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Late PPG lifts Miami over W. Michigan

OXFORD, Ohio – It took Miami until the eight-minute mark of the third period to earn its first power play on Saturday.

But when the RedHawks finally went on the man advantage, they needed just seven seconds to score the game-winning goal.

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

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

A blast from junior forward Anthony Louis found the net with 8:32 remaining in regulation to lift Miami to a 2-1 win over Western Michigan in the weekend series finale at Cady Arena.

The RedHawks (5-4-1) won by the same score on Friday.

Alex Gacek gave Miami the lead with 7:53 left in the first period off a wrister from the high slot.

But Sheldon Dries tied the score for the Broncos (4-4-1) just 3:10 later after knocking down an attempted clearing pass by sophomore defenseman Scott Dornbrock, entering the offensive zone and beating RedHawks senior goalie Ryan McKay just inside the far post.

That set the stage for Louis’ game winner, which came off a short lateral pass by senior center Sean Kuraly and appeared to partially deflect off a Western Michigan player in front of the net before finding twine.

It was the first goal of the season for Louis and the second for Gacek on a team that is in desperate need of offense from sources other than its freshmen phenoms and defensemen.

Kuraly picked up two assists, and McKay stopped 19 shots to earn the win, the 34th of his career that ties him for eighth on the team’s all-time leaderboard with Trevor Prior.

Miami improved to 2-2 in the NCHC, moving into a six-way tie for first place in the conference with six points.

After losing on opening night on campus, the RedHawks have won three straight games at Cady Arena and are unbeaten in their last four (3-0-1).

Miami will head north for a series at North Dakota next weekend.

Miami rallies for a tie vs. Providence

OXFORD, Ohio – It was just the second goal in the 116-game career of stay-at-home defenseman Chris Joyaux, but it could not have come at a better time.

Joyaux slammed home a one-time, cross-crease pass from reshman forward Jack Roslovic with 6:45 left in regulation as No. 10 Miami salvaged a 2-2 tie vs. No. 7 Providence in the series finale at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Roslovic’s assist was the first of his career. The goal by Joyaux was his first since March 14, 2014 in the St. Cloud State NCHC first-round playoff series.

Like Friday, the RedHawks (0-1-1) took the lead first, as sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio’s wrister from just inside the blue line beat goalie Nick Ellis with 6:39 left in the first period.

But just 3:31 later, the Friars’ Jake Walman tied it on a one-time blast.

Providence (1-0-1) took the lead when John Gilmour banged home a rebound shot three minutes into the second period after Miami had failed to score on a 5-on-3.

After the five-minute overtime, the game ended in a tie, but the teams played 3-on-3 to simulate conference play, and RedHawks freshman Josh Melnick scored in that.

Senior forward Alex Gacek picked up secondary assists on both goals, giving him four points on the weekend. He had 14 points all of last season.

Miami senior goalie Ryan McKay stopped 24 shots to earn the tie.

The RedHawks return to action this weekend with a home-and-series vs. Ohio State. The teams play in Columbus at 7 p.m. on Friday and in Oxford at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

Analysis: Yeah, it was bad, but it was 1 game

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami has built a reputation for being one of the toughest teams to score on in college hockey.

Providence appears to be the RedHawks’ defensive kryponite.

The Friars beat Miami, 7-3 at Cady Arena on Friday, giving them 14 goals in two games vs. Miami, which likely can’t wait to play anyone else after losing to PC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to end its 2014-15 season.

With the lopsided score, it’s easy to say the defense and goaltending let the RedHawks down, and oh by the way, that’s supposed to be the team’s strength heading into this season, and while that isn’t completely untrue, as much credit belongs to Providence in this game.

The Friars were seemingly able to pick the corner of the net at will, and when they had opportunities, they did not miss.

Maybe it’s just because of the optimism of opening night, but this game seemed more like a team that is better right now played a nearly perfect game than Miami laid an egg on home ice to start 2015-16.

The first and third goals the Friars scored were perfect shots in the corner of the net. The second was on a penalty shot that was awarded even though it didn’t look like PC’s skater had a clear step breakaway.

The RedHawks got back to within one, but Providence put up four more in a row, as Miami sometimes has a tendency of not being able to stop the bleeding in games like this.

Overall this still looks like a good MU team. One loss doesn’t change that, even though it was lopsided, and of course it’s magnified because it was the season opener.

