We’re just a handful of days into November, but there is always a playoff feel to the rink whenever North Dakota comes to town.
Especially with both teams ranked and Miami off to a 7-3 start.
The Fighting Hawks began the season 0-2-1 but have won four straight as they open their NCHC season.
BoB takes a look at the series between NorDak and the RedHawks this weekend.
WHO: No. 11 North Dakota Fighting Hawks (4-2-1) at No. 19 Miami RedHawks (7-3).
WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio (3,642).
WHEN: Friday – 7:35 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.
ALL-TIME SERIES: North Dakota leads, 13-6-3.
LAST SEASON HEAD-TO-HEAD: Teams both finished 1-1-2. Nov. 10 – North Dakota, 4-1; Nov. 11 – Tie, 3-3; Feb. 23 – Miami, 4-3, OT; Feb. 24 – Tie, 2-2.
NORTH DAKOTA RADIO: Both nights – KQHT-FM (96.1), Grand Forks, N.D.
MIAMI RADIO: Both nights – WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
NOTES: North Dakota was winless through three games, going 0-1-1 in a home-and-home vs. Bemidji State and losing, 7-4 at home to Minnesota State.
But the rejuvenated Fighting Hawks have won their last four, all against ranked non-conference opponents.
Up front, Nick Jones leads UND in points with six, five of which have come on assists. He has scored three goals in five career games vs. Miami.
Jordan Kawaguchi is second among forwards with five points, all on helpers.
Grant Mismash and Rhett Gardner are both 3-1-4, and Gardner has scored four goals and added two assists against the RedHawks.
Forwards Cole Smith and Collin Adams also have four points.
On defense, Colton Poolman is tied for the team lead with three goals, also earning two assists.
UND has had heavy production from its blue line, as Gabe Bast and Jacob Bernard-Docker are both 2-2-4, Hayden Shaw has four assists and Matt Kiersted has a goal and two helpers.
Peter Thome had a strong 12-game showing in net as a rookie last season, but after a poor game early freshman Adam Scheel has gone 4-1-1 with a 1.58 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.
Scheel has keyed the Fighting Sioux’s four-game winning streak, so barring sub-par performance he should play both nights.
UND is third in the NCAA in faceoff percentage at 59.0, with Gardner leading college hockey at 66.2 percent.
This has been a Miami weakness in recent seasons but the RedHawks are tied for 16th in Division I this season with a winning percentage of 53.8.
North Dakota leads the conference in NHL draftees with eight.
Special teams have been a struggled for the Fighting Hawks, who are 47th in the NCAA in power play percentage (14.3) and tied for 12th-last at 75.0 on the penalty kill.
Miami’s Gordie Green enters this weekend having scored in four straight games with five tallies in that span. His points streak is at five games, and he has 10 points during that streak.
The RedHawks went four straight games without a power play goal earlier this season but have netted at least one marker on the man advantage in five consecutive contests.
Miami is 1-1 in the NCHC, and these will be the first conference contests for North Dakota.
A major penalty was a key reason Miami’s four-game winning streak ended on Saturday.
The No. 20 RedHawks led by two goals early but lost, 6-3 to Nebraska-Omaha in the series finale at Baxter Arena, partly due to three power play goals scored during a Mavericks five-minute man advantage.
Miami went up, 2-0 in the first period but allowed a Mavericks goal with 61 seconds left in the opening frame.
RedHawks captain Josh Melnick was given a major and game misconduct for spearing midway through the second period and UNO scored three times on the ensuing power play to give the team a lead which it would not relinquish.
It was the first win of the season for the Mavericks and the most goals against for the RedHawks in 2018-19.
RECAP: Miami (7-3) took the lead on a 5-on-3 when Melnick slid a lateral pass across the top of the faceoff circles, and Grant Hutton one-timed a rip past goalie Evan Weninger.
With one UNO (1-6-1) skater back, Hutton had a shot blocked, but the puck trickled to Phil Knies in the right faceoff circle, and he whipped one just under the crossbar to make it 2-0 a minute later.
But Taylor Ward batted home a bad-angle shot off a rebound from a point-blank Mason Morelli chance with 61 seconds left in the opening frame.
Melnick’s penalty put Miami down two men, and UNO’s Fredrik Olofsson roofed one from the right faceoff dot to tie it.
Kevin Conley scored from nearly the same spot on a partly-deflected pass 96 seconds later, giving the Mavericks their first lead of the weekend, 3-2.
Another 1:57 passed before Chayse Primeau one-timed a backdoor pass from Conley at the side of the cage, giving UNO a two-goal lead.
Miami cut its deficit to one when Gordie Green knocked home a long rebound from the inside edge of the faceoff circle less than two minutes into the final stanza.
But UNO’s Tristan Keck extended his team’s lead to two late in the third period, and Morelli netted his second of the night when he poked home a centering feed from behind the net.
