OXFORD, Ohio – For a three-goal loss that was completely one-sided in the first two periods, Miami found a way to make the final 20 minutes interesting.
No. 5 Denver scored the first three goals in a 4-1 win over the RedHawks at Cady Arena on Saturday, as the teams split their weekend series.
The Pioneers (12-6-4) were a huge favorite, so winning one was a bit of a victory for the RedHawks. But since MU was .500 after the first half of the season, it needs to make up games somewhere, and this weekend wasn’t it.
This series was actually more of a reinforcement that, while the RedHawks (9-9-2) are improved over 2016-17, Miami’s overall talent does not match up with the NCAA’s elite.
RECAP: Denver scored twice in the first period and once more in the first minute of the final stanza to take a 3-0 lead.
The shots were 28-5 in favor of the Pioneers after 40 minutes.
But then it got interesting.
Miami pulled the goalie five minutes into the third period.
The RedHawks, who were anemic on the power play all night, thrived with the extra attacker.
Kiefer Sherwood broke after an extended 6-on-5 to make it 3-1.
And Miami drew a penalty on the goal, setting up a power play.
The crowd, comatose after the early domination, was suddenly into the game.
But the man-advantage fizzled and Denver eventually scored an empty netter to seal it.
Miami did outshoot Denver, 20-5 in the last 20 minutes.
STATS: Sherwood and Casey Gilling both extended points streaks to three games. Gilling is 2-3-5 in that stretch.
– Rare to see the starting/lone goalie of team log just 51:38.
– In the you’ll-see-something-new-every-time-you-go-to-the-rink department, Miami iced the puck twice while on a 6-on-5. The NCAA rule is that when a team ices the puck, no one on said team is allowed to leave, but apparently an exception is made for goalies. Both times the RedHawks did this they were able to pull one skater.
THOUGHTS: Not much to add from Friday’s game. Denver is more talented and came out aiming to prove that. Cudos to Miami for battling back in the third after an anemic first 40 minutes. And they were anemic.
FORWARDS: D. One goal only after the outcome had been decided. Gordie Green and Josh Melnick were both held without a shot.
DEFENSEMEN: D+. Too many high-percentage scoring chances for DU at this corps’ hands.
GOALTENDING: B. It was a shooting gallery for Ryan Larkin the first two periods. He made a couple of excellent saves and is certainly not accountable for the loss.
LINEUP CHANGES: Only one: Zach LaValle was in at forward, replacing Willie Knierim. Knierim had dressed in the last nine games, and LaValle had sat for three in a row.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Splits against top-10 teams are nice, but when you’re .500 heading into the break, at some point you have to sweep someone.
Denver is an exceptional team, and Miami will have to gain ground against someone else.
OXFORD, Ohio – So it’s official: Miami will enter the NCHC Tournament with a losing record for the third time in four years.
That seemed like an inconceivable concept four years ago when the RedHawks joined the newly-formed league, having at that time qualified for eight straight NCAA Tournaments, including a pair of Frozen Four berths and a national championship game appearance.
Yet, here we are after the RedHawks suffered their second consecutive 5-2 loss to No. 2 Denver at Cady Arena and their fourth straight defeat overall. They are 1-7-1 in their last nine.
One of the tougher things to comprehend about this extended swoon is that Miami (9-15-6) is hosting the NCAA regionals for the third time since 2013, and now there’s about a 90 percent chance the RedHawks will not play a single NCAA Tournament game in Cincinnati.
And many have been so upset about Miami’s placement in the NCAA brackets over the years. It’s fair to say fans, players and coaches have no right to complain about that ever again. This spring the RedHawks would’ve traveled a whopping 35 miles south for their regional games, and the Frozen Four is just a five-hour bus trip away in Chicago, a city no college hockey team calls home.
Hockey has been THE sport in Oxford since the Goggin Ice Center and Cady Arena opened in 2006, with students camping out in front of the facility for days just to get into games when Miami was regularly the top-ranked team in Division I.
The number 3,642 was ingrained in the heads of those who followed the program: That was the attendance figure when games were sold out, which was almost always in the first half decade of the new facility.
In 2016-17 the high-water mark was 3,032 vs. Nebraska-Omaha, perhaps because some thought the “O” on the Mavericks’ jerseys stood for Ohio State. The RedHawks are averaging 2,528 this year.
Football has always been an easier sell in southern Ohio, and those RedHawks wrote quite a story this season, starting 0-6 before winning their last six and falling by a point in their bowl game.
