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Miami tops USNDT in exhibition

PLYMOUTH, Mich. – Miami was held to three goals in its first two games against Providence last weekend.

But the RedHawks rediscovered their offense in their first road trip of the season in a 7-5 win vs. the U.S. National Development’s Under-18 team in an exhibition contest at Team USA Arena on Friday.

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Gordie Green and Grant Hutton scored two goals each, and Josh Melnick led all scorers with three points, all on assists.

Miami (0-2) fell behind when Jack DeBoer banged home a rebound off a point-blank shot 9:19 into the first period.

The RedHawks would score the next four. Hutton ripped a one-timer off a cross-crease pass by Melnick with 8:34 left in the opening frame, tying the score.

Miami’s Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami went ahead when Hutton buried a shot with one second left in the stanza.

Melnick slid a pass through the slot to Green for a tap-in goal 3:45 into the second period, and Ryan Siroky scored an unassisted goal to extend the RedHawks’ lead to three.

But the USNDT tied it with three goals over a 9:25 span of the middle frame.

Zach LaValle put Miami ahead, 5-4, but Team USA rallied to tie the score again on DeBoer’s second marker of the night just over a minute into the third period.

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

Finally, the RedHawks went ahead for good on the flashiest goal of the night. Melnick lost his stick but entered the offensive zone anyway, centering the pass to Green for a breakaway. Green buried his shot to make it 6-5.

Carson Meyer tapped in an empty netter with a second remaining to cap off the scoring.

Louie Belpedio and Phil Knies also picked up a pair of helpers for the RedHawks.

Jonathan Gruden, who is a Miami commit, dressed for Team USA and scored a goal.

Miami travels to Maine for a two-game series next weekend.

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Analysis: Taking in the weekend

OXFORD, Ohio – The third period was going so well for Miami.

The RedHawks had tied the score at two and were pressuring the net for the go-ahead score.

Then came the final seconds.

Providence scored with 0.9 seconds remaining in regulation to edge Miami, 3-2 at Cady Arena on Saturday, extending the RedHawks’ winless streak to 12 games, their longest such drought in over a quarter century.

So it’s time to take a step back and digest the results of this weekend series. It’s easy to pile on after the abysmal ending to the 2016-17 season. But some perspective.

THE GOOD

Miami’s Austin Alger (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– Freshmen forwards stepped in right away and contributed. Austin Alger found the net in the opener and Casey Gilling scored in Game 2. Phil Knies is raw but impressed with his stickhandling.

– Speaking of newcomers, Rourke Russell and Alex Mahalak, while raw, made a solid impression in the opening weekend. Russell agitated everyone he came in contact with, and Mahalak has an energy about him, and he will hopefully develop into a top shut-down D-man.

– There was a lot to like in the third period, during which Miami controlled play. Well, maybe not in the closing seconds, but the RedHawks moved the puck very well and were in the Providence zone for a substantial portion of that stanza.

– Karch Bachman was solid on the PK on Friday but barely touched the ice in the first period because he didn’t play during the extended penalty kill or ensuing five-minute power play. But he logged more minutes late and created multiple scoring chances. This guy needs to play more.

– The team didn’t give up after falling behind multiple goals early. Had to appreciate the fight Miami displayed to get back into the game.

THE BAD

– There hasn’t been that noticeable surge by any of the veterans that we’ve come accustomed to. That’s part of the fun of being a college hockey fan – watching the development of players on a year-to-year and weekend-to-weekend basis. Seeing so many freshman move into starting roles on a team that didn’t lose many players means a handful of starters from 2016-17 weren’t cutting it.

– The major penalty by Carson Meyer was awful on his part. He had plenty of time to see the numbers on the back of the PC jersey and let off the gas but chose to bury the player. Providence agitated him before the opening draw, and 26 seconds later he’s done for the game and the Friars are on a five-minute power play, during which they scored twice.

– Yeah, getting the game-winner scored on you in the final second is bad. Miami has a recent track record of losing games in painful ways late, so hopefully this ‘L’ doesn’t become a 2017-18 theme.

