OXFORD, Ohio – More than ever, elite hockey players are choosing college as their path to the pros, leading to an increase in the number of early departures among high draft picks in the university ranks.
Louie Belpedio has faced the arduous decision to turn professional multiple times during his Miami career.
The third-round NHL pick’s choices? Sign and take the money while maneuvering closer to the dream of an NHL career, or remain in school as an amateur.
Each time, the two-year captain has picked Miami.
“That’s difficult,” Belpedio said. “How many times can you say ‘no’ to the thing you’ve been working on your whole life? But at the same time, I’m glad that I came back to school because of the player it’s developed me into today.”
Now a senior, Belpedio is one point away from tying Matthew Caito for eighth place on the RedHawks’ all-time defenseman points leaderboard, and his wait to join the paid-to-play ranks is nearly over.
“I think staying in school is most definitely the right decision, but it was a hard decision for sure, because I truly believe that if I would have had signed I would’ve had a shot to play in the NHL already,” Belpedio said. “But at the same time if you keep working hard and doing the things you’re supposed to do, the opportunity will be there again in the (coming) weeks for me.”
After captaining the U.S. National Development Under-18 team to a gold medal while racking up 23 points in 61 regular season games, the 5-feet-11, 194-pound Belpedio was selected 80th overall by the Minnesota Wild in June of 2014.
Belpedio is from Skokie, Ill., a northern suburb of Chicago, and a month before he was drafted, the Blackhawks knocked the Wild out of the playoffs in the conference semifinals.
The following season, Chicago would again end Minnesota’s season in that round en route to a Stanley Cup championship.
“Growing up just outside the city, the Blackhawks are my hometown team – I have to like them – but at the same time I have to like the Wild too,” Belpedio said. “Now that I’m about to enter my pro career, things are getting a little more interesting with that, so we’ll see how that plays out.”
Minnesota has taken interest in several Miamians in recent years, as Jarod Palmer, Pat Cannone and Marc Hagel have all played in the Wild’s system. The former two made the big club.
Ryan Jones is the only other Wild draft pick to play for the RedHawks, although that was under a different set of team brass and Jones was traded to Nashville before making his NHL debut.
Belpedio was already skating by age three and joined a team before starting elementary school, and although the three-sport star also played football and baseball through eighth grade, he gave them up to concentrate on hockey.
By junior high, Belpedio’s talents were evident, but rather than graduate to midgets like most area standouts he relocated to upstate Indiana where he attended Culver Military Academy.
“Obviously guys are successful staying in Chicago but I thought that was the best thing for me at the time,” Belpedio said. “I was there for two years, I liked it a lot – it helped me grow up a lot, being away from home. It kind of molded me into who I am today.”
Away from his family and homesick, Belpedio wasn’t always a fan of the regimented boarding school lifestyle, and long hours at the rink helped him escape Culver’s military drills.
After two seasons, 61 regular season games, 11 goals and 25 assists, Belpedio was invited to play his junior and senior campaigns with the U.S. National Development Team.
He finished with a goal and 10 assists as an Under-17 and was named captain the following season.
“The experiences that I had there were unbelievable – I’ll never forget any of them,” Belpedio said. “I was around so many of the best coaches, best trainers, got to play against the best players from around the world. It was awesome, and I’ll never forgot what that program did for me personally. I don’t know many kids that would say ‘no’ to that but I would recommend it to anyone I could, obviously.”
That U18 team won the World Juniors gold medal, and Belpedio was drafted that spring.
“It was especially exciting for me to be with my family at that time and know that it wasn’t just me that did it,” Belpedio said. “Without my mom and my dad and my brother, I wouldn’t be half the person or the player that I am today (without) the sacrifices that they made. It was an accomplishment for me but, (it) let them know that they were doing everything right. I was probably more happy for them than myself.”
Belpedio had chosen Miami before being selected by the Wild. Knowing nearly one-third of the RedHawks’ roster of fellow Chicagoans swayed his decision.
“I kind of felt: Not that I had to come here, but I wanted to come here and be the next on the Chicago-to-Miami train,” Belpedio said.
He said Oxford reminded him of Culver in some ways, including the building styles.
“And the whole girl thing isn’t too bad either,” Belpedio said.
“There was kind of lot going into (the decision), honestly, but the second I visited – I didn’t commit right away but I told my dad I was coming the second we got in the car after leaving the rink,” Belpedio said.