They averaged 17,110 in 2016, and while of course schools have plenty of crossover fans, at a school like Miami that is in a rural area with many of its alumni an hour or more away – often much more – it doesn’t take a genius to realize more of those graduates will bring themselves, their families and their money to Yager rather than the ice center a mile south this fall when they visit Oxford.
In sports, fans have short memories and winning solves a lot of problems. Team morale and fan support – the latter of which ultimately generates that all-important revenue – will go away when this program starts winning again.
The sooner that happens Cady Arena can sell out games again as it tries to regain its spot atop the Miami sports pecking order.
– One of the most disappointing things about this 1-7-1 slide is there’s little fire being displayed. Some decent hits are being dished out, but goalie Ryan Larkin gets poked at and bumped on a regular basis and rarely has anyone shoved an opponent out of the crease. For that matter, when’s the last time there was any kind of skirmish? Not advocating a 1970s Boston Bruins line brawl, but some opponent hatred would be nice to see. This is the fourth season of the league, so the players are all too familiar with each other, yet there seems to be almost no animosity. This season Miami is not one of the most skilled teams in the NCHC, so it needs to grind out wins, and emotion is a huge part of hockey. Louie Belpedio played on the edge the most when Miami was reeling off five straight wins, but he had gotten away from that during this skid. And he’s the captain, so the example to the rest of the team comes from the top. Then when Belpedio was injured late Saturday, Jared Brandt did some light shoving but everyone else on the ice seemed checked out. Kind of mind blowing that your captain is laying on the ice, the victim of a kneeing major, and only one player on the ice seems upset.
– Speaking of injuries, Kiefer Sherwood got banged up late in the second period, giving everyone quite a scare, but he not only returned for the third period but seemed to be back into that game-takeover mode we’ve seen on occasion.
– Despite having just two true scoring lines, Miami was scoring at a decent clip, but the offense has dried up the past few weeks. The RedHawks have scored just 12 times in seven games and have netted more than two goals just once in that span. When you figure that MU has five of those goals have been on the power play and one more was shorthanded, the team has just six even-strength markers in seven games, or 0.86 per.
– And it’s been open season on the Miami net in the third period. Opponents have scored 12 times in five games in the most previous five games. Three of those were empty netters, but that’s still 1.8 per game with a goalie in net.
– Some of the leadership on the team has been disappointing in recent games. Anthony Louis picked up an assist, but he’s an assistant captain and is not playing like one. Too many turnovers, too little interest in any aspect other than offense. Belpedio had not been playing with that edge he had earlier in the year, when he got under the skin of opponents. Not sure how they’re perceived in the locker room, but despite being sophomores, Grant Hutton and Josh Melnick have done a better job of leading by example on the ice.
– Larkin has been sensational this season, but after the fifth Denver goal it was probably time to give him a rest. The last thing a team wants is its goalie lacking confidence, and a season like this could send a netminder to the psych ward.
– Gordie Green doesn’t seem to have a confidence problem. He seemed a bit cautious early this season, but he generated two breakaways and was a nightmare for Denver on its power plays.
FORWARDS: D. Carson Meyer’s shot that resulted in the first Miami goal was sweet, but there were few other positives among this corps. Really liked Zach LaValle’s hard-nosed play, and Sherwood seemed rejuvenated in the third period after getting banged up. Twelve forwards generated 17 shots and were outclassed by Denver overall in every aspect. The RedHawks did fare better on draws, going 30-32 with Sherwood finishing 9-9.
DEFENSEMEN: C-. Hutton ripped home the second Miami goal on the second power play unit, and he finished with five SOG, which is just as solid a strategy for that corps as any other, as the RedHawks have three PPGs from their non-top four forwards, with two by Gordie Green, who is transitioning to that top line. It was Hutton’s third power play goal of the season. For the most part it wasn’t a good night for the other five, with Scott Dornbrock and Grant Frederic struggling early. Denver finished with 38 shots, with 16 in the third period while the Pioneers were leading. This group still seems too eager to jump into the play in non-pinch situations.
GOALTENDING: D+. It’s so difficult to grade Larkin poorly, because even when he allows a borderline goal, he typically stops one that most wouldn’t to counter that. But in this game he surrendered a weak second goal, was beaten on a wicked shot for Goal No. 3, and he should’ve had the fifth one as well. He made a couple insane saves, including one in which he sprawled across the crease to cover the post on a one-time.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: Colin Sullivan was scratched in favor of Alex Alger. That gave Miami 12 true forwards, since Chaz Switzer has apparently cracked the top six, having playing in six straight games. Sullivan dressed in 21 consecutive games.
