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Analysis: MU unable to finish chances

OXFORD, Ohio – Friday’s game can be summed up in two themes.

One, Miami was unable to capitalize on its ample scoring chances.

Two, Minnesota-Duluth netted devastating, timely goals right after RedHawks surges to kill their momentum.

The final result: A 3-1 Bulldogs win over Miami at Cady Arena in the series opener.

The RedHawks hit four posts, missed multiple additional A-plus chances from in close and finished with 29 shots on goal in addition to those that drew iron.

Hunter Shepard, the No. 14 Bulldogs’ goalie who stopped 28 shots and played exceptionally, turned three SOG aside during a Miami power play, during which the RedHawks seemed to have the puck deep in their offensive zone for the duration.

Sixty-one seconds after that man-advantage ended, Miami was picking it out of its own net.

Then came Glassgate, when a pane of glass in the corner of the rink shattered and needed to be replaced. A UMD goal and a 15-minute delay later, any momentum the RedHawks still had was long gone.

That was late in a first period that saw Miami dominate, 11-4 on the shot counter (although the Bulldogs’ first two shots in the opening minutes were never counted).

Minnesota-Duluth (6-5-2) shut down the RedHawks’ offense in the second period, holding them to three shots.

But Miami (4-6-1) controlled play early in the third period, as Carson Meyer tied it on a power play.

The majority of play the first three quarters of that final stanza were played in the Bulldogs’ zone.

Then MU’s Casey Gilling was whistled for boarding. Then UMD scored. Then UMD scored again.

Game over.

Other thoughts…

– It’s encouraging that Miami was able to dictate play for large parts of a game against a ranked team. Though the RedHawks need to win a majority of these games, obviously, this was a good litmus test for MU and shows they can compete against ranked teams.

Miami is certainly better than Connecticut and swept that series. Dare we say the RedHawks appear stronger than Colorado College although the teams split that set. North Dakota is, well, really good, and MU went 0-1-1 there.

Duluth, on the rankings bubble with a lot of its key players from 2016-17 gone but boasting a strong freshman class and a lot of solid returnees? It’s intriguing to see how Miami fares against a team like that.

Process still matters, and the RedHawks largely passed that test on Friday, but the end result was obviously not what fans/players/coaches would’ve wanted.

– Game time: 2:40. That has to be one of the longest non-overtime contests in some time.

– Miami won 37 of 62 faceoffs, or 60 percent. This has been an area of weakness in recent years for the RedHawks, so the turnaround is welcome. Gilling was 11-6, Kiefer Sherwood 11-8 and Josh Melnick 7-6.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D+. Chances are great but Miami needed to score more than one goal. Faceoffs, as mentioned, were a strong suit. Four members of this corps took penalties (Sherwood, Gilling, Ryan Siroky, Conor Lemirande), and the PPG off the Gilling boarding call was devastating (and yes, that was the right call – he had a player lined up and pounded him with the numbers/letters showing). Sherwood turned it over on a clearing chance in the first period, and UMD put it in the net. Melnick had a pass picked on the PK and that ended up being the Bulldogs’ second goal.

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

DEFENSEMEN: B. This is a curious group, with several members appearing to be given the green light to jump into the offensive zone and others not. But it seems to be working, evidenced by a Bulldogs shot total of 19. Louie Belpedio is putting points up, but his defense is way better than last season (not sure how healthy he really was in 2016-17). Scott Dornbrock is also playing at a noticeably higher level, and his positioning is much improved. No opponent around Grant Hutton, whose defensive play is still underrated. Alec Mahalak did throw a puck along the boards on a failed clearing attempt that resulted in UMD’s third goal.

GOALTENDING: C-. This seems to be Ryan Larkin’s MO recently: He makes a couple of spectacular saves but allows a goal or two he could’ve stopped. The second UMD shot was a quickly-developing one-timer that he had no chance on, but he got glove on the first shot, which deflected over the goal line, and the third goal seemed to slide under his pads from well outside the top of the faceoff circle. His save percentage for season is still just .880, and this 16 of 19 performance did not help that.

LINEUP CHANGES: Up front, Sherwood, a healthy scratch in the North Dakota finale, was back in the lineup. He replaced Zach LaValle, who had played in nine of the first 10. Willie Knierim dressed for the second straight game, as Austin Alger was out for his second consecutive contest. It sounds like Alger may miss some time after suffering an undisclosed upper-body injury. On defense, Rourke Russell was back on the lineup sheet after missing his first game last Saturday. That sent Grant Frederic to the stands after he had played two games in a row.

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Last-second goal dooms Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – For the second time in six home games, a Miami opponent scored the game-winning goal in the final second of a period.

Westin Michaud found the net with one tick remaining in the second period to lift Colorado College to a 2-1 win over the RedHawks at Cady Arena on Saturday.

The first weekend of the season, MU gave up the winning goal in the final second of the third period in a 3-2 loss to Providence.

Miami’s Conor Lemirande (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

With 4:09 left in the first period, Miami took the lead when Ryan Siroky carried the puck into the zone and slid a pass to Conor Lemirande, who beat Alex Leclerc inside the far post.

The Tigers (6-4) tied it two minutes into the second period when Christiano Versich fed a pass from along the boards to Tanner Ockey in the slot, and Ockey ripped a one-timer past goalie Ryan Larkin on the glove side.

The decisive goal with time running out in the middle frame came when Michaud took a backdoor pass from Nick Halloran as he joined a power play rush late and blasted one past Larkin from the inside of the faceoff circle.

Colorado College appeared to take a two-goal lead midway through the third period but that marker was waved off because a Tiger was in the crease.

Miami (4-4) outshot Colorado College, 11-3 in the final frame but was unable to generate the equalizer.

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

Lemirande’s goal was his first since Nov. 11, 2016, Siroky picked up his first assist of the season and Austin Alger earned his first career helper on the play.

The RedHawks were 0-for-6 on the power play and Miami was shut out on the man advantage for the weekend.

The loss snapped a three-game RedHawks winning streak, and Miami fell to 1-1 in the conference.

Miami heads to North Dakota next weekend for its first conference road games of 2017-18.

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.

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.

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.