STATS: Green scored for the fourth straight game and extended his points streak to five games.
He has five goals and five assists during his hot streak.
— Melnick has a four-game points streak (2-6-8), and Hutton and Jonathan Gruden both picked up points for the third straight contest.
— After a slow start on the power play, Miami has scored on the man advantage five straight games, going 6-for-19 in that span.
THOUGHTS: The elephant on the ice in this game is the Melnick penalty. The ensuing power play was obviously critical.
There was no replay on the UNO feed on NCHC.tv, so here’s what I think after going reviewing that segment of the game on the site:
— It appears Melnick rammed his stick between the legs of an UNO skater after the two battled for the puck along the boards for an extended time.
— The case could be made that said skater interfered with Melnick as he attempted to vacate the area.
— The NCAA is tightening up in certain areas, and while I’ve certainly witnessed way worse hits in recent years that have not been called, college hockey is now replaying nefarious incidents and is obviously not afraid to dish out majors.
— All that said, a minor was certainly warranted. Considering what we’ve seen called majors the first four weekends, it’s not out of line that Melnick received a major.
The upgrade was extremely costly to Miami, as the Mavericks scored twice in the final three power play minutes that wouldn’t have happened had the call been a minor. Those three goals flipped a 2-1 Miami lead to a 4-2 UNO advantage.
— The Mavericks had already tilted the ice in their direction heading into their scoring barrage, having trimmed the RedHawks’ lead to one after Miami jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and the penalty provided UNO the fuel to seize control of the game.
LINEUP CHANGES: Forwards Zach LaValle and Carter Johnson did not dress.
Christian Mohs and defenseman Andrew Sinard did, giving Miami seven defensemen.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This is the first disappointing loss of the season, not because UNO was winless but because Miami had the lead and let it get away.
To be fair, Nebraska-Omaha is definitely better than the 0-6-1 record it sported entering this contest, but good teams rarely lose when they take two-goal leads.
The series ends in a split and Miami finishes its first 10 games with a 7-3 record, and not to put words in anyone’s mouth but I’m guessing under the off-season circumstances the coaching staff is happy with a .700 winning percentage through the first weekend in November.
But the schedule gets a lot tougher the rest of the way, and the RedHawks can ill afford to have discipline lapses turn would-be wins into losses.
Miami’s ninth game of the season was its first true road contest, but the No. 20 RedHawks kept up their MO of winning by wide margins.
Gordie Green found the net twice as MU scored the final three goals in a 4-1 win vs. Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena on Friday, extending its winning streak to four games.
This was also the NCHC opener for the RedHawks (7-2), who played six of their first eight games this season in Oxford and the other two in Erie, Pa., in the Ice Breaker Tournament.
During their recent hot spell, the RedHawks have surrendered just three goals and none in the third period.
Miami goalie Ryan Larkin won his fifth straight game, stopping 19 of 20.
RECAP: Jonathan Gruden scored his first career goal when he skated behind the UNO net and shot it off the back of goalie Evan Weninger on the power play just 79 seconds into the game.
The Mavericks (0-6-1) tied it with a Taylor Ward goal on a tic-tac-toe passing play as he swept in a pass from the top of the crease with 2:53 remaining in the first period. That tally was also scored on the man advantage
Miami regained the lead 66 seconds later on a blue line blast by Grant Hutton that was deflected in by Brian Hawkinson for his first career goal.
With 5:27 left in the middle stanza, Gordie Green jarred the puck from an UNO defender in the Miami zone, and Scott Corbett seized it and fired a shot off the crossbar. The puck skipped through the top of the crease and Green batted it out of the air as it dribbled into the back of the cage.
Green picked up his second marker of the night with an emphatic rip into the empty net from the outside edge of the faceoff circle with 22 seconds to play after controlling a Josh Melnick two-line outlet pass.
STATS: The Green-Melnick combo on Miami’s top line continues to dominate, as Green extended his multi-point game streak to four and Melnick picked up multiple points for the third consecutive contest.
Green has scored in three straight games and is 4-5-9 during his points streak. Melnick has scored twice and earned five assists in his last three.
— Hawkinson also has points in three straight, including his first career goal in this one.
— Larkin has allowed just three goals during his five-game win streak and has stopped 123 of 126 shots in that span (.976).
— This was the fourth straight game in which Miami did not allow a third-period goal, and the RedHawks have given up just three in nine contests this season.
In 2017-18 they surrendered 46 tallies in 37 games after the second intermission, including a pair in overtime.
THOUGHTS: Miami, once again, played a full 60 minutes against a team they were supposed to beat, and the RedHawks won for the seventh time, with six of those wins coming by three or more goals.
In other words, they’re beating teams they should beat and doing so in decisive fashion.
This was both the first true road game and the inaugural league contest for Miami, which passed both tests with high grades.
