@-exhibition
#-first-round best-of-3 series at campus sites
$-at the Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.
%-at Buffalo, N.Y.

Ten newbies on Miami’s roster

Miami entered 2017-18 with just three seniors, but its 2018-19 roster features 10 first-year RedHawks.

One is an NHL draftee – Johnny Gruden was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round last month.

Of the 10, five are forwards, four are defensemen plus one goalie. That brings Miami’s full roster to 15 wings and centers, nine blueliners and three netminders.

Two key names were missing from the RedHawks’ roster: Fs Matej Pekar and Ryan Savage.

Pekar was committed to UNO but switched to Miami this spring, following assistant coach Peter Mannino. He was drafted one spot ahead of Gruden, No. 94, by the Buffalo Sabres.

Since this is a sensitive subject that could negatively affect Pekar, BoB will not report any speculation about if or when he will join the team.

Savage, son of former NHL forward and RedHawks standout Brian Savage, signed an NLI prior to 2017-18 but will play another season in juniors after going 8-7-15 in 48 USHL games. He will join the RedHawks in 2019-20.

A glance at the newest official members of the Miami hockey community:

FORWARDS


71 JONATHAN GRUDEN

DOB: 5/4/2000.

Height: 6-0.

Weight: 170.

From: Farmington Hills, Mich.

2017-18 stats/team: USNDT, 61 GP, 28-32-60.

Notes: Gruden has the best credentials of any incoming player. He was drafted by Ottawa 95th overall in June and kept a point-a-game place for the USNDT and posted 15 goals and 19 assists in 25 games vs. USHL opponents.

His father, John Gruden, is a former NHL defenseman who logged 92 games over parts of six seasons with Boston, Ottawa and Washington. He is now the coach of OHL Hamilton, which makes Jonathan Gruden choosing the college path interesting.

In addition to his points production, he has impressed with his two-way play, and he also can play multiple forward positions. Coach Enrico Blasi really likes versatility.

Where he fits in this season: There’s rarely a sure thing in college hockey, but barring injury Gruden will almost certainly skate on one of the top two pairings this season and should excel.

The RedHawks will need his offensive talents, as six forwards from 2017-18 have moved on.


18 MONTE GRAHAM

DOB: 5/4/1998.

Height: 5-11.

Weight: 174.

From: Hanover, Mass.

2017-18 stats/team: Muskegon (USHL), 57 GP, 10-15-25.

Notes: The former Boston College commit (actually still on the Eagles’ 2018-19 roster!) is the cousin of former NHLer Tony Amonte and current Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle.

Graham has already played three full seasons in the USHL, logging 173 games and notching 21 goals and 36 assists. He is known for his skating, and he racked up 95 PIMs last season.

While he went from eight points to 24 in his first two USHL seasons, he climbed just one point to 25 in 2017-18.

Where he fits in this season: Not a big offensive guy in juniors, but Graham reached the 10-goal mark for the first time last season, so he may slide into a starting role.

Miami only has nine returning forwards, so opportunities for ice time should be ample for rookies up front.


14 NOAH JORDAN

Position: F.

DOB: 3/8/1997.

Height: 6-5.

Weight: 216.

From: Toronto, Ont.

2017-18 stats/team: North York (OJHL), 47 GP, 18-20-38.

Notes: Jordan played four seasons for St. Michael’s of the Ontario Junior Hockey League then was back in that league for his overage season in 2017-18. He netted 18 goals and dished for 20 assists in 47 games with North York and also tied for the team lead in playoff points with 12 in 11 games.

Jordan is 21, and only 20 Division I players are taller, according to College Hockey News. Originally a Quinnipiac commit, Jordan switched to Miami in April.

Where he fits in this season: The OJHL is considered a slight step above the NAHL, so we’ll see how that offensive success translates in the NCAA.

With Conor Lemirande graduating, a player exhibiting a similar style could be welcome for the RedHawks.


19 BRIAN HAWKINSON

DOB: 1/10/1998.

Height: 5-9.

Weight: 146.

From: Aurora, Colo.

2017-18 stats/team: Tri-City (USHL), 58 GP, 6-10-16.

Notes: Hawkinson has played the past three seasons with USHL Tri-City, where he was team captain last season. He was also teammates with Graham the duo’s first two juniors campaigns.

Known as a do-anything-to-win type, he enters 2018-19 with 164 games of regular-season experience in the USHL. He notched just 10 points in his first two seasons combined in that league, but he stepped up with a 6-10-16 line last year.

Tri-City lists him at 5-10, 175 while other sites have him at 5-9-146.

Where he fits in this season: Hard to say because smaller forwards are usually known for their offense and Hawkinson is more of a grit guy.

A ton of USHL experience should make for a smooth transition to the college game.


25 SCOTT CORBETT

Position: F.

DOB: 4/14/1998.

Height: 6-1.

Weight: 187.

From: Carmel, Ind.

2017-18 stats/team: Dubuque (USHL), 59 GP, 6-18-24.

Notes: Another older player with ample USHL experience, Corbett started his Major Juniors career in the NAHL but has been in the U the past season and a half.

The dual citizen committed to Miami last week, becoming the third player from the northern Indianapolis suburb to join the RedHawks in the past dozen years, with Cameron Schilling and Grant Hutton being the others.

Corbett was solid in his first full season in the USHL, going 6-18-24 in 59 games with Dubuque. He has good size for a forward competing in the ultra-physical NCHC.

Where he fits in this season: He hasn’t been a big points producer in juniors but Miami hasn’t gotten much production from its third and fourth lines in recent seasons so he may have the opportunity to thrive.

Again, with nine returning forwards, starting slots will be there for the taking so Corbett and the four other newbies up front should get long looks this fall.