One of Belpedio’s cousins on his mother’s side is former RedHawks defenseman Vincent LoVerde, a 2011 graduate who played 159 games for Miami and was one of the best shut-down blueliners in the Cady Arena era.
LoVerde has played over 400 pro games and is currently with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
“I talked to him about it,” Belpedio said. “We weren’t extremely close at the time, now we work out together, skate together in the summer every day, so we’re definitely a lot closer. I obviously knew he went here and just from hearing stories from my mom’s side of the family, that kind of had an impact on it too. Even if (Vincent) didn’t go here, I was coming here. I love this place with all my heart.”
Just three months after his 18th birthday, Belpedio headed to Oxford for the 2014-15 season.
Especially at that age, freshmen typically need to adjust to the collegiate game, but Belpedio jelled immediately with his new teammates. He scored six goals and dished for 13 assists, totaling 19 points.
“One thing that stands out to me right away is his ability to escape and move away from people, whether it’s on a power play or bringing the puck up the ice, and then his ability to make plays,” classmate Conor Lemirande said. “It’s something that’s very special and unique to him.”
He dressed in all 40 games that season, including an outdoor contest vs. Western Michigan at Soldier Field, an NCHC championship game and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
With Belpedio growing up a handful of miles from the Chicago Bears’ home stadium, 100 members of his extended family as well as his circle of friends were able to attend that matchup vs. the Broncos.
“That was one of the coolest things ever,” Belpedio said. “I don’t even know how to describe that. You know, you grow up watching the Winter Classic, you watch all kinds of outdoor games. Obviously, it wasn’t being in the NHL but it was my dream school getting to play in my home town. I wish that was a yearly thing because that was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in.”
Belpedio calls the RedHawks’ 2014-15 league tournament run the highlight of his career. He scored twice and dished for two assists in five NCHC postseason games and picked up a helper in Miami’s NCAA Tournament loss to Providence.
During the NCAA first-round regional, Belpedio famously skated full speed more than halfway down the ice and dove to knock a would-be empty goal away from his net before jamming into the boards at maximum velocity.
As a sophomore, Belpedio was named an assistant captain – a rarity for the RedHawks. He said the senior captains, Sean Kuraly and Kevin Morris, were instrumental in helping him adjust to wearing the ‘A’.
“That whole senior class was so supporting – I’m still close with all of them,” Belpedio said. “It was cool, but I definitely don’t deserve all the credit. They deserve most of it for helping me and getting me through it, because it’s not an easy job as a young kid.”
Belpedio went 4-13-17 as a sophomore and left Miami for two weeks over the holiday break, as he was named assistant captain of the U.S. World Juniors team that won the bronze medal in Finland.
Named captain prior to his junior season, Belpedio passed along what former letter wearers had taught him.
Junior and fellow blueliner Grant Hutton was a freshman in 2015-16 and said his adjustment to Division I was facilitated significantly by Belpedio’s unselfishness.
“As a freshman it’s hard sometimes to reach out to older guys and ask them to (hang out) together, but when it comes from the older guys I think that’s a really comforting thing and I think that helps not only me but our entire freshman class fit in,” Hutton said. “For me personally, I felt like I needed someone to kind of latch onto, and learn the ways from and Louie was that person for me. He was the first person to offer me a hand and offer me help in whatever situation it might be, whether it’s watching video, he was the first person to come up and offer advice in practice, so from a hockey standpoint, in my development, he was a huge help and I’m very thankful for that and the time he put into helping teach me what it takes to play at this level.”
“From a personal standpoint, Louie’s an unbelievable guy. He’s probably one of my best friends on the team and he’ll probably be my best friend for a really long time, but he’s a guy that’s always there for you. Usually when you come to a team, whether it’s college or juniors, it takes a little while to fit in with the guys, and he’s the complete opposite.”
Hutton attributes much of his own offensive success to Belpedio. Held without a goal his freshman season, Hutton netted nine as a sophomore and has 10 more in this campaign.
“I came in my freshman year and obviously my primary role was to be a shut-down defenseman, and I had five points (that) year,” Hutton said. “Louie’s an elite, elite offensive defenseman, a two-way defender, and if you watch him, he’s so dynamic when it comes to skating the puck, and handling the puck. That part of his game is so superior to most of the players at this level. For me, it was just a privilege to watch him in games and practice, and you try to pull bits and pieces out of what he does. Obviously I don’t have the skill set that Louie has in terms of offensive ability and the way he handles the puck and skates, but you try and take some of the plays he makes and the reads he makes and translate them to your own game, because he makes the game look so easy.”
