OXFORD, Ohio – Because it was televised nationally, Miami’s game on Friday started a half hour later than normal.
Unfortunately the RedHawks didn’t begin play until well after that.
MU surrendered three goals in the first 10 minutes in an eventual 5-2 loss to No. 4 St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.
Miami (10-14-3) did battle back with a couple of second-period goals but could not generate the equalizer.
Colorado College won at North Dakota on Friday as well, leapfrogging Nebraska-Omaha and pushing six points ahead of the RedHawks, who are 1-6-1 in their last eight. The Mavericks are in seventh, four points up on last-place Miami.
All eight teams in the NCHC will have played 18 of their 24 league games after Saturday, so regardless of the outcome in the final, MU will head into the final three weekends of the regular season in last place.
RECAP: Fans were still filing in when Robby Jackson and Blake Lizotte threw pucks into the net 70 seconds apart, giving SCSU a 2-0 lead just over three minutes in.
It was Mikey Eyssimont extending the Huskies’ lead to three at the 9:39 mark.
Josh Melnick had a pass intercepted at the blue line, resulting in the first goal, Chaz Switzer was skated around by Lizotte and Kiefer Sherwood blew a tire at the red line when Eyssimont scored.
The RedHawks scored 1:47 apart in the second period to cut the deficit to one.
Gordie Green banged home a loose puck from the slot after a pass from behind the net by Carter Johnson was partially deflected. Ben Lown put the puck on net by poking it between a SCSU defender’s legs, and the rebound was jammed home by Phil Knies.
Miami had a couple of chances to tie it late in the second period, but the Huskies iced it seven minutes into the third period when Kevin Fitzgerald stripped Willie Knierim at the blue line and beat goalie Ryan Larkin five hole.
The RedHawks pulled Larkin with over six minutes left, and Jackson hit the empty net for the final tally.
STATS: Green extended his points streak to four games, a current team high. He leads Miami with 12 goals including the one in this contest.
— Only five blocked shots for the RedHawks.
— Johnson’s assist gives him points in consecutive games for the first time in his career.
— Miami failed to score on the power play, snapping a six-game streak. But the RedHawks did not yield a goal on the man advantage for the first time in eight games.
— All seven goals were scored in the south end of the rink.
THOUGHTS: It’s baffling that the RedHawks wouldn’t be ready for this series, and against a team as good as St. Cloud State, Miami paid dearly.
MU tried to battle back and was the better team in the second period, but the damage had been done.
And that’s what’s enough to drive one batty with this team. This team is good enough to hang with the best teams in Division I for stretches but not good enough to win those games.
— Larkin has gotten some leeway because of the quality of shots he’s faced, but he’s getting beaten too often on stoppable shots – especially high to the glove side – and that’s contributing to MU’s second-half slide. His save percentage of .883 would be the worst of any starting goalie since Enrico Blasi’s first season in 1999-2000.
— Johnson is making it harder to keep him out of the lineup. He played 37 games last season and earned just three points and sat the bench almost the entire first half of 2017-18. But he is 1-1-2 his last two games, is providing much-needed energy on the lower lines and is using his size to win battles along the boards.
— St. Cloud State has the best transition game of any team to come to Cady Arena this season. The Huskies are able to go end-to-end in a couple of seconds and create odd-man rushes off of opponents’ misses. They definitely are every bit as good or better than on television.
— Kevin Fitzergerald made arguably the defensive play of the year when he put his stick up and blocked a would-be third-period goal by Casey Gilling at the side of the net. The goalie would have had no chance.
— For the second straight game, Miami had a major power play in the third period with a chance to get back into a game and did bupkis with it. The PP1 has been solid all season but the RedHawks haven’t been able to put together a solid secondary combination of skaters for extended man-advantage opportunities.
FORWARDS: C-. Three bad turnovers ended up in Miami’s net, negating the two goals this corps recorded.
DEFENSEMEN: C. Tough call here. Didn’t give up too many great scoring chances except for the second goal, didn’t contribute anything offensively. Grant Hutton was definitely the star of this class.
GOALTENDING: D. Larkin needed to stop at least one of the goals allowed, especially early when the game was in the balance. He has tons of talent but it’s unclear if he’s struggling because of the high number of minutes played or a waning confidence level after facing so many Grade-A chances.
LINEUP CHANGES: None. This was the third straight game Blasi started the same 19.