DEFENSEMEN


13 DEREK DASCHKE

DOB: 1/6/1998.

Height: 6-2.

Weight: 190.

From: Troy, Mich.

2017-18 stats/team: Chicago (USHL), 56 GP, 8-21-29.

Notes: Peter Mannino was Daschke’s coach for Clark Cup-winning Chicago of the USHL this spring.

Daschke was committed to Nebraska-Omaha, where Mannino was an assistant, but when Mannino was hired by Miami this off-season, the blueliner switched his commitment to the RedHawks.

His commitment is definitely in the top five news items from this program this off-season. Daschke has played in the USHL since 2014 and he was the captain of that championship Steel team last season.

He has a laser of a shot and found the net eight times last season, adding 21 assists.

Where he fits in this season: It’s hard to imagine, barring injury, Daschke not contributing right away.

He’s big, he’s experienced, he can shoot the puck and he’s joining a team that has just five returning D-men.


4 ANDREW SINARD

DOB: 5/22/1997.

Height: 6-6.

Weight: 185.

From: Brentwood, Tenn.

2017-18 stats/team: Aberdeen (NAHL), 58 GP, 0-19-19.

Notes: Sinard is a shut-down defenseman with a huge reach, and he also picked up 19 assists last season with NAHL Aberdeen.

He started his Major Juniors career with USHL Cedar Rapids but has been with the Wings since. Sinard does not have a goal in 96 juniors games, but he has impressed with his shut-down prowess.

Where he fits in this season: The only two similar players in recent Miami history are Brian Sipotz and Michael Findorff, and neither were full-time starters, although Sipotz played six seasons with Chicago of the AHL.

We’ll see if Sinard can buck that trend.

3 BRAYDEN CROWDER

DOB: 11/17/1998.

Height: 6-6.

Weight: 201.

From: Sudbury, Ont.

2017-18 stats/team: Muskegon (USHL), 55 GP, 5-14-19.

Notes: Like Daschke, Crowder was also committed to Nebraska-Omaha but switched to Miami after Mannino was brought in as an assistant.

Crowder left Canada two seasons ago, and after staying in the NAHL in 2016-17, he jumped to the USHL and went 5-14-19 with Muskegon, finishing plus-11.

Miami will be his 10th team in six seasons, so the blueliner should welcome the stability. His father, Troy, was a tough guy who logged 150 NHL games over seven seasons, amassing 433 PIMs to go along with his nine goals and seven assists.

Where he fits in this season: A 6-6 defenseman who scores five goals in the USHL is very intriguing, especially since he was 18 when last season started, and big guys typically develop later.

81 RIVER RYMSHA

DOB: 8/11/1996.

Height: 6-3.

Weight: 205.

From: Huntington Woods, Mich.

2017-18 stats/team: Dartmouth (NCAA), 28 GP, 1-2-3.

Notes: Like former Miamian Marc Hagel, Rymsha completed his degree with a year of eligibility remaining due to an injury that cost him the majority of a season, so he will work on his graduate studies at Miami.

Rymsha, who will not turn 22 until next month, played just 63 games at Dartmouth and scored three goals accompanied by five assists.

He is known as a physical D-man with a high hockey IQ. Rymsha also boasts a strong hockey pedigree, as his father, Andy, played six games with Quebec of the NHL and his brother is a Los Angeles Kings prospect.

Where he fits in this season: He has not played more than 28 games in an NCAA season and has just eight points, so it’s unlikely he goes Grant Hutton this season.

But another steady blueliner with plenty of college experience can’t hurt on a team that will start the season with five D-men who are freshmen or sophomores.

GOALTENDERS


32 JORDAN UHELSKI

DOB: 8/4/1993.

Height: 6-1.

Weight: 194.

From: Burton, Mich.

2017-18 stats/team: Alabama-Huntsville (NCAA), 32 GP, 12-18-2, 3.05, .907.

Notes: Another fifth-year senior situation, as Uhelski was a major contributor in net for Alabama-Huntsville the past two seasons.

He played 55 games with the Chargers the past two seasons, posting a .907 save percentage and recording 18 wins.

Where he fits in this season: Chase Munroe and Grant Valentine were expected to vie for the backup job this season, but Munroe is not listed on Miami’s roster and Uhelski is.

Boasting a quality resume, Uhelski could move into the No. 2 spot and push Larkin for starts.

Miami could have 3 taken in NHL draft

The past two Junes, just one Miami player has had his name called on NHL draft weekend.

But in the next couple of days, as many as three RedHawks-to-be could be selected prior to their freshman seasons.

Carson Meyer was taken in the sixth round by Columbus last summer, and 2016 was the first draft in which Miami was not represented since the NHL dropped to seven rounds.

Since the program’s inception, 62 Miami players have been drafted.

A quick look at this year’s potential draftees:

JOHNNY GRUDEN

Birthplace: Rochester Hills, Mich.

Birthdate: 5/4/2000.

Position: Center/left wing.

2017-18 team: U.S. National Development.

Height: 6-0.

Weight: 170.

2017-18 stats: 86 GP, 43 goals, 51 assists, 94 points, 66 PIMs.

Skinny: Coming off an outstanding season with the U.S. Under-18 team, Gruden will likely be the highest pick among this group. After scoring 43 goals with the U.S. National Development Team – including 15 in 25 games vs. USHL opponents – Gruden’s already-healthy stock rose slightly.

He jumped from No. 48 to No. 46 among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting rankings from the mid-term rankings until the final edition, and with an allegedly strong European class this year, Gruden may be picked in the third round or fourth rounds.

Gruden is six feet tall, but at 170 pounds he knows he needs to add weight.