OXFORD, Ohio – Game 2 of Miami’s home series vs. No. 2 Denver bore a striking resemblance to Game 1.
Fall behind, tie the score at two, allow the final three goals.
And ultimately, drop its fourth straight game by an identical 5-2 score as the Pioneers swept the RedHawks at Cady Arena on Saturday.
Miami (9-15-1) is now ensured a losing record in both the regular season and conference play.
MU’s night starting promisingly enough, as Carson Meyer opened the scoring with a bad-angle shot that eluded goalie Tanner Jaillet just 4:10 into the first period.
But in another similarity to the series opener, Denver (22-6-4) would net its first two goals less than 90 seconds apart.
Troy Terry penetrated the zone, skated in and beat goalie Ryan Larkin after toe-dragging the puck to tie the score on the power play with 7:04 left in the first period.
The Pioneers pulled ahead when a shot from the left faceoff circle snuck through Larkin’s pads with 6:22 remaining in the opening stanza.
In 42 seconds, Miami had gone from leading 1-0 to trailing, 2-1.
The RedHawks did tie the score on the man advantage when Grant Hutton blasted one by Jaillet 4:08 into the middle frame.
But Denver took the lead for good 2:22 later, as Terry skated across the slot and whipped one into the top corner of the net.
Romig made it 4-2 when he scored on a one-timer off a pass by Colin Staub from behind the Miami net with 14:55 left in regulation.
Exactly 10 minutes later, Tariq Hammond capped the scoring when he beat Larkin low to the stick side moments after a potential fifth Denver goal was waved off.
With time running out, RedHawks defenseman Louie Belpedio was kneed and left the game. He did put pressure on his leg but was still helped off the ice. The Pioneers’ Jarid Lukosevicius was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct.
Meyer snapped a six-game goal drought but has points in his last three. Hutton found the net for the second time in five contests.
Anthony Louis picked up an assist, becoming the 34th player in Miami history to rack up 120 career points. He is in a five-way tie for 30th with 45 goals and 75 helpers.
Miami remains in seventh place in the NCHC, five points out of both fifth and sixth, and dropped to 28th in the PairWise Rankings.
The RedHawks travel to Minnesota-Duluth for a two-game set next weekend.
OXFORD, Ohio – Three seasons ago, Miami suffered through a 3-12-1 second half.
When it became obvious Miami Version 2013-14 would have to win the NCHC Tournament to earn a berth to the NCAAs, preparation for a difficult road series to the open that years’ conference tournament trumped results of the final few regular season games.
We’re almost to that point after the RedHawks’s 5-2 loss to No. 2 Denver at Cady Arena on Friday, as Miami is mired in seventh place in the league standings and would need to make up seven points with five games left in the regular season to earn home ice for the first round of the NCHCs, not to mention pass three teams.
And the RedHawks (9-14-6) are out of games vs. two of those three teams they would need to eclipse: Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State. The other is North Dakota, which Miami hosts to close out the regular season in two weeks.
Moving ahead of at least one of those teams would be beneficial, as the RedHawks are currently seventh and would play the league runner-up between Minnesota-Duluth and Denver in a best-of-3.
Duluth didn’t work out particularly well last year, and facing the Pioneers in a long series at altitude isn’t particularly appealing either. Western Michigan appears the favorite for the three seed, and Miami didn’t come close to winning either of its games in Kalamazoo, either.
And while the four seed is up for grabs – St. Cloud State currently holds that spot after beating the RedHawks twice on its home ice last week – the five seed may be the toughest in the league, as that team’s opponent is not ensured a spot in the NCAAs and often has a lot more to play for than the relatively safe top three seeds in this league.
Denver (21-6-4) was the better team on Friday and was in both games in Colorado, which RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin singlehandedly flipped from losses to ties with his stellar play. We’ve seen first hand that Western Michigan > Miami. It’s not a stretch to assume to same about UMD, currently the top-ranked team in PairWise.
That’s where we are with five games left until the NCHC Tournament. It’s not pretty.
Then again, in 2013-14 the RedHawks went to St. Cloud and shocked the Huskies, sweeping them on their home ice and ultimately falling just short in the league’s championship game in Minneapolis.
