A season of extremes continues for Miami.
Since up a four-game road stretch with a 6-3 comeback win at North Dakota, courtesy of five straight third-period goals on Jan. 14, the RedHawks went 0-2-1 to wrap up the away set.
That was capped off by a 2-0 loss at Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday, representing the first time Miami has been shut out by an opponent this season.
A quick season recap: The RedHawks lost their season opener and were unbeaten in their next five (3-0-2). Then came Miami’s longest winless streak in a quarter century, a 10-game skid in which the team was 0-7-3. But wait, the RedHawks won their next five.
And now Miami is winless in its last three, having scored just three goals in that span.
Normally in this league good teams can absorb this types of hiccups, but because of the RedHawks’ 3-8-5, they can’t afford them.
Yes, Miami is a good team, with the potential to be a very good team, but the Coach Enrico Blasi and the RedHawks truly have their backs up against the boards.
They have one of, if not the, toughest remaining schedule of any team in college hockey. We went through the final five opponents yesterday.
And without advancing to Minneapolis and the Frozen Faceoff, Miami would need to finish 7-3 and take its first-round NCHC opponent to three games just to warrant NCAA consideration.
A 6-4 finish and the RedHawks would need to qualify for Minny and win a game there at the bare minimum.
Of course there’s another way: Paraphrasing Major League for the tiny tots that may be reading, win the whole thing. That is, the NCHC Tournament.
So there are multiple paths to Cincinnati and the NCAA regionals, but they are as smooth as the late third-period ice at Value City Arena.
With the importance of the Miami’s remaining 10 games, in a way, the RedHawks’ playoff season has already begun.
– So in terms of standings, this loss hurts because UNO is now four points ahead of Miami, which is a difference of multiple wins. Even if the RedHawks had tied and lost the sideshow events, they would’ve gained a point and remained within two points of the Mavericks. It’ll be a lot harder to catch them now. Getting into the top four is so important because it means home-ice advantage for the first round of the NCHC Tournament after teams have flown across the midwest for five months in addition to carrying full class loads. A 7-3 finish should do that, considering Miami plays most of the teams it is competing with for seeding down the stretch. Hey, at least six of the final 10 are in Oxford.
– The RedHawks deserved a better fate than being blanked in this one, but Evan Weninger stopped 30 shots to post the zero. It happens from time to time, especially on the road.
– On the first goal, Steven Spinner – which is tough to type for a Miami fan/writer because the tendency is to type Steven Spinell – made an incredible backhand pass across the top of the crease. Anthony Louis was way late covering the goal scorer, Frederik Olofsson.
– On the second goal, Louie Belpedio just turned it over at the blue line and Spinner went in for a sweet breakaway goal. This is the third time the captain has coughed one up that has directly resulted in a goal against.
– The same 19 from Friday’s lineup card dressed on Saturday. That meant a third straight game without Justin Greenberg.
– So Saturday’s game was supposed to be televised on Fox College Sports, but it was unavailable to much of the country, including those (like myself) who have DirecTV and the premium sports tier. But five of the next seven Miami games will be televised nationally, including Friday’s games, which will be carried on CBS College Sports.
It was a positive thing to see Miami come back from a first-period, two-goal deficit, but a downer that the RedHawks were unable to hold a late lead.
So appropriately, Miami and Nebraska-Omaha skated to a 3-3 tie on Friday in the weekend series opener at UNO’s Baxter Arena.
First the bad.
The Mavericks’ first goal was a bit lucky. RedHawks forward Ryan Siroky got in position to block a shot in the slot, and the puck appeared to deflect off his skate and into the net. It happens.
But UNO scored again a minute later when Teemu Pulkkinen was left wide open in front of the net for a rebound.
Same thing with the Mavericks’ tying goal. Jake Randolph was practically in his own time zone at the side of the net, and Austin Ortega – one of the most dangerous players in the league – fed him perfectly for the easy goal.
This game marks the two-thirds mark of the regular season for Miami, and still too many opponents are not paying the price in front of the net.
We saw this last week as well. On one UND goal, four Miami players chased the puck as a player crossed into the offensive zone, and that resulted in an easy tic-tac-toe goal when a pass got through all of the RedHawks defenders to wide-open North Dakota skaters.
Miami has improved in a lot of areas as the season has progressed. This is a big one and at this point things aren’t getting better. And they need to. Quickly.
Oh yeah, and the RedHawks took six straight penalties after going on the power play three times to open the game. Penalty No. 5 by Karch Bachman was the killer, as that’s when UNO tied it in the third period.
Now the good.
Let’s look at the goals.
The first power play unit for Miami is just lethal, and that’s how the RedHawks scored their first goal. Anthony Louis got penetration and dropped a pass to Louie Belpedio for the rip.
Then Willie Knierim scored. That’s three goals for the 18-year-old true freshman (he turns 19 on Sunday), with all coming in his last 10 games.
Another 6-feet-3 forward, Sean Kuraly, who was a year older when he came to Oxford, scored three times in his first 36 games. We all know how he turned out.