His father is John Gruden, a former defenseman who logged 92 NHL games over parts of six seasons with Boston, Ottawa and Washington.

That’s where it gets interesting. John Gruden previously coached Team USA before accepting a job with Flint of the OHL. He was fired in his first season for not playing the owner’s son enough then hired back after the players protested. Then he was fired again three months later. He got the last laugh, accepting a job with the OHL team in Hamilton and winning that league’s championship last month.

So it’s unusual that a successful OHL coach would have a son playing in the NCAA, although John Gruden attended Ferris State.

Anyway, Gruden could be the next major points producer on a Miami team has been short on offense the past couple of seasons, and he’s impressed with his defense.

He can play multiple forward positions and will likely excel at all of them when he takes the ice in Oxford this fall.

MATEJ PEKAR

Birthplace: Turnov, Czech Replublic.

Birthdate: 2/10/2000.

Position: Center/right wing.

2017-18 team: Muskegon.

League: USHL.

Height: 6-0.

Weight: 170.

2017-18 stats: 56 GP, 14 goals, 40 assists, 54 points, 36 PIMs.

Skinny: When Miami hired Nebraska-Omaha assistant Peter Mannino this spring, he came bearing gifts. Pekar almost immediately changed his commitment from UNO to Miami, and he is headed to Oxford this fall.

The Czech-born forward will be entering his fourth season of hockey in North America, and he earned Rookie of the Year honors in the USHL last season by averaging a point a game.

He is known for his intelligent play, versatility and a missile of a shot.

Similar to Gruden, Pekar earns high marks for his two-way play and could thrive on both the penalty kill and power play.

He has impressed with his ability to win battles for loose pucks, both in front of the net and along the boards, but he will need to add muscle to compete with NCHC foes physically.

Pekar rose 32 spots among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting rankings, up from 87th to No. 55. The means, like Gruden, he projects as a third- or fourth-round pick.

RYAN SAVAGE

Birthplace: Montreal, Canada.

Birthdate: 3/31/2000.

Position: Right wing.

2017-18 teams: Fargo/Omaha.

League: USHL.

Height: 5-11.

Weight: 187.

2017-18 stats: 48 GP, 8 goals, 7 assists, 15 points, 14 PIMs.

Skinny: Savage’s first full season in the USHL did not go well, and he slipped from 149th among North American skaters in the mid-terms to not ranked as a result.

Despite the setback, NHL teams love pedigree and take more chances late in drafts, so Savage could still be selected.

Savage will be another second-generation Hawk – he is the son of former Miami standout and NHL forward Brian Savage. Ryan Savage’s younger brother – Red Savage – is also committed to the RedHawks, so it’s likely Miami will have a Savage on the ice for a number of seasons.

Brian Savage played 12 seasons in the NHL, going 192-167-359 for Montreal, Phoenix, St. Louis and Philadelphia. He scored 37 goals in 38 games his final season in Oxford as he led MU to its first-ever NCAA Tournament contest.

It’s possible Savage returns to the USHL this fall. His stats were underwhelming last season, and another season of development in juniors could vault Savage back onto the fast track to draftee status.

Another two-generation Miami hockey family is the Kuralys, and son Sean benefited tremendously from another season in the USHL.

Photos: North Dakota at Miami

Images from the series played between North Dakota and Miami University at Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio, on Feb. 23-24, 2018. All photos by Cathy Lachmann/BoB.

Miami loses late lead, ties NorDak

OXFORD, Ohio – On Friday, Miami battled back from three down to win.

One night later, No. 12 North Dakota was the team overcoming a multiple-goal deficit.

But unlike the RedHawks, the Fighting Hawks were only able to salvage a tie after evening the score on a pair of third-period goals for a 2-2 draw at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Miami (11-17-4) earned the extra point in 3-on-3 play after the game was officially ruled a tie, giving the RedHawks five of a possible six points on the weekend.

Despite the strong showing this weekend, Miami clinched last place in the NCHC. Three teams are tied for fifth, six points ahead of the RedHawks. All have two regular season games remaining.

So it is possible for MU to tie at least one of those three, but Miami cannot win a tiebreaker against any of them.

Melnick

Miami’s Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

After the completion of this game, St. Cloud clinched the conference title, so the RedHawks will travel there for their first-round NCHC Tournament series in two weeks.

RECAP: The teams were scoreless after the first period, but Miami’s Josh Melnick gave Miami the lead when he stole a puck at his defensive blue line and skated in for a breakaway, pounding the puck into the pads of North Dakota goalie Cam Johnson.

At first it appeared Johnson had made the save, but the referee by the net ruled it a goal, a shorthanded tally at the 4:23 mark of the middle stanza.

The RedHawks made it 2-0 just 26 seconds into the third period when Carter Johnson slid a pass through the slot that Kiefer Sherwood rifled home.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

But at the 4:20 mark of the final frame, a shot by the Fighting Hawks’ Hayden Shaw from a bad angle hit the glove of Miami goalie Ryan Larkin and trickled in.

Exactly three minutes later, UND’s Nick Jones redirected a blue-line shot by Colton Poolman to tie the score.

After five minutes of 5-on-5 overtime, Sherwood found the net in the 3-on-3 to give Miami the extra league point.

STATS: It was the ninth goal of the season for Melnick, and Sherwood scored his seventh. Melnick led Miami with three points on the weekend.

— It was just the second time in 14 games the RedHawks allowed fewer than two goals.

— Make that six straight games with neither a power-play nor a first-period tally.

— And Miami still hasn’t won a Saturday game since Nov. 18.

— Both Melnick and Louie Belpedio reached 80 career points this weekend. Melnick has 27 goals and 53 assists, while Belpedio has scored 25 times and dished out 55 assists. Belpedio is a senior while Melnick is a junior.

