OXFORD, Ohio – A movie could be made about this season, and it could be better than most sports flicks in recent history.
Hey, they’re making one about John Scott, aren’t they?
Miami shut out Colorado College, 4-0 at Cady Arena on Saturday to complete a series sweep of the Tigers on Senior Night and the final regular season home game of a number of players’ careers.
Need a solid plot?
A team that didn’t have enough offensive weapons (at least at the beginning of the year) takes on one of the toughest schedules in Division I and fails early – almost catastrophically so – posting a 5-9-2 first half, with the final two games being a pair of losses against one of the worst teams in college hockey in the Tigers.
The team is in utter turmoil, both on and off the ice, heading into Christmas break.
Then it seemingly gets worse as senior goalie Ryan McKay, who has had a stellar career in Oxford, is suspended indefinitely for an outburst as he leaves the ice.
That leaves the netminding reins to Jay Williams, who couldn’t get a starting gig in the USHL and has had to share the cage with McKay for almost all of four years.
Including 2015-16, when Williams was left in to allow seven goals in the season opener and then benched for almost the remainder of the calendar year, not picking up his first win until Jan. 3.
Following the GoalieGate loss, the team was 6-11-3.
The team has gone 9-3 since and somehow gotten itself into NCAA Tournament contention, capping its home slate with a pair of wins over Colorado College, the same team that Miami couldn’t beat in December.
The finale is played in front of one of the best Cady Arena crowds in recent history.
How about Anthony Louis scoring with two seconds left to send Miami to a 2-1 win over Bowling Green?
Or a come-from-behind win against top-10 St. Cloud State in an action-packed 3-2 win at Cady Arena?
Or another key road win at BGSU after trailing 1-0 after the first period?
Or a beloved usher and huge Miami hockey fan suffering from Stage 4 cancer, coming back for that final home game in what was one of the most emotionally-powerful moments in recent memory in the northeast corner of Cady Arena?
We’ve got the characters too, most notably seniors playing their final games with the RedHawks, and all at the top of their game.
There’s Williams, who was never considered good enough to start for any of his juniors teams, posting a sub-2.00 goals-against average since taking over in net exclusively.
He set two school records in that home finale, one for being the first goalie to post a double shutout in a weekend, another for longest consecutive shutout streak at nearly 150 minutes.
And believe us, his story is actually even better than that.
Insert shameless self-promotion: BoB has a feature coming out about Williams in a couple of days.
How about Taylor Richart, the bust-your-hind-quarters defenseman you just can’t help but love? At 5-feet-9 he had earn a spot on an NAHL roster and then a USHL roster before coming to Miami, where he had to overtake several other more highly-touted blueliners to crack the lineup every night and gets beat up like a pinata on a game-by-game basis.
He can seeming do everything on the ice and has elevated his game more than just about anyone in his four years, but he simply hasn’t been a scorer in college.
Richart had one goal in 127 games prior to this weekend. All his did in his final two regular season home games is find the net in both and earn a first star in one contest and second in the other.
Rudy has nothing on Richart.
Or Sean Kuraly? The big power forward who is the son of Miami’s all-time leading sniper notched 19 goals last season but couldn’t find the net with a GPS the first half of 2015-16. After bearing the weight on the world on his shoulders, he had some of his captaincy duties whittled away so he could concentrate on making awesome happen on the ice again.
It’s safe to say he has, tallying 15 points in 12 games and anchoring the Columbus line comprised of the wily veteran and a pair of super-talented freshmen in Kiefer Sherwood and Jack Roslovic.
We can’t forget Alex Gacek who tore his patellar tendon off the bone prior to his Miami career, and how it took years for him to regain his confidence. It’s not even debatable that he is playing the best hockey of his career.
Same goes for Kevin Morris, the super-smart son of an AHL coach who has a 3.6 GPA and has posted six goals in 11 games after finding the net just eight times in his previous 96 contests.
Same goes for Chris Joyaux, who has been so steady on the blueline since joining the team in the fall of 2012.
Same goes for transfer Andrew Schmit, who has gotten to play with his cousin, Conor Lemirande, forming the Crash Cousins line. He is one of the team’s most punishing hitters in recent history but has just eight penalty minutes in 2015-16.
And there’s Michael Mooney, who works so hard when he does get in the lineup and has saved this team’s bacon when it had battled injury woes with his ability to move into any position.