So Miami’s season is still far from over, but the team’s path is similar to that of three years ago: Need a road series win against a top-10 team then a pair of wins at the Frozen Faceoff.
The odds are long, but the RedHawks have pulled rabbits out of their hats before when things looked their gloomiest.
– Denver’s game-winning goal by Will Butcher was a microcosm of Miami’s season. Offensive-zone faceoff win, check. Skate into the slot uncontested. Check. Fire a grade-A shot past a RedHawks goalie who has to be in need of a support group at this point. Check and mate. It was a 4-on-4 and no one picked up Butcher, who has a great shot and should’ve been a defensive priority on that play.
– Speaking of summing up this team on one play, on defense, there was a fairly routine situation in the first period that turned into another point-blank chance that Larkin turned aside in which Miami D-men Jared Brandt and Louie Belpedio failed to pick up the shooter despite being seemingly well positioned. BoB said the loss of three quality defensemen to graduation (Matthew Caito, Taylor Richart, Chris Joyaux) could be the toughest thing for this team to overcome. The current D-corps, with the exception of Grant Hutton, just isn’t making anyone pay the price for establishing prime real estate in Miami’s zone. A physical, shut-down set of blueliners has been a staple of RedHawks hockey for two cycles of classes, we’re not getting that, Nos. 1-6, on a regular basis. They have far too often freelanced deep into the offensive zone and gotten caught as well.
– The officials certainly didn’t cost Miami this game, but that played a major role by assessing a body checking penalty to Conor Lemirande along the benches (OK, technically they called it interference, but that player had just unloaded the puck, and aren’t those skaters still fair game for the first second at least?). Of course, that went into the net, and after the RedHawks failed to pick up yet another trailer who skated into the slot without paying any kind of price, Colin Sullivan took a penalty right after, and that also ended up in a waved off Denver goal. That was overturned after an eight-minute delay, and there’s a 2-0 lead for the Pioneers with Tanner Jaillet in net. The calls weren’t very good either way, and the linesmen were awful at dropping pucks for faceoffs and in their judgment of kicking playoffs out of the circles.
– These lengthy reviews have gotten ridiculous. We saw a 14-minute delay vs. Western Michigan and another eight-minute stopped in this one. Yes, Friday’s call went Denver’s way, but there really needs to be a limit on these stoppages. If a pregnant pause is long enough that players need to skate to keep their legs fresh, as was the case in both of these instances, it needs to be shut down. Of course we want to see all calls made correctly, but most reasonable people realize that college hockey isn’t the pros, or even Division I football or basketball with unlimited HD angles. If a call can’t be overturned in two minutes, the call on the ice stands. Originally that was a good enough stance for the NFL (actually it was 90 seconds), so it should be fine for hockey at this level.
– Some positive? Josh Melnick had the presence of mind to grab the puck before the linesman got it after Brandt scored the tying goal, realizing it was the first of the freshman’s career. And it was a beautiful shot. Brandt has gone from the NAHL to playing on the top pairing, facing opponents’ top forwards as a freshman, which is an incredibly difficult role in this league.
FORWARDS: D. The Gordie Green-to-LaValle hook up was nice, but this corps did little else. Denver has an excellent coach in Jim Montgomery, and clearly his staff figured out how to shut down Kiefer Sherwood and Anthony Louis, who combined for three shots. Carter Johnson was 6-5 on faceoffs, but overall Miami was an embarrassment on draws, finishing 25-47. Melnick was 9-17 and Sherwood was 5-16. Twelve forwards, 13 shots.
DEFENSEMEN: D+. The Brandt goal earns this corps the plus. Too many Pioneers skated around defenseman en route to the net. Too many times Denver skaters took direct lines toward high-percentage scoring areas without being challenged. Too many times we’ve seen this exact MO.
GOALTENDING: B. Yes, Larkin allowed four goals on 31 shots, but he got almost no help. The first two Denver markers were both on the power play. Goal No. 1 was on a rebound after he had stopped two point-blank chances from the side of the net, and the puck leaked into the slot. Goal No. 2 was tipped at the top of the crease because a player was left there uncontested. Goal No. 3 was on a wide-open shot from the slot because – say it with me – no one picked up the shooter. Goal No. 4 pinballed but again the scorer was allowed to camp out at the top of the crease. Larkin made the save of the year by coming across the crease and shutting down an A-plus chance. If his D-corps isn’t going to show physicality, maybe he should take a page from Jay Williams take matters into his own hands. An occasional penalty for laying a little lumber is a small price to pay to end this trend of seeing high-caliber scorers practically have their mail delivered to the top of Miami’s crease. This has not been a strong regular season, but imagine how much worse it would’ve been if Larkin wasn’t this team’s primary goalie?
