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 – It started off shaky but ended up a successful start in net for Jordan Uhelski.
The senior stopped 17 shots to earn the win in his Miami debut, a 5-1 victory over Alabama-Huntsville at Cady Arena on Saturday.
The fact Uhelski earned his undergraduate degree at UAH had to make the outcome that much sweeter. He is working on his Master’s degree and had one year of eligibility remaining, which is why he was able to join the RedHawks without sitting out a season.
RECAP: Miami junior Carter Johnson drove the net and went top shelf to open the scoring 4:48 into the first period.
But exactly one minute later, an outside shot by the Chargers’ Austin Beaulieu beat Uhelski on the stick side on the team’s first shot of the game, tying the score.
The RedHawks (1-0) answered 42 seconds after that marker, as Karch Bachman skated across the top of the crease and tucked one past sprawled out goalie Mark Sinclair.
Early in the second period, Johnson was driving the when UAH’s Kurt Gosselin delivered a head shot and was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct. Johnson eventually skated off under his own power but did not return.
Miami made the Chargers (0-1) pay on the power play, as Gordie Green slammed home a rebound off a Bachman shot with 15:18 left in the middle stanza.
The RedHawks made it 4-1 with 9:46 remaining in regulation as a Derek Daschke one-timer found the corner of the net off a feed by Green.
Miami capped off the scoring with 2:17 to play when Jonathan Gruden centered a pass from the side of the net to a wide open Grant Hutton in the slot, and Hutton buried it.
STATS: After allowing a goal on the first shot he faced, Uhelski stopped the next 17.
Hutton, Green, Bachman and Daschke all finished with two points on a goal and an assist apiece as 11 different RedHawks recorded at least one point.
Those were the first career points for Daschke, and Gruden, Brian Hawkinson and River Rymsha also picked up their inaugural Miami points, all on helpers.
THOUGHTS: One game is obviously a very small sample size, but there was an energy at the rink that had been recently lacking.
The attendance was 2,702 on a day when it was 90 degrees and the football team played at Akron in the afternoon.
‘Reenergize’ is a term Coach Enrico Blasi said the team is using a lot these days. That was an apt description of the Cady atmosphere as well, which is a welcome improvement.
— There was a lot to like among the newcomers.
After allowing a soft goal early, Uhelski settled in nicely and made a pair of high-quality saves, including one on a semi-breakaway.
Gruden’s pass to Hutton for the final goal was pretty sweet, Hawkinson played with a lot of grit, Rymsha dished out a couple of solid hits and for 6-feet-6, Brayden Crowder seems pretty cool handling and moving the puck.
We’re delve more into the newcomers after Sunday’s game.
– Gosselin’s hit on Johnson was everything that hockey is trying to get away and warrants a suspension. He was issued a game misconduct and not a disqualification, which would’ve carried an automatic suspension and is disappointing.
He had Johnson lined up and had ample time to target somewhere other than the head but did so anyway.
And Johnson has been a fantastic story, as his game surged the second half of last season and he scored in this game before getting hurt. Now who knows when he’ll get back on the ice?
Let’s keep in mind too: Gosselin is UAH’s captain. I always rooted for the Chargers when they wasn’t playing Miami, but it’ll be a little harder to do so now.
– On Tuesday, coach Enrico Blasi said Ryan Larkin was the starter, but he was in a suit on Saturday. He had no obvious sign of injury, so hopefully this is just a one-game thing that happens frequently the first game of a season.
— One thing about Coach Enrico Blasi: He’s totally unafraid of using freshmen in high-leverage spots, even in their first games. At one point three rookies manned the penalty kill.
— We saw a lot of line combinations, partly because of Johnson’s early injury. Definitely a feeling out process for all of the skaters, which is not unexpected considering the number of newcomers.
— Miami resisted the urge to pound Charger tail after the major on Johnson, and that resulted in a power play goal. It would’ve been tough to find fault with the RedHawks if they had gone after Gosselin though.
FORWARDS: B+. Liked Bachman in this one and Johnson stood out until his injury. Both scored early goals. Green scored as well and was his typical solid self. Faceoff stats were excellent: Monte Graham finished 11-5 and Josh Melnick went 9-6 to lead this corps.
DEFENSEMEN: A-. Helped hold UAH to 17 shots while combining for 16 themselves. Very few Grade-A chances against. Hutton and Daschke both went 1-1-2 and Alec Mahalak and Rymsha both earned assists.
GOALTENDING: B. Definitely could’ve used a mulligan on the goal allowed, but Uhelski turned aside the next 17, including a pair of high-percentage chances. A good debut for the former-Charger-turned-RedHawk.
LINEUP: Uhelski was a surprise in net but Blasi said earlier this week that Larkin was the primary starter. On defense, 2017-18 regular Chaz Switzer was scratched, as was part-timer Grant Frederic. Freshman Andrew Sinard was the other blueliner who did not dress. Up front sophomore Christian Mohs and freshman Noah Jordan were casualties. That means eight Miami players made their RedHawks debuts – six freshmen and graduates Rymsha and Uhelski.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Alabama-Huntsville doesn’t look ready to challenge for an NCAA title but it was still a good win to open the season for MU.
And by the way, the RedHawks’ last win in their season debut was 2013.
With so many making their Miami debuts – both on the ice and the bench – getting victory under the belt has to provide a confidence boost.
UP NEXT: Miami plays in the Ice Breaker Tournament in Erie, Pa., next weekend. The RedHawks open with Providence at 4 p.m. on Friday and will face either Mercyhurst or Notre Dame on Saturday.
OUT (3): Louie Belpedio (graduated), Scott Dornbrock (graduated), Bryce Hatten.
IN (4): Derek Daschke, Andrew Sinard, Brayden Crowder, River Rymsha (graduate student).
RETURNING (5): Sr. – Grant Hutton; Jrs. – Grant Frederic, Chaz Switzer; Sos. – Alec Mahalak, Rourke Russell.
NOTES: Four of Miami’s starting six defensemen are back from last season, but the two who graduated were key contributors on the blue line.
Louie Belpedio was team captain for two seasons and Scott Dornbrock logged 139 career games, but Miami adds four to its blueline corps and will have nine D-men to battle for six starting slots each night.
“I think we’re a lot deeper, bigger, stronger,” Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said. “I think whe you add some of the size that we did and just sheer bodies, it’s going to be equally hard to come up with six (starters) on a game-to-game basis.”
All-planet senior Grant Hutton will share the captaincy with Melnick after leading college hockey in defenseman goals with 13 and tying for the Division I lead in power play goals by a blueliner (8).
He has also been arguably the team’s best shutdown D-man the past three seasons.
Alec Mahalak dressed for 36 of 37 games as a freshman and seemed to gain confidence in every facet as last season progressed, finishing 1-8-9. His size (5-feet-9, 165 pounds) worked against him defensively at times but he proved he can make smart plays, carry and pass the puck.
Rourke Russell is a shutdown defenseman who was in the lineup 34 times his rookie season. He got tougher to play against later in the season, blocking 51 shots, and Chaz Switzer, who played 32 games, showed improvement in his second campaign with Miami and finished with 47 blocks.