Matthew Caito wasn’t able to play on senior night, coincidentally missing just the second and third games of his Miami career, making the double shutout even more impressive.
It’s unlikely his season is over, and one of the steadiest two-way defenseman to dress for this team since Andy Greene must return for the RedHawks to have any realistic chance at an NCAA run.
BoB won’t forget McKay, whose .917 career save percentage is the fourth-best in school history, and his 1.39 goals-against average as a freshman is easily the best of any goalie to don the pads in Oxford.
Don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes here and not trying to take a side for that reason or stir anything up, but it’s shame how his Miami career has likely ended, without the benefit of taking a victory lap for his final regular season home game.
Good luck topping that, Hollywood.
Kuraly said at intermission on Saturday that this class hopefully has a couple more memories to make before its players go their separate ways to pursue their dreams, both on and off the ice.
The way this big screen-worthy regular season has gone, fans have to feel like the script has several more scenes to be written.
Even if that’s not the case, it’s been an Oscar-worthy story that’s played out the past couple of months.
– For five periods this weekend, Miami played decent hockey, good enough to outscore CC. The RedHawks finally got it right in the sixth and final frame, scoring three unanswered goals on 22 shots, as the puck seemed to spend half of that stanza in the Colorado College goal crease. A plus-7 goal differential is great, but a more skilled team would’ve buried some of its ample chances this weekend.
– A night after racking up nearly 14 minutes of power play time vs. 93 seconds for Miami, it’s mind blowing that Colorado College took 14 minutes in first-period penalties for dust-ups with officials, including contact with a linesman.
– It was listed at 3,155, but the crowd at Cady Arena on Saturday seemed larger and was certainly rocking, despite, well…OK…enough with the music bashing – it’s gotten a little better. If Miami does get back to Cady for a series against Minnesota-Duluth, we will need loud fans at the game. Forget spring break…doesn’t having the campus and the Oxford bars to yourselves with a best-of-3 hockey series sound more appealing?
– Miami graduate Nick Brunker did play-by-play for this game and was fantastic, to the surprise of no one who has ever heard his broadcasts. Few have worked harder to advance their broadcast media careers, as Brunker actually got kicked out of the press box of a Cincinnati Mighty Ducks game as a high school student for trying to perfect his craft and record his own calls when there wasn’t ample room, and he later excelled as the PxP guy for the Cincinnati Cyclones.
FORWARDS: A. Zach Lavalle won a battle along the boards that ultimately led to Richart’s goal, opening the scoring. Roslovic’s beautiful centering pass led to Morris’ laser one-time finish. Not sure if Kuraly intentionally tipped a pass to Sherwood for Goal No. 3 or if it was inadvertent – we’ll call it deliberate, we’re feeling generous – but what a play. Freshman Josh Melnick (this deep into a write-up this is really Melnick’s first reference?) won a boards battle to get the puck to neutral ice then stole a pass and fed it to Louis for the ENG. Lots of offensive positive here.
DEFENSEMEN: A-. Good work without it two-way leader in Caito. If we had to nitpick, this group did turn it over a couple of times early but seemed to tighten up late, even as Colorado College started taking more chances in the third period (thus the 10 shots in the final 20 minutes for CC). Richart not only scored, he gloved a puck down and shuffled it ahead quickly to Roslovic, leading to the Sherwood goal. Apparently there’s nothing Richart can’t do right now.
GOALTENDING: A. Not as many difficult saves for Williams as on Friday, but this is a weekend the senior will likely tell his grandchildren about. Fifth-five shots, 55 saves in 120 minutes, including 24 of 24 in this one. His rebound control was excellent again, and the TV color guy mentioned that as well. It’s only the third time a Miami goalie has posted back-to-back shutouts and the first time one has blanked a team twice in a weekend. Williams’ shutout streak is now 148:52, the longest in team history. Cody Reichard held the previous mark at 141:41. David Burleigh also posted back-to-back zeroes and went 136:05 between goals against.
LINEUP CHANGES: It was the same 19 as Friday for the RedHawks. Caito, Schmit and Loe missed their second straight games, while Colin Sullivan, Mooney and Ryan Siroky dressed for the second consecutive night.
OXFORD, Ohio – Once again, Miami couldn’t close out a win.
The RedHawks managed two points in a 1-1 tie vs. Minnesota-Duluth at Cady Arena on Friday, allowing a tying third-period goal and earning the extra point in 3-on-3 play.