It’s also encouraging how Knierim is scoring goals. He’s not afraid to go into the slot, where he scored from on Friday on a wicked shot. His size is his biggest asset, and he can give opponents fits if he can establish position in front of the net, both by knocking home rebounds and screening goalies.
Then there’s Carson Meyer, who looks like he’s watching the Miami figure skating team this season, as he managed to take a pass at the top of the crease and knock it home while doing part pirouette, part triple axle.
That’s five goals in 10 games for him, and if wasn’t for goalie Ryan Larkin, Meyer would be skating away with the team’s rookie of the year award.
Miami has shown that it can come back from deficits on the road in the most hostile of environments, having done so both in Grand Forks and Omaha the past two weekends.
These road trips, while taxing, help build bonds between players, especially with younger teams.
Yeah, the sixth tie of the year wasn’t the outcome Miami had hoped for, but considering the RedHawks were down 2-0 halfway through the first period, the ultimate result isn’t half bad. Or half good.
– Let’s go back to the penalties. UNO took three, then Miami took six. It’s so hard to second-guess officiating from a computer monitor, so we’ll have to give the officials the benefit of the doubt. You can’t do that, especially on the road. That isn’t news to anyone, but the parade to the penalty box is something we’re seeing too often in recent weeks. The RedHawks have been shorthanded 23 times the past four games, or 5.8 times per game. By comparison, MU faced just 17 power plays in its previous five contests, an average of 3.4 opportunities. Carson Meyer was whistled twice in this game.
– While Miami’s penchant for free hockey is approaching team record levels, its overtime appearance total is far from historic at the NCAA level. The RedHawks have tied six times, played in nine extra sessions and have three OT wins. The Division I records are 10 ties, 19 overtime games played in and seven wins after regulation. The 10 ties seems to most attainable, and that has been done three times: By Western Michigan in 2010-11 (Miami actually tied the Broncos once that season), Colorado College in 2008-09 and Minnesota State in 2002-03. However, if Miami does chase that record it’s a lot less likely the RedHawks will be in position to make the NCAA Tournament.
– The NCHC points race is crazy right now, as two points separate third place and seventh. Miami is currently in seventh, but a win Saturday would mean the RedHawks would be no worse than sixth heading home for the Western Michigan series, and they could go as high as third. After this weekend, Miami will have 10 games remaining and will play each of the top four teams in the league in terms of points, plus the sixth-best team (St. Cloud State). The RedHawks’ final five opponents are ranked Nos. 7, 14, 3, 2 and 9 in the PairWise. That means plenty of opportunity to move up, will they will have to earn it against some of the best teams in Division I.
LINEUP CHANGES: Justin Greenberg has missed consecutive games. He had been in the lineup 53 straight contests prior. Alex Alger has dressed in his place in the last two games. For the sixth time in a row, the defensive six and goaltender were the same, as Coach Enrico Blasi seems to be set at those spots for the stretch run.
It would have been hard to imagine anyone saying what a strong third-period team Miami is during the team’s 10-game winless streak earlier this season.
That’s exactly what the RedHawks are at present, with a five-goal third period solidifying that assessment in a 6-3 win at No. 7 North Dakota on Friday.
To revisit after this win: Miami was outscored, 14-3 in the final stanza during its skid. The RedHawks (8-8-5) have lit the lamp 18 times in the third period and overtime during their winning streak.
Their opponents? Twice.
Neither a psychologist nor a hockey coach, so this is speculation based on observation, but two of the key reasons for the turnaround late in games are better stamina and better confidence.
We’ve said repeatedly that youth is not an excuse for that miserable 3-8-5 start, but it definitely seems like this team is in better hockey shape than it was in November.
Getting acclimated to the program for the younger players has likely helped, as college is obviously a big jump from the NAHL and USHL.
The team looks more confident in every aspect, from warm-ups to the final horn. Of course that’s a chicken-and-egg argument, as winning wields confidence, which wields wins, etc.
One of the best things about this win is it comes without a caveat.
With Colorado College, it was yeah but Miami should beat Colorado College. Then it was Ohio State, and yeah but OSU plays in the weaker Big Ten. Then St. Cloud’s ‘yeah but’ was that the team was struggling a bit and the games were in Oxford.
There’s never a ‘yeah but’ with a win in Grand Forks. Ever.
– As one following the game from 1,000-plus miles away, it got to 3-1 and the mentality went to, oh well, try for the split tomorrow. Let’s face it, that was and still is the realistic goal of this weekend anyway. Miami already has that and is playing with house money on Saturday. That said, a sweep is obviously a possibility now, but expect North Dakota to come out like the early-80s Islanders teams in the first period.