The captaincy at Miami has proven a difficult title for even the most successful RedHawks. Just in the past few years, Austin Czarnik wasn’t initially stern enough with his teammates and Kuraly did not score until the 12th game of his senior season while wearing the ‘C’.
“There’s good days, there’s bad days, but that’s where being mature and being a leader comes into play – you’ve got to know how to handle that,” Belpedio said. “Everyone’s watching you and how you react at all times, so I think that’s helped me a lot attitude-wise and body language-wise. Even if it doesn’t show that we’re successful on the ice, I think it’s a big learning experience for me.”
Though Belpedio scored six times and set up 11 more goals, he was limited to 24 games as a junior.
He pulled his hip flexor first weekend of the year and missed first six games as a result. His first game back he jammed his thumb into a medal divider in the boards at Ohio State and tore a ligament.
Belpedio was unable to squeeze his hand for the next three weeks. Then a knee injury cost him the final six games of 2016-17.
This season, Belpedio is tied for fourth on the team with nine goals, is tied for Miami’s assists lead with 19 and is even with Josh Melnick for second in points (28).
“What’s impressed me is how he’s grown as a leader,” Hutton said. “When I came in he was an assistant captain and then obviously last year he took over as a first-year captain, and you can just see how much he’s learned over that time.”
Belpedio was named to the all-NCHC’s second team, is second on the RedHawks in blocked shots (40) and is second in plus minus (plus-3).
“I think he continues to grow as a person, and he makes the right decisions on and off the ice and it really sets the standard for everyone else,” Hutton said. “I know a lot of guys on this team look up to him and aspire to be the same person that he is on and off the ice.”
For his career, Belpedio is ninth all-time in RedHawks defenseman points and fifth in blueliner goals with 25.
“Being a consistent, every-day guy – he’s been someone we’ve been able to rely on for four years now,” Lemirande said. “And now we look at him, and he’s got tremendous upside. This is only a start for him. He’s going to have a tremendous career, and it’s going to be fun to be able to watch what’s in store for him.”
On pace to graduate with over a 3.0 grade-point average as a sports management major later this spring, Miami’s season could be down to its final days and the call of the pros may be too strong for Belpedio to resist any longer.
“He cares more about this program, the Brotherhood, than anyone I’ve ever known, and he’s always been someone you can rely on to put a smile on your face when you need it,” Lemirande said.
Despite any possible missed opportunities in the pros, Belpedio he has no regrets about remaining in Oxford for a fourth college season.
“A place like Miami is just so special I think in every aspect,” Belpedio said. “It’s been honestly way more than I could’ve ever imagined, hockey, school, people I’ve met, experience here. For me to turn down my dream, I turned that down a couple of times to come back to a place like this. That’s how much it means to me. And the people here, my teammates, the coaching staff…honestly it’s become a home for me. It’s actually disappointing that I have to leave, but I’m obviously excited that I was lucky enough to come here for four years and live out my dream and set me up for success in the future.”
Miami didn’t win on Saturday, but it did come back from three down to eke out a tie in its regular season finale.
That was on the road vs. the fifth-ranked team in college hockey.
After falling behind, 3-0 less than five minutes in, the RedHawks rallied for a 3-3 tie at No. 5 Denver on Saturday and earned the extra point in the NCHC standings with a 3-on-3 win.
Despite earning seven conference points in its final four games, Miami finished last in the eight-team NCHC.
The RedHawks enter the playoffs having won just two of its last 15 games (2-10-3). They will travel to No. 2 St. Cloud State next week to open the NCHC Tournament in a best-of-3 series.
RECAP: Just 4:19 into the first period, Denver had already taken a 3-0 lead.
Henrik Borgstrom centered one from behind the net to Jarid Lukosevicius in the slot for a one-timer 73 seconds into the game.
Eighteen seconds later, Ryan Barrow went in alone and beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on the forehand.
In another three minutes, Adam Plant found the net from the outside edge of the faceoff circle on a wrister through traffic.
Then the comeback.
The RedHawks converted on a 2-on-0, with Gordie Green tapping home the centering feed by Kiefer Sherwood with 3:15 left in the first period as a Denver defender collided with goalie Tanner Jaillet.
Jaillet finished the period but did not play the balance of the game.