And UNO may be winless but it is not a bad team, or at least the Mavericks didn’t play that poorly. Their shot total of 20 is somewhat deceiving because they generated a lot of chances.
A road win in this league, regardless of the opponent’s status, is a major accomplishment, and in this game Miami pulled out the victory on hostile ice and looked good doing so.
— Great job answering the tying UNO goal late in the first period goal by regaining the lead before intermission. That was the Hawkinson deflection on the Hutton blast and eventual game winner.
— Can’t say enough about how well Green is playing. He has nine points in four games and his defense is as good as his offense. He made his first goal happen with his forechecking, as he knocked the puck loose and scored on the rebound from Corbett’s ensuing shot.
— I’d been to all of the first eight games and this was the first one I’d seen on TV, but Derek Daschke looked even better on the tube than live. Twice a last-second desperation play prevented a slam-dunk goal, and he picked up two assists, giving him five points in his last four.
Daschke was probably even more amped to play against the school he was formerly committed to. Mentioned this last weekend but he continues to better every game.
— Prior to this game, only four Miami forwards had played every game but had not scored, and Hawkinson and Gruden both took their names off that list.
Gruden had been snakebitten, as the Ottawa Senators’ fourth rounder was expected to contribute right away.
Yet Hawkinson played three full USHL seasons – 164 games – and only scored 10 times with just 16 assists. Despite his lack of scoring in juniors Hawkinson has a 1-5-6 line in nine games with Miami.
Gruden has tons of raw talent and it should be fun to watch him develop, and Hawkinson has taken complete advantage of his opportunity in Miami’s lineup and has already become a regular on the penalty kill.
— Karch Bachman hit a post early and then a crossbar-and-post later in the game. He had three goals in the first four games this season and continues to get better in other aspects.
He is scoreless in five straight but has been pretty unlucky recently and it feels like he’s going to break out again soon.
— This game was broadcast nationally on one of the regional Fox Sports Channels, and UNO announcers Dave Ahlers and David Brisson did a fabulous job.
Both are very fair in their announcing – regularly complimenting Miami players for their play – and extremely knowledgeable.
Ahlers is a former AHL announcer and Brisson played briefly in the pros after graduating from UNO.
FORWARDS: A-. A well-played game by this entire corps, up and down the lines. Green was the standout with Melnick not far behind. Gruden still makes too many high-risk passes but hopefully this goal will vault his game another level.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. Especially liked Daschke’s play although he did turn one over for a near-goal. Rourke Russell also stood out, and watching from a higher vantagepoint it was easier to appreciate his geometrical smarts in his usage of the boards on defensive-zone passes.
GOALTENDING: A. The goal against was on a magnificent passing play that was basically a 2-on-oh at the top of the crease. Larkin is a key reason for Miami’s hot start and his rebound control is as good as it’s ever been since he came to Oxford.
LINEUP CHANGES: Only one: Up front, Carter Johnson was back in the lineup after sitting last Saturday. He has now played three straight series openers but has sat in consecutive finales.
He replaced Andrew Sinard, who was the seventh defenseman in Game 2 vs. Colgate last weekend.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Winless or not, UNO played pretty well and Miami was better.
The Mavericks hurt themselves with undisciplined penalties early and the RedHawks took advantage with a power play goal.
Omaha is obviously in a down year but this was still a quality win for Miami.
OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Larkin had one shutout in his freshman season and one more as a sophomore.
Six starts into 2018-19, the Miami junior has already blanked more opponents than in his first two years combined.
On Saturday, he recorded his third clean sheet of 2018-19, a 30-save effort in a 6-0 win over Colgate at Cady Arena that wrapped up a weekend sweep for the RedHawks.
It was the fourth straight win for Miami in the all-time series, as the RedHawks have outscored the Raiders, 18-2 during their winning streak vs. CU and 40-17 overall.
MU wrapped up its four-game homestand with three consecutive victories and is 5-1 on its home ice this season.
RECAP: Just 2:48 into the first period, Josh Melnick backhanded a pass to Gordie Green at the blue line, and Grant Hutton received a drop pass from Green, skated into the high slot and wired one home on the stick side on a 4-on-4.
It remained 1-0 until the 7:49 mark of the middle frame, when Green fed a pass to Melnick from the point to the side of the cage, where Melnick rammed in a bad-angle one-timer on the power play.
With 3:14 left in that period, a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle by Alec Mahalak handcuffed goalie Andrew Farrier, and Scott Corbett was there to knock in the rebound on the opposite side for his first career goal, making it 3-0.
Melnick and Green connected again, as Melnick threaded a pass through two defenders from the inside edge of the faceoff circle to a wide-open Green, who fired it into the vacant half of the net with five seconds left in a second period that saw MU score three times.
Midway through the final stanza, Casey Gilling fed a one-time pass to River Rymsha, who was crossing the blue line, and Rymsha found the top corner of the net as he stepped into a slap shot.