– When we first evaluated Miami’s record after the team fell to 3-8-5 (hey, maybe that’s the reason for the 5-0-1 run, viva Blog of Brotherhood!), it was looking like the team would have to go at minimum 13-5 the rest of the way to get to 16-13-5 and warrant consideration for an NCAA at-large. Now it’s 8-5, which seems much more doable, especially the way the RedHawks are playing. But the rest of the schedule is a murderer’s row of elite teams: Three more against UND (12-7-3) – Saturday in Grand Forks and a pair in Oxford to close out the regular season – two in Omaha, two in St. Cloud, two in Duluth and two at home against Western Michigan and Denver, both top-10 teams. There’s certainly reason for optimism but Miami is still paying the price for that awful start.
– Coinciding with Miami’s wins is the team’s rejuvenated power play. The RedHawks were held without a PPG for six straight games but have netted goals on the man advantage in four straight contests, scoring five in that stretch.
– Gordie Green has four points in four games after recording that many in the first 17. If we had to pick a most-improved player from October to now, he would certainly be one of the top candidates. He scored the first goal of the game on Friday. He scored once in those first 17 games but has found the net three times in the last four. Miami welcomes those contributions, because…
– On that note, this team is still incredibly top-heavy in terms of points. Forward leaders: Anthony Louis 27, Kiefer Sherwood 25, Josh Melnick 19, Carson Meyer 19, Green 8, then the next highest is five. So after the top two lines and No. 1 power play unit Miami’s offense is nearly non-existent.
OXFORD, Ohio – One of the more captivating things about hockey is how teams that appear dead on the frozen water at one point of a season can quickly reverse that negative trend.
The Miami everyone wanted to play in November and early December has made a significant move in the conference and PairWise the past month, as it won its fourth straight game on Saturday, 4-1 over St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.
The RedHawks (7-8-5) were in last place in the NCHC after their 10th straight non-win on Dec. 9 and dipped as low as 42nd out of 60 teams in the all-important PairWise Rankings, which determine at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament and seeding.
Thirty days later, Miami has shifted into a tie for fifth in the conference and is a point away from fourth. In theory the RedHawks could move as high as third with a pair of wins next week.
MU is up to 28th in PairWise and has much work to do to warrant at-large consideration, but the team is still up 14 spots in a month with plenty of hockey remaining against high-quality opponents.
So what’s the difference? A quick summary…
– Health. A young Miami team already lacking a ton of depth couldn’t catch a break in this department the first 16 games. Carson Meyer, Louie Belpedio, Ryan Larkin, Jared Brandt and Josh Melnick – all major contributors on RedHawks Version 2016-17 – missed a combined 15 games with various injuries and illnesses. All are currently healthy now and playing at a high level.
– Third-period turnaround. As documented previously, Miami was outscored, 14-3 during its 0-7-3 run in the third period. During their winning streak, the RedHawks have netted 11 goals in the last frame. Opponents: 2. They’re finishing stronger and appear in better shape than earlier in the campaign. Miami found ways to lose games it led the first couple of months and now is pulling them out late.
– Power play. With plenty of minutes under its belt as a unit, the Belpedio-Melnick-Anthony Louis-Kiefer Sherwood-Meyer group has impressed with its puck movement, and after going six straight games without a goal on the man-advantage (0-for-19), Miami is 4 of 13 (30.8 percent) in the three contests since.
– Melnick on fire. The sophomore scored one time in the first 16 games but has found the net in four straight, netting five goals and setting up another in that span. That includes two overtime winners and the tying goal on Friday. He wins the hardest-to-figure-out-how-he-scored award, as after watching his Saturday goal live and several more times on replay it was still unclear how the redirected the puck in. Both OT goals were highlight-reel quality but also required slow-mo.
– Confidence in other forwards. Forgive if anyone is left out, but among freshmen, Gordie Green is getting better every game, so is Willie Knierim. Alex Alger is a solid fourth-line pest, and Karch Bachman has a great shot and better speed, and he has huge upside.
– Defense is a little more stable. Miami isn’t quite where it was last season, but that’s because Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart were about as steady as it gets in the NCAA in terms of shut-down D-men. With their departure the returning blueliners are higher in the depth chart consistently facing better forwards, and it’s a tough adjustment. But Grant Hutton, who was so strong as a freshman, is becoming more consistent, and Grant Frederic continues to improve and has been better about staying out of the box. The RedHawks allowed 90 shots in a weekend series in Denver – remarkably tying both games – but has surrendered an average of just 24.0 in the eight games since and had outshot opponents in seven straight before Saturday’s game.
– Sherwood is taking over portions of games. There are times now when no one can take the puck away from Sherwood, and he’s exponentially tougher to defend with his passing game evolving. His double-clutch before sliding a pass through to Green for Miami’s second goal on Saturday is a prime example: Teams can no longer play for that lethal shot from the left faceoff circle. The NCHC clearly has the scouting report on Sherwood’s happy zone, but he is moving around on power plays and inflicting damage elsewhere, having adjusted to the conference’s adjustment. And he scored the RedHawks’ first shorthanded goal of the year to open the scoring.
– And of course, a little puck luck. As everything seemed to be going wrong for Miami, that intangible made things worse at times, as the RedHawks hit posts and were victimized by bad bounces. The Hockey Gods appear to be balancing things out recently, as opponents are drawing iron and not getting breaks they were the first couple of months.