That duo is tied for the team lead in active career points, and Sherwood is two back with 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points. He’s also a junior.

THOUGHTS: Torn again.

Happy with a 1-0-1 weekend against North Dakota? Of course. Is Jack Johnson still hated in Oxford?

For the most part it was a very well-played series by Miami in a down year against a national power.

Cady Arena was rocking and these were two extremely entertaining games to watch.

But it’s hard to be happy about yet another third-period collapse. Winning the 3-on-3 skills competition point does nothing to assuage that.

When the final chapter is written about RedHawks Version 2017-18, near the top of the list of what went wrong this regular season will be the inability to close out games.

And this has been a problem for a number of years.

Miami has shown glimpses of excellence this season, but it cannot afford to continue flipping wins to ties and losses.

— Not happy with the penalties in this game on multiple fronts. Karch Bachman was taken down in the second period by a player also committing interference and possible a felony or two and there was no call.

A too-many-men call was missed. Miami had one power play, North Dakota (14-11-9) three including a major. That’s a night after concurrent minors against the RedHawks resulted in the Fighting Hawks’ second goal on Friday.

Penalty minutes were 19-2 on Saturday.

— That said, Rourke Russell’s minor penalty was undisciplined, and Carson Meyer’s major was deserved.

Russell had just turned the puck over and took a blatant chop at the steal-ee. Meyer saw numbers on the back of jersey and barreled into his guy anyway.

That’s a major in the NCAA.

— Speaking of the Meyer hit, someone decided to make that the hit of the game on the scoreboard at Cady Arena. A dangerous hit from behind. A major penalty and ejection.

Wise up, Cady staff.

— Miami looked extremely tired in the third period. Second game in two nights, of course, but that’s true of every team in college hockey in the third period every Saturday.

It was unusually humid and warm for this area in February, but again, both teams had to deal with that.

— With this being the final home game, I think it’s time to lobby for some additional players’ numbers to be added to the Zamboni end walls.

Andy Greene has been out of Oxford for 12 years. It’s time his name goes up. Ryan Jones graduated in 2008. Same goes.

A decade plus on both. What in the world is everyone waiting for?

The first two are no-brainers, but I’d add Andy Miele to that list as well.

He won the Hobey Baker seven years ago. That’s long enough.

In two years, add Austin Czarnik. He’s already been gone since 2015 and he epitomized Miami hockey values both on and off the ice as much as anyone else on that wall.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C. Sherwood finished with seven shots and Green had six. It’s so nice to have Sherwood playing as well as he did in 2016-17. Melnick created his own goal with the steal in his own zone, and Sherwood’s came after Miami won board battles, so both markers came off of hard work.

DEFENSEMEN: C+. North Dakota controlled the puck more than Miami, so it’s sort of comme ci, comme ca to point out that Grant Hutton, Alec Mahalak and Chaz Switzer all blocked three shots, and Scott Dornbrock added two blocks. Russell took two penalties and one of those chances resulted in a North Dakota goal.

GOALTENDING: B. Hard to fault a guy for a tip-in from the slot, but the first one was all Ryan Larkin. He should’ve gloved the puck but it bounced out and into the net. But he was 28 of 30 and made some outstanding saves.

LINEUP CHANGES: None. This looks like the 19 that coach Enrico Blasi will ride into the NCHC Tournament.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It was senior night, and overall a 1-0-1 weekend vs. North Dakota is a great send-off for Louie Belpedio, Scott Dornbrock and Conor Lemirande in their final home series.

Unfortunately, this class made the NCAA Tournament just once, and that was their freshmen seasons.

Miami will finish last in the NCHC for the second time since the league’s inception in 2013-14 and will head to the road for the fourth time in five years to open the league tournament.

In the eight-team conference, the RedHawks have finished eighth, second, fifth, seventh and now eighth again since joining the league.

Next weekend, Miami heads to Denver for a series that means zilch to the RedHawks in terms of points/seeding/NCAA Tournament qualifying.

The focus now is all on their series at St. Cloud State in two weeks.

Crash Cousin reveling in grinder role

OXFORD, Ohio – Very few 6-feet, 6-inch skaters end up as high-level forwards in hockey.

Manning left or right wing requires a certain level of speed and athleticism players that size often lack.

But in 2014, left wing Conor Lemirande pounced on the opportunity to fill that role with Miami alongside his cousin, Andrew Schmit.

And Lemirande has thrived as a grinder with the RedHawks since, dressing for 133 games and loving every shift.

“The moment I stepped on the campus I knew it was the right place,” Lemirande said. “Obviously with Andrew here, my cousin, I had some inside information, and he told me how nice it was and what a great opportunity it would be, so as soon as that was offered I couldn’t resist that.”

Conor Lemirande at the outdoor game at Soldier Field (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The duo was informally nicknamed the Crash Cousins for Lemirande’s first two seasons, and at a combined weight of 500 pounds, that tandem often comprised two-thirds of Miami’s fourth line.

Size is a family tradition in Lemirande’s extended family, which is from Janesville, Wis. His father, Jeff, refers to himself as one of the smaller males in the clan at about 6-5.

Lemirande’s brother Logan is also in that height range.

Schmit is 6-5, about the same height as his father, Robb.

“It definitely makes it hard for family meals,” Lemirande said. “We’d have all the kids there, and the parents there. My dad would actually go to the farm and buy a full cow just for the year and get that going. He’d have pigs for all of us. We consumed a lot of food during the week, I can tell you that.”

Lemirande started hockey around age four, and he played baseball through eighth grade and football – a family staple – until his junior year.