Grant Frederic only saw the ice 15 times but also seemed more confident in his second go-around, using his big body to defend more. If Frederic continues to make the case for a lineup spot as well as the four other returning blueliners, that would leave just one spot for four freshmen.
And Derek Daschke is considered the defensive blue chipper of this incoming class. He has logged 232 USHL games in four seasons and went 8-21-29 in 2017-18. The 6-feet-2 blueliner played under associate head coach Peter Mannino in Chicago en route to a Clark Cup title two seasons ago.
At 6-feet-6, Brayden Crowder will join Michael Findorff and Brian Sipotz among the tallest Miami D-men.
Andrew Sinard will also join that list of trees on the RedHawks’ blue line, as he is also 6-6 and listed at 185 pounds. He did not score a goal in 96 NAHL games but did pick up 21 assists in that span.
Dartmouth graduate River Rymsha joins Miami for his senior season. He is also a big body at 6-3, 205 pounds, and dressed for 28 games and picked up a goal and two helpers at that Ivy League institution last year.
“So we obviously added some size with Sinard and Crowder, and those are two guys that are really difficult to play against, from what we’ve seen out of them in practice, and a guy in Daschke who can really move the puck,” Hutton said. “All of the guys that have come in on defense have made an impact and an impression so far in practice, and obviously we have our returners that we’re going to look to for experience and help show the younger guys the way. We’ve all had the privilege of having guys like that in our freshman years that we’ve looked up to and learned a lot from. I’m excited about the group.”
This corps helped Miami hold opponents to 27.2 shots per game in 2017-18, but too many were high quality. They also need to help tighten up a penalty kill unit that killed just 78.0 percent of its chances, ranking 46th in the NCAA.
Since 2014-15, Miami has won just 36 games, its lowest three-season total since 1989-92.
As a result, the RedHawks parted ways with two assistants and 11 players this off-season and they hope the influx of new talent – both on the ice and the bench – will vault them to more victories.
With all of the moving parts within the program, game-action anticipation has never been greater. Fortunately for the RedHawks, opening night is Saturday vs. Alabama-Huntsville.
“I think you’re always excited to start a new season,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “But I think with the last five months the way they played out, just focusing on games and getting better as a team and moving forward, I think everyone’s excited, I’m excited, we’re ready to go.”
Peter Mannino was hired as associate head coach at the end of March, and Joel Beal was named assistant in June.
Mannino, a former NHL goalie and NCAA Tournament champ with Denver, was an assistant at in-conference rival Nebraska-Omaha last season after winning a Clark Cup as the assistant of the USHL’s Chicago Steel.
Beal was an assistant at Sacred Heart the past five seasons and an associate head coach since 2016, and on the ice he starred at Union in the early 2000s.
“Peter is very outgoing, energetic, very positive, kind of throws a lot of things at you and makes you think about 10, 15 things at once, and Bealer is very systematic, very cerebral, thinks about things, makes sure that we’re not missing anything,” Blasi said. “Both are very positive – Bealer’s a very positive guy – both are hardworking guys, trustworthy guys you can count on. That’s what you want in a staff and that’s what you want out there recruiting for your program. The dynamics of the three of us – we all bring something different to the table and yet…we mesh together. With both of them, my conversations were very similar in the fact that I felt like we could connect right away and build from there. And I think we see the game the same way, I think we see the type of team we want to be, where the game is going, the way we want to develop our players and inspire our players and the process in which to do it. Those are all things that will continue to grow as we go through the days, and the games, and the practices, but we get along really well.”
Senior co-captain Josh Melnick said the energy the duo has brought to the program has been contagious.
“They’re obviously two younger guys and they bring sort of a different perspective to the locker room,” Melnick said. “As a whole, they’ve settled in really well, and I think they’re getting a good feeling of what our program’s about and also helping re-establish the things that we want to work on to get the program back to where it was in the past.”
Miami’s roster, which was not completed until late July, features five new forwards, four on defense and two in net. Two of the 11 are graduate students completing their fourth years of hockey eligibility.
“I think we’ve brought in some guys that will know their role – they were recruited to it,” Blasi said. “I think they’re a little bit older, we’ve got some Clark Cup championship-caliber players who have been through it, understand how to win a championship, guys that have been captains on their teams, and we have one (Jonathan Gruden) that played on the U.S. Development Team, played in the Worlds, and played with (the forward) that’s probably going to be the first overall pick in this (2019’s) NHL draft (Jack Hughes) and played on the same line with him. These are all positive things, and then you add two postgrads to the new faces, and we’ve got guys that are real positive and a tight freshman group.”
Both Melnick and defenseman fellow co-captain Grant Hutton love what they’ve seen from the newest Hawks.
“I think it’s everything we’ve expected and more,” Hutton said. “A lot of these guys are a lot of key, role players that know they’re here for a reason. You see it a lot in college hockey where guys may be goal scorers or big points guys in juniors or whatever it may be, and they get to college and they’re kind of shell-shocked. Gruden is our only true freshman at 18 years old and a lot of older guys that are coming in are mature, and I think that’s the biggest thing. Usually you talk about college hockey being a place where players have the opportunity to mature and develop, but it’s a huge plus when you get players that come in and have some of that maturity, some of that development. We’re pretty lucky with the group we have coming in, and I think it adds more excitement.”
Said Melnick: “They all assimilated right into things quickly – they’re all great people off the ice, and I think a lot of the reason we have high energy is because those guys have a lot of energy. They came here ready to work, and they know what the program stands for and what it’s been like in the past, and they’re ready to help get it back to that point.”
During the summer before the new players arrived, the returning players reached out to the freshman class to welcome them to the program, Melnick said.
The off-season didn’t start well for Miami. Within days of the RedHawks’ final game, it was announced that assistant coaches Brent Brekke and Nick Petraglia would not return as well as four players.
Two other prominent forwards also left the team early in the off-season, with one turning pro and the other transferring.
That’s on top of Miami not qualifying for the NCAA Tournament or even making it out of the NCHC quarterfinal round for the third straight season after qualifying for 10 of the previous 12 national championships.
“This is something that, I don’t look at this as a job, this is my life,” Blasi said. “When your life isn’t going the way you think it should go in terms of guys not playing up to their capabilities or even some of the things I might’ve done in the last couple of years that were wrong decisions. You assess, you evaluate, you try to be better – we all have opportunities to be better every day, we’re no different and I’m no different – and if I told you I wasn’t frustrated or disappointed in certain occasions, I’d be lying to you. But I can also tell you that I’m very proud of some of the things that have happened in the past couple of years. I believe in my heart that these are necessary steps that need to happen to move forward and become better. When we built the program, we went through some tough times, but nobody talks about those because nobody remembers those, everybody just remembers the wins and the Frozen Fours and the championships. I can tell you there were times where we had the same frustrations, the same disappointments, but they were necessary disappointments and necessary things that we needed to get through to get to the next level, and that’s what we’re going to do right now.”
Some positive things happened this off-season well. Multiple prior Omaha recruits switched to Miami following Mannino’s hiring, including defenseman Derek Daschke.
