Melnick: Working overtime for success
OXFORD, Ohio – No one in the history of Miami hockey can match Josh Melnick’s clutch goal resume.
The NCAA still uses 5-on-5 overtimes, so scoring is relatively rare in those five-minute frames.
But Melnick has netted three OT winners in his career plus two more in 3-on-3s following the extra sessions.
“It never fails, right? It’s always him,” senior defenseman Grant Hutton said. “I think he gets rewarded for all the little things he does, and that’s why he seems to be so clutch, whether it be blocking shots or winning a small battle on the boards, he does the little things, and if you do the little things, you’re going to get rewarded all night long. I think that’s the best way to describe him being clutch is him doing the right thing over and over and over again. That’s not always flashy, it’s not always the highlight-reel play. But he makes the right play all the time, and at the end of the night when he gets that scoring opportunity in overtime, maybe a 3-on-3, a shootout, whatever it is, the puck goes into the net for him.”
Melnick was born and grew up in Annandale, New Jersey, about 50 miles west of New York City. He fell in love with hockey thanks to his step-father, David Crandall.
Melnick played prep hockey as well as soccer and lacrosse at Delbarton, a private New Jersey high school that was close enough for him to live at home.
He eventually dropped the other two sports and was dominant on the ice his final two years of preps. His junior season he scored 22 goals and picked up 25 assists in 28 games, and he racked up 62 points including 46 helpers in 26 contests as a senior.
The following season, Melnick, 18 at this point, headed to Youngstown of the USHL. His first season there he posted a 7-21-28 line in 52 games.
In 2012-13, he returned to the Phantom and his numbers ballooned. He notched 14 goals and a league-leading 48 assists in 60 games, including a five-point performance that included a hat trick vs. Fargo.
Melnick had intended to play Division I hockey for Princeton but decommitted within the final month of his final juniors season.
Within weeks Melnick had committed to Miami following a visit to Oxford.
“I fell in love with the campus right away, and everything that the program stands for,” Melnick said.
He also would be joining former Youngstown teammates, which he said factored into the decision, as he was close friends with Kiefer Sherwood, and Conor Lemirande and Grant Valentine also played with Youngstown during Melnick’s juniors career.
Melnick adapted to the college game with ease. He assisted on Miami’s first goal of 2015-16 and scored in that inaugural NCAA game as well, Oct. 9, 2015 vs. Providence at Cady Arena for a two-point night.
“We had a lot of seniors on our team my freshman year and I think that was huge, just getting guidance from them on a daily basis and being able to play with some of those guys right off the start was really good in terms of learning what it takes at this level,” Melnick said.
The next night he would become the first player in Division I history to score a 3-on-3 goal following the conclusion of overtime. College hockey had allowed conferences the option to adopt that format for league points the previous off-season.
Though PC was not in Miami’s conference, the teams skated three a side anyway following what was officially a 2-2 tie, and Melnick lit the lamp.
Two months into his sophomore season, Melnick found the net in overtime to beat Colorado College for his first official OT winner, and he did it in spectacular fashion.
Teammate Carson Meyer threw a wrister at the net, and it grazed off the side of Melnick, who batted it out the air and into the short side of the net.
Two games later, Melnick tallied the tying goal in the final minute vs. St. Cloud State. Then he scored the game winner in overtime.
Early in his junior season, he victimized Colorado College in OT again, this time burying a rebound on a loose puck at the top of the crease.
He added another 3-on-3 goal to earn Miami a conference point earlier this season vs. St. Cloud State on Dec. 1.
That gives Melnick three official overtime winners plus two 3-on-3s in supplemental OT, and he has six official career game winners. Over 15 percent of his career goals have gone in the GWG column.
“That doesn’t surprise me because he’s the first guy that we’re sending over the boards,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “Everything that you would say about him is true. He’s the leader of our team in a lot of ways.”
Some perspective: No Miamian has ever even scored two career overtime winners since Cady Arena opened in 2006-07.
— Melnick is the only RedHawk with multiple OT goals in a season since at least 2000.
— The last Miamian to post two career OTWs in a career was Alec Martinez, whose first won the final game played at Goggin Arena, clinching the RedHawks’ CCHA opening-round tournament series.
— Chris Michael is the last Miamian to score an OT winner in consecutive seasons, doing so in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
“It’s just being in the right place at the right time, and when you go to overtime it’s a little more sense of urgency,” Melnick said. “And when you get the puck in those situations you’ve got to bear down.”
Freshman season he was voted the team’s rookie of the year by his classmates and was a finalist for Miami’s most valuable player award.
Named assistant captain as a sophomore, his points total jumped by two each of the next two seasons.
Junior Gordie Green has been his linemate for much of those campaigns. Green notched 21 points as a freshman but vaulted to a team-best 15 goals and 33 points last season.
“He’s a complete player – I think he’s probably the most complete player that we have,” Green said. “I’ve had the honor of playing with him for pretty much the last two years and he’s probably been the easiest player I’ve ever gotten to play with. He does everything right and you can count on him. He’s been a lot of fun to play with.”
In 2018-19 Green is again tops on Miami in goals with 11 and is second in points by just one.
The team leader is Melnick, who is also second on the RedHawks in markers with 10.
“He’s definitely a player that makes everyone around him better,” Green said. “That’s why it’s fun playing with him – we play against all of the top lines because our coach wants Melly out there to shut them down as well as generate offense against them. And he’s always out there for the penalty kills, he’s usually the first one to take that big draw.”
This season his points rate is at a career high, as he averages exactly a point a game with 26 in 26 contests. He missed six games with an upper body injury.
So in addition to his reputation for scoring in the clutch, Melnick has exemplified consistency in the points column. His season totals are 25-27-29-26.
That’s a total of 107 points, tied for the 45th with Blake Coleman on the all-time RedHawks’ leaderboard.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling, and I’m very honored to be recognized with some of the names that are there as well,” Melnick said. “But a huge portion of that credit goes to the players that I’ve been able and fortunate enough to play with in my four years here.”
As impressive as his offensive numbers are, Melnick has been one of the top defensive forwards on the team each season.
“I think that’s definitely one of my strengths as a player – being able to play in all three zones and being able to defend well,” Melnick said. “That’s something that I’ve focused on a lot through the years and continue to improve on. Obviously playing well in the O-zone is important, but you’ve got to be able to play on both sides of the puck.”
In addition to playing against opponents’ top forwards, he logs as much ice time on the penalty kill as any RedHawk. Miami has even played four forwards with him in a defense slot late in games this season.
“One of the things that makes Melly so special is his ability to make plays under pressure, and obviously his defense — 1-on-1 he can skate with anybody, he uses his body well, he’s not huge in terms of the size department, but he’s really good at protecting the puck and he makes really good decisions with the puck,” Hutton said. “When you get the puck back (in the defensive zone), you still have to get it out of the zone, you still have to transition to offense, and he makes that transition so easy. As a defenseman, if I go back and I’ve got to make a play, I know I can put the puck anywhere for him – on his feet, on his backhand, behind him – anywhere in the general vicinity – he’s going to get the puck and he’s going to get it out.”
After last season, there was uncertainty as to whether Melnick would have the opportunity to eclipse the 100-point mark. With both assistant coaches and six non-seniors leaving the program, it was unclear if Melnick would return for his senior year.
But early in the off-season, he and Hutton told the world via social media they would both be back for their final year.
“It was a tough decision, but in the end it was fairly easy decision,” Melnick said. “I talked with my family and thought about it, but at the end of the day, for me, I love it here, and I wanted to come back and spend my final year – getting my degree was also important to me – but spending another year with the people that we’re surrounded by every day and getting a chance to leave my mark a little bit more.”