FINAL THOUGHTS: St. Cloud State (18-6-3) is a force and should contend for the national title. The Huskies played like champions in this game, taking the crowd out of it early, fending off Miami’s rush in the middle portion of the game stepping on the RedHawks’ throats in the end game.
SCSU is fast, handles and moves the puck exceptionally well and still manages to limit opponents’ opportunities despite playing an up-tempo style. And the Huskies were missing a defenseman who is playing for Team USA in the Olympics.
Fortunately this is one of the two NCHC teams the RedHawks only play twice this season.
OXFORD, Ohio – Groundhog Day should’ve been on Saturday instead of Friday.
Miami, seemingly caught in a never-ending loop of evaporating leads, yet again saw a two-goal advantage vanish in a 3-2 loss to Western Michigan at Cady Arena on Saturday.
A sweep of the Broncos that would have seen the RedHawks climb to within a game of .500 instead ended in a mercurial weekend split.
After playing so well on Friday and taking a 2-0 lead on Saturday, holding that advantage would’ve pulled Miami within four points of an injury-plagued WMU team that is without its best offensive weapon.
The Broncos would’ve been in a three-way tie for fourth place, and finishing in the top four in this conference is so important because it means home-ice advantage for the NCHC Tournament.
Instead, Miami is now 10 points behind WMU, and with eight games left, closing that gap will be nearly impossible with the RedHawks’ remaining schedule.
RECAP: The RedHawks caught an early break, as a Western Michigan goal midway through the first period was waved off after a review because it was determined the play was off-side.
Miami took advantage, as in the final minute of the opening frame, Casey Gilling whipped a shot just under the crossbar on the near side to put his team ahead.
The RedHawks went up by two when Carter Johnson tipped home a blue-line blast by Louie Belpedio at the 1:46 mark of the second period for his first collegiate goal.
But the Broncos ran off three straight goals in that decisive middle stanza.
Ethen Frank streaked through the slot, took a feed from Austin Rueschhoff and beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on his backhand less than two minutes later to make it 2-1.
Western Michigan tied it with exactly four minutes left in that frame on another Frank goal. Frank was a trailer on a 2-on-2, and he took a pass in the high slot from Dawson DiPietro and buried it.
Just 74 seconds later, the Broncos took their first lead of the weekend when Lawton Courtnall stole the puck from Conor Lemirande, went coast-to-coast and beat Larkin on the glove side from the slot.
Miami outshot WMU, 8-0 in the third period and had 7:36 of power play time but was unable to generate the equalizer.
THOUGHTS: From its highest-profile games to Saturday, damage control has been a decade-long issue for Miami teams.
Once again, a pair of critical goals against occurred in quick succession.
A glance at the RedHawks’ collapses this season alone:
– Game 2: Kasper Bjorkqvist scored the game winner one second left to lift Providence to a 2-1 win.
– Game 8: Miami led 1-0 after one period, Colorado College tied it in the second and Westin Michaud netted the winner in the final second of the second period.
– Game 11: Miami and Minnesota-Duluth were tied, 1-1 late in the third period, but Jared Thomas and Scott Perunovich found the net 76 seconds apart as the Bulldogs won, 3-1.
– Game 14: Miami was 36 seconds away from a win and sweep at Bowling Green, but Alec Rauhauser found the net with the extra attacker as the Falcons salvaged a 2-2 tie.
– Game 18: Like this weekend, Miami had beaten Western Michigan in the opener in Kalamazoo. But in the finale, the RedHawks blew a 3-1 lead as Wade Allison recorded a natural hat trick, cutting the deficit to one midway through the second period, tying it with 4:02 left in regulation and winning it in overtime.
– Games 21-22: Not blown leads but just pointing out how Miami has let games get away. In Game 21, UNO ran off 11 goals vs. Miami, a quarter-century worst mark for the RedHawks, and the Mavericks scored consecutive goals 41 seconds and seven (!!!) seconds apart. The next night, UNO scored four times in a 10:53 span of the second period, and the RedHawks tried to come back but fell short, 4-3. Three of those goals against were in a 5:13 window.
– Game 24: Another blown two-goal lead. Miami led, 4-2, but Colorado College cut the deficit to one late in the second period and Trevor Gooch tied it midway through the final stanza.
– Game 26: Miami was ahead, 2-0 but allowed the final three goals in the second period, including two 74 seconds apart.
— Weird that WMU was whistled for too many men twice in the first 3:18 minutes of the first period.