Hutton wrapped up the scoring as he eluded three defenders while carrying the puck from the blue line to the slot before backhanding one in to the stick side with 5:03 left in regulation.
STATS: Larkin leads all of Division I in shutouts with three. His save percentage of .966 is second in the NCAA and he is third in goals-against average (0.83).
His five career clean slates moves Larkin into a tie with Dan Kodatsky for seventh all-time on the Miami leaderboard.
Green finished with a goal and three assists for four points, the second-highest total of his career only to his five-point effort vs. Maine on Oct. 20, 2017.
It was his second three-assist game as a RedHawk.
Hutton ended the night with two goals and a helper, becoming the first skater to score twice or more in a game this season. It was his fifth career multi-goal game and the fourth time he has picked up three points.
Melnick also notched three points – the third time he has done so in a Miami sweater – on a goal and two assists.
Green has seven points in his last three games including six this weekend and Melnick picked up five points this series.
It was the third career multi-point game for Mahalak, who tallied two assists and wrapped up the series with three points.
Miami scored in all six periods this weekend and has goals in seven consecutive frames overall.
THOUGHTS: Miami played with maximum effort from the opening faceoff to the final horn, as the RedHawks were still bombarding the offensive zone in the closing minutes trying to add another score.
Too many times for too many years Miami has had trouble closing out wins, but at least for the first month of this season, the RedHawks have wielded a killer instinct late in games.
Colgate didn’t play poorly on Friday but fell behind early in this one and sort of threw in the proverbial towel the final 20-25 minutes on Saturday, and rather than sit back and play not to lose, Miami absolutely took it to the Raiders in the sixth period of the weekend, punishing them physically and on the scoreboard.
At this point, the RedHawks are better than Colgate. They aren’t 6-0 better though, but both teams got the outcomes they deserved: Miami didn’t let up the entire game and the Raiders did.
And good teams take advantage when that happens. That’s the difference between the first eight games of 2018-19 and their 110 contests the previous three seasons.
And that’s what makes this such a big win heading into NCHC play.
— Corbett returned to the Green-Melnick line and all three ended up finding the net. They combined for eight points (Green 1-3-4, Melnick 1-2-3, Corbett 1-0-1).
We heaped praise on this line for its play on Friday but it was even better in this game at both ends.
— This is as locked in as Larkin has been since coming to Oxford. In his last four starts he is 4-0 with a .981 save percentage, stopping 104 of 106 shots.
He’s second in the NCAA in save percentage at .966 only to a Lake Superior goalie whose last name is Mitens (how do you compete with that)?
And that’s been a big difference in Miami’s start: It’s virtually impossible to have a successful season when your team save percentage is .883 and your starter finishes at .886, which was the case in 2017-18.
Quality goaltending can help a decent team become a great one, and while there’s no way Larkin maintains his current save rate, he has the ability to steal wins for the RedHawks.
FORWARDS: A. The passing by this corps was so much crisper than in any other game this season. Yeah, Green and Melnick were studs, but their supporting cast was strong as well. Karch Bachman continues to generate chances with his speed. Gilling keeps winning key draws and impressing with his defense, plus he set up Rymsha’s goal. Sophs Ben Lown and Phil Knies continue to play above their size. Zach LaValle is earning playing time by stepping up. Corbett scored his first career goal and plays a high-energy, physical style. Etc., etc.
DEFENSEMEN: A. Hutton, Mahalak and Rymsha were the standouts among this group. This was Hutton’s best game at both ends, and probably the same could be said for Mahalak, who picked up two assists and earned some power play time. Rymsha’s goal was an absolute blast with pinpoint accuracy.
GOALTENDING: A+. About as perfect of a game as a goalie could play. He turned 30 shots aside and faced some Grade-A chances. He seemed more comfortable going side to side this weekend and gave up almost zero second chances.
LINEUP CHANGES: Corbett replaced Johnson, both on the first line and in the lineup, as Johnson was a scratch.
Defenseman Andrew Sinard dressed for the second time this season as Christian Mohs sat out.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Percentagewise, this equals Miami’s best start through eight games since 2010-11.
The locker room is much more unified than in recent seasons.
Goaltending has been phenomenal. Defense has been solid. The RedHawks are starting to score goals.
Even those in the stands are having a lot more fun, and hopefully more will show up as we enter the cold-weather months and super-skilled league opponents come to town.
Miami has a lot going for it, but the RedHawks also haven’t played a true road game yet, suiting up for six at home and two on neutral ice. They also haven’t started league play.
MU will tackle both of those obstacles next week in its NCHC-opening series at Omaha.
Maybe Miami, picked to finish last in the conference, ends up being the biggest surprise in the NCAA. Maybe the RedHawks do struggle in league play as was predicted.