Miami has now held the lead after two periods seven times this season and has won just three of those games.
Senior goalie Jay Williams stopped 36 shots for the RedHawks, the highest save total for a Miami netminder this season.
After a scoreless first period, the RedHawks took the lead when senior defenseman Chris Joyaux backhanded one through Bulldogs goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo’s pads 2:16 into the middle frame.
Miami held the lead until the 14:22 mark of the final frame, when Tony Cameranesi blasted a shot by Williams on a 4-on-4 to tie the score.
The puck went in and out of the net so quickly that it was initially ruled no goal before replay confirmed the puck hit the inside of the cage.
The game was officially recorded as a tie, and Louis Belpedio knocked the puck home in the second extra session to give the RedHawks the extra point in the conference standings.
Joyaux had scored one career goal entering this season but has found the net in consecutive games and has four markers this season.
Senior forward Andrew Schmit earned the lone assist, his third of the campaign.
With the two points, Miami now has 10 in 11 games and remains in seventh place in the NCHC at 2-7-2.
At 3-2-2 when leading after two periods, the RedHawks’ winning percentage in those scenarios is just .571.
These teams wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
OXFORD, Ohio – Thanks to a three-goal, third-period outburst, Miami’s seven-game winless streak is over.
The RedHawks beat RPI, 4-2 at Cady Arena in the series finale on Sunday, giving the team its highest offense output of the season and its first win since Nov. 7.
Like Saturday, Miami took an early lead but managed to fall behind.
RedHawks senior forward Andrew Schmit banged home a loose puck at the top of the crease for his second goal of the season at the 2:01 mark.
A turnover by senior defenseman Matthew Caito led to a breakaway by RPI’s Jesper Ohrvall, who buried a shot on the glove side of Miami senior goalie Jay Williams, tying the score with 9:20 left in the opening stanza.
The Engineers went ahead when Jake Wood ripped a shot past Williams on a shorthanded chance after a stretch pass by Jimmy DeVito with 6:52 left in the second frame.
But after failing to score in their previous five third periods, the RedHawks dominated the final stanza.
A shot by senior center Sean Kuraly was deflected to the side of the net, where senior forward Alex Gacek banged it home to tie the score at two.
Just 1:43 later, freshman forward Zach LaValle sent a pass through the top of the crease to junior center Justin Greenberg, who buried the tip-in for his first goal of the season.
Senior defenseman Chris Joyaux fired a shot into the empty net from his own faceoff circle with 25 seconds left to cap off the scoring.
With the win, Miami moved up three places in the PairWise rankings to 28th. Fourteen of the RedHawks’ final 16 regular seasons games will be against NCHC opponents, including next weekend’s home series vs. Minnesota-Duluth.
OXFORD, Ohio – A 2-1-1 record to start the season with one point from Anthony Louis and Sean Kuraly you say?
As Miami fans, yeah, we’ll take it.
The RedHawks’ two top returning scorers are off to slow starts offensively, but the RedHawks (2-1-1) swept Ohio State this weekend, 3-2 in Columbus and 3-1 in Oxford the following night with five of its goals coming by freshmen.
Rookies have potted seven of 11 Miami goals for the season. Four of the five freshmen forwards have found the net in the team’s first four games.
Beyond Jack Roslovic, it was unclear entering the season how much newbies would contribute offensively to a forward corps that had lost Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber and Blake Coleman among others. But at least for two weekends, the answer is significantly.
Overall, Miami hasn’t set the world on fire from a scoring perspective, averaging 2.75 goals per game. But the RedHawks missed several Grade A scoring chances in the first period alone on Friday and had multiple chances on Saturday it should’ve cashed in.
MU finished the finale with 41 shots on goal and missed the net a number of times.
There is cause for optimism regarding this team’s offensive potential. The RedHawks are holding their own during what most knew would be a transition process with numerous new faces taking over the jobs of established studs.
If they have been able to hold their own during their growing pains without contributions from Kuraly or Louis, just wait until those two hit their strides.
And they will hit their strides, hopefully very soon.
Other thoughts on Saturday:
– This was the best all-around game Roslovic has played. He engaged in battles along the boards and was generally more of a presence on the ice than in the previous games. Roslovic also showed more of ability to make defenders look silly as he can seemingly skate around them at will, a feat made even more amazing considering he is still just 18. That won’t fly at higher levels, or even against better college opponents, but he is certainly showing everyone why he was a first-round pick this summer.