LINEUP CHANGES: Defenseman Grant Frederic was back after sitting for four straight games, as Miami went with the seven-defenseman approach with Sullivan cryptically listed as a forward. Forward Alex Alger did not dress. Forward Justin Greenberg missed his eighth straight game with a lower-body injury and was still in a boot. His faceoff prowess was sorely missed.
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami was able to erase a two-goal deficit early in the third period on Friday.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, the next three markers would belong to No. 2 Denver.
The Pioneers beat MU, 5-2 at Cady Arena, sending Miami to its third straight loss and a 1-6-1 record in its last eight games.
The RedHawks (9-14-6) are also guaranteed a non-winning regular season for the third time in four years.
Despite Miami being outshot, 13-6 in the first period, the teams headed into the first intermission scoreless.
But Denver (21-6-4) finally broke through on the power play, as Evan Janssen twice tried to stuff the puck in the near side of the net, but after two denials by RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin, the puck shot out to Dylan Gambrell, who hammered it home 4:20 into the second period.
Just 72 seconds later on another man advantage, the Pioneers’ Will Butcher wristered one in from the blue line that was deflected away by Larkin, but Troy Terry batted it in out of the air. The play was reviewed for several and after initially being ruled the puck was played by a high stick, that call was overturned and the Pioneers went up, 2-0.
At the 4:15 mark of the third period, Miami’s Zach LaValle cut the lead in half when he stuffed the puck in the short side, as it somehow got through goalie Tanner Jaillet off a centering feed by Gordie Green from behind the net.
The RedHawks pulled even with 10:39 remaining when Jaillet gave up a huge rebound off an outside shot by Grant Hutton, who had stole the puck to keep it in the offensive zone seconds earlier, and Jared Brandt blasted it home.
LaValle’s goal was his first of the season, while Brandt’s was his first as a Miamian.
But that lead was short lived. With 6:04 left in regulation, Gambrell won an offensive zone to Butcher, who skated into the slot uncontested and fired one just under the crossbar to give Denver a 3-2 lead.
The Pioneers regained their two-goal lead when Janssen pitchforked a backhander toward the net, and it hit Gambrell at the top of the crease and popped over the shoulder of Larkin with 3:38 left.
It was 32 seconds later when Denver sealed it on an empty netter from Emil Romig.
In addition to clinching a non-winning regular season, Miami can finish no better than .500 in NCHC play, as it slipped to 5-10-4 in the conference. The RedHawks remain in seventh place, five points behind Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota.
These teams wrap up their weekend series at 8:05 p.m. on Saturday in a game that will be broadcast on ASN and carried by Altitude Network.
Miami had tied just four times in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons combined.
On Saturday, the RedHawks equaled that mark in the 13th game of this campaign, skating to their second straight draw, 2-2 at No. 1 Denver on Friday.
And for the second straight night, the Pioneers (7-2-3) secured the extra league point by winning the sudden-death shootout after the teams remained even after 70 minutes.
After Miami’s Conor Lemirande was assessed an interference major in the first minite, Dylan Gambrell took a cross-ice pass from Troy Terry that hit the skate of the RedHawks’ Gordie Green, skated to the center of the faceoff circle and whipped a wrister over the glove of goalie Ryan Larkin 3:02 into the game.
Miami pulled even at the 3:28 mark of the second period when Grant Hutton’s shot from the blue line was stopped by Tanner Jaillet, but the goaltender allowed a huge rebound that Willie Knierim batted in for his first collegiate goal.
With 5:57 left in that frame, Terry emerged from the corner with the puck, skated laterally into the slot, turned and fired one just under the crossbar to give Denver a 2-1 lead.
But the RedHawks (3-6-4) again pulled even with 4:09 left in regulation on another rebound, as Kiefer Sherwood backhanded one that Jaillet knocked aside, but Ryan Siroky was skating by and deposited it into the net.
It was Siroky’s first goal of the season as well.
Louis picked up an assist for the fourth straight game, giving him 103 career points.
Larkin turned 38 shots aside on Friday to set a career high but blew that away in this game, turning 49 aside. He finished the weekend 87 of 90 and made 14 more stops in the unofficial double overtimes both nights.