But if they keep up the kind of effort they put forth this weekend, the dividends will eventually come for this program.
At least by playing the game the right way the foundation is now being laid for future success.
OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Larkin extended his personal winning streak to three games for the third time in his career, and he stopped 12 shots in the third period – including several high-percentage chances – to preserve the win.
He finished with 28 saves as Miami beat Colgate, 4-1 at Cady Arena on Friday. In his last three outings, Larkin has turned aside 74 of 76 shots or 97.4 percent.
The RedHawks (5-2) improved to three games over the .500 mark for the first time since the end of the 2015 season.
Miami scored twice before the Raiders generated their first marker, and the RedHawks closed the win out with two more unanswered goals.
MU has won three straight meetings vs. Colgate (2-2) – all at Cady Arena – outscoring the Raiders, 12-2 in that span.
RECAP: Fourteen minutes into the first period, Derek Daschke centered a pass to Gordie Green, who juked before whipping a shot home on the forehand from the slot to open the scoring for the RedHawks.
Miami extended its lead to two when Phil Knies snuck home a short-side wrist shot from the left wing 96 seconds into the middle stanza.
Colgate’s Josh McKechney netted his first goal of the season with 7:35 left in the second period with one second left on a Raiders power play, cutting their deficit to one.
But Miami reestablished a two-goal lead six minutes later when Alec Mahalak sprung Josh Melnick loose up the middle, and Melnick eluded two defenders, penetrated the zone and ripped one over Mitch Benson’s blocker from the high slot.
Zach LaValle capped off the scoring for the RedHawks, as he corralled a puck on the left faceoff dot, maneuvered it to the sweet spot and wired one top shelf just inside the near crossbar with 6:19 left in regulation.
STATS: Green and Melnick finished with a goal and an assist each. It was the second tally of the season for both.
Knies’ goal was also No. 2 of this campaign, and it was the first for LaValle, his first since March 10, 2017.
Daschke picked up a career-high two helpers. He and River Rymsha ended the night a team-best plus-2.
THOUGHTS: Miami actually started the night a little soft on defense, allowing multiple quality chances early, but overall the team played well all night.
The final score is a tribute to the RedHawks’ effort and execution, as Colgate was better than 4-1 indicates.
Fortunately for Miami, Larkin was on form from the opening whistle, as he had to turn aside five shots in the first few minutes.
Even when Colgate pulled to within one, it never felt like the game was in doubt, and Melnick’s pure-effort goal made it 3-1 and really seemed to deflate the Raiders.
— This was Green’s best game of the early season, and he and Melnick showed off their chemistry in this one.
And they did so with Carter Johnson as their third, as he moved onto that line with Scott Corbett scratched.
Miami’s early-season success had come without huge offensive contributions from the Melnick-Green tandem, but they were a force in this win.
— Derek Daschke has seemed to get better every game. His first assist was on a high-precision feed to Green in the slot, and he also picked up a secondary helper on Knies’ marker.
— Monte Graham’s faceoff percentage is north of .700 – which is insanely high – and he won a draw in the third period that went right to LaValle, who loaded up for Miami’s fourth goal.
Graham was 4-0 in the circle.
FORWARDS: B+. Melnick and Green (Grelnick?) were stars 1 and 1a among this corps. Knies and LaValle both found the net on well-located shots. Brian Hawkinson played his grinder role and provided energy. Ryan Siroky was his physical self and played solid defensively. Christian Mohs – limited to nine games last season after knee surgery the previous year – looked a step better than in previous games, especially early.
DEFENSEMEN: B-. A little sloppy early but solid enough overall. Daschke was the standout in this group, both with his passing and his shut-down play as his stock continues to rise. Rourke Russell also seems to be in a constant state of improvement as he seems to be gaining confidence every night. River Rymsha has been a pleasant surprise as he impresses with his two-way play and hockey IQ.
GOALTENDING: A. Couldn’t see the Colgate goal live and there is no clear replay, so no idea if Larkin had a chance on it, but either way he made some excellent stops early and turned 28 shots aside overall. A strength of his as a freshman was his rebound control, and once again in 2018-19 opponents are rarely getting second chances vs. Miami with him on net. The Raiders created quality chances throughout but Larkin was having no part of it.
LINEUP CHANGES: Corbett was a head-scratching scratch up front, as Johnson was not only back on the lineup card but moved to the top line with Green and Melnick. The move didn’t seem to affect the duo, as each went 1-1-2.
Mohs was also back in the lineup, dressing for the fourth time this season.
Grant Frederic did not play after skating in the finale vs. UMass-Lowell.
FINAL THOUGHTS: True, Miami hasn’t played an NCHC contest yet, and this hasn’t been as a brutal of a non-conference schedule as in 2017-18 but considering the RedHawks’ off-season, 5-2 is a solid start.