FORWARDS: B. This corps scored a goal shorthanded, at even strength and on the power play. The forwards really didn’t generate a ton of chances, but they cashed in on the Grade-A opportunities. And St. Cloud State always seemed to have sticks and bodies in the shooting lanes. If we had to nit-pick, the bottom two lines didn’t do a whole lot and haven’t scored much all season. We could also mention that 12 forwards managed just 17 shots and a few were weak one at an idle goalie.
DEFENSEMEN: B. It’s been a gradual process, but the blueliners are getting beaten less often than in weeks past. The Huskies entered this weekend averaging nearly 3½ goals per game but had limited chances and just one marker in this game, thanks largely to this group. This was one of Hutton’s better games, and he added the cherry on top with the ENG in the final minute after intercepting the puck at center ice. Scott Dornbrock blocked five shots.
GOALTENDING: A. Notice how goaltending wasn’t mentioned before. The reason is that Larkin has been steady throughout, and without him Miami would not have seven wins. That said, he was even better than usual in this game, stopping 28 shots, with his lone blemish being a heat-seeking laser off a drop pass. Larkin faced some difficult shots but as is his MO allowed a very limited number of rebounds.
LINEUP CHANGES: Same six on D, same goalie, just one change up front. Carter Johnson was scratched for the first time this season in favor of Alger. With four straight wins and the team playing its best hockey of the season, the lineup card probably won’t change a whole lot.
OXFORD, Ohio – After playing enough free hockey, Miami has gotten quite good at it.
Having gone to the extra session eight times in 19 games, the RedHawks won their third overtime game of the season on Friday, 3-2 over St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.
The paragraph would’ve generated ample laughter if written six weeks ago, but Miami has been clutch late in games.
The biggest statistical difference between the RedHawks’ 0-7-3 stretch and their current 3-0 run? They were outscored, 14-3 in the third period and beyond during the former and have notched 10 goals to their opponents’ one in the three since, all wins.
Instead of giving games away late, Miami is pulling off wins thanks to third-period rallies.
Two of those three wins have been decided in overtime, with Josh Melnick netting the game-winning markers in both. He also scored late in the first period at Ohio State with five seconds left in the first period to cut Miami’s deficit to one, 2-1, completely changing the course of that eventual 6-3 MU win.
Yes, St. Cloud State has dropped to No. 20 and was without a top player and coach Bob Motzko, holdovers from the World Juniors who were unable to reach Oxford by game time, but the Huskies are still an excellent, well-coached team that is outstanding at shutting down shooting lanes.
The RedHawks definitely had to earn this win, and despite all of their first-half issues are just two games under .500 with a chance to climb into a tie for fifth in the NCHC with another win on Saturday parlayed with a Nebraska-Omaha loss (the Mavericks fell to North Dakota, 9-1 on Friday).
Sure, Miami had some bad luck with key injuries and illnesses early, but the team just didn’t look confident in these clutch situations the first two months of the season. The RedHawks found ways to lose, but now they’re finding ways to win these tight contests against quality opponents.
Even if it isn’t showing up on the score sheet, you can see certain players evolving, which from a fan perspective is one of the most fun things about college hockey.
Carson Meyer and Ryan Larkin have been the co-valedictorians of this Miami freshman hockey class to this point, no doubt, but Gordie Green is playing with so much more confidence, and so is Willie Knierim, who has a ton of upside largely – pun somewhat intended – because of his size. a great example. So is Karch Bachman, who has blazing speed and a wicked wrister but doesn’t seem to get put into situations that could garner success.
Defenseman Grant Frederic also quietly seems to get better every game, and Jared Brandt has been that steady defensive D-man Miami always seems to bring in to shore up that corps.
This team is so much better now that in was during the 0-7-3 skid, and a key win like this is a major validation of that statement.
– Not sure I’ve seen a game in which dumb penalties have resulted in all of the final three critical goals. Miami’s Colin Sullivan, a fifth-year senior who we’ve praised here repeatedly and at times questioned why he hasn’t played more, drove a player into the boards late in the third period of a 1-1 game despite seeing the number on the back of his jersey from the Indiana border. And St. Cloud went ahead on a power play goal it scored as a result, but fortunately for Miami the Huskies took an even dumber penalty a half minute later, and the RedHawks’ Melnick scored both the tying and go-ahead goals on the resulting major.
– (continued) With his team leading, 2-1, Jacob Benson targeted the head of Meyer on an open-ice hit and rightly drew a five-minute major and was booted from the game. Fortunately Meyer wasn’t hurt, but Melnick scored both of his goals on that penalty, which were the tying and game-winning goals. Guessing Benson isn’t a really popular player on SCSU right now.
– Is it really that hard for linesmen to drop pucks for faceoffs? Does anyone really want to see multiple re-drops?