THE CONCLUSION

The process is more important than wins and losses at this point of the season, but entering the season on a 10-game winless streak makes that college hockey axiom tougher to accept. Miami suffered through plenty of horror-show endings the past two seasons, and starting 2017-18 with one is tough.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D+. Not much offense was produced in the first two periods, and Miami finished with 20 shots, half of which came from the defense. Meyer’s penalty also works against this unit. Austin Alger wins the extremely-early rookie of the year race with his solid all-around play.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Grant Hutton went 1-1-2 and Scott Dornbrock tallied an assist. This unit held Providence to 22 SOG, and Hutton and Louie Belpedio put four shots on net each.

GOALTENDING: C. Similar game to Friday for Ryan Larkin. He made a couple of excellent saves but allowed goals on stoppable shots.

LINEUP CHANGES: Grant Frederic was fine on Friday was sat on Saturday in favor of Chaz Switzer. The other 17 skaters plus Larkin were all the same.

Miami loses in final second

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami played in 11 overtime games in 2016-17.

And while the RedHawks avoided their first extra session of this season on Saturday, it’s only because they allowed the decisive goal with a second remaining.

The Friars’ Kasper Bjorkqvist poked the puck home with 0.9 seconds to play as No. 11 Providence completed the weekend sweep of Miami with a 3-2 win at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Just 26 seconds into the game, RedHawks forward Carson Meyer was assessed a major penalty, and the Friars scored twice on the ensuing five-minute power play.

Providence (2-0) opened the scoring when Tommy Davis’ wrister from the blue line was turned aside by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, Jason O’Neill corralled the loose puck and slid it through the top of the crease to Vimal Sukumarin for the slam-dunk goal 4:31 into the first period.

Only 26 seconds later, Josh Wilkins centered a pass from along the boards to Erik Foley for a one-time wrister that beat Larkin.

But Miami (0-2) came back.

Miami’s Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

A one-time rip by Grant Hutton off a feed by Scott Dornbrock found its way through traffic and in to make it 2-1 with 6:57 left in the second period.

Hutton skated the puck into the zone and behind the net before feeding Casey Gilling at the blue line. In similar fashion to Hutton’s goal, Gilling’s wrister snuck through multiple players and hit a Friars defender before hitting twine, tying the score with 13:31 left in regulation.

It was Gilling’s first career goal.

After all that work, Providence’s Ryan Tait deflected a pass in the slot, and after Larkin made the initial stop, Larkin knocked it under his pads to win it as time wound down.

Miami is 0-11-1 in its last 12 games, its longest winless streak since 1991. That skid 26 years ago was the longest in RedHawks history at 17 games.

In terms of chronology, this is now the program’s longest span without a win since its inception in 1978. Miami has not won since Jan. 28, which was 252 days ago.

The RedHawks head to Plymouth, Mich., for an exhibition vs. the Under-18 Team USA squad at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Miami resumes its NCAA schedule when it visits Maine on Oct. 20-21.

Analysis: Chances didn’t go Miami’s way

OXFORD, Ohio – Friday’s script could have had a different ending for Miami.

The RedHawks had two goals waved off, which was the final margin of defeat for in a 3-1 loss vs. No. 11 Providence at Cady Arena in the teams’ season opener.

Miami’s Grant Hutton lays out a big hit in the first period (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

After the teams traded goals in the first period, Miami appeared to have taken a second-period lead when Gordie Green roofed one on a breakaway.

But the replay showed that the puck never entered the net, hitting the crossbar and kicking straight out.

Right after the Friars’ third goal, the RedHawks’ Kiefer Sherwood went in alone and appeared to have tucked the puck under goalie Hayden Hawkey.

Initially called a goal, the tally was taken off the board after it was ruled Sherwood interfered with Hawkey while driving the net.

That last one was tough to digest, as Sherwood skated in diagonally and Hawkey moved up to the top of the crease to challenge the shooter when the alleged contact occurred.

Providence also took a penalty on the play, so had the RedHawks scored, it would have cut their deficit to one and they would have had tons of momentum heading into the ensuing power play.

Not in any way saying Miami got screwed. The Friars looked every bit an 11th-ranked team.

Other thoughts…

– Miami started seven freshmen – Phil Knies, Casey Gilling, Austin Alger, Ben Lown, (redshirt) Christian Mohs at forward and Alec Mahalak and Rourke Russell on defense.

Knies (pronounced ‘nighs’) impressed with his stickhandling, Alger, well, he scored the RedHawks’ only goal, and Mohs looked more confident than most coming off a season-ending knee injury.