Miami should’ve beaten Colgate and it did. Same with Alabama-Huntsville, same with Mercyhurst.
Sounds axiomatic, but at times in recent seasons the RedHawks have underachieved against lesser-skilled opponents.
And this is another example of Miami not only getting into the win column but leaving little doubt late.
In this game plus the three others vs. UAH and Mercyhurst, the RedHawks have scored five times in the third period. MU’s lead after 40 minutes has been at least two in all four of those contests.
That means Miami is establishing the lead in the opening two periods and pulling away late.
Will the RedHawks be able to keep that MO against its league foes, all of which will be better than Colgate?
We’ll see, but winning these October non-conference games in decisive fashion has to give the RedHawks confidence heading into NCHC play.
OUT (6): Conor Lemirande (graduated), Kiefer Sherwood (turned pro), Carson Meyer (transferred), Austin Alger, Alex Alger, Willie Knierim.
IN (5): Jonathan Gruden, Noah Jordan, Monte Graham, Brian Hawkinson, Scott Corbett.
RETURNING (10): Srs. – Josh Melnick, Ryan Siroky, Zach Lavalle; Jrs. – Gordie Green, Karch Bachman, Carter Johnson; Sos. – Casey Gilling, Ben Lown, Phil Knies, Christian Mohs.
NOTES: Gordie Green hit his stride midway through his freshman year and has gotten better seemingly every game since, as he led the team in goals (15) and points (33) as a sophomore.
Newly-named captain Josh Melnick makes everyone around him better and finished with nine goals and a team best-tying 21 assists for 30 points in 2017-18.
Phil Knies was last season’s freshman goals leader with 11, including six in a four-game road trip in January, he finished with 20 points, and fellow college rookie Casey Gilling added 19 and was one of the team’s best in the faceoff circle.
Ben Lown (4-11-15) was the other significant contributing freshman up front.
Speedster Karch Bachman nearly tripled his rookie points output, posting 16 points including seven goals after earning six as a freshman. The Florida Panthers draft pick netted three goals the final four games.
Senior Ryan Siroky is the only other returning regular starter from last season. He dressed for 33 games and was of the team’s best hitters and played solid defense, contributing two goals and a pair of assists.
Zach Lavalle, Carter Johnson and Christian Mohs logged a combined 46 games, and Johnson locked down a lineup spot the second half of the season with his energetic play.
Not counting Johnson, that’s only seven every-night forwards back, meaning five other slots would be open each night. Even if all 10 veterans start that leaves two openings for newcomers.
“If you look at those guys, they took huge strides last year, especially toward the end,” Melnick said. Obviously those guys have to step into bigger roles now, and I think they’re ready for that. It’s easy for me to say they’ve been really good this preseason, but it’s 100 percent true. Also, the guys that are coming in are really exciting – you’ve got some really skilled and dynamic players all throughout the forward lineup.”
Of the freshmen, Jonathan Gruden is a near certainty to claim one of those lineup spots. Playing for the U.S. National Team the past two seasons, the Ottawa Senators’ fourth-round pick rolled up 34 points in 25 games vs. USHL competition last season as a 17-year-old while going plus-28.
Monte Graham has serious NHL pedigree, as he is the cousin of Wild center Charlie Coyle and former NHL forward Tony Amonte. A New Englander, the former Boston College commit boast plenty of juniors experience, as he has played two full USHL seasons.
Noah Jordan is 6-feet-5 and skated for North York in Ontario Juniors last season. He scored 18 goals in 2017-18, and the Toronto-area native led his team in playoff points.
Brian Hawkinson has three seasons of USHL experience and is known for his grit and leadership. He was the captain for Tri-City in 2017-18, where he notched 16 points.
Scott Corbett is another Carmel, Ind., product, the same hometown as former defensemen Cameron Schilling and Grant Hutton. He is known as more of a playmaker and has good size at 6-1 and 187.
“I think we’ve got like guys that are (solid), guys that need to take another step in terms of their production, and then we’ve got some guys that understand they’re playing a certain role, and they have to perform,” Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said. “I like the depth we have, it’s going to be a struggle each weekend to see who’s going to play, and that’s a good thing – that breeds competition in practice, and everybody has to elevate their game.”
Though Miami was below average offensively last season, the RedHawks finished ninth in Division I on the power play (23.2 percent).
Then again, MU’s defensive duo accounted for 13 of those 35 PPGs and managed just two markers in last season’s final 11 games on the man-advantage.
Depth was an issue among centers and wings, as only eight forwards were able to generate seven or more points last season.
“When we came here in the summer just to work on stuff, we actually started to get a lot better then,” Melnick said.
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 – Starting goalie Ryan Larkin logged 20 scoreless minutes, the Green-Melnick-Bachman line is a quasi-permanent thing and no one got hurt.
Those are the headlines from Miami’s 8-2 exhibition win over the University of Windsor at Cady Arena on Saturday.