And his game has further evolved this season, as he has improved drastically in the faceoff circle.
“He takes a lot of pride in that, and that’s becoming such an important part of the game because the game nowadays is more about puck possession,” Hutton said. “You win the faceoff, it’s much easier to start with the puck than to go get it. The coolest thing is he pulls the other forwards along with him. They see him taking faceoffs, well if Melly’s taking faceoffs and doing the extra work, then you’ve got to do it too, right? Not only has he gotten better but his teammates have gotten better because they’ve followed his lead.”
He has been resilient in his quest to improve his faceoff numbers, as he has been one of the last players off the ice during practice because of his work in the circle.
“That’s one of the things I focus on during the week, especially closer to game day,” Melnick said. “I feel like I’ve noticed it more as the years go by, but the more draws you can win, obviously that just means more possession for your team and it really shows in the long run of the game.”
He has won 55 percent of his draws in 2018-19. A faceoff win by Melnick directly led to a Miami goal last weekend.
“He’s not a natural centerman, so when we moved him to center way back when he really had to learn the position, positionally, and then he had to be effective taking faceoffs,” Blasi said. “That’s a credit to Josh and his hard work and his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team. He’s the guy that everybody kind of looks to, to lead the way in practice and games. He’s out in every faceoff and special teams (situation). Obviously we really missed him as you can tell from our record without him in the lineup.”
The RedHawks went 0-6 earlier this season while Melnick was out.
“The kid’s unbelievable,” Hutton said. “He does things every week in practice where we’re like, what in the world? It doesn’t even make sense. Physically, there are things that he can do that (most) people can’t. He just has a special skillset and a special mindset, he’s a super-hard worker. He’s super honest with himself – he doesn’t try to be someone he’s not, and that’s the coolest thing about Josh. He’s so humble and so honest, it shows up in his game, right? He works his ass off every single day and everyone benefits from that.”
Melnick and Hutton were named co-captains this season, a fairly unusual move in hockey but one that has worked well for program.
“I think the relationship is very solid, and so anytime you do something like that the two guys have to get along, and have to kind of share the load,” Blasi said.
Hutton has been more vocal while Melnick has played a more lead-by-example role, and Melnick always leads the pre-game huddle speech when the team congregates around the net.
“For me it’s just continuing to be who I am and not really changing the type of player or the type of person I am,” Melnick said. “Making sure we’re holding guys accountable on a daily basis, but all the guys on the team are great and easy to get along with, so for the most part it’s been pretty smooth.”
Said Hutton: “He’s respected by everybody – you don’t have a choice because of how special he is as a player and as a person.”
That consistent level of excellence has carried over into the classroom as well for Melnick, who is a four-time member of the NCHC All-Academic Team.
Unfortunately for Miami, Melnick’s time in Oxford is running short, as the RedHawks play their final two regular season games this weekend.
And while he said his time as Miami has gone too quickly – with each season zooming by faster – Melnick has carved a permanent legacy into RedHawks hockey history.
“As an overall experience it’s definitely been the best four years of my life,” Melnick said. “Coming in, I think one of the biggest things for me was not only developing as a player, but developing as a person. I’ve grown so much over the past couple of years, again, as a player and a person, and I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences for anything.”
Uhelski and Rymsha: Graduate senior saviors
OXFORD, Ohio – Six years ago when a graduate senior joined Miami, it worked out so well that the RedHawks doubled down on that concept last summer, adding a pair of fifth-year players who had already earned their undergraduate degrees.
Goalie Jordan Uhelski and defenseman River Rymsha both joined the RedHawks for their final seasons of NCAA eligibility, and they have been godsends on a team that has battled depth issues, not only with their skills but their Division I veteran status.
“With only (four seniors), it was important for us to have a couple of extra guys to help those guys in terms of leading the way with their experience in college hockey,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said.
A player who has already earned his undergraduate degree does not have to sit out a year if he transfers, so Uhelski and Rymsha were courted last off-season when six skaters left Miami early for various reasons.
Uhelski was the starting goalie for Alabama-Huntsville and Rymsha logged four injury-plagued seasons on the Dartmouth blue line.
Forward Marc Hagel was the first transfer who came to Oxford for his fifth season after graduating. He earned his degree from Princeton before joining the RedHawks in 2012-13 and behind his 19 points, tenacious defense and leadership helped Miami advance to the NCAA regional final.
With more player movement than ever and the ability to avoid a missed season due to the NCAA transfer rules, college hockey could see an uptick in players shifting schools after competing their degrees.
Rymsha, the son of former NHL right wing Andy Rymsha, from the northern Detroit suburb of Huntington Woods, was a forward growing up.
While playing Bantam for Little Caesar’s, a line brawl broke out and the next game his team only had two defensemen eligible to play.
So Rymsha, who was undersized at the time, moved back to the blue line and has been there since as he ballooned to his current dimensions of 6-feet-3 and 205 pounds.
After one season of prep hockey at St. Mary’s, Rymsha was hoping to join USHL’s Fargo – which drafted him – but he was told he wasn’t going to make the team.
At the last minute, he talked to current Miami assistant coach Peter Mannino’s cousin and hooked on with Wenatchee of the NAHL, where he scored four goals and dished for 12 assists in 45 games.
After just one season of major juniors, Rymsha packed for New Hampshire and headed to Dartmouth, the school he had committed to at age 16 out of Fargo’s camp.
“Education has always been super-important to me, so going Ivy League was something that I’d always wanted to do and Dartmouth gave me that opportunity,” Rymsha said.
He turned 18 just two months before his freshman season, during which he dressed just six times.
“Freshman year, I went in too early,” Rymsha said. “I needed to develop more, needed to get bigger, needed to get stronger.”
As a sophomore, Rymsha played in 24 games, posting two goals and two assists while playing with a torn labrum.
“After sophomore year I got my left (shoulder) repaired, rehabbed over the summer, came back and then I tore my other shoulder,” Rymsha said. “After having double shoulder injuries, I decided it would probably be a good idea to redshirt, get an extra year.”
He did register an assist in five games as a junior, but through three seasons Rymsha had been in the lineup just 35 times.
Finally healthy heading into his senior season, Rymsha played in 28 games, registering a goal and two helpers.
He initially intended to spend his fifth season at Dartmouth, decelerating his program to remain a full-time student throughout.
But Miami called to see if he would be interested in spending his final year of eligibility with the RedHawks.
“That was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” Rymsha said. “Miami was a school that I loved watching and always wanted to play for growing up.”
So he beefed up his class schedule and took summer classes, graduating from Dartmouth last September.
“I met a lot of great people – the relationships that I built there are something that I’ll carry with me forever – and hockey-wise, they really developed me there,” Rymsha said.
Rymsha was in the lineup for both games opening weekend vs. Alabama-Huntsville, and after tallying just eight points in four seasons at Dartmouth, he scored and picked up a pair of helpers in that series.
“To go out the first week and have the kind of first weekend that I did individually was a really cool feeling,” Rymsha said.
Rymsha has played in 32 of Miami’s 34 games this season, and not all of his minutes have been spent on defense.
Because of injuries and other game situations, Miami’s coaches have tapped his upbringing as a forward and have used him both on the wing and at center.
The Thursday before the series at Omaha in early November, Miami’s centers were taking draws in practice. Rymsha had completed his drills but wasn’t ready to get off the ice, so he went up to Blasi, who was dropping pucks, and asked to take some faceoffs.
Rymsha won most of the draws.
“(Blasi) was a little bit surprised, and I was like yeah coach, I had a little bit of experience playing forward growing up,” Rymsha said.
That weekend a game misconduct left Miami short a forward, so Rymsha shifted to the front end.