With his girth, the temptation was there for at least one coach to try him on defense early in his career.

“I was a defenseman my pee wee year, and that was it,” Lemirande said. “I did a camp, and it was actually coach Bob Suter from Madison, and he told me, you know, I want you to try out at defense. I did it in his summer camp, and after that, I was like, you know, I like getting in on the forecheck, I like being that physical presence, and my coach the next year really liked that, so (forward) is where I stayed.”

He spent two seasons at in-state Madison on Under-16 and Under-18 teams before signing with the hometown Janesville Jets of the NAHL prior to 2011-12.

Lemirande logged 110 games over two seasons there, becoming team captain and tallying 32 points. He played against his brother, Logan, who was on Port Huron in the same league.

“Obviously that was a great opportunity to play in front of a crowd in Janesville,” Lemirande said. “It was pretty awesome.”

Scott Dornbrock and Conor Lemirande celebrate an NCHC Tournament win in 2014-15 (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

He was drafted in the USHL his second year at Janesville and ended up in Youngstown, where he scored seven goals and picked up 10 assists in 58 games.

From there it was south to Oxford, where Lemirande dressed for opening night of 2014-15, nine days after his 21st birthday. He was in the lineup for the team’s first 23 games and 36 overall that season, which culminated in an NCHC Tournament championship and NCAA berth.

“You know, that was an unbelievable opportunity to have that group of guys and be fortunate enough to go through that,” Lemirande said. “It’s one of those things that I’ll never forget, just the lifetime bond. That experience and having that feeling of playing on the biggest stage – that was a lot of fun.”

Lemirande’s lone goal that season came vs. Notre Dame in a Florida tournament, but as a sophomore, he would log the offensive game of his career.

In a Jan. 23, 2016 contest at Nebraska-Omaha, Lemirande slammed home a loose puck with four minutes left in the first period to give the RedHawks a 1-0 lead.

Miami was up 3-1 midway through the second period when Lemirande again found the net, this time banging home a centering feed by Alex Gacek. Just over three minutes later, he scored again on a double deflection that was also redirected by Schmit.

That completed the hat trick – including the game winner – with Schmit picking up primary assists on two of the goals.

Conor Lemirande celebrates a goal his junior season (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“That did happen,” Lemirande said. “(The first goal) I just found the back of the net – got a greasy one – and then the second one was a shot from about the dot lane, and then the third one was actually a shot from the point. Andrew had actually deflected it and then I re-tipped it again, so it was a double tip for a third goal. So Andrew was celebrating, we were both celebrating, happy, so obviously a great opportunity there. From a guy not getting a lot of points, to have that opportunity is kind of a fun thing.”

That was the last three-goal game recorded by a Miamian.

Lemirande was limited to a goal and an assist his junior season, but his 2017-18 line is 1-4-5, already a career high in helpers and points.

Of those helpers, two came in a win at Bowling Green on Nov. 24, his only career multi-assist contest.

Captain and senior defenseman Louie Belpedio roomed with Lemirande freshman year and currently lives across the hall from him.

“He’s kept the same role throughout those four years here, but as he’s progressed he’s done a way better job,” Belpedio said. “He’s done a great job for himself and his team and I’m happy for him.”

Conor Lemirande as a senior (photo by BoB).

For his career, Lemirande has scored six times and set up eight more scores, but most of his contributions do not appear on a scoresheet.

“I think he’s a really good role player,” Belpedio said. “He comes to the rink with the right attitude every day and he knows what he’s supposed to do on the ice to be successful. He’s obviously not looked to to score goals but he’s looked to to do all the little things right and be solid defensively, and in my opinion he’s been our most consistent guy all year. So my hat’s off to him.”

Lemirande has also gained additional minutes as he has been added to a penalty killing role this season.

Conor Lemirande cuts down a Bowling Green player his senior year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Forwards at his size are unusual enough, but it’s even less common to see 250-pounders up front when their teams are shorthanded because four skaters have to defend five on the PK.

“He’s a bigger guy, obviously takes up a lot of shot lanes, he’s got a long stick so that helps a ton,” Belpedio said. “He’s worked for everything he’s gotten…that’s the type of kid he is and he’s a huge part of our team.”

His additional ice time on the PK is a direct result of his overall evolution on the ice. Defenseman Scott Dornbrock has played with Lemirande for four years and has also been his roommate the entire time the pair has been in Oxford.

“He’s progressed a ton over his three years – he’s (been) one of our best forwards all year,” Dornbrock said. “He allows our top-line guys to go out there and do what they do because he goes out there the shift before and really grinds down the team. People are watching out when he’s on the ice because they obviously don’t want to get hit. It definitely gives us an advantage to have him out there because he’s always moving his feet and always getting in people’s faces.”

As in any sport, more versatility equals more playing time.

“(I’m) working every day to be who I am to give my best to being that physical presence, be that guy that can be relied upon and trusted in different situations,” Lemirande said.

Said Belpedio: “For a big guy he moves extremely well and he’s always doing little things to get his feet faster. He’s worked on his skating, and it’s paid off a ton in his four years here.”

As a defenseman, Dornbrock frequently battles with Lemirande in practice. Through that experience, Dornbrock has learned how to handle the giant on skates in 1-on-1 battles.

“Most of the time I don’t even hit him because I know that I’m not going to get through him,” Dornbrock said. “So I always just stay on the outside of him and wait for him to make a mistake.”

Conor Lemirande talks to an official (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Lemirande’s positivity at the rink is another tangible attribute, Belpedio said, and his attitude is infectious.

“He’s just awesome to be around,” Belpedio said. “He generates energy for everyone else on the bench, and he says the right things at the right times and he fits perfectly into his role.”

And Lemirande’s personality extends off the ice.

