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Analysis: Good start considering turnover

ERIE, Pa. – Through four games, Miami has beaten the teams it should’ve beaten and lost to the team ranked in the top five of the national polls.

The RedHawks sit at 3-1 two weeks into the season, having swept Alabama-Huntsville twice at home and shut out Mercyhurst in the third-place game of the Ice Breaker on Saturday. Their blemish is a 4-0 loss to No. 5 Providence in Friday’s semifinal round here.

Miami outscored UAH and Mercyhurst, 12-1, an encouraging sign that the RedHawks have blown out those teams since MU has 11 new players on its roster.

And really Miami played better than the final score indicated in the loss to the Friars.

Considering how the RedHawks’ off-season began, this quote-unquote rebuild could’ve been a whole lot worse.

Miami will get plenty of true litmus tests against teams of its caliber, but its start has been encouraging.

— 6-feet-7 defenseman Andrew Sinard made his collegiate debut on Saturday, and he handled his start well. He was listed as the seventh defenseman on Miami’s lineup card and appeared cool when the puck ended up on his stick while holding his own on D.

He threaded a pass to Jonathan Gruden that nearly resulted in a goal as well.

“He handled himself pretty well,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “He’s a big boy, he’s got good reach and he made a nice play on the back door to Gruds that just kind of got away from Gruds a little bit, otherwise it was a tap-in, but he saw some limited ice but I thought he did a good job.”

Miami defenseman Chaz Switzer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

— Sinard and Chaz Switzer made their 2018-19 debuts on Saturday as Miami dressed seven defensemen. River Rymsha sat for the first time this season. Switzer was banged up in preseason but logged 55 games his freshman and sophomore campaigns.

— After this weekend, eight blueliners have dressed in four games – Grant Hutton, Alec Mahalak, Rourke Russell, Brayden Crowder, Derek Daschke, Rymsha, Switzer and Sinard. The first five have skated in all four games, Rymsha has played in three games, Switzer and Sinard made their 2018-19 debuts on Saturday.

The fact Miami has trouble getting some of these guys in the lineup speaks to its depth.

“We’re pleased with that, and obviously we’ve got to keep going and keep pushing guys to get better,” Blasi said. “We want our guys to play their best every night, I think the depth and everyone buying into that helps.”

— Karch Bachman leads the team with three goals, including a breakaway tally and eventual game winner in the first minute on Saturday.

He forfeited some of his gold star when he took a spearing major and was assessed a game misconduct in the second period, but the Florida Panthers draftee has clearly found another gear early this season.

Finishing chances was an issue at times in 2017-18 but his shooting percentage is .200 in a small sample size this season.

Asked whether his improved play was a product of confidence, Blasi said “you let me know if you figure it out.”

— So playing the Canadian and U.S. anthems prior to games is apparently a thing for Mercyhurst, so we heard both each night at Erie Insurance Arena.

— Somehow missed this in the off-season but teams are allowed to dress a 19th skater this season. On Saturday it was Sinard, on Friday it was forward Noah Jordan. That was extremely helpful for Miami on Saturday since Bachman was sent to the dressing room early, and the RedHawks also benefitted in their opener when Carter Johnson was cheap-shotted.

— If there was a penalty killing first star for the weekend, it would go to Brian Hawkinson. The freshman is proving himself quite an agitator and is earning tons of PK time with his defensive ability.

— Attendance was listed at 2,387 for Saturday, but there were fewer than 500 for each of Miami’s games, including the third-place game against Mercyhurst, which is located in Erie. As many MU grads as there are living in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, there should’ve been more RedHawks fans in the seats.

Win lifts Miami to third at Ice Breaker

ERIE, Pa. – Miami couldn’t get a single shot past Providence on Friday.

But it took just 29 seconds for Karch Bachman to generate a goal for the RedHawks on Saturday as they beat Mercyhurst, 3-0 in the third-place game of the Ice Breaker Tournament at Erie Insurance Arena.

Miami forward Karch Bachman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“That’s huge,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “You’ve got to score first – that’s one thing that you want to try to do in a game because all in the sudden now you’re playing on your toes and not your heels.”

Bachman accelerated through a pair of Lakers defenders, went in alone and buried a forehand shot on the glove side in the opening minute to open the scoring.

That was all the offense Miami (3-1) needed, as goalie Ryan Larkin turned 21 shots aside to earn his second shutout in three starts this season, which is already a career high. The junior now has four perfect sheets for his career, with one each his freshman and sophomore years.

Ahead by one, Ryan Siroky carried the puck around the back of the Mercyhurst net and stuffed the wraparound into the net to make it 2-0 with 13:51 left in the second period.

In the final minute of the middle stanza, Phil Knies stole the puck from a Mercyhurst (0-2-1) skater at center ice, went in alone and slid a backhander through the five hole of goalie Stefano Cantali.

Miami’s Ryan Siroky (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“I would say maybe a little undisciplined today, so we had to kill some penalties, still trying to understand how to manage the game in certain areas,” Blasi said. “I think that comes with some youth – but I thought for the most part our effort and our structure was pretty good.”

Historically, Bachman and Siroky have not been huge goal scorers but both are off to hot starts.

Bachman, a junior, netted two goals as a freshman and six last season, but his breakaway tally was his team-leading third marker of 2018-19. Siroky is second on the team behind Bachman with two tallies in four games this campaign after the senior found the net just seven times his first three seasons.

Miami goalie Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Despite scoring three times, Miami was credited with just one assist, with Christian Mohs notching his first point of the season on Siroky’s goal. Bachman and Knies both scored unassisted.

Larkin has made 61 saves on 64 shots (.953), an encouraging sign after last season when his save percentage was just .886.

“I thought he struggled with a couple shots (vs. Providence) – or at least one for sure – but he made good saves today,” Blasi said. “Top of his crease was solid, and he played the puck well. It’s there, he just has to make sure he stays focused.”

The RedHawks were 0-for-4 on the power play and finished the weekend without a man-advantage goal despite 11 opportunities. After netting a pair of PPGs in its opener, MU has failed to cash on in 14 chances over the last three games.

Conversely, Miami’s penalty kill was 6-for-6 and has allowed just one power play goal this season. Bachman took a spearing major in the second period and was ejected.

“We had a lot of good chances on the power play, but right now it’s just not going in for us,” Blasi said. “But our PK did a great job and sometimes you’re going to have to play games like that.”

This is the first time the RedHawks have won three of their first four games since 2014-15, and Blasi said he is pleased with the start overall.

“You take four-game segments like that, they start to add up,” Blasi said.

Miami opens a four-game homestand with a two-game series vs. UMass-Lowell next weekend. Colgate comes to Oxford for a pair of contests on Oct. 26-27.

MIAMI U. 1-2-0 – 3
MERCYHURST 0-0-0 – 0

First period: 1. Mia., Bachman 3, uag, 0:29.

Second period: 2. Mia., Siroky 2 (Mohs), 6:09; 3. Mia., Knies 1, shg, 19:11.

Third period: None.

Shots on goal: Miami U. 8-18-5 – 31; Mercyhurst 7-6-8 – 21. Power plays: Miami U. 0-for-4; Mercyhurst 0-for-6. Goalies: Miami U., Larkin (21 of 21 saved); Mercyhurst, Cantali (28 of 31). Referees: Ryan Sweeney, Eugene Binda. Linesmen: Brendan Lewis, Joe Lewis. Time: 2:20. Attendance: 2,387.