“So it’s always been in the coaching staff’s back pocket that if they need me up front, it’s something that I can do and they can rely on me,” Rymsha said. “This is something that I told the coaching staff at the beginning of the year, that I wanted to help out any way I can.”
Due to injuries this season, Rymsha has done pretty much everything but put on goalie pads. He has logged time on the power play, penalty kill, both defensive positions, wing and center, even taking the opening draw at home.
“I think there were four games in a row where he was bouncing back from forward to D, and people don’t realize how hard that is to do at this level,” senior captain Grant Hutton said. “It’s hard to get into a rhythm.”
Rymsha has three goals and four assists for seven points – all career highs – and he is third on the team only to Rourke Russell and Bray Crowder with 41 blocked shots.
“He comes in every day and he works his hardest, so hard that he sets a tone for everybody else,” Uhelski said. “He’s got the skill, and he’s got the speed…he’s an unbelievable player, a well-rounded player.”
He has also been one of the most physical skaters on the team, dishing out punishing hits all season regardless of his position.
“He’s a swiss army knife,” Uhelski said. “He’s got every tool in the box. What’s been so cool and what I think a lot of guys coming up could learn from him is he’s there for the team. Coach wants you on forward, yeah, I’ve got you. Where do you need me? It’s not, oh man, I’m not playing my position. He’s going with a smile on his face and his hard hat on, ready to work.”
With one weekend series left in the regular season and the postseason looming, Rymsha feels like he’s playing at a higher level than ever.
“I think especially now, getting into playoffs, you have to be playing your best hockey and I think that’s what four and a half seasons of college hockey have prepared me for,” Rymsha said. “Looking back to my freshman year all the way up to now, every year I’ve gotten better. The hockey that I felt like I was playing my senior year at Dartmouth you could say was my best hockey and obviously that’s what attracted the coaching staff at Miami. I knew when I came in here that there was another level that I felt like I could go to, and they’ve helped me with that.”
Rymsha credits his father for guiding him during his ascent through the hockey ranks. Andy Rymsha was a fourth-round pick of St. Louis and played six games for Quebec and 11 total seasons in the pros.
“Honestly it’s hard to put into words,” Rymsha said. “He’s been there for me my entire life. The advice he gives me on a day-to-day basis has helped me become the player that I am today. He’s taught me what it’s like to be a pro when you’re (in) juniors and into college, the responsibilities and how to handle yourself on and off the ice. I can’t thank my dad enough for everything that he’s taught me along the way.”
Rymsha’s brother, Drake, is a Los Angeles Kings draftee currently playing in the ECHL.
Uhelski grew up in Flint, Mich., and hockey was an easy sell for him since his mother was a professional figure skater.
There was never a doubt about what position he was destined for.
“I always joke around that when I was young I was a little chubby so they stuck me in net right away,” Uhelski said. “So I was a goalie from the first time I played and I absolutely loved it.”
After two seasons with Belle Tire, he went to Muskegon of the USHL, where he posted a 2.66 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in 18 appearances, notching a pair of shutouts.
“When I was growing up obviously I dreamed of playing college hockey – but here was the first time where I thought that, oh my gosh, this might actually happen,” Uhelski said.
After another year in Muskegon, Uhelski began his college hockey career with Alabama-Huntsville.
But as he would find out, being on a Division I team didn’t necessarily equate to playing time.
UAH had won two games the season before Uhelski joined the team, and he expected to make an immediate impact upon arriving in Huntsville. But Carmine Guerriero had an outstanding season in net and Uhelski did not see the ice for one second that season.
“Halfway through (freshman) year I was getting upset and I hadn’t played, and it can go one of two ways: I could shut down and this is no good, I’m sick of this or whatever, or you can just battle through it, take what you can for experience and try to learn and grow and develop,” Uhelski said. “That’s what I did.”
As a sophomore, it was the other UAH goalie – Matt Larose – that took over the starting job, and again Uhelski sat the entire season without logging a minute in net.
Uhelski did receive a red shirt for one of those seasons.
“It was something that I think has given me so much strength as a leader today,” Uhelski said. “Whenever you go a new place, you have all these ideas of, oh man, everything’s going to go exactly the way I want it.”
Finally, junior year arrived and Uhelski played his first game in 2½ years against a more talented Michigan Tech team, and UAH salvaged a tie.
From then on, Uhelski was essentially the No. 1 goalie for the Chargers. He was between the pipes for 23 games that season and 32 as a senior, finishing with a .906 save percentage.
“It was definitely an up-and-down, emotional experience but it’s one that I can look back on and draw a lot of confidence and know that I’ve really been through a lot and come out on the other side,” Uhelski said.
After four seasons with Alabama-Huntsville, many of Uhelski’s teammates were leaving and he was looking for a change.
“I knew wherever I went I wanted to be a part of something special,” Uhelski said. “I was really upfront with my coach (Mike Corbett) at Huntsville, and he said if you want to transfer, I’ll do whatever I can do to help you. We decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
So when Blasi talked to him about coming in for his fifth season, Uhelski couldn’t say yes quickly enough.
“I always joke around with him that it was the easiest commit that he’d ever even gotten,” Uhelski said. “He hadn’t even finished the sentence and I was ‘yeah, I’m coming, when do you need me there?’ Before graduation I was ready to pack up for Miami if I could. I was so excited to come here and be a part of this program and be a part of the rich history. It was an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”
There was one problem for Uhelski: Miami already had a starting goalie in Ryan Larkin.
“I’ve been through a lot in my college experience, and I know that it’s just as important to be someone the team needs when you’re in the lineup as when you’re not in the lineup,” Uhelski said. “That was really my expectation: Just to come in and be a great team guy and try to leave a positive mark on the program.”
Uhelski didn’t have to wait long. Blasi tapped him to start the first game of the season.
The opponent? Alabama-Huntsville.
“When Coach (Blasi) said, yeah, you’re going the first game, I was so excited,” Uhelski said. “To be able to go against some of the old boys that I’d played with, it was awesome.”
The first shot he faced in his RedHawks career was an innocuous wrister from the blue line.
Somehow it snuck through and found the net.
“I was wondering what Coach Blasi was thinking, like who is this kid that I just picked up?” Uhelski said.
Uhelski had already had a cryptic conversation about the very subject prior to the game.
“One of my old roommates from Huntsville was texting me, he was like, if you let a shot in, I’m going to make fun of you the rest of your life,” Uhelski said. “(UAH) scored the first goal, and I was like, oh man. There’s no way that that just happened.”
But Uhelski settled down and stopped the next 18 shots he faced in a 5-1 win.
In his first 10 games his save percentage was .918. That has slipped to .902 after a pair of off-nights, but thanks to Uhelski’s pushing, Larkin is at .916 after posting an .886 save percentage last season.
“His personality and his character helps Ryan in terms of, he’s much more outgoing and very vocal,” Blasi said.
One of Uhelski’s season highlights was the St. Cloud series in Oxford. Larkin was banged up in the series opener, and Uhelski stopped 59 of 63 shots on the weekend to earn a pair of ties.
The Huskies were ranked No. 1 in the NCAA at the time.
“Jordan’s a great player,” Rymsha said. “Coming from Huntsville, he probably didn’t have a lot of help and if you look at his numbers, he’s put up some good numbers and that’s translated here. The work ethic, the energy that he brings to the rink, day in and day out, on and off the ice, it’s made a big impact on the team, and it’s made a big impact on me.”
Although both Rymsha and Uhelski have only spent one season here, they have loved every minute of the little time they’ve had in Oxford.
“It’s exceeded my expectations – it’s a great program,” Rymsha said. “Not to take anything away from the ECAC – it’s obviously a great conference – but the league that we play in is on another level. The coaching staff can tell you every day how hard it’s going to be every day, but not until you get into the thick of it can you really see how hard it actually is.”