To address the relevance of this meeting first though: This game was a well-scheduled tune-up for the RedHawks, whose last game was three weeks ago.
That’s a long time to go between contests in any sport. Plus in recent years, Miami has struggled in the games immediately following Christmas break.
This way, the RedHawks could get its regulars ice time and allow others to earn experience by logging valuable minutes as well.
The downside to NCAA-CIS (Canada’s version of the NCAA) matchups is CIS teams play more of a pro style of hockey. Meaning half-shields instead of cages and more importantly, an increased tolerance of chippiness.
That addresses the final headline point: No one gets hurt, and additionally, no one gets suspended.
It can seem like there’s little upside to these exhibitions.
Anyway, on Larkin: He played the first period, presumably to knock off any down-time rust. Good call by the coaches to keep him sharp without overusing him during a season he’s clearly destined to log almost all of Miami’s minutes between the pipes.
Chase Munroe played the second period, Grant Valentine the third, as both of Windsor’s goals were scored under Valentine’s watch.
Then there’s the first line: Karch Bachman joined Josh Melnick and Gordie Green at the end of the Cornell series, and they were together at Western Michigan and again in this game.
They combined for three goals and five assists, with each tallying at least two points.
Melnick recorded a game-best four points on two markers and a pair of helpers.
Bachman has blazing speed and a super-quick shot release, so he provides another sniper on the first line, and he has also moved into a penalty killing role this season. He is 3-6-9 this season after racking up just six points his freshman season.
Green and Melnick – should we call them Grelnick? – clearly make this offense go, and being the third member of their line is a privilege.
– To catch up: Decembers are tough in this part-time writer’s full-time vocational field, thus the lack of content here, but Miami split its final two NCHC games at Western Michigan, winning 5-2 on Friday and dropping a 4-3 overtime decision in the finale.
Saturday’s loss was tough to accept, as the RedHawks led 3-1 in the second player before allowing a natural hat trick – with the latter coming in overtime.
That was the second time in three weekends Miami saw a Saturday outcome flipped. The RedHawks also ended up tying Bowling Green on Nov. 25 on an extra-attacker goal with 38 seconds left.
– Miami is currently sixth in the NCHC with a 3-4-1 league record, although the RedHawks have played two fewer games than all of the top five teams. MU has completed its non-conference schedule, as its remaining 16 regular season games are all against league opponents.
– Perhaps the best news is that Miami is 17th in the PairWise rankings, which ultimately determine which teams qualify for the NCAA Tournament. In a 16-team Division I tournament with at-large bids, typically a PairWise rank of 12 or 13 is considered safe.
– Love the toughness from Chaz Switzer, who blocked a slap shot in the leg and returned after a brief stint in the locker room, and Conor Lemirande, who needed facial sowing after scoring a goal but returned.
– Also love the game-to-game improvement by Ben Lown. The freshman scored and picked up an assist.
– Miami had 21 skaters for this game, three more than is allowed in NCAA play, and forwards Christian Mohs and Zach LaValle and defenseman Grant Frederic were listed as the extra bodies. F Carter Johnson, F Alex Alger, D Bryce Hatten and G Evan McCarthy were the only RedHawks who did not dress.
– Denver’s up next. The Pioneers are No. 5 in the PairWise and second in the USCHO poll. Big two games in Oxford this Friday and Saturday.
OXFORD, Ohio – Poll your average fan on what he or she thinks Miami’s odds of winning would be if the team was down a goal four minutes in, and two minutes later faced a five-minute penalty kill against the fifth-best team in the NCAA.
And for good measure, was without elite defenseman Grant Hutton for the balance of the game.
That was the RedHawks’ predicament early on Friday, and yet they rallied to a 2-1 victory over No. 5 Cornell at Cady Arena.
Like the UMD win sparked by Chaz Switzer’s fighting major, Miami’s emotions were tapped when Hutton was ejected for checking from behind.
The call, which for the record should’ve been a minor and no more, was initially read as a major and a game disqualification, which carries with it a compulsory suspension. It was announced at the first intermission Hutton actually received a game misconduct, which means he was done for the night but would be eligible on Saturday.
And if we take the player in question into account, Hutton had 50 penalty minutes in 86 career games entering this one. Zero major penalties.
Quite impressive considering this is a guy that logs more minutes than anyone on the team except possibly Louie Belpedio and defends opponents’ top forwards every night while playing a physical, punishing game.
Back to the game: Hutton out, five defensemen left. And oh yeah, Big Red were badly outplaying Miami to this point.
But instead of folding, Miami killed the penalty.
Seemingly galvanized by the Hutton incident and gaining momentum from the PK, the RedHawks took advantage of their first power play and tied it.
Then another confrontation: Six-three sophomore Willie Knierim ended up in a scrap with Morgan Barron, with both getting the boot in the closing minutes of the second period.