Russell looks like a natural agitator who is on course to become a fan favorite. Mahalak is raw but worked hard on Friday and appears to have a lot of upside.

– Miami was down two with three minutes remaining and possessed the puck in the offensive zone for a minute but waited until under 2:00 before pulling Ryan Larkin. In today’s game the goalie needs to come out earlier in a two-goal game.

– The RedHawks donned ‘You Can Play’ jerseys in honor of Brendan Burke, who passed away 6½ years ago. Classy move by Miami to remember the former student manager.

– Speaking of passing away, usher Howard Jackson passed away this off-season after an extensive battle with cancer. He was a mainstay at the top of sections 11/12 since the rink opened.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C-. Only one goal but this corps generated some excellent chances against a top-echelon team. There was a lot of good passing and a lot of bad, which is not unexpected in early October. Coach Enrico Blasi wasn’t afraid to use three freshman forwards on his second power play unit.

DEFENSEMEN: C+. It seems like Providence had fewer A-plus chances than most Miami opponents did last season. The new guys, while on the smallish side, both seem like they can move the puck pretty well and aren’t afraid to play physically.

GOALTENDING: C+. Larkin stopped 27 of 30 shots for a .900 save percentage. The first goal was on a quick release from pretty close and the last one was definitely stoppable. As usual Larkin made a couple of outstanding saves to keep Miami in it.

Miami loses opener to Providence

OXFORD, Ohio – Providence scored twice in a span of 1:56 – late in the second period and early in the third.

Those were the decisive goals as the Friars beat Miami, 3-1 in the teams’ season opener at Cady Arena on Friday.

Providence (1-0) opened the scoring 7:57 into the first period when Ryan Tait corralled a loose puck in the Miami faceoff circle and slipped it through RedHawks goals Ryan Larkin.

Miami’s Austin Alger (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami (0-1) tied it when freshman Austin Alger skated laterally into the slot and whipped one just under the crossbar with 2:43 left in the opening period.

Greg Printz slipped behind the RedHawks’ defense and beat Larkin late in the second period to put the Friars ahead for good.

Providence’s Josh Wilkins stole the puck from Phil Knies at the blue line and scored the final goal.

It was Alger’s first career goal, and a pair of fellow freshmen assisted on it for their first collegiate points – Knies and Casey Gilling.

Miami appeared to have cut the lead to one in the third period, but an apparent goal by Kiefer Sherwood was waved off after it was ruled he interfered with the goalie while slipping the puck past him.

The RedHawks’ Gordie Green was also denied a goal after a review when his breakaway shot hit the crossbar.

Larkin stopped 27 shots in the losing effort.

Miami’s winless streak was extended to 11 games, its longest since 1991. The RedHawks are 0-10-1 in that span and have not won since Jan. 28.

The teams will wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

Series preview: Providence

WHO: No. 11 Providence Friars (22-12-5) at Miami RedHawks (9-20-7)

WHEN: Friday–7:35 p.m.; Saturday–7:05 p.m.

WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio.

TV: None.

NOTES: These teams split in Rhode Island last season, and Providence holds a 7-5-3 all-time edge.

And though it was 2½ years ago, the most memorable meeting between MU and PC came in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, when Providence held on for a 7-5 win, fending off Miami’s late comeback attempt.

Providence qualified for the NCAAs for the fourth straight season in 2016-17, a stretch that includes a national championship.

Six Friars have graduated from last season, and PC has eight freshmen.

Brian Pinho returns for his final season after leading the Friars in points with 40, including 28 assists. Junior Eric Foley, who scored 15 goals and dished for 19 assists, is also back for Providence.

Josh Wilkins is PC’s other returning skater with 30-plus points, as he went 13-18-31 in 2016-17.

Hayden Hawkey – could one pick a better name for a New England goaltender if one tried? – finished with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.

Miami went 0-9-1 to finish last season in its second 10-game winless streak of the campaign.

The RedHawks were held to 42 shots in these teams’ weekend series to open 2016-17.

Season preview III: The predictions

BoB grades forwards, defensemen and goalies after each home game.

So why not give preseason grades for each position?

Miami lost three players from 2016-17 but has added six – seven if you count reshirt freshman Christian Mohs – so BoB takes a look at each position heading into this season.