Miami – now winless in its last seven – picked up its second points of the season in NCHC play but remains in last place in the league, one point behind Colorado College.
The RedHawks are off this week and head to Cornell for a two-game set on Dec. 2-3.
It’s a pretty safe bet to say that Miami was happy to have Ryan Larkin back.
Larkin was pulled from last Friday’s game with an injury and missed Saturday’s contest as a result, but returned to stop a career-high 38 shots as the RedHawks salvaged a 1-1 tie at No. 1 Denver on Friday.
Miami extended its winless streak to six games but it had lost its last five and was 0-4 against its first two NCHC opponents, neither of which were ranked.
The RedHawks (3-6-3), who received one point after DU won the sudden-death shootout, were outshot, 39-21.
Miami’s only goal came just 1:59 into the game when Anthony Louis stole the puck in the defensive zone, slid a pass to a streaking Grant Hutton, and the sophomore defenseman ripped one by goalie Tanner Jaillet on the stick side.
Denver (7-2-2) trailed by a goal after the first period despite leading on the shot counter, 15-3.
But the Pioneers tied it in the middle stanza. With 16:02 left in that frame, Troy Terry stole a Bryce Hatten defensive zone pass, went in alone and beat Larkin stick side to tie it.
The RedHawks generated 11 of their 21 shots in the second period.
After a scoreless third period and overtime, the game was officially ruled a tie. In the second OT for a conference point, Denver outshot Miami, 7-2 in the 3-on-3.
Henrik Borgstrom converted his sudden-death penalty shot but Kiefer Sherwood was denied.
Hutton’s goal was his third of the season after he did not record a marker in his first season with Miami.
Louis picked up the lone RedHawks assist, giving him helpers in three straight and points in nine of his last 10 games. He now has 102 career points, moving him into sole possession of 49th place on Miami’s all-time leaderboard.
The RedHawks remain in last place in the NCHC, as they picked up their first league point of the season.
These teams wrap up their two-game weekend series at 9:07 p.m. on Saturday.
Denver finished second in the conference in 2015-16 and advanced to the Frozen Four before falling to NCHC foe North Dakota.
Last season, the Pioneers split with Miami in Oxford Dec. 4-5 but finished 17-5-2 in NCHC play and 25-10-6 overall – a .683 winning percentage.
NCAA TITLES: 7 (1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004, 2005).
COACH: Jim Montgomery (69-40-14 in three seasons).
2015-16 RECORD: 25-10-6 (17-5-2 in NCHC, 3rd place in the league).
POSTSEASON RESULT: Lost to North Dakota, 4-2 in the Frozen Four on Apr. 7.
RINK (capacity): Magness Arena, Denver, Colo. (6,026).
LAST SEASON VS. MIAMI: 1-1 in Oxford (Jan. 29 – 3-1 Miami; Jan. 30 – 5-3 DU).
ALL-TIME SERIES: Tied, 10-10-0.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: In Denver Nov. 18-19. In Oxford Feb. 17-18.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: D Will Butcher (C), G Tanner Jaillet, G Evan Cowley, F Dylan Gambrell.
KEY DEPARTURES: F Trevor Moore (early), F Grant Arnold (C, graduated), F Danton Heinen (early).
KEY NEW FACES: F Justin Cole, F Henrik Borgstrom (23rd overall pick by Florida in 2016).
NOTES: Denver has finished sixth, fourth and third in the eight-team NCHC in three seasons.
The Pioneers scored 134 goals last season, but the only skater on the 2015-16 team that registered 20 or more goals in 2015-16 graduated.
Gambrell is the team’s top returning scorer with 47 points, second-best on the team. That included 17 goals, and he was second on the team in assists (30).
The defense corps is led by Captain Will Butcher, who was tied for a team best plus-17. He also contributed on special teams, racking up 13 points on four goals and nine assists.
Goalie Tanner Jaillet started the bulk of games for Denver last season, and the junior went 17-5-5 with three shutouts.
Evan Cowley will likely be the Pioneers backup. Last year he went 8-5-1 with a 2.07 GAA, one shutout, and a .929 save percentage last season. Cowley was between the pipes Jan. 29 in the RedHawks’ 3-1 victory.
Seven freshman make the DU roster a year removed from their Frozen Four appearance, including Tyson McLellan, son of Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan.