Said Uhelski: “I wish I had four more. The year hasn’t gone how you write it up, but every storybook ending has a little adversity. My experience has been so amazing. I love every guy that’s on our team, and it’s been an honor to get to play for a program that has so much history and such support from the community and the fans. When you’re a little kid and you’re thinking about playing college hockey, this is what you dream about. I really wish I had four more years here because every person that I’ve met at Miami has been so loving and so real and amazing and heartfelt to me. I cannot say enough about my time here at Miami. I have people back home joke with me that every time I go out I’ve got something Miami on, it’s just because every day I get up to go the rink I’m so proud to wear that ‘M’ and be a part of something like this program and this school. It’s been truly amazing.”
UMD tops Miami on two late goals
Both teams scored five times in the first two periods.
But a Kobe Roth goal with 13:17 left in regulation was the difference maker in No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth’s 6-5 win over Miami on Saturday.
In a crazy game that saw the Bulldogs score twice in the first 90 seconds and ultimately fall behind by a goal in the second period, UMD (21-9-2) completed a four-game season series sweep of the RedHawks.
MU dropped its third straight game and is 0-11-2 in its last 13 games on the Bulldogs’ home ice.
RECAP: Just 86 seconds into the game, the Bulldogs led by two thanks to a pair of Nick Wolff goals scored on outside shots, 23 seconds apart.
Miami (11-19-4) went on a two-man advantage and powered home a pair of quick goals of their own, tying it on markers scored 55 second apart.
Josh Melnick whipped a wrister home from the high slot on the 5-on-3, and Jonathan Gruden grabbed a rebound off a Grant Hutton shot and backhanded it home to tie the score at the 5:42 mark of the opening stanza.
Riley Tufte tipped home a slap pass from the edge of the crease on the power play to give Minnesota-Duluth a 3-2 lead with 10:30 left in the first frame.
The RedHawks again answered with a man-advantage goal of their own, as Hutton ripped a shot from the high inside edge of the faceoff circle that found its mark with 3:34 left in the first period.
A blue line blast by Dylan Samberg put UMD ahead by one again, 4-3 less than three minutes into the middle stanza, but Gordie Green tied it for Miami with a one-timer from the slot off a centering feed by Ryan Siroky along the boards.
RedHawks forward Carter Johnson stole the puck behind the Bulldogs’ net, wrapped around and poked it into the net less than two minutes later to give the RedHawks their only lead.
But with 20 seconds left in the second period, Parker Mackay cleaned up a rebound off a blue line wrist shot by Scott Perunovich to tie the score at five.
The game winner also was scored on a rebound, as Roth banged home a Billy Exell shot from the side of the net 6:43 into the third period.
STATS: Hutton finished with a goal and two assists, tying his career high in points. It was his fourth-ever three-point game.
— Melnick and Green both found the net and picked up a helper. Green snapped a five-game goalless streak and Melnick recorded his third tally in five games.
With 107 career points, Melnick moved into a tie with Blake Coleman for 45th on Miami’s all-time leaderboard.
— Gruden broke out of a 12-game skid without a marker, and Johnson scored for the first time since opening night.
— The RedHawks were 3-for-5 on the power play, scoring three times on the man advantage for the first time since Jan. 12, 2018 in an 11-7 loss at Omaha.
Miami also gave up two PPGs on four chances. MU is 15 of 24 on the penalty kill in its last eight games, a clip of 62.5 percent.
— The RedHawks generated just 19 shots and have failed to put up more than 22 shots in five consecutive contests. They have been outshot by 94 in that span, or 19 shots per game.
THOUGHTS: Miami played much better overall than on Friday, especially considering the RedHawks went down two within the first 90 seconds.
MU was assisted by a 5-on-3 later in the first period, as the team scored twice to tie it.
The RedHawks actually led heading into the final minute of the second period but ultimately two Minnesota-Duluth rebound goals in the final stanza were the difference.
As tough as Miami has had it at Amsoil Arena, it’s looking more likely the RedHawks return there for their first-round NCHC Tournament series again.
MU has gone to Duluth two of the previous three years for the best-of-3 and its season has ended there both times.
— Gruden seems to be heating up at the right time. He made a highlight-reel pass to set up Phil Knies‘ goal on Friday and scored one of his own in this game.
— Funny how a game with the same officials as Friday played about at an equal level physically sees these teams combine for nine power play chances after racking up only two in the series opener.
Even the UMD broadcasters were commenting on that and how calls against both teams that weren’t made on Friday were minors on Saturday.
Miami and UMD combined to go 6-for-11 on the man advantage for the weekend (54.5 percent).
— Jordan Uhelski made the start and allowed six goals on 39 shots. It wasn’t one of his better games, and Ryan Larkin was not in top form on Friday.
LINEUP CHANGES: River Rymsha was back in the lineup after serving his league-imposed one-game suspension. He replaced Noah Jordan.
The only other move was Uhelski in net for Larkin.
STANDINGS: At 5-15-2 in the NCHC, Miami is locked into a seven or eight seed.
The RedHawks are tied with Omaha for seventh place but are technically behind the Mavericks because they lose the tiebreaker, which is goal differential in head-to-head meetings (UNO has outscored Miami, 12-11 in their four meetings).
MU is six points behind sixth-place Colorado College but cannot win the tiebreaker vs. the Tigers because of a 1-3 head-to-head mark.
St. Cloud State has locked up the No. 1 seed, and if the season ended today that’s where Miami would head. Minnesota-Duluth is likely to finish second, as the Bulldogs are four points ahead of Denver.
One of those three teams will host Miami in two weeks. SCSU is No. 1 in the PairWise, UMD is third and Denver sixth.
The RedHawks host Western Michigan next week while Omaha travels to North Dakota.
MU is No. 34 in the PairWise.
FINAL THOUGHTS: One weekend left in the regular season and all that’s left to decide is where Miami will head for the NCHC Tournament.
For whatever reason the RedHawks have had more success in Denver than Duluth or St. Cloud, but Denver is also the least likely opponent for Miami, as the Pioneers would have to rally from four points down to catch UMD.
However, Duluth heads to St. Cloud State next week while Denver hosts Colorado College.
Miami needs a strong finish to its regular season against Western Michigan next week to carry some confidence into the postseason.
UMD’s Cates crushes Miami
Miami saw quite enough of Noah Cates on Friday, as the Minnesota-Duluth freshman finished with more points than the RedHawks had goals.
The No. 3 Bulldogs won the series opener, 4-2 over MU at Amsoil Arena, as the Philadelphia draft pick scored the first two goals of the game and assisted on UMD’s third marker.
After falling behind by two, twice Miami pulled to within a goal but the Bulldogs (20-9-2) were able to reextend the lead each time.
RECAP: Following a scoreless first period, Cates wristed one from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin on the stick side 4:25 into the middle stanza.
Less than four minutes later, Cates scored on another wrist shot from the upper edge of the opposite faceoff circle, sneaking one inside the far post.
Miami (11-19-4) answered 81 seconds later, as Jonathan Gruden skated around a defender and backhanded a pass through the slot to Phil Knies for a one-timer.
A streaking Cates took a pass from Peter Krieger and returned the favor, setting him up at the edge of the crease for a tap-in goal to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead 55 seconds into the third period.
Miami again trimmed its deficit to one when Ryan Siroky tipped home a Derek Daschke wrister on the power play with 15:27 left in regulation.
But Cole Koepke snuck a wrister through the five hole with 11:56 left to seal it.
STATS: Siroky’s 2018-19 goal total has eclipsed that of his first three campaigns combined.
His eighth goal of this season also gives him three in his last three games. Siroky had netted seven goals in 2015-18.