New Pioneers goalie Dayton Rasmussen was beaten on his first shot. After Zach LaValle won a battle along the boards, the puck found Karch Bachman, who skated in and fired one home from a bad angle.
Bachman tipped home a blue-line shot by Louie Belpedio to tie it.
In the 3-on-3 overtime, Phil Knies stole the puck and wired one home over Rasmussen’s shoulder.
STATS: This was the 16th straight game in which the team that scored first also scored second.
That means either Miami or its opponent has taken a 2-0 lead or more in every contest since Jan. 5. The odds of that happening at random are over 65,000 to 1.
— The RedHawks snapped a seven-game streak without a power play goal, and they also scored in the first period for the first time in eight contests.
Miami’s first-period goal total and its PPG total have been identical in nine straight games.
— It was the first multi-goal game of Bachman’s career. The sophomore has already tripled his rookie goal-scoring input, as he has six markers this season vs. two in 2016-17.
— Sherwood extended his team-best points streak to four games. He is 2-3-5 in that stretch and picked up a pair of assists in this contest.
THOUGHTS: What a crazy ending.
A Miami team that went 0-3-1 on a four-game road trip vs. Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado College and was 1-8-1 in its previous 10 contests broke even in its last four against North Dakota and Denver.
Crazier is that the RedHawks’ opponents that took a 3-0 lead the past two weekends finished 0-1-1 in those games.
Craziest: In Miami’s last 16 games, the team that has scored first has also netted the next goal. So RedHawks games have had a 2-0 score at some point in every contest since early January.
These games were irrelevant to Miami from a seedings perspective, but a 1-1-2 record in its last four regular season contests vs. North Dakota and at Denver should at least inspire hope.
— A big positive to take away from this game is Bachman’s scoring. He has been partly inaccurate, partly snakebitten while being placed on skill lines this season, and with his speed if he can start to find the net regularly his final two years could be very lucrative.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: At forward, Carson Meyer was reinserted and Christian Mohs did not dress.
It was just the second game Meyer has missed this season.
FINAL THOUGHTS: These games were irrelevant in terms of the RedHawks’ place in the tournament world but had to give them momentum heading into the NCHCs.
They hung with one of the top dogs in D-I for 125 minutes on the road.
It’s the beauty of March: A poor regular season can be reversed with a conference tournament win.
And desperation can be a strong weapon. St. Cloud State will play in the NCAAs, and any subsequent opponent in the NCHC field would likely be in that boat as well.
There is no future beyond next weekend if Miami doesn’t win this series.
Four years ago the RedHawks were in the same predicament and also faced St. Cloud in the first round. Miami won that series and ultimately fell a goal short in the NCHC championship game.
The odds of an NCAA berth for Miami are long, but a desperate RedHawks team again faces an elite SCSU team that will play on college hockey’s biggest stage regardless of this weekend’s outcome.
Denver had three power play chances in the first period and scored on two of them.
The Pioneers added another goal early in the second period for a three-goal lead it would not relinquish in Friday’s 6-3 DU win over Miami at Magnuss Arena.
The RedHawks (11-18-4) did pull to within a goal in the closing minutes but No. 5 Denver punched in a pair of late markers to seal the win.
Miami has lost 10 straight March games and is 0-9 in this month the past three seasons. The RedHawks are 0-7-1 on the road since their last victory outside of Oxford on Dec. 8, and they have a 2-10-2 overall record in their last 14 games.
RECAP: It was the Dylan Gambrell show early.
The DU forward scored on the backhand from the slot to open the scoring, and his shot from the same area was tipped in by Jarid Lukosevicius to make it 2-0.
Rudy Junda extended the DU lead to three when he took a behind-the-net feed from Kolin Olischefski, was denied by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin and batted home the rebound.
The RedHawks cut the deficit to two when Kiefer Sherwood knocked home a one-time pass from Phil Knies on a 3-on-1.
With 10:14 left in the second period, Logan O’Connor centered a pass to Henrik Borgstrom, and the puck hit off Borgstrom’s skate and into the net, making it 4-1.
Miami trimmed the lead to two with five minutes remaining in regulation when Conor Lemirande penetrated the zone and had his pass into the slot hit a Denver player and carrom in.
The RedHawks’ Casey Gilling’s feed also hit a Pioneers defender, deflecting off a stick and into the net with 3:57 remaining.
But a seeing-eye shot from the blue line by Adam Plant found the cage with 2:23 left to make it 5-3, and Colin Staub capped the scoring with an empty netter.