FORWARDS: C. The RedHawks were well below average in scoring last season, and they should be improved from 2016-17 overall. That said, depth beyond the team’s top two lines is still a question mark.

Miami’s Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

DEFENSEMEN: C-. Again, lots of question marks after the first pairing, and Louie Belpedio has been banged up multiple times. Grant Hutton is the best shut-down defenseman on the team, and the final four spots are all up for grabs with Jared Brandt transferring to Niagara.

GOALTENDING: A. Ryan Larkin was named team MVP by the team back in April, as he faced a Grade-A chance shooting gallery much of the season. His health is key in 2017-18. Larkin missed several games due to injury and was out for the end of the team’s playoff series vs. Minnesota-Duluth.

OVERALL PLACE OF FINISH: 4th. Miami finally earns a home series in the conference tournament after heading to the road back-to-back seasons. Both the offense and defense improve and Larkin is stellar in net.

Season preview II: The lineup

Of the 23 players who dressed for Miami last season, 19 will back in the same sweaters this fall.

But that doesn’t mean the RedHawks didn’t lose any talent from 2016-17.

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

Anthony Louis wrapped up his college career as the team’s top point producer his senior year. Also departed are Justin Greenberg, who was a solid penalty killer, and Colin Sullivan, a two-way defenseman that could also move up to forward.

Jared Brandt is also gone after a solid freshman campaign that saw him ascend to the top pairing.

Joining the RedHawks for 2017-18 will be a class of seven, consisting of five forwards and a pair of defensemen.

That’s a net gain of four, so Miami should have ample depth heading into this season, which has been an issue at time the past couple of years because of injuries.

BoB breaks down how the RedHawks Version 2017-18 breaks down positionally.

FORWARDS

Two starters are out (Louis and Greenberg) and five are in.

That means solid depth and lots of fierce, healthy competition for lineups spots each night on a team that struggled to produce offense after the first two lines.

Miami returns 11 forwards, which means at the very least one of the newbies will be dress each night.

Several of the freshmen have put points on the board in juniors, and Coach Enrico Blasi has a reputation for throwing young players into the mix immediately, so there is definitely plenty of opportunity for the newbies to carve themselves regular starting spots.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Four returning RedHawks recorded at least 20 points last season – Kiefer Sherwood, Josh Melnick, Carson Meyer and Gordie Green. Sherwood was second in points only to Louis (14-24-38), and Melnick went 9-18-27 as the team’s top defensive forward.

Meyer admirably missed just four games while suffering through mono, going 10-16-26 as he noticably ran out of gas down the stretch. Green turned it up as the season went on, as he had seven goals and eight assists the final 18 games of 2016-17.

What Miami needs is more production from the remaining eight spots.

Zach LaValle went 2-9-11 and big Willie Knierim scored four goals and seemed to be adapting well to the college game. Karch Bachman has tons of speed and a great shot, and hopefully that will translate to more success for the talented Florida Panthers draft pick.

That’s seven guys that should start for sure each night.

Of the returning forwards, Ryan Siroky has become a strong penalty killer but doesn’t produce much offense. Carter Johnson played on the fourth line and managed three points in 35 games.

Conor Lemirande is huge at 6-feet-6 but has just nine points in 103 games.

Alex Alger played in 21 games and was an energy forward but finished with just one assist in 21 games.

Those five spots would appear to be less secure on a team looking to generate more offense.

It’s an intriguing unit. Austin Alger, Philip Knies and Casey Gilling were all scorers in the USHL and could press all of the above for their jobs.

Miami was 45th out of 60 Division I teams in goals per game last season (2.53), and the RedHawks need to put the puck in the net more in 2017-18 if they hope to have success this season.

DEFENSEMEN

This was a facet of the game in which Miami struggled in 2016-17, and two mainstays from last season and gone in Jared Brandt and Colin Sullivan.

Brandt transferred to Niagara and Sullivan graduated.

Captain Louie Belpedio was limited to 24 games due to various injuries and although he was not 100 percent when he did play, he racked up six goals and 11 assists for 17 points, the best scoring rate of his career.

Miami’s Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Grant Hutton is back for his junior season, and while he has been a shutdown-type D-man in his two seasons in Oxford, he scored nine goals in 2016-17.

Scott Dornbrock went 3-10-13 last season and is one of the team’s best hitters.

The other three returning blueliners are all sophomores – Grant Frederic, Chaz Switzer and Bryce Hatten.