Denver will be without last year’s points leader, now Boston Bruins prospect, F Danton Heinen. The Pioneers will still be dangerous as they bring in a slew of young talent including F Henrik Borgstrom.
Denver reached the Frozen Four for the first time since they last won the NCAA title in 2005. The Pioneers will be poised to get back to playing meaningful April hockey and considering DU will have the same coach and starting goaltender as last season, Denver has an excellent change to be in the NCHC’s top tier.
OXFORD, Ohio – The better team won both games this weekend at Cady Arena.
Unfortunately for Miami, that meant after winning the series opener against Denver, the RedHawks fell to the Pioneers, 5-3 in the finale on Saturday.
The strange thing about Game 2 was Miami was badly outplayed in the first period but came away from that frame with the lead.
The RedHawks were much improved in the second and third periods but were outscored in both.
Typically in the ultra-competitve NCHC, teams splitting against a ranked in-conference team is OK, so long as they are beating the bottom dwellers.
The problem for Miami is it dug itself such a deep hole that 1-1 weekends are no longer suffice if it hopes to get back into NCAA Tournament contention.
At 24th in the PairWise, the RedHawks still have much work remaining before any serious NCAA talks can begin. And Miami now will play the majority of its nine remaining games away from Cady Arena.
As mentioned before, strength of schedule will help Miami if it gets to .500 or above, but one caveat as we move forward: The NCAA now requires teams to post at least a .500 winning percentage to qualify for an at-large bid.
But judging from its positioning in PairWise (24th) vs. its record (two games under .500), this looks like it will probably be a self-policing situation. Just wanted to throw it out there.
A 6-3 finish to the regualar season would suffice the winning percentage requirement, assuming Miami can win at least one in the best-of-3, and there’s a good chance that in that scenario that series would be played in Oxford.
It may take a 7-2 mark plus a trip to Minneapolis to get into the top 14 in PairWise, which is probably where Miami would need to advance to for a fairly safe NCAA berth.
The RedHawks’ small margin for error makes next weekend so important and such a high-risk, high-reward series, since wins will be tough to come by against the second-ranked (in the PairWise) Huskies but could be very lucrative.
– Back to the game…too many turnovers, especially in the first period when Miami seemingly was essentially in penalty kill mode for 20 minutes. Forwards didn’t seem to get back on D or backcheck very well, and after standing on his head for the first four periods of the weekend, senior goalie Jay Williams led in a couple of outside shots he normally stops. The flip side of that is: Denver is a very good team that played a very good game in most facets (goalie Tanner Jaillet wasn’t that great would be the only knock on the Pioneers in this one).
– Jack Roslovic’s set-up of Kiefer Sherwood was world class and was shown repeatedly on the big screen, as it should have been. A world-class play by a world-class player. He still needs to stop trying to carry the puck through three and four players, which he was probably able to get away with at the last level.
– Obviously skaters cannot record saves, but both Alex Gacek and Chris Joyaux kept pucks from going into the net by sprawling across the crease. Great effort by both on their respective “saves”.
– Our nightly GoalieGate update: There is no update. Ryan McKay was scratched again on Saturday, and it’s unknown if/when he will return. One thing of note regarding goalies: Ryan Larkin is with the team but is recovering from an upper body injury and is out for the season. Larkin, the cousin of Detroit Red Wings star Dylan Larkin, came to Oxford earlier this month to start on classwork and will be a freshman this fall. Good move by him and by the program.
FORWARDS: C. They scored all three goals, but as mentioned above, the backchecking and defense by this group left much to be desired, and they turned the puck over way too much. Nice to see the Roslovic-Sherwood combo generating offense as well as Kuraly scoring by driving the net. So glad to see Alex Gacek having a solid senior season.
DEFENSEMEN: C. Kind of a comme ci, comme ca game for this group. No standouts for either good or bad reasons. It does bear mentioning that Louie Belpedio has been much more solid overall since returning from Finland.
GOALTENDING: C-. Tough call here. Williams was the difference in the first period but was 16 of 21 the final 40 minutes. To be fair, he had zero chance on the first goals, and on the fourth one Shore ended up with puck all alone in the slot for multiple seconds after an unfortunate bounce for Miami. And Williams made the initial save on the third goal. The second and fifth ones were two he would’ve wanted back, but the fifth one was a laser that found the top corner of the net.
LINEUP CHANGES: None again. This is the fifth straight game Coach Enrico Blasi has gone with these 18 skaters plus Williams in net.