— Miami actually held the Broncos without a SOG the entire third period.
LINEUP CHANGES: None.
FORWARDS: C. Congratulations to Johnson for his first career goal on a sweet tip-in, and this corps – as well as the entire team – was solid for the first half of the game but seemed to run out of gas down the stretch. Gilling’s goal was a snipe, and it’s pretty obvious he’s going to be a major part of this team for the next three-plus years. Lemirande’s turnover hurt on the third goal, and it’s been a recurring theme that trailers have scored against Miami because no one has picked them up.
DEFENSEMEN: B-. A decent but not great night for the corps. Louie Belpedio picked up assists on both Miami goals. Western Michigan did miss a few Grade-A chances and hit multiple posts. The trailer issue applies to the blueliners as well. Miami has gotten burned far too many times this season when opponents have entered the zone unabated.
GOALTENDING: D+. Larkin only made 13 saves and should’ve made at least one stop on the three WMU goals. He does see a lot of Grade-A chances but Miami needs him to stop more pucks.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A 6-2 finish or better is the only way Miami could re-gain at-large consideration after yet another blown lead costs this team valuable league points and costs the RedHawks in the PairWise.
The RedHawks are now 25th and would need to be over .500 to earn a berth.
Miami isn’t as talented as some of the teams in this conference but as documented above, it should have a better record than 10-13-3.
The window is closing quickly for the RedHawks, who will host a St. Cloud State team that is No. 2 in the PairWise.
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Comfortably ahead by two goals in the second period, Miami saw its lead evaporate in less than 4:00 and under 10 minutes of real time on Friday.
The RedHawks’ response? Score twice in the closing minutes of the decisive period, tack on an empty netter in the closing seconds and most importantly hold Bowling Green without a goal the remainder of the game.
That combination spelled a 6-3 win for Miami at the Slater Family Ice Arena in Bowling Green.
It was the sixth win of the season for the RedHawks, who won nine all of 2016-17. And the above is a major difference between that campaign and this one.
It seems like Miami was in a ton of games that got away last season. The RedHawks haven’t been exempt from the occasional collapse this fall, but they’ve still found ways to earn several wins when they’ve suffered through major in-game hiccups.
And on Friday they did that on the road and without faceoff leader Casey Gilling.
Things won’t always go Miami’s way the remainder of the season. Injuries, bad calls, unlucky bounces are all parts of the game.
But at least Miami is proving way better at handling them than last season.
– Forgot to mention in the preview that Chaz Switzer was suspended two games total for his fighting major last Saturday. One game is mandated by the NCAA and the other by the league. What a joke. – Meyer likes the off-balance shots.
– It was Carter Johnson’s first game of the season, as he was the fourth line left wing with Casey Gilling out, and Johnson played like every shift would be his last. It can’t be an easy season for Johnson, a scratch the first 12 games after logging 37 in 2016-17, but he proved Friday he can be counted on for quality minutes if/when his number is called again.
– Carson Meyer really likes taking off-balance shots, perhaps more than any Miamian in recent history. He scored while nearly falling down last weekend and accurately wired a pair of shots in the same manor on Friday from the slot.
– Bowling Green goals two and three both came on defensive breakdowns, which was a team MO last season and an area of improvement this year. Miami left the slot wide open for the second Falcons goal, and a BGSU forward burst through three RedHawks for a breakaway to tie it (and Miami was lucky it wasn’t assessed an additional penalty on the play). Gotta tighten up the D.
FORWARDS: B+. Crisp passing, solid puck control, four total goals by this corps. It was a good night overall despite missing Gilling. Three goals in three games for Meyer is a major pick-me-up, and Kiefer Sherwood was more involved in the game as well.
DEFENSEMEN: B. A couple of lapses but overall a solid game. Grant Hutton scored twice and Louie Belpedio assisted on two goals. Transition passing was above average as well.
GOALTENDING: B-. Ryan Larkin stopped just 11 of 14 shots, but he made a solid save right before the first goal, scored at the end of an extended shift. He had no chance on the second goal, and third was on a breakaway. Larkin did make a couple of outstanding saves. It’s a common theme for the young netminder: He doesn’t face a ton of shots, but a lot of the ones he sees are Grade-A.
LINEUP CHANGES: As expected, Grant Frederic was back in the lineup with Switzer suspended. He was the seventh defenseman last Saturday and is playing a lot better than he did early in the season. With Gilling out, it was Johnson in.