“Obviously at first it was a little difficult with having to (deal with) some difficult situations, to be honest with you,” Blasi said. “Once we started to kind of shape our team around the guys we have coming back, finishing off the recruiting and finishing off the staff, and getting together as a staff and kind of formulating our plan and getting to know each other on a different level, and then obviously have our team come back and work with them and kind of creating their identity. It’s been a lot of fun. ‘Reenergize’ is a work that we’ve been using a lot lately.”
And both Melnick and Hutton, both seniors and destined for lucrative professional careers, announced they were returning this fall.
“I give Hudson, Melly a lot of credit, them and the senior class – Lavs (Zach Lavalle) and (Ryan) Siroky – that helped shaped the spring and the summer to make sure when these new guys came in, that our program was in a good place and we were going to hit the ground running.”
Miami played some quality hockey down the stretch last season, and Blasi said his team will seize that momentum and carry it into this campaign.
“Those are some of the things we were really proud of,” Blasi said. “To stick with it and to keep fighting, that’s a character trait that you can’t teach. And that’s something that’s in our locker room, that’s something that’s in our culture. I was very, very proud of the team and the way they played. Now, do we want to win at the end? Of course. Everybody does. But at the same time, you have to take a step back and assess the situation, and I believe that how we played was really important for the guys coming back in the spring and the summer and for our recruits, to say hey, we’re not that far off. We just need to maybe work a little harder, improve one or two percent. If everybody can do that, then we have something. When you’re in the moment, it doesn’t seem like it, and I know it probably doesn’t seem like it to the general fan – and we have great fans and great supporters, some of which have expressed their support and some of them haven’t, and that’s OK too – but when you take a step back and you see all the developments that have happened over the past couple of years, I think you’ll look back and say, hey, maybe if we didn’t go through that we don’t get to that next level.”
He pointed out that Miami was ranked as high as No. 14 in the PairWise after its big January home win over powerhouse Denver.
“It just shows that we have a group that isn’t rolling over, we’re not going to quit,” Hutton said. “We’re here because we want to be here, we’re here because we love each other, we love Miami, and we want to be the best possible hockey team that we can be every single night and ultimately reach our goal of bringing a championship back to Oxford.”
Blasi said that he, as well as both assistants, have been actively involved in recruiting this off-season and has hit the road with one or both on several occasions as Miami tries to fortify its roster for the coming years.
“I think the culture of the program is still very strong in terms of what we believe in and the way we do our business from day to day,” Blasi said. “We may tweak some things here and there but I think The Brotherhood and the family and the relationships and the process is still something that we still focus on, it’s still all about developing these young men to play at the next level or develop them to be better people on a day-to-day perspective. But at the end of the day, recruiting is your bloodline – that’s never going to change – and so recruiting is very important, and our team is very important. We have to make sure we’re focused on both equally and we’re doing what we need to do to help these men that we have get to the next level and win games and play at a high level, maybe reach levels that they thought they couldn’t reach. That’s part of what we do as coaches is inspire them and push them in a good way to make them play better than even they think they can.”
Though the season doesn’t start until Saturday, Melnick he noticed a marked difference in the locker room already.
“A lot of the times when people ask what’s most exciting about this year and what’s different, I think it’s the energy, and it’s just coming from everyone,” Melnick said. “It’s honestly kind of crazy to be around, because everybody’s so positive and confident and we just can’t wait to get out there.”
Check back for a positional breakdown of the RedHawks.
It’s been the most eventful off-season in Miami hockey history, and four months still remain until the puck drops in 2018-19.
Starting just days after the RedHawks’ NCHC opening-round tournament loss at St. Cloud, a nearly non-stop flow of news has hit the internet.
A quick timeline:
March 11 – Miami’s best-of-3 first-round NCHC series at St. Cloud ends with an overtime loss. The RedHawks took the Huskies to Game 3 and led the finale, 3-1 but ultimately fell, 4-3 in the extra session.
March 16 – Stories surfaced that both assistant coaches, Nick Petraglia and Brent Brekke, were relieved of duties. One report added that four players from 2017-18 would not be back as well, which turned out to be true.
March 20 – Junior Kiefer Sherwood turns pro, signing with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks after playing three seasons and recording 86 points in Oxford.
March 29 – Peter Mannino, an assistant at Nebraska-Omaha, was named to Brent Brekke’s vacated associate head coach position. He was an NCAA title-winning goalie for Denver and played briefly in the NHL, and he was a head coach in the USHL before taking his post with the Mavericks.
May 22 – The Athletic reports that sophomore and Columbus Blue Jackets draftee Carson Meyer is leaving Miami after two seasons. That makes six players to leave the team since the end of the season.
May 31 – Seniors-to-be Grant Hutton and Josh Melnick go on record stating they will return this fall. Melnick has 81 points in three years at Miami, and Hutton scored 13 goals in 2017-18, the most by a RedHawks defenseman in a quarter century.
Also in the past week – Miami’s 2018-19 preliminary roster was posted on its site without any freshmen listed. Absent were Willie Knierim, Alex Alger, Austin Alger and Bryce Hatton.
June 2 – Sacred Heart assistant Joel Beal is named to Petraglia’s vacated spot. That rounds out the coaching staff. He was a solid player at Union and coached there as an assistant for two seasons before joining the Sacred Heart staff. That team has improved significantly in his five seasons on its bench, and he was promoted to associate head coach.
June 7 – Petraglia was named the director of external relations. As expected, the former RedHawks goalie and MU graduate was retained within the athletic department.
Now that we’re caught up, let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these events.
MIAMI FALLS TO ST. CLOUD – Not a shocker here, as the RedHawks were an eight seed and St. Cloud was No. 1, with all three games played in Minnesota. Miami played solid hockey in this set but as has happened so many times in recent years, it could not hold a two-goal lead in Game 3. The RedHawks gave up a late second-period goal, the tying marker with six minutes left in the third period and of course the series-clincher in OT.
That capped off Miami’s third straight losing season and its fourth in five years. Prior to that, the RedHawks had not posted a sub-.500 record since 2004-05.
Which led to this…
BREKKE, PETRAGLIA OUT – It’s an unfortunate part of the game, but this is a business and sometimes the most decent, passionate and hard-working people can’t translate those attributes into wins, and both coaches were casualties as a result.
Sub-par recruiting was a major reason for their departure. Brekke had been a Miami assistant for 10 seasons, Petraglia eight, and those two were exclusively responsible for bringing talent to Oxford.
Since the players that both coaches inherited graduated and Miami’s on-ice talent has been solely their responsibility, the quantity of highly-talented skaters and goalies in Oxford has dwindled.
On Thursday, Petraglia was named the director of external relations. Brekke was recently offered the Alaska-Fairbanks job and turned it down.
SHERWOOD TURNS PRO: This was somewhat surprising because Sherwood took a step back the first half of the season and appeared to need that fourth season in Oxford to prepare for his pro career.
Overall in 2017-18, he seemed less pro-ready than classmates Grant Hutton and Josh Melnick – both of whom recently announced they would be back – but it sounds like Sherwood had surgery prior to last season and that contributed to his slow start.