– The power play. Miami had its struggles early on the man-advantage but scored both of its late goals on Melnick PPGs, giving the RedHawks three tallies in their last 10 chances over the past two games. They were 0-for-19 in their previous six contests. Still looking for that first shorty though – MU is one of only nine D-I teams without one this season.
– On a personal note, a win like this, and the OSU one, and the Colorado College one, make it a lot more fun to come to the rink. I can’t wait for Saturday’s game. At 3-8-5, it was harder to get psyched for the 65-minute drive to Cady Arena.
– Understand the J-term concept but still hate seeing the rink mostly void of students and fans overall. The attendance was 1,717. Not much expected for Game 2 either.
– On another personal note, I apologize for not doing more in terms of pro and FutureHawks updates the first half of the season. Lots going on, but hope to rectify that during this critical final months of the season, and we promise to write some player features down the stretch. Thanks for everyone’s patience and understanding.
FORWARDS: B+. This was a tough gig for this group, as Miami’s forwards faced a quality group of shut-down defensemen and goalie, but they managed three goals, all in the final 10 minutes of regulation and OT. Finishing with 34 shots is good, but a few too many were weak looks with no traffic that had zero chance to hitting the net. In addition to the obvious (Melnick-Louis), really liked Meyer’s all-around game, and Kiefer Sherwood and Justin Greenberg have really improved on their faceoffs, although I admit I’ve never seen anyone win draws consistently like Sherwood does, dropping to one knee each time.
DEFENSEMEN: B-. In 11 years of watching every minute of every game at Cady Arena, I’ve never seen a group that is so hard to grade. Grant Hutton got beaten badly on a drive to the net that was stopped by Larkin but was solid otherwise. Scott Dornbrock didn’t have a particularly strong game. Louie Belpedio was excellent overall and picked up two helpers. Miami seriously missed him as a the power play quarterback when he was injured.
GOALTENDING: B+. Larkin had no chance on the first SCSU goal, as he made the initial save on a point-blank rip but no one picked up the goal scorer. The second one was on the power play and hit a post before dropping at the top of the crease for a tap-in. He was 29 of 31 for a .935 save percentage. He did seem a hair shaky early but was outstanding the final 40-plus minutes.
LINEUP CHANGES: Chaz Switzer and Bryce Hatten both sat on defense for the second straight game, and this is about the time the starting 18 solidifies, so they may be the odd men out down the stretch. Hatten was injured almost all of 2015-16 and Switzer logged 121 USHL games before turning 19 and heading to Oxford, so both have bright futures, but their games are still evolving. Karch Bachman was out with an illness last week but returned, sending Alex Alger to the stands. Alger has been a pest and has played well as a fourth-liner, and one wonders if his playing time would be more substantial had he not been absolutely robbed on a blast from the slot earlier this season and rang one off the post on another. Will Ryan Larkin be in net for the remainder of Miami’s games? There’s a good chance, although Chase Munroe’s win vs. Colorado College had to help the team overall, as he proved himself a solid backup.
OXFORD, Ohio – It was a fun way to end a not-so-fun streak.
Miami trailed, 2-0 midway through the third period but ended up beating Colorado College, 3-2 in overtime at Cady Arena on Saturday.
The RedHawks (4-8-2) finish the first half of the season with <— that record.
It was a bittersweet win for a number of reasons.
PROS: Great comeback. Some of the most intense hockey Miami has played in the final stretch of the game. The RedHawks were physically involved. The win gives the team some momentum heading into the break. Chase Munroe was solid in net, earning his first career win.
CONS: Colorado College was ranked 48th in college hockey entering the weekend. Miami shouldn’t have needed motivation to play the first 50 minutes. Any momentum from this win could be squelched by 20 days off.
Not to be a downer, but the first con should count double. Last season it seemed like the RedHawks were ready to take the NCHC by ice storm after Jay Williams shut the Tigers out for a two-game series, becoming the first MU player to accomplish that feat.
They were the last wins of the season for Miami.
This fall, people see the team record and ask what the team’s problem is. It’s not an east question to answer and most don’t accept the offer to have a few pints and discuss.
As a season ticket holder for 11 years one tries to dwell on the positives, but one has also seen a couple hundred games in this rink and knows to keep perspective after an emotional regular season win or loss. It’s a long season with many, many ups and downs.
The coaches say the process is paramount, but with the exception of the occasional bad bounce and goalies stealing games, process and record typically are directly proportional.
This comeback win with a spectacular ending was great for the team and the fans, but it only counts as one win, and because of the 16 games before it, Miami has to put together a lot more ‘W’s in the next three months.
– If you haven’t seen Josh Melnick’s game winner, the link is at the end of this explanation, but it requires setting up because it’s hard to see the puck, even after several views.
Go to the 3:35 mark and change the setting to “slow”. Carson Meyer shoots the puck from along the boards, and it goes out of sight for a second, but keep an eye around Melnick’s right knee. The puck reappears, drops toward the ice and he bats it into the net. Amazing goal.