“He’s one of my best friends – I have a lot to say about him,” Belpedio said. “He’s probably one of the nicest kids I’ve ever met. He’s always doing the right thing, and he’s one of those people you want to surround yourself with, whether it’s a serious situation or you’re just joking around. He’s just a good person to be around. He’s awesome. If the world was filled with Conors it would be a much better place.”

Said Lemirande: “I like to have a smile on my face, I like to be positive all of the time, bring that good attitude. It’s fun to be around ‘Lou’ and Scotty – we were living together my freshman year, all three – being around the guys, it’s such a blessing, and being grateful for the opportunity we have here. Just helping everybody out, if somebody calls you and needs you, (being the) first guy there, that kind of thing.”

Lemirande’s last two homes games will be this weekend, and he is set to graduate in May.

He has a 3.4 grade-point average, earning him All-NCHC Academic honors this season, and he is majoring in sports management. Lemirande has already completed his core classes and is down to electives.

“It goes by quick, and you want to tell everyone how fast it goes,” Lemirande said. “What a great opportunity we have here, being a part of the (hockey) program and at the school. I wouldn’t change a thing. Being there every day and being around the guys is something that I’ll never forget. I’ll share with my kids how special that opportunity is.”

 

Atypical path to D-I for Dornbrock

OXFORD, Ohio – A season before joining the Miami hockey team, Scott Dornbrock considered quitting the sport he loves.

After spending one year with Minot of the NAHL, he was told prior to 2013-14 that he would be playing in the USHL, the primary feeder league to the NCAA.

But when the defenseman inquired about living arrangements, he was informed he had not made the team since its allotment of 20-year-olds was used up.

That meant accepting returning to Minot as an overager.

“It was kind of an uneasy situation when I called and asked for housing information when they said, yeah sorry, you’re not coming here,” Dornbrock said. “When I made that phone call I was kind of heartbroken, and I didn’t know if I wanted to keep doing it just because I felt like I’d worked so hard to get back into the USHL.”

The NAHL is a slightly lower-level league than the USHL and doesn’t see as many players join NCAA teams on scholarship.

Rather than sulk, Dornbrock returned to Minot where he was named assistant captain. He scored seven goals and notched 17 assists for 24 points, his best numbers to date in all three categories.

That season vaulted him to a starting job at Miami, and the senior has dressed for 132 games in his four seasons in Oxford, tallying 34 points including six goals.

“I didn’t have any problem going back to Minot, but in the end it really helped me realize that playing in the USHL wasn’t the only way you could move forward,” Dornbrock said. “Going back for my second year in Minot helped out a lot more than it would’ve if I went to the USHL.”

Dornbrock, from Harper Woods, Mich., on the northeast side of Detroit, started skating when he was three and playing organized hockey by five.

He tried baseball, basketball and golf – even freshman football for half a season – but decided to concentrate on hockey.

Unlike most Miamians who go the midgets-to-juniors route, Dornbrock played three seasons with his high school team, skating with former standout Andy Miele’s brother, Shawn Miele.

“It made me realize how much I wanted to play hockey after high school and after junior hockey,” Dornbrock said.

He was already weeks from his 18th birthday when he suited up for Omaha of the USHL. Dornbrock logged 35 games there, dishing for five assists and compiling a plus-13 rating.

Scott Dornbrock at the outdoor game at Soldier Field his freshman year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“It was unbelievable,” Dornbrock said. “I stayed with a great family and it was like here – a small group of players – and there were three of us that went to high school together, so we were a really tight-knit group. It was just a very good experience.”

Dornbrock hoped to return, but his style didn’t mesh with the new coaches’ system, and he was one of the last players Omaha cut that preseason.

So he took a demotion to Topeka of the NAHL. Dornbrock played 12 games and picked up three assists there before being traded to Minot, where he added 11 more helpers.

“I would say that I definitely developed there,” Dornbrock said. “I got a lot of power play time and it just developed me offensively.”

Combined with his 7-17-24 line his overage season, Dornbrock finished his 91-game Minot career with seven goals, 28 assists, 35 points.

Scott Dornbrock lays out a North Dakota player his freshman year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB.com)

“I loved Minot, I try to go back almost every summer to visit the billet family that I lived with there,” Dornbrock said. “It was a great experience. Pretty cold, but I loved it up there. I would say that besides Omaha that was my favorite place that I’ve been.”

During that pivotal 2013-14 season, Dornbrock visited Oxford, and having been teammates with Shawn Miele, he talked to his brother Andy Miele, who was having photos taken on campus with his recently-won Hobey Baker trophy.

After that conversation, Dornbrock decided to commit to Miami, where he was roomed with fellow current senior Conor Lemirande.

The two had never met.

“Obviously through mutual friends we figured out who each other were,” Lemirande said. “And you get to know him really quick when you’re in the same dorm with him.”

The tandem has roomed together all four years at Miami.

“Scotty’s a good guy, he likes to have a lot of fun,” Lemirande said. “We’ve had a lot fun times.”

They also previously roomed with captain Louie Belpedio. Belpedio now resides across the hall from the duo.

“(Scott’s) probably the funniest kid I’ve ever met – he’s hilarious,” Belpedio said. “He’s a dummy, too – I mean that in a good way. I look at him and laugh, and that’s all I’ll say about that. He’s awesome. Another one of my best friends, and I spend of time – the three seniors, we have to stick together – and never a dull moment.”

Upon arriving in Oxford, Dornbrock was thrust into the lineup immediately. He played in 36 games as a freshman, notching two goals and earning six assists.