That deeply-personal decision is extremely difficult and different for everyone, and BoB wishes Sherwood nothing but the best in the pros. He scored twice in 11 games with AHL San Diego.
For a Miami team that finished seventh in the eight-team NCHC in scoring last season, that’s a major offensive cog that will be missing from its lineup.
MANNINO NAMED ASSISTANT: The former netminder won an NCAA title in Denver and led Calder Cup playoff runs with Chicago and Wilkes-Barre in the AHL. He logged six NHL games with Atlanta, Winnipeg and the New York Islanders.
He clearly has the playing experience and he knows the NCHC, both from playing against most its current teams with Denver and more recently by coaching at UNO.
Mannino should understand the type of players it takes to win in this league, and he will be a primary recruiter for the RedHawks, who have recently struggled in this area.
For what it’s worth, BoB has heard nothing but praise for Mannino in his brief stint with the team, but that’s pretty standard when a team that has struggled brings in a fresh face.
But because he’s inheriting an entire team he did not recruit, it will take time to see the effects of a Mannino-recruited team.
F Matej Pekar, a Czech player previously committed to UNO, has since switched allegiances to Miami, and he is expected to join the RedHawks this fall.
Two more players could defect from the Mavericks and follow Mannino to Oxford as soon as this fall.
TEDDYGATE: Making an already-eventful off-season a lot more bizarre is the saga of Carson Meyer, who discharged a 25-inch tapeworm, which is believed to be the cause for his struggles the past season and a half.
Meyer lit it up the first half of his freshman year but missed a handful of games down the stretch of 2016-17 due to what was believed to be mononucleosis. He did not improve last season, and in May, The Athletic broke the story that “Teddy” had exited Meyer.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, Meyer also announced that he was exiting Oxford in favor of his hometown Ohio State.
Meyer indirectly blamed the coaching staff for its handling of his situation, which was more bad pub the team didn’t need in an already tumultuous spring.
That’s one more forward out of an already-decimated corps for 2018-19.
It’s a horrible situation for Meyer, who has been a shell of himself for a season and a half and will almost certainly have to redshirt in 2018-19.
BoB mirrors the Miami coaching staff in wishing Meyer nothing but the best in his hockey career moving forward.
HUTTON, MELNICK RETURNING: The worst part of the off-season for the college hockey fan is the waiting. At any point from the final horn of a campaign’s last game to the puck drop the following fall, a player could bolt for the pros.
That chance was elevated for standouts Hutton and Melnick in recent months after watching their roster from 2017-18 disintegrate. Both are pro-ready and both will be entering their senior seasons for a Miami team that will likely be picked to finish near the bottom of the league standings.
For everything that hasn’t gone right for the RedHawks this off-season, having two of your studs publicly tell your fanbase they are coming back – and doing so while inserting some much-needed positive comments about the program – couldn’t have come at a better time.
And Hutton and Melnick aren’t just outstanding players, they’re leaders. They’ll be co-captains this season. And they’re class acts.
THE ABRIDGED ROSTER? Miami recently posted its 2018-19 roster with no freshmen and just 15 skaters and four goalies, so obviously it will be updated.
In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at the RedHawks’ pipeline and who we can expect to see in uniform this fall.
COACHING STAFF COMPLETE – Miami has little history with Union and Sacred Heart, so it’s unclear if there was any previous relationship between Beal and the RedHawks.
It’s only fair to note that the Pioneers took a step back this past season, finishing with their lowest win percentage since 2013-14, and .421 has been the team’s winning percentage high-water mark with Beal in his role.
But Sacred Heart won just 14 games total in the three seasons before his arrival.
PETRAGLIA REASSIGNED – Petraglia exudes positive energy. If he’s bummed during a losing streak he never shows it.
So he will be a face of Miami athletics to the Blue Line Club and alumni among others and serve as a fundraiser. No doubt he will thrive in his new position.
Grant Hutton is having one of the best offensive seasons for a defenseman in Miami history, and he added to his resume on Saturday.
Hutton netted a pair of goals, including the overtime winner, as the RedHawks pulled even with St. Cloud in their first-round NCHC Tournament series with a 3-2 win at the Herb Brooks Center on Saturday.
It was the 11th and 12th goals of the season for the junior, who moved into fourth in single-season blueliner goals. He is also tied for fifth in career markers by a RedHawks D-man, as he moved even with Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez with 21.
The win snapped a four-game winless streak overall and an 0-7 skid in this building.
The championship game will be at 8:05 p.m. on Sunday.
RECAP: Miami led this game for over two-thirds of regulation.
Just 1:54 in, Josh Melnick redirected a slap pass from Alec Mahalak to open the scoring.
Miami made it 2-0 when Kiefer Sherwood pulled defenders into the corner on a 4-on-4 and dropped a pass to Hutton. Hutton deked a defender before whipping it into the far corner of the net with 2:27 left in the opening frame.
But with 12:40 left in the second period, Ryan Poehling poked home a one-timer from Mikey Eyssimont, who slid a pass through traffic into the slot.
St. Cloud State tied it in the opening minutes of the third period as Blake Winiecki tipped home a blue-line wrister by Jack Ahcan.
Both goals were scored on the power play.
The Huskies outshot Miami, 24-14 the last 40 minutes of regulation.
Hutton won it when he again faked out a defender at the blue line and penetrated, hitting the net from the high slot.
STATS: Hutton now has 12 goals, but he had not scored in 10 straight.
It was his fourth multi-goal game of the season, a team high.
— Sherwood extended his points streak to six games, and he has multiple points in each of his last three. He is 3-6-9 in his last six.
— It was the second multi-point game of Mahalak’s career, as he picked up two assists.
— Louie Belpedio earned an assist for the third straight game and passed Matthew Caito for eighth on the team’s all-time defenseman points leaderboard with 83.
— Miami snapped a four-game winless streak (0-2-2) and won its first postseason contest since March 21, 2015 when the RedHawks beat this same St. Cloud team in the NCHC championship game in Minneapolis.
— Titanic special teams update: Miami now 1-for-28 on the power play (3.6 percent) over its last 11 games and 16 of 24 on the penalty kill (66.7 percent) in its last six contests.
Opponents have also had 18 man-advantage opportunities over the past five games, while the RedHawks have had just eight.
— The last overtime playoff game for Miami was last season, and that one was 14 seconds longer than Saturday’s tilt, with the RedHawks coming up on the short side in 2016-17.
THOUGHTS: Miami battled back on Friday but fell short, and on Saturday it blew a two-goal lead but won in overtime.
The game had a bit of a North Dakota from a couple weeks ago feel, as the RedHawks were in control with a 2-0 lead but gave up the next goal and eventually the tying marker in the third period.
But in the regular season, teams only skate for five overtime minutes, while playoff OT is indefinite. That game against UND on Feb. 24 was ultimately a tie, while in this one Miami won in the eighth minute of the extra session.
— Miami deserves a lot of credit for not only winning but doing so in overtime after giving up a two-goal lead. Down 1-0 in the series, on the road vs. the top-ranked team in Division I on the road, many teams would’ve packed it in and called it a season.