STATS: Slow starts have been the norm for Miami in recent weeks, as the team has been outscored, 9-0 in the first period its last seven games.
The RedHawks also have not scored a power play goal in that seven-game span, going 0-for-22 on the man advantage.
Denver (18-8-7) had five power play chances, scoring on two of them. Miami was on the man advantage once.
— It was the first career multi-point game for Rourke Russell, who picked up two assists.
— Sherwood has scored in consecutive games for the second time this season and has a team-best three-game points streak.
— Gilling scored for the first time in seven games. Lemirande had not scored in his last 25 contests.
THOUGHTS: Did we mention the early power play goals for Denver?
An opponent just can’t give the Pioneers three chances in the first period and expect to win, especially on their home ice.
Then it was 3-0, and that pretty much sealed Miami’s fate for the night.
To the RedHawks’ credit, they battled until the end, trimming a 4-1 Denver lead to one before ultimately surrendering a fifth goal followed by an empty netter.
Being an early no-show has been a theme for Miami this season and is a tough way to make a living in the ultra-competitive NCHC.
— Both early goals were scored because Denver was allowed to control the slot. Gambrell skated laterally to get in there for his goal, and he did the same from the opposite direction on goal No. 2, which was tipped in by Lukosevicius – a player allowed to camp out at the top of the crease.
— It was a strange night for redirected pucks. Miami had one go in off a skate and another hit a stick, as both completely changed direction en route to the net.
One could argue the RedHawks got somewhat lucky in getting back into the game, since those consecutive goals took the score from 4-1 to 4-3.
To be fair, Denver also scored one – its fourth of the night – when a centering feed hit Borgstrom’s skate before finding its mark.
LINEUP CHANGES: Up front, Christian Mohs dressed for just the eighth time this year, and Zach LaValle was in the lineup for only the second time in eight contests.
Carson Meyer was the notable scratch, as the Columbus Blue Jackets draftee has struggled this season. It’s the second time he has not played this season. Willie Knierim was also out of the lineup.
No changes on defense.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Officially these games mean nothing for Miami, which has one clear route to the NCAA Tournament: Beat St. Cloud next week and win the NCHC Tournament.
But it would’ve been nice if there were more positives to be taken from this game.
The RedHawks did battle after falling behind by three, which is admirable in an essentially meaningless game, and Sherwood continues to shine after a sub-par first half.
That’s the boom from this one.
The negatives: Opponents didn’t pay a price in the slot – a recurring theme – the team got off to a slow start, etc.
Ideally, it would be nice to have momentum heading into the opening round of the conference tournament. Denver and SCSU are the elite of the elite in this conference, and Miami needs to show it can compete on the road against Division I’s best.
Unfortunately, this game did little to inspire confidence.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OXFORD, Ohio – It was a bizarre night for Miami’s offense.
The RedHawks eclipsed the 240-minute scoreless mark – equivalent to four full games – for the first time in school record, and then scored four times to erase a three-goal deficit in a 4-3 overtime win over No. 12 North Dakota at Cady Arena on Friday.
Miami trailed, 3-0 eight minutes into the second period before netting four straight goals, capped off by Ben Lown’s game winner 59 seconds into the extra session.
That snapped a five-game losing streak for the RedHawks and a five-game winless stretch vs. the Fighting Hawks (0-4-1).
MU had not scored a goal since the first game of its home series vs. St. Cloud State on Feb. 9 and establishing the team record for the longest scoring drought at 240:24.
RECAP: Grant Mismash fired a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle that snuck inside the far post through a screen 13:54 into the first period.
Christian Wolanin made it 2-0 shortly into a two-minute 5-on-3 on a one-time blast off a feed by Colton Poolman at the 2:17 mark of the second period.
Five minutes later, North Dakota (14-11-8) extended its lead to three when Johnny Simonson tapped in a loose puck in the crease after Simonson was denied by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on a breakaway.
After making the save, Larkin was taken out by a pursuing teammate, leaving the net empty for the trailing Simonson.
But 48 seconds after that goal, Josh Melnick slid a pass through two defenders to Alec Mahalak in the slot, and Mahalak buried the first marker of his career just under the crossbar on the glove side.
The RedHawks (11-17-3) cut the deficit to one when Phil Knies took a feed from Kiefer Sherwood wrapped around the back of the net and tucked it past goalie Cam Johnson 1:42 into the third period.