A few other thoughts on the game, trying to stay in line with the insert optimism theme:

– OK, one negative that needs to make it into prose is that Captain Kuraly didn’t play particularly well in this game. Sean looked like he may have been banged up or fighting an illness, as he appeared out of breath at times and hunched over. Defenses will pay much more attention to him this season with Czarnik-Barber-Coleman gone, and the 19-goal scorer from 2014-15 will need to step up if he hopes to match that goal total this season.

– Obviously Jack Roslovic, a first-round draft pick, was studly. He scored the first goal of the season, whipping it jai alai style into the net off a power play centering feed. Clearly Roslovic is going to be an offensive beast this season.

Miami's Jack Roslovic.

Miami’s Jack Roslovic.

– There’s a ton to like about Josh Melnick, who may have been better than Roslovic in this game. Melnick set up the Roslovic goal, scored one of his own and made a couple of great plays on the penalty kill. It speaks volumes about how much confidence Coach Enrico Blasi has in him that he’s on the first power play and first PK unit. From a purely Miami hockey fan perspective, Melnick not being drafted means he will likely spend four years in Oxford, and that will be fun.

– None of the other freshmen forwards stood out, bad or good. That’s OK. It was their first game. The chemistry will come. None looked lost on the ice. Roslovic and Melnick will obviously make up some of the void left by the departing forwards, and in theory the veteran defense and goaltending should make these players’ transitions easier, as the coaches can concentrate on helping develop them, and the team shouldn’t need to score as much to win. Friday didn’t exactly advance that theory, though.

It a tough way to start the season, but it was only one game. Time to move on. Some good things happened Friday, and it will get better.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. It was a pretty good night for this group. Melnick was awesome, Roslovic is going to be excellent, and senior Alex Gacek and junior Devin Loe also played really well. The latter two are what Miami needs: Veteran players who weren’t studs to step up. Gacek played his best hockey the second half of last year, and Loe has looked very good at times when given the opportunity, and with a short stash of reserves, he should have a chance to earn plenty of ice time this season.

DEFENSE: C-. As usual, this is the hardest area to grade, and with the lamp getting lit seven times, it makes it tougher to grade higher. Freshman Grant Hutton did some really good things and looks like he has a lot of potential, but he also let a player cut in for the breakaway on which he was called for the penalty shot that resulted in the second PC goal. He allowed another player to cut in for an odd-man chance later in the game. But he looks big, strong, smart and agile for his size, and he should turn into a solid defenseman. Colin Sullivan’s goal was a thing of beauty, which gets the grade above the ‘D’ range.

GOALTENDING: D. Like we said, Goals 1 and 3 for PC were just wired. The second goal was a penalty shot, and except for a big rebounds, Providence had very good looks on the rest and did not miss. Not a fan of ever allowed a goalie to give up seven, whether it’s his fault or not, so it would’ve been nice to see him lifted earlier to his confidence doesn’t take a bigger hit. Ryan McKay stopped one shot in relief and will almost certainly start the series finale.

LINEUP: The odd men out for this game were forwards Andrew Schmit and Justin Greenberg, and defenseman Chris Joyaux. Greenberg is banged up, and we’ll see how the defense is handled moving forward. Joyaux played well at the end of 2014-15, so we’ll see how much patience Blasi is going to have with Hutton. Knowing Blasi, he’ll probably rotate which blueliner sits, with Louie Belpedio, Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart likely being the three with job security at this point.

Miami defeats North Dakota 3-2

In a battle of top 10 teams, the seventh ranked Miami RedHawks outlasted second ranked North Dakota in Grand Forks by a 3-2 score.

The RedHawks (8-3, 4-1 NCHC, t1st) were once again led by the tandem of junior forward Sean Kuraly (2-1-3) and junior net minder Jay Williams (21 saves) as Miami has now won three in a row for the second time this season. For Kuraly, it was his sixth game-winning goal. Miami has eight wins on the season. That’s a pretty amazing stat this early in the year. And, for Williams, it was his eighth win of the season as he pushed his record to 8-1 as Miami’s primary keeper of the crease so far this season. Michael Parks and Drake Caggiula scored for North Dakota (7-2-1, 2-1 NCHC, t4th).

This game featured a total of 20 penalties (12 by Miami) including game misconducts to UND’s Colten St. Clair and Miami’s Matthew Caito each for grasping the facemask during a first period scrum that was essentially started when Miami senior forward Blake Coleman was called for goaltender interference at 16:45.

The teams settled down after that and played hard throughout the remainder of the night.