— Ryan Larkin: 30-for-32. Great line, great game, just hope he doesn’t wear down playing three games in three days.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one, but it was a bit surprising. Christian Mohs was in the lineup for just the second time in 24 games, and Carson Meyer was scratched.
It was the second time in four games Meyer did not dress.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami is 3-1 in conference tournaments in St. Cloud.
The RedHawks are 1-0 in clinching games here.
St. Cloud is already a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, and Miami is a desperate team that must win to have a chance, so that could work in the RedHawks’ favor.
Three positives. The latter is the only one that matters.
We’ll find out if Miami is headed to St. Paul or if its season is over in the next 24 hours.
OXFORD, Ohio – More than ever, elite hockey players are choosing college as their path to the pros, leading to an increase in the number of early departures among high draft picks in the university ranks.
Louie Belpedio has faced the arduous decision to turn professional multiple times during his Miami career.
The third-round NHL pick’s choices? Sign and take the money while maneuvering closer to the dream of an NHL career, or remain in school as an amateur.
Each time, the two-year captain has picked Miami.
“That’s difficult,” Belpedio said. “How many times can you say ‘no’ to the thing you’ve been working on your whole life? But at the same time, I’m glad that I came back to school because of the player it’s developed me into today.”
Now a senior, Belpedio is one point away from tying Matthew Caito for eighth place on the RedHawks’ all-time defenseman points leaderboard, and his wait to join the paid-to-play ranks is nearly over.
“I think staying in school is most definitely the right decision, but it was a hard decision for sure, because I truly believe that if I would have had signed I would’ve had a shot to play in the NHL already,” Belpedio said. “But at the same time if you keep working hard and doing the things you’re supposed to do, the opportunity will be there again in the (coming) weeks for me.”
After captaining the U.S. National Development Under-18 team to a gold medal while racking up 23 points in 61 regular season games, the 5-feet-11, 194-pound Belpedio was selected 80th overall by the Minnesota Wild in June of 2014.
Belpedio is from Skokie, Ill., a northern suburb of Chicago, and a month before he was drafted, the Blackhawks knocked the Wild out of the playoffs in the conference semifinals.
The following season, Chicago would again end Minnesota’s season in that round en route to a Stanley Cup championship.
“Growing up just outside the city, the Blackhawks are my hometown team – I have to like them – but at the same time I have to like the Wild too,” Belpedio said. “Now that I’m about to enter my pro career, things are getting a little more interesting with that, so we’ll see how that plays out.”
Minnesota has taken interest in several Miamians in recent years, as Jarod Palmer, Pat Cannone and Marc Hagel have all played in the Wild’s system. The former two made the big club.
Ryan Jones is the only other Wild draft pick to play for the RedHawks, although that was under a different set of team brass and Jones was traded to Nashville before making his NHL debut.
Belpedio was already skating by age three and joined a team before starting elementary school, and although the three-sport star also played football and baseball through eighth grade, he gave them up to concentrate on hockey.
By junior high, Belpedio’s talents were evident, but rather than graduate to midgets like most area standouts he relocated to upstate Indiana where he attended Culver Military Academy.
“Obviously guys are successful staying in Chicago but I thought that was the best thing for me at the time,” Belpedio said. “I was there for two years, I liked it a lot – it helped me grow up a lot, being away from home. It kind of molded me into who I am today.”
Away from his family and homesick, Belpedio wasn’t always a fan of the regimented boarding school lifestyle, and long hours at the rink helped him escape Culver’s military drills.
After two seasons, 61 regular season games, 11 goals and 25 assists, Belpedio was invited to play his junior and senior campaigns with the U.S. National Development Team.
He finished with a goal and 10 assists as an Under-17 and was named captain the following season.
“The experiences that I had there were unbelievable – I’ll never forget any of them,” Belpedio said. “I was around so many of the best coaches, best trainers, got to play against the best players from around the world. It was awesome, and I’ll never forgot what that program did for me personally. I don’t know many kids that would say ‘no’ to that but I would recommend it to anyone I could, obviously.”
That U18 team won the World Juniors gold medal, and Belpedio was drafted that spring.
“It was especially exciting for me to be with my family at that time and know that it wasn’t just me that did it,” Belpedio said. “Without my mom and my dad and my brother, I wouldn’t be half the person or the player that I am today (without) the sacrifices that they made. It was an accomplishment for me but, (it) let them know that they were doing everything right. I was probably more happy for them than myself.”
Belpedio had chosen Miami before being selected by the Wild. Knowing nearly one-third of the RedHawks’ roster of fellow Chicagoans swayed his decision.
“I kind of felt: Not that I had to come here, but I wanted to come here and be the next on the Chicago-to-Miami train,” Belpedio said.
He said Oxford reminded him of Culver in some ways, including the building styles.
“And the whole girl thing isn’t too bad either,” Belpedio said.
“There was kind of lot going into (the decision), honestly, but the second I visited – I didn’t commit right away but I told my dad I was coming the second we got in the car after leaving the rink,” Belpedio said.
One of Belpedio’s cousins on his mother’s side is former RedHawks defenseman Vincent LoVerde, a 2011 graduate who played 159 games for Miami and was one of the best shut-down blueliners in the Cady Arena era.
LoVerde has played over 400 pro games and is currently with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
“I talked to him about it,” Belpedio said. “We weren’t extremely close at the time, now we work out together, skate together in the summer every day, so we’re definitely a lot closer. I obviously knew he went here and just from hearing stories from my mom’s side of the family, that kind of had an impact on it too. Even if (Vincent) didn’t go here, I was coming here. I love this place with all my heart.”
Just three months after his 18th birthday, Belpedio headed to Oxford for the 2014-15 season.
Especially at that age, freshmen typically need to adjust to the collegiate game, but Belpedio jelled immediately with his new teammates. He scored six goals and dished for 13 assists, totaling 19 points.
“One thing that stands out to me right away is his ability to escape and move away from people, whether it’s on a power play or bringing the puck up the ice, and then his ability to make plays,” classmate Conor Lemirande said. “It’s something that’s very special and unique to him.”
He dressed in all 40 games that season, including an outdoor contest vs. Western Michigan at Soldier Field, an NCHC championship game and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
With Belpedio growing up a handful of miles from the Chicago Bears’ home stadium, 100 members of his extended family as well as his circle of friends were able to attend that matchup vs. the Broncos.
“That was one of the coolest things ever,” Belpedio said. “I don’t even know how to describe that. You know, you grow up watching the Winter Classic, you watch all kinds of outdoor games. Obviously, it wasn’t being in the NHL but it was my dream school getting to play in my home town. I wish that was a yearly thing because that was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in.”
Belpedio calls the RedHawks’ 2014-15 league tournament run the highlight of his career. He scored twice and dished for two assists in five NCHC postseason games and picked up a helper in Miami’s NCAA Tournament loss to Providence.
During the NCAA first-round regional, Belpedio famously skated full speed more than halfway down the ice and dove to knock a would-be empty goal away from his net before jamming into the boards at maximum velocity.