“He really took initiative coming in and said ‘I’m going to make the most of my opportunity’, and he really did, he grasped that,” Lemirande said. “Being that simple, puck-moving defenseman that we need him to be, and his presence on the ice when he’s at the top of his game is there. And we really rely on him to make those plays.”

While it took Dornbrock until his third season of juniors to score a goal, he found the net 10 games into his freshman campaign vs. Colorado College.

But he has established his niche as a shut-down defenseman who can carry the puck and rip a glass-shattering slap shot when necessary.

Scott Dornbrock and Conor Lemirande celebrate an NCHC Tournament win in 2014-15 (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“He’s a shut-down defenseman, he skates really well too,” Belpedio said. “He’s smart, you can use him in all situations, honestly. He’s not looked to as a power play guy but he’s been on our power play a couple of times. He’s pretty versatile with the things he’s able to do, and I think if he keeps it up he’ll have a good rest of his career here at Miami and carry that into his pro career.”

Belpedio is also a physical blueliner, but he is listed at 6-0, 198 pounds, three inches shorter and 32 pounds lighter than Dornbrock.

“I think it’s different between he and I – he obviously can use his body a lot better than me – he’s a lot bigger than I am,” Belpedio said. “So I think I have to use my stick and use my skating and try to be as physical as possible to try and separate the guy from the puck. Where as Scott, if you have your head down he’s probably going to kill you. That’s awesome to have a guy like that on your team, especially because it creates energy.”

Dornbrock celebrates a goal vs. Maine his junior season (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Dornbrock would score twice and pick up six assists his freshman campaign to accompany a plus-4 rating, That season, Miami finished second in the NCHC and won the conference championship.

“That was definitely one of the best teams I’ve ever been on,” Dornbrock said. “Obviously we had a lot of high-end guys that decided to come back, like (Austin) Czarnik, (Blake) Coleman, (Riley) Barber. You know, that was just a really fun experience and that was probably my favorite hockey moment so far.”

In his collegiate career, Dornbrock has missed just 10 games. He went 0-6-6 as a sophomore and tallied three goals and 10 assists his junior year – his best as a RedHawk offensively.

But his calling card is his physical style of defense. As a forward, Lemirande often matches up with the 6-feet-3, 230-pound blueliner in practice.

“I get to battle with him in practice a lot, and that’s a lot of fun – having another big guy battling in front of the net,” Lemirande said. “He’s hard to play against and that’s what makes it fun. You’re working to get better, he’s working to get better, so pushing each other is something that I’ll always remember about Scotty.”

He was second on Miami in blocked shots in both his freshman and sophomore years, rejecting a total of 88 those seasons, and he led the team in 2016-17 with 47.

And while Dornbrock plays a physical brand of hockey, he has kept his penalty minutes to a minimum. He was whistled for 37 PIM as a freshman but has just 49 the last three seasons combined.

“Being a bigger guy, refs always have their eye on you,” Lemirande said. “The game’s not stick lifting, big hits anymore, you’ve got to play simple, you’ve got to play smart and he’s real good at that – staying out of the box – which is crucial.”

Dornbrock gets into defensive position his senior year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Said Belpedio: “He’s really smart with that. I think the only time it really gets iffy is because he’s so big it looks worse than it actually is. But he’s not the type of kid that would try to hurt you in a dirty way. Obviously he wants to run you through the boards, but he’s clean about it, he’s smart about it, and he’s really good at it, so it’s something you’ve got to be aware of every time you’re on the ice with him.”

In his time with the RedHawks, Dornbrock has gotten much smarter about positioning, cutting down the angles at which opposing would-be offensive threats approach the net.

“He’s definitely smarter – I think that comes with the role he’s in – he’s definitely played a lot more as he’s progressed,” Belpedio said. “I think, just from that experience he’s grown a ton – I guess you could say that about anyone as you get older, I guess – but Scott’s done a really nice job with it.”

Dornbrock talks with a referee during his final year in Oxford (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Through 26 games this season, Dornbrock has a goal and six helpers, giving him a line of 6-28-34 in his four years at Miami. He has 170 blocks.

After hanging up the skates, Dornbrock said he’d like to coach or follow his restaurant-owning uncle’s path and become an entrepreneur.

Another possibility is consulting. Specifically, said he would like to help former hockey players find career paths after retirement from the game.

Dornbrock will graduate in May with a degree in sports leadership and a minor in management – he has a 3.0 grade-point average – and he has made life-long friends at Miami.

“He’ll be standing up at my wedding, that’s for sure,” Lemirande said.

On the ice, he has logged over 130 games played including an NCHC championship game and NCAA Tournament contest.

All that less than five years after nearly giving the game up.

“It’s been amazing – it’s the best experience that I’ve ever had in my life,” Dornbrock said. “Being able to have so many close teammates, I haven’t had that anywhere else where I’ve stayed in contact with pretty much every single one of my teammates. Being able to pick up the phone and call a teammate and (pick up) right where you left off.”

Later this week we feature the career of F Conor Lemirande.

 

No blanking way: Another 0 for Miami

It’s not the type of hat trick Miami was hoping for.

The RedHawks set a school record by being shut out for the third straight game, this time 3-0 vs. No. 11 Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena.

That loss mathematically eliminates Miami from the possibility of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and also crushes any hope the team had for home-ice advantage in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

The RedHawks have not scored in 212:01 or more than 10½ periods.

To qualify for the NCAAs by an at-large berth, a team has to have a winning record. Miami is seven games under .500, and running the table through the NCHCs is the only way it could pull that off.

Winning the NCHC Tournament would give the RedHawks an automatic bid.

MU, currently in last place in the conference, can finish no higher than sixth place. It could catch Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado College or Western Michigan but not both of the latter. Though both are technically in striking distance for Miami, CC and WMU play each other and are guaranteed six points between them that weekend.