Miami opened the scoring in the first period by striking quickly for two goals to take a 2-0 lead. Junior forward Alex Gacek scored at 3:09 after an offensive zone

UND’s Drake Caggiula (9) attempts to skate past Miami’s Taylor Richard (2). (photo: UND Sports)

face-off when he pounced on a puck in the corner and beat UND junior Zane McIntyre inside the post. Kuraly and Anthony Louis assisted on Gacek’s first goal of the season.

Sean Kuraly was involved again scoring his 8th goal of the season when he and Gacek executed a 2-on-1 to perfection while shorthanded. Gacek brough the puck up the left wing and moved the puck to Kuraly who easily beat McIntyre to give the RedHawks a 2-0 lead with 15:45 left in the first period.

North Dakota would get on the board late in the period, but Miami carried a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

Striking quickly, UND’s Drake Caggiula tied the game shorthanded just 1:22 into the second period. But Kuraly would strike again for Miami on the power play at 6:50 when he was the recipient of a perfect bounce of the back wall following a point blast by freshman defenseman Scott Dornbrock and he quickly beat McIntyre who was recovering from the point shot.

In the third, Miami simply packed it in. I might say they packed it in a little early as the ice was tilted in UND’s favor. However, Miami blocked several good UND shots and though Jay Williams was credited with only five saves, it seemed that he was busier than that as North Dakota pushed for an equalizer they would not find.

In his postgame press conference, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was pleased with his team’s overall effort on the night.

“We came to play tonight,” he said. “I thought we got a pretty good team effort from everyone. This was one of those games we knew would come down to the wire and our guys sacrificed their bodies all night, especially at the end, to get the job done.”

Miami was close to putting the game away late in the third.

With UND’s Zane McIntyre to the bench for the extra attacker, Miami did a good job of moving the puck quickly and getting clears. Junior Riley Barber and senior Austin Czarnik both had looks at the open net, but somehow UND got bodies in front of the net and kept the puck out.

UND’s Connor Gaarder (13) looks to make a play in front of Miami’s Ben Paulides (28), Jay Williams (1), Austin Czarnik (7) and Louie Belpedio (58) in Miami’s 3-2 win over North Dakota. (photo: Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

“Our penalty kill did a good job of blocking shots tonight,” Blasi said. “Jay also made saves when we needed him to. Sean’s line got the bounces and took advantage, but this was a good team win from top to bottom. We had good performances from everyone tonight, but we know they are going to come out hard again tomorrow and we’ll have to be ready.”

The RedHawks will go for their first-ever sweep of North Dakota tonight at 8:07 PM. The game might be on Fox College Sports and will definitely be available via NCHC.tv. Greg Waddell will have the Miami call at Miami All-Access, 1490-AM WKBV and via the Tune In app on your smartphone.

Notes:

– UND saw the return of both sophomore defenseman Paul LaDue and senior Mark MacMillan to the lineup after playing games about their availability all week.

– Miami once again hit the 30 SOG mark firing away, especially during the first and second periods when they rang up 15 and 11, respectively. But, the four shots in the third period was an indicator of just how much control of the game UND seized as Miami held on for the victory.

– The RedHawks held UND to just 23 SOG after blocking a whopping 19 North Dakota shots. Can anyone say “hot tub?”

– With the win, Miami snapped UND’s 8-game unbeaten streak since dropping their opener 5-1 to Bemidji State.

– Miami snipers Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber were held off the scoresheet last night seeing a rare goose egg thrown at them by the UND defense. However, Barber led Miami with 5 SOG.

– Miami announced before Friday’s game that sophomore Trevor Hamilton has elected to leave the team and return to junior hockey. Not sure if that means USHL or if he’s going to try the CHL, but based on his play at Miami, I can’t believe the CHL would be interested. If the early lines were any indicator, he wasn’t likely to play much this season, but shortsightedness (e.g., get your damn education — unless there are other college aspirations) appears to have claimed another one.

Future RedHawks Gacek and Kuraly Looking Strong

WCPO.com’s John Lachmann had a great report on future RedHawks Alex Gacek and Sean Kuraly as they play in the USHL for Youngstown and Indiana, respectively. Great to see even more skill heading to Oxford this fall (assuming Gacek is in the fold for 2012-13). John does a tremendous job covering the RedHawks including his frequent visits to see the Ice play. Miami’s pipeline to the Ice was solidified after former Miami assistant and current Red Wings assistant coach, Jeff Blashill became the head man in Indianapolis.

Nice work, John!