Link is here:
– Loved seeing Karch Bachman use his speed to create Miami’s first goal. He threw the puck into the corner, chased it down and fed it to Willie Knierim in front of the net. Look forward to seeing him showcase his skills more the next 3½ years.
FORWARDS: B. Was hovering around a flunking grade halfway through the third period. This corps still didn’t help create a power play goal, but the puck movement and chances were a lot better. Coach Enrico Blasi is still adjusting the lines but overall the line chemistry seemed improved over Friday. Meyer has been a huge help since returning.
DEFENSEMEN: C. Chaz Switzer’s turnover ended up in Miami’s net, and a total breakdown resulted in the odd-man chance that became Colorado College’s second goal. Mistakes will happen but they will get a lot harder to overcome when the RedHawks play the loaded schedule they have awaiting them in January and February.
GOALTENDING: B+. Munroe’s first and second starts were polar opposites. He looked calm on Saturday and nervous in his starting debut. He controlled his rebounds and stopped all of the routine shots in this game. The first goal was on a breakaway. The second was on a 2-on-0 that he made a spectacular initial save on before the follow-up was banged in. So neither were on him.
LINEUP CHANGES: Blasi benched two-thirds of his third line on Saturday – Ryan Siroky and Zach Lavalle. Alex Alger was back in the lineup after sitting for three games, and Knierim returned to the ice and scored the first Miami goal. On defense, Jared Brandt was scratched again but should be fine in three weeks. The Munroe start was a bit of surprise, since regular starter Ryan Larkin played well on Friday, but it worked out well. Perhaps Blasi was sending a message to his team about its overall play in Game 1 of the series, or maybe he thought this was a rare chance to give Larkin a break before an arduous second half.
OXFORD, Ohio – Surely Miami’s winless streak has to end on Saturday, right?
If the RedHawks can’t at least earn one win on its home ice against Colorado College, MU will have to beat a top-20 team to snap its skid, since every one of its remaining opponents is ranked.
The RedHawks skated to their 10th straight non-win on Friday, tying the Tigers, 1-1 at Cady Arena. It was Miami’s third consecutive NCHC deadlock, and the team has yet to win in conference play (0-4-3).
After its series finale vs. CC on Saturday, MU is off the next two weeks, then it’s off to Ohio State. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 10 in the USCHO poll.
Here’s the remaining schedule with team rankings.
at No. 10 Ohio State
No. 17 ST. CLOUD (2)
at No. 8 North Dakota (2)
at No. 20 UNO (2)
No. 18 W. MICHIGAN (2)
at No. 17 St. Cloud (2)
(then it really gets fun)
No. 2 DENVER
at No. 1 Minn.-Duluth
No. 8 NORTH DAKOTA
Now back to this series.
The Tigers entered this weekend having lost seven straight and had allowed 31 goals in that span. Only one of their first 14 opponents had been held to one goal, yet Miami was unable to get out of the binary range.
Considering both teams’ woes, it’s sort of fitting that neither team would come away from Friday with a win.
But this can’t happen for Miami on Saturday if it wants to salvage this season.
The RedHawks’ finale against CC is their 17th game of the season. A win would put them at 4-8-5, and they would probably need to go at least 12-5 for get into PairWise-at large consideration.
A tall order, certainly, but a loss in this one would force a 13-4 finish or better. Reference the above remaining schedule to see Miami’s chances, or any NCAA team’s odds of winning 13 of 17 against those opponents.
Twelve wins in 17 would give Miami 43 points with a win vs. Colorado College and 40 with a loss. That could be the difference between an all-important fourth seed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the NCHC’s or a fifth seed and a road trip in a hostile rink to extend its season like in 2015-16.
The RedHawks have a ton of work to do if they hope to get back into NCAA consideration but that workload increases substantially if they can’t pick the only low-hanging fruit remaining on their schedule.
– This game was actually pretty boring, which can be expected when two teams that aren’t playing well show why their records are where they are. But just based on Friday’s 65-minute sample, it doesn’t look like Colorado College has the talent to compete in this league, while Miami is underachieving among other issues. Heading into the second half of the year, the RedHawks are in the better position to turn things around.
– Coach Enrico Blasi has been playing with the lines, and one interesting combination was Gordie Green, Josh Melnick and Karch Bachman. Green was a solid point producer in the USHL but he has just four this season and two since opening night. Bachman has blazing speed and a great shot but he hasn’t been cast into a role in which he can thrive. Green set up Bachman with a couple of great passes and Bachman nearly found the net. It’s a small line with a ton of speed and has a lot of potential.
– Speaking of Melnick, he was double-shifted nearly the entire second period, joining the fourth line as well as his own. Colin Sullivan was listed as a forward but played a significant amount of defense and Melnick absorbed much of his ice time up front.
– Can’t take credit for this line – heard it used by Mike Babcock but not sure if he was the originator either – but if Miami’s power play gets much worse the RedHawks want to consider declining penalties. In six minutes on the man advantage Miami generated one shot. MU has not scored a PPG in five games.