Miami tied it just 2:18 later when Melnick threaded one to Gordie Green at the faceoff dot, and Green’s shot hit a body and popped over Johnson into the back of the net.
Grant Hutton stole a puck along the boards and in the same motion batted the puck ahead to Lown on the right wing, and Lown skated into the faceoff circle and went far post for the game winner 59 seconds into overtime.
STATS: Lown and Melnick both finished with two points, with Lown going 1-1-2 and Melnick picking up a pair of helpers.
It was Lown’s third career multi-point game, and Melnick – the team leader in assists – has recorded at least two five times this season.
Knies is now second on the RedHawks in goals with 11.
— Miami may have snapped out of its offensive funk, but its power play is still MIA. Despite six chances, this was the fifth straight game in which the RedHawks have not scored on the man advantage.
— But the PK has fared better, going 18-for-20 (90.0 percent) in that span.
— It was also the fifth consecutive contest in which Miami has failed to score in the first period.
THOUGHTS: This was one of those here-we-go-again-is-there-a-nearby-deep-frier-I-can-stick-my-head-in type of starts during which the RedHawks were down multiple goals 22 minutes in and behind three a few minutes after.
Larkin probably would’ve liked the first one back and the second was on a 5-on-3, so those weren’t exactly caused by poor skater play.
All-world forward Shane Gersich got behind the defense on the third goal, so yeah, that one is on that corps.
And Miami outshot North Dakota in the first period – all three and overtime in fact – so it’s not like the RedHawks didn’t show up.
That’s what makes this win so impressive. Three-goal leads can snowball, especially against teams like Miami that are struggling for wins.
With not much to play for, the RedHawks stunned a Fighting Hawks team that has tons to play for each night.
Miami’s fate is nearly sealed in the conference, and UND is fighting for home-ice advantage in the league tournament and is on the NCAA bubble.
The RedHawks may be fighting very long odds to get back to the NCAA Tournament, but at least they showed on Friday they are going to fight.
— North Dakota may be down a bit this season but this team still skates and moves the puck very well. The Fighting Hawks’ fans also numbered in triple digits. And they were vocal.
— Hutton’s play on the overtime winner shows why pro teams are salivating. He stole the puck along the boards and sent a perfect outlet pass to Knies in one motion. If he didn’t get the puck ahead that quickly, North Dakota would’ve had a player in Knies’ face as he penetrated the zone.
This guy has a great chance to play in the NHL in a couple of years.
— Melnick’s assist on Mahalak’s goal may have actually been intended for Green. Both were between the faceoff circles, and when it slid past Green, Mahalak stepped into it. Miami went back to that play for its third goal, as Melnick fed Green with both in nearly identical spots.
FORWARDS: B. Melnick’s passing was at a peak level in this game, as both of his assists came from the corner along the goal line to the edge of the slot. Freshmen Lown and Knies both scored and have both improved drastically as the season has progressed. Knies also blocked four shots. Carter Johnson didn’t get a point but his steal ultimately led to the Melnick-to-Green goal that tied it. Overall this corps was solid defensively as well, especially on the penalty kill.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. Mahalak scored, Hutton’s play on the game-winner was amazing and Louie Belpedio picked up an assist on Mahalak’s goal. It was a good night for this group, as North Dakota finished with just 17 shots despite six power plays. The one blemish is that Rourke Russell did get beat on the third UND breakaway that led to a goal, and he also inadvertently took out his own goalie on that play.
GOALTENDING: C+. Yes, Larkin allowed three goals on 17 shots (.824), but he faced a handful of Grade-A chances and was taken out of the play on one of those goals. The first one was stoppable, but the second was a 5-on-3 missile from the high slot. He also held UND off the scoreboard the final 33 minutes, allowing Miami to come back.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: Carter Johnson was back in the lineup while Zach LaValle sat. Johnson contributed to Green’s goal.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This is what the second half of the season in this league should be about: Thrilling, well-played games between teams ranging from good to top-ranked.
That’s how it was every weekend down the stretch three years ago when Miami won the NCHC Tournament.
As a fan, as soon as a game ended you couldn’t wait to get back to the rink the next night or weekend.
This season definitely hasn’t gone as planned, but this night was a reminder of how entertaining meaningful games in this league are in late winter.
From the RedHawks and their fans’ perspective, the only thing lacking was the standings relevance, as Miami is competing for neither a league title nor home-ice advantage.
Hopefully the full stretch-run experience will return to Cady Arena next season.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
“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 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.