– Sherwood seems to get better every game. He blew up in the USHL last season, scoring 29 goals after netting 13 the previous season, so hopefully that will translate at this level – it certainly did on Friday when he picked the top corner on his first college goal. And it looks like he could do more, as he engages physically and appears capable of playing both ways. Josh Melnick and Roslovic have been the obvious standouts early, but Sherwood looks like he may develop into a very good player for Miami as well.
– The power play was 1,000 percent better on Saturday than Friday. Yes, Miami went 2-for-5, but beyond that, the puck movement was outstanding and the communication appeared much improved. The first unit could be devastating to opponents this season with Roslovic-Melnick-Louis-Kuraly-Belpedio, and its makeshift second unit scored the final goal on Saturday, with Zach LaValle finding the net.
– Miami’s four-game road stand will be difficult but should provide a bonding opportunity and could make the team better overall. At least the RedHawks get their feet wet on a real road trip – not like Ohio State, which was an up-and-back drive with more Miami fans than OSU fans in attendance – before opening conference play in two weeks.
FORWARDS: B+. At this point of the season, improvement is more vital than results, and the improvement is there. The freshmen are getting better. Louis played well but only had a point, and many more will follow. Kuraly has struggled at times early but appears ready to break out. If either Kevin Morris or Alex Gacek ever find the net they may be unstoppable – both have done everything right except finish in the first four games. Overall, this unit fired a ton of shots and missed the net a bunch more. They played pretty well defensively as well, but the competition will get a lot stiffer very soon.
DEFENSEMEN: A. This unit made mistakes the first three games, and many were costly. That really didn’t happen on Saturday. We mentioned Louis and Kuraly and how they will get going eventually, and Louie Belpedio belongs on that list as well. His best hockey is yet to come. Senior Matthew Caito was outstanding, as he shut down seemingly every OSU threat on his watch, and classmate Chris Joyaux is playing some of the best defense of his career right now. Like with the forwards, the process is in place, which is very encouraging, and the opponents will get better from this point forward.
GOALTENDING: A. Senior Ryan McKay hasn’t played a lot of back-to-back nights, but he shined in this one. He appeared to be screened on the only goal against, and he had to shut down a couple of high-percentage chances, including a breakaway. McKay finished 27 of 28 (.964) on the night and 52-for-55 (.945) on the weekend. This team’s prospects are a lot higher if McKay can continue to play at this level.
LINEUP CHANGES: Senior Michael Mooney was back in at forward on Saturday, replacing junior Devin Loe, who did not have a point in his first three games. On defense, sophomore Scott Dornbrock was scratched for the second time this season, as junior Colin Sullivan returned to the lineup sheet. McKay started for the third straight game.
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami’s defense tightened up considerably on Saturday, and the RedHawks allowed five fewer goals. Plus the blueliners scored all of the team’s goals.
That allowed Miami to pull out a 2-2 tie vs. Providence in the second game in two nights at Cady Arena on Saturday.
The Friars had way too many high-percentage looks at the net in the opener and rarely missed on their opportunities. Those chances were limited in this game, as Providence scored on a blue line shot off ofn offensive zone faceoff win and a rebound shot.
It’s fair to admit that the Friars are the better team right now. They’re experienced, their defense is impressive on both ends of the ice, their forwards have pinpoint shooting accuracy and they have solid goaltending. You might have heard this team won the national championship last season.
Miami has a lot of those things, too, but not as consistently at present. Of course, this is Game 2, and that could change in the next few weeks, few months, or at least (hopefully) by tournament time.
A few other thoughts:
– The power play needs work. It never lived up to expectations last season, and now a number of new players are on these units. Miami went 1-for-10 on the man-advantage this weekend and didn’t seem to have much chemistry. Of course, this was opening weekend and there hasn’t been much chance to build that.
– Defenseman Louie Belpedio had an interesting first period, as he took two undisciplined penalties and then made up for it by scoring the first goal of the game. That makes it easy to forgive the minors.
– Senior goalie Ryan McKay looked a little rusty early but got better as the game went along. He stopped a shot when a forward was left alone in front of the net in the second period as was 15 of 16 the final 45 minutes. If McKay can become McKay Version 2013-14 this team could be in for a phenomenal season.