– The attendance for this one was a season-low 1,992 despite class still being in session. That’s the worst gate total at Cady since Jan. 9 during the J-term. If this team doesn’t get better expect a half-empty arena the second half of the year.
FORWARDS: D+. Colorado College isn’t an impressive lot yet Miami scored just one goal. The RedHawks had some dominant stretches but that should be a given against a team that is 3-11 and ranked in the bottom 20 percent of college hockey. Louis did have eight shots. Justin Greenberg continues to get better on faceoffs and may be the team’s best forward on draws at this point.
DEFENSEMEN: B. This corps kept the mistakes to a minimum, which has not always been the case this season. Grant Frederic quietly seems to get better every game. The strange thing with Miami’s defensemen is that three seasons ago only Matthew Caito appeared to have the green light to join the rush, and the other blueliners would act like they had bungie cords tied to them when they reached the blue line. Now all six/seven jump in all the time, sometimes even going behind opponents’ nets. Can there be a happy medium?
GOALTENDING: B+. Ryan Larkin was solid as usual but didn’t see a ton of high-percentage shots. He continues to do a fantastic job with positioning and controlling rebounds. Not sure what happened on the goal – it was a weird angle and seemed to surprise Larkin. It didn’t look like he saw it very well. What a goalie allows one goal his team should win most nights.
LINEUP CHANGES: Can this team ever get completely healthy? Jared Brandt missed his second straight game with an upper body injury but shouldn’t be out much longer. He has been a solid stay-at-home defenseman on a Miami team that has really needed a solid stay-at-home defenseman. The RedHawks played their other seven defensemen, with Sullivan listed at forward to start the game. At forward, Willie Knierim was a rare scratch and Alex Alger sat for the third straight game.
A week off and the return of two key players were not enough to lift Miami out of the doldrums.
Despite a promising start that saw the RedHawks jump out to a two-goal lead, Cornell rallied to a 4-2 win over MU on Friday.
That makes eight straight games without a win for Miami (3-7-4), its longest winless span in two decades. And in the third period, the RedHawks have allowed 14 goals during their slump. They’ve scored twice.
Closing out games has been a residual theme for Miami over the past decade – since That Game That Will Not Be Mentioned, really – but right now this team is really in a third-period funk.
The parity in college hockey is too great to give games away, and this is the second time during this skid that Miami has done just that. Flip those losses to wins – not a stretch considering MU led by two late in the second period of both games in question – and the RedHawks are 5-5-4.
In the NCHC, one or two games over .500 is good enough for NCAA consideration, and Miami would be right there.
Youth becomes less of an excuse every time this team takes the ice. Yes, the RedHawks still have 14 freshmen on their roster, but they’ve been playing competitive games for two months now and most of these guys come in at 19, 20 or 21 now.
We’ll say it again: Having a young team means so much less in hockey than it does in the Big Two. There’s the older player factor (only Willie Knierim is a true freshman) and these guys play 70-game seasons in juniors prior to college.
Of the previous eight seasons, Miami has advanced in the NCAA Tournament three times. Twice it has been during the freshman-heavy recruiting campaign. The other was 2009-10, a team with eight sophomores and only four seniors, went to the Frozen Four.
That’s not to say this team won’t get better as the season progresses. But there’s no excuse for any team to squander multiple multiple-goal leads late.
The RedHawks play 34 regular season games. This was Game 14, with Game 15 set for Saturday night. Miami returns home to host Colorado College for a pair, which will take the team to the midway point of its schedule.
Granted, four ties essentially equals two wins, but the RedHawks need to string together some W’s quickly or they could be looking at another short postseason and long off-season.
– First a couple of positives. Carson Meyer returned after missing four straight games, and he scored Miami’s first goal. In 10 games he has three markers and eight assists for a freshman-best 11 points.
– Captain Louie Belpedio also was back in the RedHawks’ lineup, having sat the last six with a lower body injury. Miami was outshot in every game he was out – 220-151 in those contests – and the RedHawks actually led, 31-25 in SOG on Friday. On the flip side, he took three penalties down the stretch and Cornell scored Goal No. 4 on the second minor.
– Goals: Other than Meyer, Grant Hutton scored his fourth of the season after posting no goals and five assists in 2015-16. Also, freshman Karch Bachman recorded the first of his college career. This pair led the team in shots: Bachman finished with six and Hutton – a defensive defenseman – ended the night with five.
– Miami was only on the power play twice on Friday while Cornell (6-3-1) had six chances on the man-advantage. That differential of minus-4 opportunities was a season low for the RedHawks. MU was outscored, 1-0 on the man-advantage and obviously lost by one goal overall.
– Talk about a slick highlights reel: Check out the one the Big Red put together for Friday’s game. Or, considering the outcome, maybe just watch the first half.
Just when it seemed like Miami had pulled off a surprise by tying No. 1 Denver once on its home ice at elevation, the RedHawks did it again a night later.
MU and the Pioneers skated to a 2-2 tie in a series that Miami entered as a huge underdog, having lost its previous five.