Frederic finished with three points in 2016-17 and needs to be more physical this season, as he is 6-3-201. Switzer got better as last season went on, and tallied a goal and an assist in 23 games.

Hatten dressed just 11 times and did not record a point, but a major injury in 2015-16 stunted his performance, and he could take a huge step forward this season.

The freshmen are Alec Mahalak and Rourke Russell, who should challenge for starting spots right away.

Mahalak is more of an offensive-minded blueliner, tallying 26 points in 59 NAHL games, and Russell has a reputation for shutting down opponents.

Two defensemen will have to sit each night, so that should up the ante for everyone involved each practice.

GOALTENDING

At the banquet this spring, Ryan Larkin won the MVP award despite being a freshman.

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

That’s pretty much all you need to know about Miami’s goaltending.

Larkin logged 1,946 minutes last season, going 8-16-7 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.

Those numbers are mediocre until considering the quality of shots Larkin faced in 2016-17. Miami only won nine games last season but that number would be lower if Larkin hadn’t been in net.

He was banged up a couple of times last season, most notably during the RedHawks’ NCHC playoff series, so hopefully he can stay healthy in 2017-18.

Chase Munroe went 1-4 with a 4.25 GAA and .861 save percentage, but he sat much of the year and was under fire when he did hit the ice.

Season preview I: New faces

Four forwards and two defenseman join the Miami program this fall.

Plus Christian Mohs enters his redshirt freshman season after injuring himself prior to 2016-17.

All of the incoming freshmen played their juniors hockey in the USHL, the top such league in the U.S., and Mohs thrived in the NAHL.

BoB takes a look at the new faces in Oxford this fall.

F Ben Lown, Omaha (USHL) – A product of the prestigious Shattuck St. Mary’s (Minn.) program, he scored 70 goals in two seasons in their youth development program. He logged the majority of 2015-16 in the NAHL and played his first full season of USHL hockey last year as an 18-year-old with a brutal Omaha team, going 11-12-23 with a minus-25 rating in 51 games. He’s super small at 5-feet-7.

F Christian Mohs, Minot (NAHL) – Mohs blew his knee out prior to last season and was reshirted. He played high school hockey for three years in his native Minnesota, and after a year of NA3HL, he joined Minot for 2015-16. In two seasons there he racked up 101 points in 118 games, including 35 goals. Mohs is already 22, so he has plenty of experience, but the question is how well he will do when he puts his repaired knee to the test. With hockey players, it often takes time to regain confidence.

F Casey Gilling, Muskegon (USHL) – Gilling played his first full season in the USHL in 2016-17, and he racked up 15 goals and 18 assists in 33 games, thriving after playing the previous season in the NAHL. He has good size for college at 6-feet-1, 185 pounds. He’s still just 19 and has over two full seasons of juniors experience under his belt.

F Phil Knies, Sioux City (USHL) – Knies was actually born in Slovakia but grew up in Phoenix. Another small guy at 5-9, 170, Knies thrived in his second USHL season. He scored 21 goals, set up 20 more and was plus-17 and picked up 10 points in 13 playoff games as Sioux City was a Clark Cup finalist.

F Austin Alger, Muskegon (USHL) – The younger brother of teammate Alex Alger, Austin recorded 43 points in 57 games last season with Omaha and Muskegon. It was his second season in the USHL and he nearly doubled his point rate over 2015-16. Alger is almost identical in size to his brother at 5-11, 167. He was named Mr. Hockey in Michigan his senior season of high school prior to his USHL career. He scored 86 goals in four prep seasons.

D Alec Mahalak, Youngstown (USHL) – In his first USHL game, Mahalak recorded three assists. That was the only contest he would play in for Youngstown in 2015-16, but he logged 58 games last season and tallied 23 points, including five goals. Mahalak is definitely small for a defenseman (5-9-171) but has good puck-moving skills and will hopefully be able to quarterback the power play at some point.

D Rourke Russell, Green Bay (USHL) – Last season, Russell made the jump from NAHL to USHL and thrived, dishing for 10 assists and recording a plus-15 rating in 59 games for Green Bay. He’s never scored a lot at any level but has a reputation as a solid shut-down guy. He is still building much-needed muscle for bone-crunching NCHC play. Russell is 6-1-176 and has a great hockey name.