— It was the second goal in four games for Knies, which is a positive sign.
The sophomore, who found the net 11 times in 2017-18, scored for just the fifth time this season. Knies did miss six games with an upper-body injury earlier this season.
— Miami extended its winless streak at Amsoil Arena to 12 games (0-10-2), dating back to Halloween of 2014.
Overall the Bulldogs have won five straight games vs. MU.
— The RedHawks did not have to kill a single penalty, the first time that has occurred for Miami in the NCHC era.
THOUGHTS: Miami was manhandled early and although the RedHawks pulled to within one on two occasions you never really felt like they were going to earn points.
MU could barely clear its defensive zone in the first period, generating just two shots.
Larkin was a save-ior in the first 20 minutes, turning aside 11 shots including multiple stops on A-plus chances.
Then things evened out in the second period, as shots Larkin probably would’ve liked back found twine.
Miami showed better life in the final frame, where was that intensity the first 40 minutes?
Inconsistency has been a major issue for the RedHawks this season.
But their record against Duluth in recent years has been very consistent.
— So Miami came back from 2-0 down and made it 2-1, which was the score heading into the third period.
Then the guy who had scored both UMD goals is allowed to skate into the zone uncontested, receive a pass and return it for an easy tap-in.
Grant Hutton, the right defenseman, was caught out of position and forwards Gordie Green and Knies also were caught flat-footed on that crucial Krieger pass.
The Bulldogs’ fourth goal also was the result of players skating into the zone on the left wing unchallenged.
— Gruden’s move and backhand pass to Knies for Miami’s first goal was one of the highlights of the year.
LINEUP CHANGES: River Rymsha was suspended by the NCHC for his hit at the end of last Saturday’s game vs. Denver. The league is wrong on that, by the way.
Christian Mohs also sat after dressing for 16 straight games, and Scott Corbett missed his third straight game with an upper body injury.
Carter Johnson was in the lineup after sitting for three of the last four contests, and Noah Jordan played for just the sixth time this season.
It was the sixth consecutive start for Larkin.
FINAL THOUGHTS: With Miami’s fate as a road team to open the NCHC Tournament sealed, the goal is getting better heading into the tournament.
We saw no evidence of this on Friday.
The RedHawks should’ve been down by at least two in the first period but Larkin bailed them out, then he gave up two he maybe shouldn’t have, and Miami answered with a goal twice but surrendered a third and a fourth on shaky defense.
Doesn’t exactly sound like a team that could make a run at an NCHC Tournament title.
Miami is currently in league tournament prep mode, which is a larger body of work than just one game, so it’s unfair to summarily judge based on a single night.
But the point is that this is the caliber of team Miami will face to open up the league tournament in two weeks, and the RedHawks did nothing to show they have a chance to steal a road series and advance to the Twin Cities for the first time in four years.
OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Siroky was asked about his Miami experience, and 10 minutes later and after he had left the room, the same question was posed to Zach LaValle.
The first five words out of both of their mouths were identical: Best years of my life.
The senior forwards didn’t know each other at all before joining the RedHawks in the fall of 2015, which is not surprising considering Siroky was born and raised near the beaches of Los Angeles and LaValle grew up in the much more traditional hockey hotbed of the Twin Cities.
But since the start of their freshman year, they have been almost inseparable, and they have played on the same line much of this season.
“I think both of them are the types of guys that guys follow and respect because of the type of people that they are,” RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi said. “In terms of the type of impact that they’ve had, they’ve been good leaders for those young guys and good models and good representatives of our culture and Brotherhood.”
On the ice, they have been mainstays on the grind lines for four years.
Both have played over 100 maximum-effort games over their four-year careers, and while their impact may not always appear in statistical columns, they have been invaluable to the RedHawks in numerous ways.
“I think they have been huge leaders for our class in particular and for the guys coming in,” captain Josh Melnick said. “They have both matured in our time here. I think their leadership qualities at times goes unnoticed, but they do a great job of bringing guys together both on and off the ice.”
Their chemistry on the ice carries over away from the rink and vice versa. Their GPAs are even exactly the same: 3.35.
And they share at least one personality trait: Their gregariousness.
“Zach’s the easiest person to talk to: He never shuts up,” Siroky said. “We became really close friends right off the bat and still are. He’s one of my best friends on the team. We clicked right away.”
Said LaValle: “(Ryan’s) a hilarious guy. He’s always got jokes, he’s always smiling. I give him a hard time now because I’m actually older than him but he acts like he’s way older than me – he’s a grumpy old man nowadays. But he’s got a great smile, he’s got funny one-liners that get people fired up.”
Siroky, from the coastal Los Angeles suburb of Manhattan Beach, saw hockey on television at age 4 and wanted to try it and despite having parents who were raised in the west and not traditional hockey markets.
He did come from athletic pedigree, as his father, Charles, was a star swimmer in college and his mother, Tammi, had a volleyball background.
Siroky won back-to-back championships with his L.A. Selects team (losing a third title on an overtime goal) and was drafted by Green Bay of the USHL in the second round, where he began his junior career at the end of 2011-12.
At age 13, he broke his femur in two places during a game in Texas and was unable to touch his skates for 10 months. He considered quitting the game, as he enduring stints in a full cast and wheelchair.
But his difficult rehab paid off, as he thrived when hitting the ice for the Gamblers, spending two full seasons there. He scored 25 goals and picked up 11 assists in 118 games, and he even attended a couple of Packers game during his stay.
“It was a cool experience,” Siroky said. “It was kind of a culture shock coming from L.A. to a smaller town in Green Bay, but it was really good, I really enjoyed my two years there a lot.”
In his overage year of juniors, Siroky started with Bloomington – where he was named captain – and was later traded to join a Muskegon team that advanced to the Clark Cup finals.
“(In Muskegon) I got to play with a lot of really good players, got a lot of playing time and it really helped with my confidence before coming in here,” Siroky said.
After a visit set up by former Miami coach Brent Brekke, Siroky committed to Miami while still in Green Bay, but prior to that he had his doubts about coming here.
“I told my grandma I’d never come here because of the name: It would be too hard to explain to everybody,” Siroky said.
But the campus quickly sold him.
“It’s funny,” Siroky said. “Me and my dad flew out here, we flew into Columbus right at the end of January, and it was an ice storm. It was a two-hour drove, and there’s not a lot between Columbus and Oxford, and I kind of looked at him and I was like, ‘what the hell are we getting into?’ But then you enter onto campus and it’s all of the red brick and the trees and it’s a beautiful campus.
(During the season), we get to go to a lot of different schools, and obviously we see their campuses, see their facilities, and I still think nothing compares to Miami. The people here, the culture of The Brotherhood, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Siroky dressed right away for the RedHawks, playing in their first 16 games of 2015-16 and 31 contests overall that season.
His defensive prowess was immediately evident, as he either shut down or physically punished most opposing forwards that entered the Miami zone during his shift.
“When he’s playing his game, he’s obviously physical and effective in doing that,” Blasi said. “When he’s moving his feet he’s hard to play against and he blocks shots. He’s done a little bit of everything for us, he’s played center and wing, so he always find himself in the mix every week.”
As a grinder, Siroky logged 99 games his first three years with exactly four points in each campaign.
“I’m not the most offensive-gifted player so in order to stay in the lineup and stay effective for the team I had to focus on something, and obviously defense is one of the most important parts of the game,” Siroky said. “It’s really important to know your structure, be able to play defense to be able to play on offense, blocking shots, getting pucks out of the zone. It’s just always been a goal of mine to be as defensive-minded as I can to succeed.”
Of his seven goals in that span, two were in NCHC Tournament series, both at Minnesota-Duluth.
