Miami has not won in six weeks, but its next loss will be its last of the season.
The RedHawks lost their NCHC Tournament first-round opener in their best-of-3 series, 5-4 in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena on Friday and now face elimination in that series.
Miami’s path from here on out couldn’t be more clear: Win or go home. The RedHawks would need to win on Saturday and Sunday at No. 3 UMD then run the table in the semifinal and final of the league tournament in Minneapolis.
That would earn them a berth into the NCAA Tournament, which, of course, is one and out.
An unlikely scenario made more improbable considering the first half of the opening sentence. Miami is 0-8-1 in its last nine and 1-11-2 since Jan. 14.
To Miami’s credit, it took the third-best team in Division I to overtime in the Bulldogs’ home building on Friday despite missing captain Louie Belpedio and losing stud goalie Ryan Larkin in the second period.
The RedHawks led three times in the game (2-1, 3-2 and 4-3) but were unable to close out the win, a common theme in 2016-17.
Backup goalie Chase Munroe had not logged a minute in exactly three months, and after stopping just three of the first five shots he faced, he turned aside 26 of the final 28. He faced a shooting gallery in the final 20 minutes of regulation and overtime, and didn’t get a lot of help from his skaters defensively.
It would’ve been easy for this team to mail it in, considering the near impossibility of its task of winning this tournament.
But the RedHawks didn’t quit, and in a season that will likely go down as their worst in a quarter century, that’s an encouraging sign.
Crazy things happen in conference tournaments, and it would take a run that makes 2013-14 look tame just for Miami to return the position it was in three years when it came within a goal of advancing to the NCAAs despite a 12-19-3 regular season record.
The RedHawks have their backs against the boards but are playing with passion, and in Game 2 we’ll see if that’s enough to extend the season.
– No idea what Larkin’s injury is or how severe, but when a goalie leaves a game and doesn’t return he rarely returns the next night. Already Belpedio-less, that makes MU’s chances of advancing in this round even more remote. If there is a bright spot it’s that Munroe earned valuable conference tournament experience, and as we recall, Jay Williams was shaky early before finding his groove, as was Charlie Effinger before him.
– Scorers’ list from Friday boom: Ryan Siroky and Zach LaValle, in the bottom six of the forward list on the lineup card all season, both scored in this one. It was just their third and second goals of the season, respectively, although LaValle especially seems to have picked it up a notch recently. This is encouraging because Miami was able to hang without its go-to snipers finding the net, and also the lack of scoring from non-top six forwards has been well documented here.
– Scorers’ list from Friday bust: Josh Melnick hasn’t scored in seven games and Anthony Louis has been stuck on 13 goals for 13 games. Kiefer Sherwood was limited to one shot. Scoring from tertiary forwards is great, but the top players need to be top players in the playoffs for teams to advance.
– Yet another Gordie Green update. Hate to be redundant but Green has been the hottest forward on the team with seven points in four games and 11 in his last 10 – more than anyone else on the team.
– Speaking of points surges, two assists on Friday give Grant Hutton eight points in his last seven games. He picked up three helpers the first 28 games but has five in the last seven. On a team that has struggled mightily the past two months, it says a lot that a pair of underclassmen in Green and Hutton are two of the RedHawks’ top points producers. Green is a freshman and Hutton is a defenseman.
– Shots were close the first two periods: 14-12 UMD. Shots after: 27-10 UMD. Miami has now been outshot in 13 straight regulation periods. The RedHawks have allowed 474 shots while generating just 320 during their current 1-11-2 skid.
Miami had played in 10 overtime games this season without suffering a loss.
That streak was broken on Friday, as No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth edged the RedHawks, 5-4 in an NCHC Tournament best-of-3 opener in the quarterfinal round at Amsoil Arena.
Alex Iafallo skated behind the crease and had his wrap-around denied by MU goalie Chase Munroe, but Dominic Toninato was there at the top of the crease to slam home the game winner 7:24 into the extra session.
Miami is winless in its last nine games, going 0-8-1 in that span, and faces elimination on Saturday.
Parker Mackay stole the puck from Josh Melnick, skated across the slot and wristed one home to give Minnesota-Duluth the lead 5:21 into the first period.