As a sophomore, Belpedio was named an assistant captain – a rarity for the RedHawks. He said the senior captains, Sean Kuraly and Kevin Morris, were instrumental in helping him adjust to wearing the ‘A’.
“That whole senior class was so supporting – I’m still close with all of them,” Belpedio said. “It was cool, but I definitely don’t deserve all the credit. They deserve most of it for helping me and getting me through it, because it’s not an easy job as a young kid.”
Belpedio went 4-13-17 as a sophomore and left Miami for two weeks over the holiday break, as he was named assistant captain of the U.S. World Juniors team that won the bronze medal in Finland.
Named captain prior to his junior season, Belpedio passed along what former letter wearers had taught him.
Junior and fellow blueliner Grant Hutton was a freshman in 2015-16 and said his adjustment to Division I was facilitated significantly by Belpedio’s unselfishness.
“As a freshman it’s hard sometimes to reach out to older guys and ask them to (hang out) together, but when it comes from the older guys I think that’s a really comforting thing and I think that helps not only me but our entire freshman class fit in,” Hutton said. “For me personally, I felt like I needed someone to kind of latch onto, and learn the ways from and Louie was that person for me. He was the first person to offer me a hand and offer me help in whatever situation it might be, whether it’s watching video, he was the first person to come up and offer advice in practice, so from a hockey standpoint, in my development, he was a huge help and I’m very thankful for that and the time he put into helping teach me what it takes to play at this level.”
“From a personal standpoint, Louie’s an unbelievable guy. He’s probably one of my best friends on the team and he’ll probably be my best friend for a really long time, but he’s a guy that’s always there for you. Usually when you come to a team, whether it’s college or juniors, it takes a little while to fit in with the guys, and he’s the complete opposite.”
Hutton attributes much of his own offensive success to Belpedio. Held without a goal his freshman season, Hutton netted nine as a sophomore and has 10 more in this campaign.
“I came in my freshman year and obviously my primary role was to be a shut-down defenseman, and I had five points (that) year,” Hutton said. “Louie’s an elite, elite offensive defenseman, a two-way defender, and if you watch him, he’s so dynamic when it comes to skating the puck, and handling the puck. That part of his game is so superior to most of the players at this level. For me, it was just a privilege to watch him in games and practice, and you try to pull bits and pieces out of what he does. Obviously I don’t have the skill set that Louie has in terms of offensive ability and the way he handles the puck and skates, but you try and take some of the plays he makes and the reads he makes and translate them to your own game, because he makes the game look so easy.”
The captaincy at Miami has proven a difficult title for even the most successful RedHawks. Just in the past few years, Austin Czarnik wasn’t initially stern enough with his teammates and Kuraly did not score until the 12th game of his senior season while wearing the ‘C’.
“There’s good days, there’s bad days, but that’s where being mature and being a leader comes into play – you’ve got to know how to handle that,” Belpedio said. “Everyone’s watching you and how you react at all times, so I think that’s helped me a lot attitude-wise and body language-wise. Even if it doesn’t show that we’re successful on the ice, I think it’s a big learning experience for me.”
Though Belpedio scored six times and set up 11 more goals, he was limited to 24 games as a junior.
He pulled his hip flexor first weekend of the year and missed first six games as a result. His first game back he jammed his thumb into a medal divider in the boards at Ohio State and tore a ligament.
Belpedio was unable to squeeze his hand for the next three weeks. Then a knee injury cost him the final six games of 2016-17.
This season, Belpedio is tied for fourth on the team with nine goals, is tied for Miami’s assists lead with 19 and is even with Josh Melnick for second in points (28).
“What’s impressed me is how he’s grown as a leader,” Hutton said. “When I came in he was an assistant captain and then obviously last year he took over as a first-year captain, and you can just see how much he’s learned over that time.”
Belpedio was named to the all-NCHC’s second team, is second on the RedHawks in blocked shots (40) and is second in plus minus (plus-3).
“I think he continues to grow as a person, and he makes the right decisions on and off the ice and it really sets the standard for everyone else,” Hutton said. “I know a lot of guys on this team look up to him and aspire to be the same person that he is on and off the ice.”
For his career, Belpedio is ninth all-time in RedHawks defenseman points and fifth in blueliner goals with 25.
“Being a consistent, every-day guy – he’s been someone we’ve been able to rely on for four years now,” Lemirande said. “And now we look at him, and he’s got tremendous upside. This is only a start for him. He’s going to have a tremendous career, and it’s going to be fun to be able to watch what’s in store for him.”
On pace to graduate with over a 3.0 grade-point average as a sports management major later this spring, Miami’s season could be down to its final days and the call of the pros may be too strong for Belpedio to resist any longer.
“He cares more about this program, the Brotherhood, than anyone I’ve ever known, and he’s always been someone you can rely on to put a smile on your face when you need it,” Lemirande said.
Despite any possible missed opportunities in the pros, Belpedio he has no regrets about remaining in Oxford for a fourth college season.
“A place like Miami is just so special I think in every aspect,” Belpedio said. “It’s been honestly way more than I could’ve ever imagined, hockey, school, people I’ve met, experience here. For me to turn down my dream, I turned that down a couple of times to come back to a place like this. That’s how much it means to me. And the people here, my teammates, the coaching staff…honestly it’s become a home for me. It’s actually disappointing that I have to leave, but I’m obviously excited that I was lucky enough to come here for four years and live out my dream and set me up for success in the future.”
OXFORD, Ohio – It was a bizarre night for Miami’s offense.
The RedHawks eclipsed the 240-minute scoreless mark – equivalent to four full games – for the first time in school record, and then scored four times to erase a three-goal deficit in a 4-3 overtime win over No. 12 North Dakota at Cady Arena on Friday.
Miami trailed, 3-0 eight minutes into the second period before netting four straight goals, capped off by Ben Lown’s game winner 59 seconds into the extra session.
That snapped a five-game losing streak for the RedHawks and a five-game winless stretch vs. the Fighting Hawks (0-4-1).
MU had not scored a goal since the first game of its home series vs. St. Cloud State on Feb. 9 and establishing the team record for the longest scoring drought at 240:24.
RECAP: Grant Mismash fired a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle that snuck inside the far post through a screen 13:54 into the first period.
Christian Wolanin made it 2-0 shortly into a two-minute 5-on-3 on a one-time blast off a feed by Colton Poolman at the 2:17 mark of the second period.
Five minutes later, North Dakota (14-11-8) extended its lead to three when Johnny Simonson tapped in a loose puck in the crease after Simonson was denied by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on a breakaway.
After making the save, Larkin was taken out by a pursuing teammate, leaving the net empty for the trailing Simonson.
But 48 seconds after that goal, Josh Melnick slid a pass through two defenders to Alec Mahalak in the slot, and Mahalak buried the first marker of his career just under the crossbar on the glove side.
The RedHawks (11-17-3) cut the deficit to one when Phil Knies took a feed from Kiefer Sherwood wrapped around the back of the net and tucked it past goalie Cam Johnson 1:42 into the third period.
Miami tied it just 2:18 later when Melnick threaded one to Gordie Green at the faceoff dot, and Green’s shot hit a body and popped over Johnson into the back of the net.