Siroky has seven goals this season alone and nine points, including his first-ever two goal game in Denver on Friday. He also netted the game winner in that contest.
And he has punished more opponents with his hitting than ever and played a better-shut down game.
“I’ve always liked to hit people, I’ve always liked to play physical,” Siroky said. “You’re allowed to – you can’t really in real life – but ever since I was a little kid I’ve liked to throw the body around, and it’s kind of translated into my role as a player.
“It’s always nice scoring goals, especially in my last year. I’ve been getting rewarded, I think I’ve been playing pretty well this year so it’s always good to get rewarded on the scoresheet as well.”
It took LaValle just four games to find the net for Miami.
He banged home a rebound off a power play shot by Kiefer Sherwood against Ohio State at a sold-out Cady Arena.
“It was such a cool feeling, scoring there and the crowd erupts,” LaValle said.
Later that freshman season, LaValle netted a goal and picked up two assists in a win at Nebraska-Omaha that saw Conor Lemirande record his lone career hat trick.
LaValle was raised in the St. Paul area and played high school hockey at Hill-Murray School, captaining that team his final two seasons. He scored 73 goals and dished for 95 assists for 168 points in 99 games.
He also played baseball and quarterbacked the football team.
LaValle struggled his first season of juniors. He played for Chicago of the USHL in 2013-14 but managed just four points in 40 games.
“It was hard first year away from home – I think it’s like that for a lot of people,” LaValle said. “I didn’t have the best hockey year, kind of wasn’t playing a role that I had normally played and it wasn’t a great fit.”
The following season he did not make the USHL, so he skated for NAHL Janesville with current teammate Grant Hutton.
There he regained his offensive touch, piling up 20 goals and 41 assists for 61 points and a plus-24 rating in 56 games.
He added three tallies and six helpers in nine playoff games.
“We had an awesome team, and everybody was close and we were having fun, and I think there’s a direct correlation between having fun in hockey and success in hockey,” LaValle said. “If you’re just miserable going to the rink, you’re not going to play well. We made a good run and I met a lot of cool people on that team.”
With no definitive plans beyond juniors, LaValle had visited Miami during the Saturday the RedHawks beat Denver, 4-1 in early 2015.
The next fall he was a RedHawk, having fallen in love with the building and the energy of the crowd that night.
“I didn’t go on any other visits, I kind of went back and forth with my parents to see if I could make it work financially and that’s why I chose it, just because I fell in love with it right away,” LaValle said. “They wanted me, which felt good. They were like, we want you for who you are.”
Once in Oxford, he finished 3-6-9 his freshman year, playing in 31 games despite breaking his jaw when Matthew Caito dumped a puck into the offensive zone and hit him in the face.
After a slow start to 2016-17, he put up nine points the final 18 games to end up with a 2-9-11 line and was playing with Sherwood and Gordie Green on the top line by season’s end.
“End of my sophomore year they kind of put me in a role I like playing, that I’d played my whole life,” LaValle said. “It was fun to play offense and get things going with (Sherwood and Green) – those guys are such unbelievable hockey players.”
LaValle has dressed just 40 times the past two seasons, but he has been in the lineup for seven of Miami’s last nine games as he winds up his Division I career.
“It’s tough sometimes because you want to contribute, you want to do more, but I make the most out of what I’m given and if I’m in the lineup I’m going to work my butt off,” LaValle said.
Like Siroky, LaValle also found the net this past weekend. He scored his second goal of the season by poking a loose rebound home on Saturday.
He has played in 105 games, scoring seven times and setting up 19 more goals.
“He’s a super-skilled guy,” Melnick said. “The thing about him is he may not be as hard-nosed or as aggressive as Ryan, but I think the things he does, he does really well, and he does those things to the best of his ability, and I think that whatever what situation he’s put in, he’s going to excel.”
Siroky has played in at least 30 games each season, and for his career he has dressed 129 goals, recording 12 goals and seven assists.
“He’s super-tough to play against and I think over the years he’s done a great job to embrace that role,” Melnick said. “He’s skilled and he can score, but he’s so gritty and he’s so big and so strong that 90 percent of the time when he goes into the boards for a battle, he’s coming out with that puck. Especially in the past couple of weeks, you’ve seen it in games, and it’s a little bit of a kick-starter for us. He brings some momentum for our forwards and when I see him go out and be able to possess the puck down low, I think that lets other guys know that they can do the same. His hard work and determination has given him success on the scoring sheet as well.”
Both have plenty of praise for each other’s game as well.
“(LaValle’s) playmaking ability, his ability to pass the puck, he sees, he’s got good vision, good awareness out there so he can see a lot of plays before they happen, and he’s been really successful at that,” Siroky said. “Especially when he gets on his hot streaks, he’s hard to stop.”
Said LaValle: “I’m super proud of (Ryan). He had a rough start to last year and kind of came into his role. He used to be more of a goal scorer and now he throws the body around and parks himself in front of the net. He really came into that role this year and he’s dominating. Scoring goals when he’s on the power play – I thought he was playing awesome. We needed that out of him and he stepped and I think he did really well there. He’s still doing really well.”
Playing together as often they have over the past four years is a huge plus when they’re together on the ice.
“It’s fun – we kind of feed off each other and I know where he’s going to be and how he’s going to play,” LaValle said. “I know that he’s going to go in the corner and get the puck and I know how to support him. Once you have that chemistry and you know how a player plays, you just kind of know where to go to help them.”
The RedHawks lost in the first round of the NCHC Tournament each of their first three years and are currently in seventh place in the NCHC, but both have nothing but praise for Oxford, for the school and for the hockey program.
Set to graduate this spring, Siroky and LaValle are quick to highlight how integral the relationship building has been at Miami.
“I’ve met amazing people, made so many cool relationships and just had a blast in such a fun little town,” LaValle said. “It’s kind of like a bubble – I don’t think I’ll be able to live like this ever again. It’s so tight and compact and the community is so close, it’s awesome.”
Said Siroky: “The people that I’ve met I’ll cherish for a lifetime. We talk about The Brotherhood and I think that is real here: The comradery between teammates and friends. In terms of hockey, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs, so I think it’s really developed me as a player and a person, knowing and learning how to win games but also knowing and learning how to lose games and then how to come back and develop from that. We’ve gone through a lot of adversity here but we always seem to come through it together, so I think that’s big. Overall it’s been the best four years of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Denver salvages split with Miami
It’s official: Miami will open the NCHC Tournament on the road for the fourth straight season.
Denver beat the RedHawks, 5-2 at Magness Arena on Saturday, which dropped MU 13 points behind the fourth-place Pioneers with four games remaining.
The top four seeds host best-of-3 series in the first round of the conference tournament.
RECAP: Denver’s Jarid Lukosevicius buried a one-timer from just inside the faceoff circle, set up by an Emilio Pettersen feed from the wall at the 3:31 mark of the first period.
The score remained 1-0 for over a period and a half until Miami’s Josh Melnick tied it shorthanded, whipping a shot just under the crossbar on a 2-on-1 after he and Brian Hawkinson played give-and-go with 5:17 left in the second period.
But the Pioneers would break it open in a 17-second span of the third period on a pair of goals Jack Doremus. He redirected a wrist shot by Griffin Mendel into the net at 5:17 and fired a slapper that beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin moments later.
The RedHawks cut the deficit to one, 3-2 when Zach LaValle lunged into the crease to poke home a rebound after Filip Larsson couldn’t control a wrist shot by Monte Graham with 11:47 left in regulation.
Denver regained its two-goal lead on the power play, with Lukosevicius shoveling home a centering feed in the slot with 7:46 remaining.
Colin Staub sealed it with an empty netter, as he chased down a clearing pass and tapped it in.
STATS: The four goals allowed in the third period is the most surrendered in a frame this season for Miami.