Miami (9-19-7) answered with a pair of goals in the next 64 seconds. On a 2-on-1, Gordie Green passed through the slot to Zach LaValle, who skated around sprawled-out UMD goalie Hunter Miska and deposited the puck in the net to tie it.
Carson Meyer put the RedHawks ahead when he beat two defenders to a loose puck to gain the zone then ultimately grabbed the rebound off an outside shot from Anthony Louis, burying it to make it 2-1.
Moments later, there was a pile-up in the Miami crease, and RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin was injured. He did not return and was replaced by Munroe, who had not played in a game in three months.
The Bulldogs (22-6-7) tied it at two when Nick Wolff fired a blue line shot that caromed off the end boards to Riley Tufte, who was wide open at the side of the net for a tap-in at the end of a long shift with 16:16 left in the second period.
Green one-timed a shot from the slot off a pass by Grant Hutton from behind the UMD net as Miami regained the lead, 3-2 with 4:06 remaining in the middle stanza.
That RedHawks lead was short-lived, as Iafallo skated the length of the ice on a 2-on-2, crashed the net and backhanded it past Munroe to tie it just 43 seconds later.
Miami took its third lead of the game with 8:46 to play in regulation when Ryan Siroky whipped a puck on net from along the boards, and it hit a body in the slot, trickling past Miska.
Once again, Minnesota-Duluth answered quickly, as Karson Kuhlman slid a pass through two defenders to Tufte, who was wide open in the slot. Munroe made the initial save but Tufte corralled his own rebound and scored just 65 seconds after the RedHawks’ goal to make it 4-4.
Green finished with a goal and an assist, giving him helpers in four straight games and seven points in that stretch. Hutton earned a pair of assists and has 10 points in his last 11 contests.
Game 2 is scheduled for 8:37 p.m. on Saturday.
OXFORD, Ohio – It took three late unanswered goals, including an overtime winner by Josh Melnick, but Miami’s winless streak is finally over.
The RedHawks rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period and ultimately topped Colorado College, 3-2 in the extra session at Cady Arena on Saturday.
That snapped a string of 10 straight games without a win for Miami, its longest such span since 1991. It was also the RedHawks’ first NCHC victory of the season.
The Tigers (3-12-1) took the lead 4:47 into the game when Alex Berardinelli went in on a breakaway and beat Miami goalie Chase Munroe.
Midway through the second period, Nick Halloran and Berardinelli had a 2-on-0, and Berardinelli was initially denied by Munroe but recovered the puck, skated behind the net and centered to Mason Bergh in the slot for a one-time goal, making it 2-0.
Miami (4-8-5) had been held scoreless for 111 minutes until the 10:02 mark of the third period, when Karch Bachman dumped a self-pass into the corner, skated behind the net and centered to Willie Knierim, who poked it past goalie Alex Leclerc to cut the lead in half.
The RedHawks tied it less than four minutes later. Anthony Louis whipped a wrister on net that was blocked at the top of the crease, and the puck bounced to Josh Melnick. Leclerc made a spectacular toe save to deny Josh Melnick, but the puck slid to the side of the net, where Kiefer Sherwood slammed it home on a delayed penalty.
Ninety-four seconds into overtime, Carson Meyer threw one toward the net, and it hit off Melnick, who batted it into the net on the short side to win it.
Melnick and Sherwood both finished with two points on a goal and an assist apiece. Melnick has five points in his last four games and Sherwood recorded three points on the weekend.
Meyer picked up a helper and owns a team-best four-game point streak. Louis notched his 107th career point and moved into a tie for 44th with Blake Coleman on the RedHawks’ all-time scoring leaderboard.
Goalie Chase Munroe turned 18 shots aside to earn his first collegiate victory.
It was the first win for Miami since Oct. 28 – which also came in overtime. The RedHawks moved into solo control of seventh place in the conference.
Miami is off the next two weekends and resumes play at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31 at Ohio State in the back end of a home-and-home series. The teams tied when they met in Oxford on Oct. 15.
OXFORD, Ohio – A weekend that started off with so much promise turned into a pair of mistake-laden losses that have a Miami team that showed so much promise in the opening weeks skating backwards.
The RedHawks led 4-1 on Friday before allowing the final five goals in a 6-4 loss and were beaten soundly, 6-2 at Cady Arena on Saturday after rallying from two down to tie the score.