Which means for the third straight season, the RedHawks will head to the road to open the NCHC Tournament. They were swept by Minnesota-Duluth in both 2015-16 and 2016-17, ending those seasons.

Miami is 0-10-1 in its last 11 games in this building, with its last win coming on Oct. 31, 2014. The RedHawks have been outscored, 44-22 on UMD’s home ice during that stretch.

RECAP: Jared Thomas opened the scoring for the Bulldogs (16-13-3) midway through the first period.

Miami’s Casey Gilling (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

That score held through a second period that saw Miami outshoot UMD, 14-1.

But the RedHawks could not generate the equalizer. Casey Gilling came the closest, ringing one off the post.

With 6:13 left in regulation, Nick Wolff extended the Bulldogs’ lead to two, and Joey Anderson found the empty net with 24 seconds remaining.

STATS: Kiefer Sherwood led all Miami skaters with five shots on goal. Gordie Green and Louie Belpedio added four each.

Chaz Switzer finished with a team-best three blocks.

— Miami played six times in January and averaged 3.67 goals. In six February contests, the RedHawks are scoring 1.33 goals per game and 0.80 in their last five.

— MU’s 34 shots on goal was its second-highest total of the year. The RedHawks fired 44 shots in a 7-1 win over Connecticut on Oct. 28.

— The last time Miami won on Saturday, it was against this team. That was Nov. 18. The RedHawks are 0-7-2 in series finales since.

THOUGHTS: Like last Saturday, Miami deserved a better fate than a 3-0 loss.

The RedHawks once again ran into a hot goalie, as Hunter Shepard turned 34 shots aside in this game and stopped all 50 that he faced on the weekend.

So while it’s easy to look at three straight zeroes and say Miami’s offense must be in complete meltdown mode, in two of these games the RedHawks actually played pretty well.

But when you only play well one night of a series against teams of this caliber, it’s going to be a long season.

LINEUP CHANGES: Coach Enrico Blasi shook things up a little bit, bringing back defenseman Chaz Switzer after two games of sitting out. Grant Frederic was scratched to make room.

Up front, Willie Knierim and Zach LaValle both dressed. Knierim had not played in two games in a row and LaValle was a scratch five straight contests. Not in the lineup were Austin Alger and Carter Johnson.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Yes, Miami could technically pull itself out of eighth place in the conference if it strung some wins together in its final four regular season games, but the RedHawks’ fate has been sealed.

They will head on the road against a top-10 team to open a conference tournament they will need to win if they hope to avoid missing the NCAAs for the third straight season.

Most likely MU will head to St. Cloud State or Denver, two of the top five programs in college hockey.

As an eight seed, Miami nearly pulled that off in 2013-14 by sweeping St. Cloud on the road and beating North Dakota in the semifinal before falling a goal short in the championship game.

But that’s a tall, tall task especially this season with the NCHC being undoubtedly the premier league in Division I.

Miami blanked again at UMD

Back to the house of horrors for Miami.

The RedHawks were shut out in their personal torture chamber, Amsoil Arena, 4-0 vs. No. 11 Minnesota-Duluth on Friday night. It was the second straight game in which Miami failed to light the lamp, bringing their scoreless streak to 152:01.

MU was also blanked by St. Cloud State in its series finale vs. St. Cloud State last Saturday.

The loss drops the RedHawks (10-16-3) a season-worst six games under .500, as they are guaranteed their third straight losing regular season.

Miami slipped to 0-9-1 in its last 10 games in Duluth.

RECAP: A pair of quick goals midway through the first period was all Minnesota-Duluth would need.

Mikey Anderson got the Bulldogs (15-13-3) on the board at the 8:19 mark and exactly two minutes later, Billy Exell extended their lead to two.

Jade Miller and Louie Roehl added markers in the second and third periods to seal it.

STATS: Miami was outshot, 13-4 in the first period and 29-11 through the opening 40 minutes.

— Gordie Green and Carson Meyer fired three shots each. Josh Melnick and Louie Belpedio blocked three shots apiece.

— The RedHawks slipped to 1-13-1 in their last 15 games in February and beyond.

THOUGHTS: It was Jan. 5 when Miami beat Denver to improve to 9-8-2, and at that point an NCAA at-large berth seemed like a legitimate possibility.

The six weeks since have been a dumpster fire, with the RedHawks going 1-8-1 and pretty much eliminating themselves from NCAA Tournament consideration by any means other than an NCHC Tournament win.

The RedHawks were beaten soundly in that finale vs. the Pioneers, which was not surprising considering they’re one of the best teams in Division I.

Miami had winnable road games vs. UNO and Colorado College, but its defense was a no-show for those series. MU went 0-3-1 and allowed 25 goals in those games.

The RedHawks won their first game back on home ice, 4-2 vs. Western Michigan but dropped the next three in Oxford, one to WMU and a pair to St. Cloud State.

Now the offense is AWOL, as Miami was shut out for the final 92:01 of its series vs. the Huskies.

Add 60 to that after failing to score in this contest.

The difference between that SCSU shutout and this one is the RedHawks actually played well for most of their game against the Huskies. They laid an egg on Friday – a goose egg.

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

LINEUP CHANGES: It was the same 18 skaters for Miami, but Ryan Larkin was back in net after sitting the Saturday game vs. St. Cloud State due to an illness.

Chase Munroe was between the pipes for that contest.

FINAL THOUGHTS: With Miami destined for a road series to open the NCHC Tournament, it’s becoming a distinct possibility the RedHawks finish the regular season at Denver and return there the following weekend a la 2015-16 vs. Duluth.

MU’s chances of having a lucrative postseason get longer with every February loss.