Miami netted the go-ahead goal with 54 seconds left in that frame.
The third period was excruciating, as the RedHawks went into late survival mode – a documented area of weakness for this team in recent years – and they turned the last 20 minutes into a giant penalty kill.
It was a gutsy win, an improbable win, and with team’s place in the Division I world still a bit of a question mark, Miami helped its resume royally by putting this one into the ‘W’ column.
– The chemistry evolution of Josh Melnick and Gordie Green has a delight to watch. These guys could probably complete passes to each other in the dark.
– Couldn’t believe Cornell, which played so well defensively, let Green skate in and score the go-ahead goal. He corralled a pass from Casey Gilling at the top of the faceoff circle and was unchallenged. So he penetrated and no one went to him. So he drove further and wired one home, lifting it over a sprawling defender.
– That was the second and third major penalties for Miami in its past four games, and its third and fourth 10-minute misconduct, three of which have been for the game. In that span the RedHawks have 91 penalty minutes.
– Melnick’s four-game point streak is the third-longest by anyone on the team. Melnick also had a five-game run earlier this season, and Green went five straight with at least one point as well.
– CU starting goalie Matthew Galadja was pulled after 40 minutes. He allowed two goals on 10 shots through two periods, and while the Gilling shot appeared stoppable, Green’s goal was point blank and ticketed for the corner. Backup Hayden Stewart only faced three shots in the final stanza but stopped them all.
FORWARDS: C-. Definitely a case in which the results were much better than the process. Gilling and Green scored power play goals, but this corps was practically non-existent the rest of the game. Miami was down to 10 forwards for the final 24 minutes with Knierim booted and Austin Alger – in his first game back from injury – very limited in ice time. Kiefer Sherwood committed several turnovers in the first period, including one that ultimately led to the Cornell goal.
DEFENSEMEN: B. The Big Red finished with 30 shots, but not a ton were Grade-A chances. Cornell seemingly possessed the puck 80 percent of the game, especially early in the first period and the entire third, yet this corps playing with five – down a huge minutes eater in Hutton – did not seem to wear down. Scott Dornbrock didn’t dress for this one either, so this was an exceptionally young group post-Grant, with a senior (Louie Belpedio), two sophomores and two freshmen.
GOALTENDING: A-. Lots happened and that’s the only reason it takes this far down to reach the Ryan Larkin love-fest in this game. As mentioned, not a ton of exceptional chances but Larkin stopped all but one of the good ones, and the only Cornell shot that went in was on a wrister from the high slot through traffic. He stopped all 12 he faced in the third period and finished with 29 saves, which believe it or not ties a season high.
LINEUP CHANGES: For the second time in six games, Dornbrock was out. He had not missed a game since October of his sophomore year prior to the past month. Switzer returned to the ice after serving his two-game suspension. Grant Frederic remained in the lineup after taking Switzer’s place last weekend. F Zach LaValle also sat for the third time in five games after missing just three contests in all of 2016-17. Alger came back from an upper-body injury that cost him five starts.
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami was outshot by more than a 2-to-1 ratio and finished with its lowest shot output of the season.
But the RedHawks scored on both of their power play chances and rode 29 saves by goalie Ryan Larkin to a 2-1 win over No. 5 Cornell at Cady Arena on Friday.
It was the first meeting between these teams in Oxford, and Miami was swept in a two-game set in Ithaca last season. The Big Red finished with 30 shots to Miami’s 13.
The night certainly did not start off well for the RedHawks.
A wrister by Alex Rauter hit the top corner of the net, putting Cornell (9-2) ahead 3:59 into the first period.
Just over 2:30 later, Miami defenseman Grant Hutton was ejected for a checking-from-behind major.
In addition to being one of the RedHawks’ top penalty killers, Hutton leads college hockey with six power play goals.
But Miami (7-6-2) killed the five-minute man advantage, and on a power play of their own, the RedHawks tied it with 3:25 left in the opening frame. Casey Gilling’s seeing-eye wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle snuck in the far corner of the net.
With 54 seconds left in the second period, Gordie Green took a pass from Gilling, penetrated on the left wing and buried a shot, top shelf to put Miami ahead.
The RedHawks survived a furious Big Red surge in the third period, as they were outshot, 12-3.
Miami has been exceptional in both facets of special teams recently, as the team is 5-for-10 in its last three games on the man-advantage and has played four straight contests without allowing a power play goal.
Green and Gilling both finished with a goal and an assist. It was Gilling’s first career multi-point game, and the fifth of the season for Green, who leads the team in assists (11) and points (17).
Josh Melnick and Louie Belpedio also picked up assists for the RedHawks. Melnick extended his points streak to four games, and Belpedio has six points in his last six games.
Miami stretched its unbeaten streak to four and are a game over .500 for the second time this season.
These teams wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.