MU (3-6-2) netted four of the first five goals this weekend but surrendered 11 of the final 13.
The RedHawks have allowed 23 goals in their four NCHC games – or 5.75 per contest – as they have dropped to 44th in the NCAA in overall team defense.
Most disturbing is special teams, as Miami was tops in college hockey on the PK a couple of weeks ago but has given up nine power play goals and two more shorthanded in the last four games, killing penalties at an anemic 65.3 percent clip.
The most important stat is wins and losses, and Miami has dropped its last five, getting outscored 11-0 in the third period during its current skid.
The absence of Louie Belpedio has hurt this team on several fronts, as the RedHawks were 3-2-2 with him in the lineup and 0-4 since. Without their captain, they seem less focused, the compete level has been inconsistent, and paramount is the loss of 20-plus minutes of play from their best all-around defenseman.
And the latter has a trickle-down effect, as everyone gets bumped up a spot in the D pecking order, and as a result the entire group has had its struggles.
Of course it doesn’t help when starting goalie Ryan Larkin goes down with an injury, or that stud freshman Carson Meyer may miss several weeks.
No one will feel sorry for Miami, especially not No. 1 Denver, the team the RedHawks play next weekend at altitude after getting drubbed in five straight third periods.
We’re already one-third of the way through the regular season, and Miami needs to turn this thing around fast or we could be in for a very long winter.
– Like Friday, the RedHawks again allowed too many players to skate into the slot uncontested. Snuggerud was left alone for the third UNO (6-3-1) goal. He scored again by beating Scott Dornbrock to the net for a backhander. The physical game got away from Miami entirely this weekend, especially around the net. The RedHawks might as well have placed a welcome mat in orange and black at the top of their crease both nights.
– Let’s insert some positive: Despite everything that’s happened in six weeks, Kiefer Sherwood continues to get better every game. He dominates play for portions of games, not just with his shot but with puck possession and high-level passing. He’s a certifiable nightmare on the power play, as defenders have to come out to protect against his shot, opening up other avenues for Miami.
– Speaking of the power play, Coach Enrico Blasi went with five forwards numerous times with Josh Melnick at the point. He obviously trusts the defense of Melnick, who effectively ran the point, but without Belpedio it may be his way of saying none of the other D-men have earned that high-profile playing time. Miami did allow two SHGs this weekend, although neither were the result of his five-forward units. And using that many forwards on the first unit leaves even fewer offensive-minded bodies up front for the second line, which has been mostly ineffective this season.
– If UNO is in the bottom half of this league, the NCHC is absolutely loaded. This is a very good team, and not surprisingly is well coached by Dean Blais.
FORWARDS: D+. Sherwood has two rips for goals and these guys showed some signs of life but did little on a five-minute power play in the third period and combined for just 21 shots despite 13 minutes of power play time. On a positive note, Melnick and Justin Greenberg were much better on faceoffs, an area in which Miami has struggled seemingly since Pat Cannone and Carter Camper graduated.
DEFENSEMEN: D-. Without Belpedio this group is contributing almost nothing offensively and are committing too many egregious turnovers. Normally-reliable Grant Hutton had a miserable weekend, including a giveaway that directly led to UNO’s second goal. Dornbrock got beaten badly on Goal No. 6. The Mavericks finished with just 26 shots, but too many were high-percentage chances. This group needs to get a lot better, especially in front of its own net, and that needs to happen quickly.
GOALTENDING: D+. Six goals against, it’s easy to blame goaltending, but Chase Munroe faced a ton of A-plus chances in his starting debut. Three of his goals against were on the power play, including a 5-on-3 tally. The first was on a PP scramble in front of the net, the second was basically a 2-on-0 on a power play, No. 3 was scored after yet another player was left open in the slot, the fourth was a 5-on-3 but was probably the one Munroe would’ve most likely wanted back, No. 5 was a breakaway and the sixth was on a player crashing the net, and Munroe was unable to hold the post. Certainly not a memorable debut but he was not the reason Miami lost.
LINEUP CHANGES: Munroe for Larkin was the most notable. The only other switch was Bryce Hatten in basically the sixth defense spot in favor of Chaz Switzer.