– As appealing as 3-on-3 is, it doesn’t seem worth it if there are no stakes. Josh Melnick capped off an outstanding first weekend with a completely meaningless 3×3 goal, as the teams decided to play after the tie was official as a demonstration to prepare for conference play. Despite an announcement outlining that, the message didn’t get through to the crowd, which seemed to think that goal meant something. Even in conference play it will only be worth an extra point.
The problem is: The NCAA doesn’t want results of its games decided by artificial means, including 4×4. This has been discussed repeatedly. But the conferences are given leeway in determining their own points systems, so long as games are recorded as ties after 65 minutes of 5×5. That’s where the shootout and now 3×3 hockey comes in. Again, the concept is great, and hats off to league commissioner Josh Fenton for implementing it, but the problem is: It’s confusing to fans. Even the scoreboard operator incorrectly changed the final to 3-2 after the Melnick goal. And there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer.
FORWARDS: D+. The forwards were shut out. Providence seemed to have sticks in the lanes at all times, and although Miami overall generated 30 shots, many were right into the goalie’s logo. Senior Alex Gacek did pick up two assists – his third and fourth already – and Roslovic got a primary helper on the tying Chris Joyaux goal. Melnick had an outstanding first weekend.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. This was the most improved area of the team from Friday to Saturday, and they scored both goals. Belpedio had the first one off a feed from senior Matthew Caito, and Joyaux banged home the equalizer. Freshman Grant Hutton iced the puck unnecessarily and it ultimately ended up in Miami’s net, but coach Enrico Blasi clearly likes him and with his size, speed and ability, it looks like it will be worth suffering through any early growing pairs to get him some in-game experience. Joyaux had the other goal despite being benched on Friday, and he played very well overall.
GOALTENDING: B+. McKay had little chance on the first goal, and the second was on a rebound. He scared the crowd early when a routine shot hit the top of his glove and popped into the air in front of him, but he got better as he settled in. It’s way too early to go with one goalie at this point, but McKay had the better game and has the edge at this point if/when that decision is made.
LINEUP CHANGES: Joyaux was scratched on Friday but game back with an excellent game on Saturday. Sophomore Scott Dornbrock sat in his place. Up front, it was freshman Kiefer Sherwood who was scratched in favor of senior Andrew Schmit, who knocked a player out of the game with a crushing hit along the boards. And of course, McKay started over classmate Jay Williams, which everyone expected after Friday’s game.
OXFORD, Ohio – It was just the second goal in the 116-game career of stay-at-home defenseman Chris Joyaux, but it could not have come at a better time.
Joyaux slammed home a one-time, cross-crease pass from reshman forward Jack Roslovic with 6:45 left in regulation as No. 10 Miami salvaged a 2-2 tie vs. No. 7 Providence in the series finale at Cady Arena on Saturday.
Roslovic’s assist was the first of his career. The goal by Joyaux was his first since March 14, 2014 in the St. Cloud State NCHC first-round playoff series.
Like Friday, the RedHawks (0-1-1) took the lead first, as sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio’s wrister from just inside the blue line beat goalie Nick Ellis with 6:39 left in the first period.
But just 3:31 later, the Friars’ Jake Walman tied it on a one-time blast.
Providence (1-0-1) took the lead when John Gilmour banged home a rebound shot three minutes into the second period after Miami had failed to score on a 5-on-3.
After the five-minute overtime, the game ended in a tie, but the teams played 3-on-3 to simulate conference play, and RedHawks freshman Josh Melnick scored in that.
Senior forward Alex Gacek picked up secondary assists on both goals, giving him four points on the weekend. He had 14 points all of last season.
Miami senior goalie Ryan McKay stopped 24 shots to earn the tie.
The RedHawks return to action this weekend with a home-and-series vs. Ohio State. The teams play in Columbus at 7 p.m. on Friday and in Oxford at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
Helping offset the loss of prized recruit
He Who Must Not Be Named Connor Murphy, Chicago Steel defenseman and Bloomingdale, Ill. native, Chris Joyaux, has verbally committed to play his college hockey for the RedHawks.
Joyaux, a ’92 birthdate, will provide size (6’1″, 195), experience and leadership to a blueline that will see four-year starters Will Weber, Chris Wideman and Cameron Schilling depart Oxford prior to next season. And, along with highly regarded Pat Sieloff and Matthew Caito, Joyaux’s presence on campus will help bolster a very young back end that will once again feature two freshmen goaltenders in Jay Williams and Ryan McKay.
Welcome aboard Chris!