Like Friday, the RedHawks were severely outshot, 51-26 including 22-3 in the first period (that’s a 37-6 first-period shot advantage for DU on the weekend).
As we’re constantly reminded, especially with a young team, the season is a process, and hanging with the top team in NCAA for six period in a hostile rink a mile above sea level will do wonders for Miami’s confidence.
And let’s face it, that confidence couldn’t have been in a great place after a pair of demoralizing losses at home to UNO last weekend.
At the same time, confidence builder or not, the RedHawks (3-6-4) are still winless in league play with two of a possible 18 points a quarter of a way through their NCHC schedule. They have three wins in 13 games and haven’t picked up a victory in November, with their last coming on Oct. 28.
Youth breeds inconsistency, something we’ve been reminded of often the first two months of this season, and while it can be incredibly frustrating, weekends like this show that at least Miami appears headed in the right direction overall.
– You know what is consistent for Miami? Ryan Larkin. He posted a .963 save percentage this weekend, making 87 saves on 90 shots. The RedHawks have certainly had rough patches this season, but imagine if Larkin wasn’t between the pipes.
– Willie Knierim hasn’t looked completely confident at times this season, but hopefully his rebound goal will springboard his overall game. After the puck hit goalie Tanner Jaillet, it popped into the air and Knierim banged it home before it hit the ice. It was a goal-scorer’s goal and from in close, and area the wide-body could have a lot of collegiate success as he adapts to this level.
– With injuries and such plaguing a Miami team that was never terribly deep, Colin Sullivan played forward on Friday and shifted back to defense on Saturday. Coach Enrico Blasi loves guys he can play anywhere, and Sullivan can do just that, plus the fifth-year senior provides experience on a team lacking in that department. Defenseman Bryce Hatten sat out on Saturday after playing Friday, and forward Alex Alger returned to the lineup sheet.
– The upcoming off weekend is bittersweet, as Miami would probably like to capitalize on the momentum it built this weekend, but at the same time it can certainly use another week to heal. Louie Belpedio should be ready and will fortify the blueline substantially, and Carson Meyer may be ready to go as well.
– Justin Greenberg has really stepped up not only on the PK but in the faceoff circle. He was 11-5 on draws Saturday and 20-10 for the weekend.
Blog of Brotherhood doesn’t make predictions on games, and Friday was Exhibit A as to why that’s the case.
After losing five straight games – three of which were at home – Miami skated to a 1-1 tie against No. 1 Denver at Magness Arena, which is at an altitude of over 5,000 feet.
When we last left the RedHawks, they were drubbed in their own building by Nebraska-Omaha, 6-2 a night after blowing a 4-1 lead in what was ultimately a 6-4 loss.
In addition to proving that hockey is impossible to predict, we are reminded of another of the sport’s axioms, which is that goaltending is king and a dominant goalie can steal games. Miami was outshot, 39-21 including 15-3 in a first period that saw the RedHawks emerge with a 1-0 lead.
Granted Ryan Larkin didn’t pick up the win, but Miami had little chance if he didn’t stop 45 shots, 38 of which were official because they happened in regular and the legitimate overtime (the other seven were in five minutes of 3-on-3, which in itself is mind-blowing).
The RedHawks were still without captain Louie Belpedio on Friday and showed they are still capable of hanging with the best team in college hockey for 65 minutes.
That has to help this team’s confidence.
There was nowhere to go but up after the giant egg Miami laid last Saturday, and the RedHawks deserve a lot of credit for their significant ascension from six days earlier.
– It was hoped Belpedio would be back this week, but the lower-body injury that he is battling through cost him a fifth straight game. Miami is 0-4-1 without him. His return – whenever that is – will bolster the D-corps substantially and give coach Enrico Blasi more flexibility on his lineup card.
– Carson Meyer missed his third straight game. Hopefully with the off week for Thanksgiving next weekend, Miami will have both Meyer and Belpedio back when it resumes action at Cornell on Dec. 2. Meyer was starting to make a major impact, going 2-8-10 to lead all freshmen.
– There were three total power plays in this game – two for the RedHawks and one for Denver – and six combined penalty minutes assessed. No, really. Miami had averaged seven power plays and six penalty kills through its first 11 games. Neither team scored during the man-advantage, snapping a four-game stretch in which the RedHawks had allowed at least two PPGs. So that’s a positive.
– It was great to see Grant Hutton get a goal after an uncharacteristically poor showing last weekend. He did not register a goal his freshman year but has three in 12 games in 2016-17 and is arguably the top shut-down blueliner on the team.
– In the that-wouldn’t-have-happened-last-year department, how about Anthony Louis stripping a player to set up the Hutton goal? He’s always been a very good player but never was a major factor on D and along with Kiefer Sherwood has to be one of the top picks for most improved player.
– Believe it or not, this was just the third time this season Miami has blanked an opponent in the third period. Teams have outscored the RedHawks, 11-0 in the previous six third periods and Miami snapped a six-game streak in which it had been scored on in the final frame.