— Melnick extended his points streak to three games, as he has two goals and two assists in that span.
With 105 points, the senior is now 47th on the RedHawks’ all-time scoring list.
— LaValle’s marker was his first since Oct. 27.
— Denver led on the shot counter, 43-17. For the weekend, the Pioneers outshot Miami, 90-38.
— The RedHawks did not score on the power play for the fourth straight game, and they are 13-for-20 on the penalty kill in their last six (65.0 percent).
THOUGHTS: Miami played pretty evenly with Denver following the first goal and set itself up to steal some road points with the score tied at one after 40 minutes.
But defending the slot area was a major issue for the RedHawks, who allowed two deflection goals and a one-timer by a loosely-covered Lukosevicius, arguably the best scorer on the team.
Even the empty netter was scored from that area.
Miami battled hard in this game, tying the score at one and cutting a two-goal deficit to one, but the sixth period of the weekend at altitude ultimately spelled the RedHawks’ demise.
— Normally a 1-1 weekend at the seventh-ranked team in Division I would be considered a victory, and it is to a large degree, but because Miami has dug itself such a deep hole in the standings, it needed more than three points for any chance at home ice for the playoffs.
With that decided, at least the RedHawks know for sure they will be packing their bags for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the only question remaining is where they will be heading.
— River Rymsha dished out a solid hit in the closing seconds and was chased down by Slava Demin as the horn sounded, but little came from it.
After review, Rymsha was assessed a major and game misconduct for a supposed hit to the head that even the homer Denver broadcasters didn’t see.
According to the broadcasters on Altitude Network, Miami coach Enrico Blasi was initially confrontational with DU coach David Carle before his handshake, though that was not shown.
On replay, it appeared the skater’s head dropped down as he wound up for a hard dump-in. Going full speed, there’s no way Rymsha could’ve known that or reacted to it in time.
Someone ask Rymsha how he feels about replay, since this is the second time he gotten 5-and-10 for a hit none of the four officials saw live and he’s now one misconduct away from a one-game suspension.
Typically don’t like to call out college broadcasting, but DU’s on-air team on Altitude was defending Demin for running Rymsha because the hit was late in the game. So a player is supposed to get a free pass because of how much time is left?
Why not just call the game when the margin reaches three goals?
— While we’re on the subject, Altitude did refer to Bray Crowder, who is 6-feet-6, as the second-tallest skater on Miami. That is correct.
The tallest? That would be Alec Mahalak at 6-9.
That’s even more hilarious considering the box score from Denver had Andrew Sinard – the RedHawks’ actual tallest player at 6-7 – listed as on the ice for two goals against when Mahalak was actually out there.
Altitude also kept referring to Miami’s recent winless streak as being 11 games, which is very polite but inaccurate. The RedHawks lost 11 games during an 0-11-4 stretch.
That’s 15 games. Eleven was also in the game notes, which is likely where they got that info.
See what happens when states legalize marijuana?
LINEUP CHANGES: Only one from Friday: Crowder was back from his upper-body injury. He missed two games.
As a result, Carter Johnson did not dress as Miami went with seven defensemen.
STANDINGS: At 5-13-2 in league play, Miami is in seventh place in the NCHC, one point ahead of Omaha and three behind sixth-place Colorado College.
St. Cloud State clinched the league regular season title this weekend, so the No. 8 seed will head there.
UMD and Western Michigan will likely finish in the two and three spots, so there’s a good chance the RedHawks travel to one of those two campuses for the conference tournament.
MU is tied for No. 35 in the PairWise rankings.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Four games remain in the regular season – two away, two at home – and at this point it’s all about getting ready for the postseason.
The road win on Friday was definitely nice but Miami needs to play better for 60 minutes if it hopes to advance to St. Paul next month.
Speaking of Minnesota, the RedHawks are off to their favorite home away from home next week: UMD.
But what a statement MU could make if it could pull off a win or two in its final road series of the regular season against the No. 3 team in Division I, where Miami is winless in its last 11.
Miami’s Larkin steals one in Denver
Despite being outshot by more than a 2-to-1 ratio, Miami won its first game at No. 7 Denver in four years, largely thanks to a pair of Ryans.
Ryan Larkin stopped 46 shots and Ryan Siroky recorded his first career multi-goal game, scoring twice in the RedHawks’ 3-1 win over the Pioneers at Magness Arena on Friday.
Miami (11-16-4) snapped an eight-game road winless streak and gave the RedHawks their first winning streak since November.
MU’s last win on DU’s home ice came on Feb. 27, 2015.
RECAP: The RedHawks took the lead just 3:08 into the game when Siroky reached out with his stick and redirected a blueline pass from Alec Mahalak into the net with one hand from the side of the net.
Siroky scored again 1:53 into the second period when River Rymsha threw a puck at the net from the blue line and he was able to tip it home from the top of the crease.
Only 47 seconds later, Miami extended the lead to three when Karch Bachman eluded a defender at the faceoff dot, cut to the slot and backhanded one in on the glove side.
Ian Mitchell snuck a wrist shot in from the blue line to give Denver (16-8-4) its only goal just 55 seconds after the RedHawks had made it 3-0.
STATS: Larkin’s 46 saves were the second most of his career. His highest total was against Denver on Nov. 19, 2016 when he stopped 49 shots. He also turned 44 shots aside vs. the Pioneers last season.
— Siroky netted his sixth and seventh goals of the season, giving him as many tallies as his freshman, sophomore and junior years combined.
It was his second career multi-point game, with the other coming Jan. 5 at Providence.
— Bachman and Derek Daschke also finished with two points, with both of Daschke’s coming on assists.
Both have three points in two games, as does Josh Melnick, who notched a helper.
THOUGHTS: This was a case of the goalie proverbially stealing one on the road, as Larkin made a couple of highlight-reel saves in the first period.
Denver pretty much dominated in every other category and seemed to control the puck the entire game.
But winning on the road is tough, especially against highly-ranked teams, especially at altitude and especially when a team has not done so in over three months.
— Siroky is really thriving around the net, as he scored his first goal while practically falling away from the play and the second on a beautiful deflected in the slot.
— Bachman’s goal – the only one for either team not scored off a shot or pass from the blue line – snapped a 13-game drought for the junior and will hopefully boost his confidence. He has been streaky this season and is starting to heat up.
— That shot discrepancy looks even worse when you consider Miami had six shots on the power play vs. one for Denver. That means when the RedHawks were not on the man-advantage, they were outshot, 46-15.
The RedHawks did not score on the power play and the Pioneers scored their lone 5-on-4.
LINEUP CHANGES: The week off came at a good time for Miami.
Brian Hawkinson was back in the lineup after missing four games due to an upper-body injury, but Scott Corbett was mysteriously scratched for the third time this season.
Bray Crowder made the trip but did not dress, as he sat for the second straight game with an upper-body injury.
It was Larkin’s fourth straight game in net for the RedHawks.
FINAL THOUGHTS: There’s something about Denver that brings out the best in Miami, at least on the scoresheet.
This is a good experience for the RedHawks, who won a critical road game against a more skilled opponent.
That’s the situation they will face when the NCHC Tournament starts, as they will almost certainly be facing a top-10 team away from home in a best-of-3.
Preview: Miami at Denver
Miami snapped its 15-game winless streak two weeks ago.
Next on the RedHawks’ checklist is ending an 0-6-2 skid away from Cady Arena.
And Denver has been somewhat vulernable lately, winning just two of its last six.
BoB takes a look at the upcoming series between these teams:
WHO: Miami RedHawks (10-16-4) at No. 7 Denver Pioneers (16-7-4).
WHERE: Magness Arena (3,642), Denver, Colo.