Grant Hutton stole a puck along the boards and in the same motion batted the puck ahead to Lown on the right wing, and Lown skated into the faceoff circle and went far post for the game winner 59 seconds into overtime.
STATS: Lown and Melnick both finished with two points, with Lown going 1-1-2 and Melnick picking up a pair of helpers.
It was Lown’s third career multi-point game, and Melnick – the team leader in assists – has recorded at least two five times this season.
Knies is now second on the RedHawks in goals with 11.
— Miami may have snapped out of its offensive funk, but its power play is still MIA. Despite six chances, this was the fifth straight game in which the RedHawks have not scored on the man advantage.
— But the PK has fared better, going 18-for-20 (90.0 percent) in that span.
— It was also the fifth consecutive contest in which Miami has failed to score in the first period.
THOUGHTS: This was one of those here-we-go-again-is-there-a-nearby-deep-frier-I-can-stick-my-head-in type of starts during which the RedHawks were down multiple goals 22 minutes in and behind three a few minutes after.
Larkin probably would’ve liked the first one back and the second was on a 5-on-3, so those weren’t exactly caused by poor skater play.
All-world forward Shane Gersich got behind the defense on the third goal, so yeah, that one is on that corps.
And Miami outshot North Dakota in the first period – all three and overtime in fact – so it’s not like the RedHawks didn’t show up.
That’s what makes this win so impressive. Three-goal leads can snowball, especially against teams like Miami that are struggling for wins.
With not much to play for, the RedHawks stunned a Fighting Hawks team that has tons to play for each night.
Miami’s fate is nearly sealed in the conference, and UND is fighting for home-ice advantage in the league tournament and is on the NCAA bubble.
The RedHawks may be fighting very long odds to get back to the NCAA Tournament, but at least they showed on Friday they are going to fight.
— North Dakota may be down a bit this season but this team still skates and moves the puck very well. The Fighting Hawks’ fans also numbered in triple digits. And they were vocal.
— Hutton’s play on the overtime winner shows why pro teams are salivating. He stole the puck along the boards and sent a perfect outlet pass to Knies in one motion. If he didn’t get the puck ahead that quickly, North Dakota would’ve had a player in Knies’ face as he penetrated the zone.
This guy has a great chance to play in the NHL in a couple of years.
— Melnick’s assist on Mahalak’s goal may have actually been intended for Green. Both were between the faceoff circles, and when it slid past Green, Mahalak stepped into it. Miami went back to that play for its third goal, as Melnick fed Green with both in nearly identical spots.
FORWARDS: B. Melnick’s passing was at a peak level in this game, as both of his assists came from the corner along the goal line to the edge of the slot. Freshmen Lown and Knies both scored and have both improved drastically as the season has progressed. Knies also blocked four shots. Carter Johnson didn’t get a point but his steal ultimately led to the Melnick-to-Green goal that tied it. Overall this corps was solid defensively as well, especially on the penalty kill.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. Mahalak scored, Hutton’s play on the game-winner was amazing and Louie Belpedio picked up an assist on Mahalak’s goal. It was a good night for this group, as North Dakota finished with just 17 shots despite six power plays. The one blemish is that Rourke Russell did get beat on the third UND breakaway that led to a goal, and he also inadvertently took out his own goalie on that play.
GOALTENDING: C+. Yes, Larkin allowed three goals on 17 shots (.824), but he faced a handful of Grade-A chances and was taken out of the play on one of those goals. The first one was stoppable, but the second was a 5-on-3 missile from the high slot. He also held UND off the scoreboard the final 33 minutes, allowing Miami to come back.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: Carter Johnson was back in the lineup while Zach LaValle sat. Johnson contributed to Green’s goal.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This is what the second half of the season in this league should be about: Thrilling, well-played games between teams ranging from good to top-ranked.
That’s how it was every weekend down the stretch three years ago when Miami won the NCHC Tournament.
As a fan, as soon as a game ended you couldn’t wait to get back to the rink the next night or weekend.
This season definitely hasn’t gone as planned, but this night was a reminder of how entertaining meaningful games in this league are in late winter.
From the RedHawks and their fans’ perspective, the only thing lacking was the standings relevance, as Miami is competing for neither a league title nor home-ice advantage.
Hopefully the full stretch-run experience will return to Cady Arena next season.
OXFORD, Ohio – Often a team can actually gain momentum after taking a penalty when it comes up with a critical kill.
That was the case on Friday when Miami turned a potentially disastrous start into a 4-2 win over Western Michigan at Cady Arena.
The RedHawks came out sluggish, getting outshot 4-1 in the opening minutes. Not the start to a four-game homestand they wanted after an 0-3-1 road trip.
Then they were whistled for a pair of penalties, setting up a two-minute two-man advantage for the Broncos.
But Miami killed the majority of the 5-on-3 and a WMU minor wiped out the rest. The RedHawks were a different team the balance of the game and ultimately snapped their five-game winless streak.
RECAP: The first period was scoreless, but Miami finally broke through when Kiefer Sherwood stole a pass in the offensive zone, threw a shot at the net that hit the end boards and caromed to a wide-open Ben Lown, who tapped it in 1:08 into the middle stanza.
The RedHawks made it 2-0 when Gordie Green batted in a bad-angle rebound off a shot from the blue line by Louie Belpedio at the 4:47 mark of that frame.
Western Michigan’s Corey Schueneman beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin high on the glove side for a 5-on-3 goal with 10:18 left in the second period.
But Miami answered with a two-man advantage of its own when Grant Hutton wired a shot through from the top of the faceoff circle off a feed by Alec Mahalak with less than four minutes remaining in the middle frame, making it 3-1.
The RedHawks sealed it with 3:26 left in regulation on a Belpedio wrister from the center of the faceoff circle.
Ethan Frank capped the scoring with a blast that beat Miami’s Ryan Larkin directly off a faceoff in the closing seconds.
STATS: Belpedio finished with a goal and an assist, and Sherwood and Josh Melnick recorded two assists each.
It was the second straight multi-point game for Belpedio and the third in a row for Sherwood, who extended his team-best points streak to eight games.
Melnick has 10 points in his last nine games, and he was 12-6 on faceoffs.
Larkin stopped 20 shots to earn the win.
THOUGHTS: This win was obviously much needed and much appreciated, and Miami played well and deserved it.
That said, it also comes with a little frustration because the RedHawks showed how well they’re capable of playing, and if they did that more they wouldn’t be in such a dire spot.
Full disclosure on this win: WMU is seriously banged up, most notably missing stud Wade Allison who was 15-15-30 in 22 games. He’s likely lost for the season.
That definitely hurt the Broncos’ offensive attack, and they generated just two shots on five power plays that included multiple minutes of 5-on-3 action.
Still, this was the best overall home game Miami has played since beating Duluth on Nov. 18.
The RedHawks are capable of playing with these NCAA Tournament-bound teams, they just haven’t done it nearly enough, especially as of late.
— NCHC contests typically don’t feature a lot of 5-on-3s, but there were three in this game and would’ve been a fourth had Miami not possessed the puck through a delayed penalty until the power play expired.
Both teams scored once on the two-man advantage.
— The power play has been particularly explosive for Miami as of late, racking up 10 goals on the man-advantage the past five games. MU is converting at a 35.7 percent rate during that clip.
Unfortunately, that positive work during this stretch has been negated by a 54.5 PK percentage, as they are just 12-for-22 since the start of their road series at UNO.
FORWARDS: C+. As a group, RedHawks forwards only had 16 shots and nearly half came on the power play. They accounted for two of the goals (Green and Lown). Sherwood struggled in the first half but has regained that 2016-17 form, and he stepping up on defense as well. His steal led to the first Miami goal.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. Hutton and Belpedio both scored, and after the whole team struggled out of the game, the blueliners did a good job of limiting Western Michigan’s scoring chances. Hutton was exceptional in his own end and deserved first star, not third, as he won loose puck battles and muscled people off the puck all night. It was a physical game and this corps was up to the challenge.
GOALTENDING: B-. Like many starts this season, Larkin was solid, controlled his rebounds and stopped the routine shots but didn’t come up with either of his toughest chances.
LINEUP CHANGES: Thank heavens Grant Hutton missed last Saturday’s game due to illness and not something worse. He was back in the lineup after missing just the second game of his career last weekend.
His return sent Grant Frederic back to the scratch list.
Up front, Willie Knierim was back on the lineup card as Zach LaValle did not dress. Carter Johnson suited up for the third straight contest.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This win gets Miami to within three points of seventh place, and while home ice is still a longshot, the bottom half of the league is clumped together and the RedHawks still have a game in hand over most.
If the RedHawks play like they did on Friday, they could make a run at an NCAA berth. But consistency has not been MU’s MO in 2017-18.
The 10th win has been incredibly elusive for Miami.
The RedHawks’ victory total never did reach double digits in 2016-17, as they went 0-9-1 in February in March to end the campaign with nine wins.
Miami is stuck on nine again this season, as it extended its winless streak to five games on Saturday by tying Colorado College, 4-4 on Saturday.
That means the RedHawks are 0-13-2 in pursuit of win No. 10 dating back to last season.
Miami’s at-large window is closing quickly, and it’s becoming more apparent that MU will have to run the table in the NCHC Tournament to avoid missing the NCAAs for the third straight season.
RECAP: It was a crazy game, with the Tigers scoring twice in the first three minutes to take a 2-0 lead.
Miami answered with four consecutive goals, including two by Carson Meyer.
But Colorado College cut its deficit to one in the closing minutes of the second period and tied it with 11:04 left in regulation.
Neither team scored in overtime, but the Tigers earned the second point with a 3-on-3 goal.
STATS: Lost in Miami’s struggles is Phil Knies’ scoring streak. He found the net for the fourth straight game and has netted six goals in that span. He had three in his first 20 games.
— Meyer was scratched in the finale at Nebraska-Omaha but scored twice for the first time this season. He also added a helper for his second career three-point game.
— Kiefer Sherwood notched two assists as he extended his points streak to seven games (3-8-11). It’s great to see both Sherwood and Meyer thriving after slow first halves.
— Louie Belpedio finished with a goal and a helper as he recorded his seventh multi-point game of the season.
THOUGHTS: To its credit, Miami fell behind by two early but rallied to take a 4-2 lead.
Then the RedHawks blew said lead as they salvaged just one of a possible three points.
Once again a late advantage was squandered and Miami left valuable league points on the table.
The funny thing is that through 24 games, the RedHawks have actually allowed the same number of goals in each period: 27. It’s the timing of those goals against that is killing this team.
This 0-3-1 road set against the sixth and seventh place teams in the NCHC has left Miami buried in last, six points behind Colorado College.
The RedHawks do have two games in hand against the entire league save St. Cloud State, but Miami’s remaining schedule consists of two games against each of the top five teams in the conference.
It’s baffling that this MU team that was 8-8-2 at the break and won its first game of 2018 against league power Denver looks so lost now.
And it isn’t like Miami was a horrible road team: The RedHawks were 3-3-2 away from Cady Arena entering the UNO series two weeks ago.
— MU is allowing 5.8 goals per game during its five-game skid. That’s embarrassing. Granted UNO has the best offense in the NCHC but Colorado College is second last in scoring.
Only Miami scores less frequently, with 75 goals in 24 games vs. CC’s 79 markers.
— A number of otherwise intelligent people are toying with the notion that a change of conference might be the best thing for Miami.
This has to be the worst idea since the glowing puck or the NHL expanding to Atlanta a second time.
So the problem is that Miami has struggled to compete against the big boys the past few years. The solution is to admit defeat, say thanks for the invite but we’re not worthy of the NCHC and join a much weaker conference?
Of course it’s frustrating to watch a team you love struggle for multiple seasons, but here’s why leaving the conference would be asinine:
1) What’s the alternative? The Big Seven doesn’t want Miami. The WCHA is much weaker. Those are the only two leagues with teams remotely close to southwest Ohio.
There is no longer a CCHA. When it dissolved, Miami had a chance to play in the best league in Division I and made the correct decision to join.
Yeah, the schedule is brutal but the RedHawks only need to post a .530 or so winning percentage to get in. All of the other seven teams in the league are .500 or better.
2) Recruiting. A major issue being brought up is MU’s inability to land the same quantity of players as it did several years ago, right? Do you think a 16-year-old is more likely to sign with a team that plays teams like Denver, North Dakota and Duluth each weekend or UAF, Ferris State and Northern Michigan?
No offense to those former CCHA foes but they’re not household names in the college hockey world and they’re not consistently in the top echelon of Division I.
It’s EASIER to recruit when you play in this conference. Leaving it will not mean the Austin Czarniks and Reilly Smiths of the world will start again flocking to Oxford. Quite possibly the opposite.
3) Travel. You think Omaha then Colorado College is bad, think about the logistics issues of playing in a league with the three UP teams and both Alaska squads.
Then throw in two more in Minnesota. No thanks.
Hockey East was a disaster for Notre Dame largely for the same reason. The other leagues aren’t realistic either, and again, the Big Seven isn’t extending invitations.
It’s an honor to play in the best league in college hockey, and no team in its right mind is going to step down because it has a few bad years.
LINEUP CHANGES: The big one was the absence of standout Grant Hutton on defense. It’s unclear why he was not dressed, snapping a streak of 75 consecutive games played for the junior.
It was just the second time in his career he was not on the lineup card, with the other being Jan. 9, 2016.
If Hutton misses any amount of time it will make winning hockey games a whole lot harder for the struggling RedHawks.
The other Grant – Grant Frederic – took his place on the ice.
Up front, Ryan Siroky and Zach LaValle dressed after sitting on Friday. Austin Alger and Willie Knierim sat in their place.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami plays its next four and six of its final 10 in Oxford, but now it faces an incredibly difficult path to get back into contention for home ice in the first round of the tournament.
The only good thing about the remaining schedule is that the RedHawks play the teams multiple teams that they need to pass in the standings, so they control their own destiny somewhat.