WHEN: Both games – 9:07 p.m.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Denver leads, 14-11-3.
TV: Saturday – Altitude Network (DirecTV Ch. 681).
MIAMI RADIO: Both nights – WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
DENVER RADIO: Both nights – KKFN-FM (104.3), Denver, Colo.
NOTES: Denver has struggled to find the net recently, resulting in a 2-3-2 stretch during the meat grinder portion of its NCHC slate.
The Pioneers have been held to eight goals in their last six games after scoring at nearly a three-and-a-half goal clip the first half of the season.
Liam Findlay hasn’t had any problem producing offensive for DU, as he leads the team with 27 points, including a Pioneers-best 15 assists.
A freshman, Emilio Pettersen, is tops in assists with 17 to go along with six goals for 23 points.
Jarid Lukosevicius and Cole Guttman are both in double-digits in goals with 13 and eight, respectively, and Brett Stapley has been another key contributor up front for the Pioneers with five goals and 12 helpers.
Denver’s defense corps moves the puck well and is solid in its own end.
Ian Mitchell has 13 assists as well as three goals to pace the blueliners, and Slava Demin has scored four times and chipped in nine assists.
Michael Davies is also in double digits in points with 11, and senior Lester Lancaster has four tallies.
The Pioneers have battled injury problems in net this season, but Denver has still been solid in net and it appears both of its starters are finally healthy.
Devin Cooley has the better overall numbers this far, with a 1.93 goals-against average and a save percentage of .934. Filip Larsson’s GAA is 2.43 and his save percentage is .918.
DU hasn’t been particularly impressive on special teams, with a 16.0 percent rate on the power play and a penalty kill clip of 80.4. But the Pioneers are disciplined, as opponents have just 103 man-advantage opportunities in 2018-19.
Miami has matchup well against Denver in recent years, earning a tie and a win vs. the Pioneers last season and tying them twice in Magness Arena when DU was No. 1 in early 2016-17.
Recently, the RedHawks have struggled to score and prevent opponents from doing so. They have scored two goals or fewer in eight of their last nine games, including three shutouts, and in 11 of 12 contests Miami has surrendered at least three markers.
Photos: Nebraska-Omaha at Miami
Miami finally ends winless drought
OXFORD, Ohio – The longest Miami winless streak in over a quarter century is over.
The RedHawks snapped a 15-game, 0-11-4 skid with a 4-2 win over Nebraska-Omaha at Cady Arena, giving MU its first win in nearly three months.
It was the second-longest victory drought in team history, with its worst — just two games longer — coming at the end of the 1990-91 season.
Gordie Green racked up three assists in the Miami win, and Josh Melnick and Scott Corbett finished with a goal and a helper apiece.
RECAP: Miami scored first for the first time in 14 games when Josh Melnick kicked a pass to himself and swept a short pass to Derek Daschke at the faceoff dot for a one-timer that snuck in the short side 7:50 into the first period.
Phil Knies appeared to have scored seconds later, but the initial call of good goal was waved off because it was ruled UNO goalie Evan Weninger’s helmet had been dislodged.
But Knies found the net found the net again at 11:06, and this time it counted. Casey Gilling fired a shot from the high slot that Weninger couldn’t handle, and Knies poked the loose puck in to make it 2-0.
Knies had stolen the puck at the blue line, shielded the defense and dropped a pass to Gilling to set up his goal.
The RedHawks went up three when Green sent a cross-ice pass to Corbett, who trapped it with his skate and beat Weninger short side from the top of the faceoff circle midway through the second period.
The Mavericks cut the lead to one on a 2-on-1 goal by Chayse Primeau and a blue line blast by Jalen Schulz later that frame.
But Miami sealed it with just under four minutes left in regulation, as Green fed Melnick on a 3-on-2 for a rip from the center of the faceoff circle that snuck under the crossbar.
STATS: It was the second career three-assist game for Green, with the other coming earlier this season against Colgate on Oct. 27.
– Corbett recorded his first career multi-point game, and it was the first for Melnick since Miami’s last win, which came on Nov. 17 at Colorado College.
– Andrew Sinard, whose outlet pass to Green resulted in Corbett’s eventual game winner, earned an assist for his first career point.
– Daschke is now tied with Grant Hutton for the team lead in defenseman goals with six, and Knies snapped a 13-game scoring drought.
THOUGHTS: What a relief for Miami.
In terms of standings, this win does little to help the RedHawks except increase the odds they don’t finish last in the NCHC.
But psychologically it had to do wonders.
The third period was the most entertaining frame MU had played in a while, with a high pace of play, plenty of physicality and tons of quality scoring chances for both teams with the score still close.
Miami will need the boost, as the remainder of its schedule is brutal, with all but two of its regular and postseason games almost certainly away from Cady Arena.
Not to take away from this sorely-needed win, but it’s fair to point out that Omaha is seventh in the eight-team league, and it took all Miami had just to split with the Mavericks in Oxford.
The RedHawks will need to play much, much better against much, much better teams, or they will be done by or on St. Patrick’s Day once again.
– Miami did not have a single healthy scratch in this game, as it had just 19 skaters and two goalies available. Bray Crowder, who was hurt on Friday, did not dress for the first time this season, leaving the team with 13 healthy forwards and six defensemen.
Fortunately for the RedHawks, they have a bye next weekend, giving their banged-up players additional time to heal.
– Not sure about the timing of the season ticket renewal offers. There was an announcement and accompanying note on the end zone monitors offering incentives and potential prizes for renewing this weekend.
As in now, as in over a month before this season ends.
One could smell the desperation in the air, and as of game time Saturday, apparently only a handful jumped on the early offer.
FORWARDS: B-. The three goals by this corps were great, but they are still taking too many risks and getting out of position too often. For example, three times in the second period forwards played chicken with UNO skaters that had the puck, trying to strip them while they were on collision course to gain momentum the other way, and none succeeded. Miami wasn’t scored on during any of those occasions but each time the skater was taken out of position. That’s not smart hockey, especially with the lead. Only 15 total shots by 13 forwards against a team that allows 35 per game. Green was outstanding and was named first star but Knies was BoB’s choice, as he was all over the ice all night. Melnick and Corbett were also standouts, and Christian Mohs had good legs and gave the team much-needed energy.
DEFENSEMEN: B-. A pretty average game defensively by this group, and Daschke’s laser of a goal boosts its grade into the ‘B’ range. Grant Hutton was solid on D, but it’s rare he is held without a shot.
GOALTENDING: A-. Larkin turned 31 shots aside, including a 2-on-1 that he sprawled across the crease to kick out and multiple other stops on high-percentage chances. The second UNO goal was a shot from the blue line he probably should’ve stopped, but overall he was excellent.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: Noah Jordan dressed in place of the injured Crowder.
Coach Enrico Blasi has tended to go with seven defensemen this season, but he has no choice with just six healthy.
STANDINGS: With the split, Miami remained two points behind seventh-place Omaha and is three points back of sixth-place Colorado College.
Denver holds that all-important fourth spot and is 10 up on the RedHawks with three games in hand.
After all of Saturday’s games, Miami is No. 38 in the PairWise rankings.
FINAL THOUGHTS: So this series split comes heading into an off-week before a pair of tough road series.
Will the time off be helpful at this point or will that kill any momentum the RedHawks may have gained from this win?
Considering the locker room has been essentially converted to a triage unit the week off will probably benefit Miami more than it hurts.
The pressure that the RedHawks – players as well as coaches – had to be under during their 0-11-4 had to be enormous. This win will hopefully have a cathartic effect.
With Miami almost certainly pigeon holed into one of the lower seeds heading into the NCHC Tournament, it’s still all about getting better heading into that all-important best-of-3 postseason series.