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.
It was just five seasons ago when Miami held its opponents to 1.74 goals per game.
One of the top defensive teams in Division I half a decade ago, the RedHawks have allowed 21 goals during their current three-game road set alone, including Friday’s 6-3 loss at Colorado College.
MU is surrendering goals at nearly twice the clip of 2013-14, as foes have lit the lamp 82 times in 23 games, an average of 3.39 goals against.
RECAP: Didn’t see the game, just the highlights. Those 9:37 p.m. starts are a little late for those of us with early hours.
It was never really a contest, as the Tigers scored 99 seconds in and ran out to a 5-1 lead. Miami scored twice to trim the deficit to two, but a CC empty netter sealed it.
STATS: Kiefer Sherwood tied a season high with three points, scoring once and setting up the other two MU goals.
— Freshman defenseman Alec Mahalak’s two points – both on helpers – were a career best.
— Grant Hutton also picked up two points on a goal and an assist, giving him points in three straight games (1-5-6).
— Colorado College was 3-for-3 on the power play, and Miami has now killed an absurd 5 of 13 chances during this road trip. That’s a 38.5 PK percentage.
THOUGHTS: So Miami’s defensive struggles last season were documented regularly here, but the RedHawks were doing a better job in their own zone the first three months of 2017-18.
But three games and 21 goals against into an 0-3 road trip later, it makes one wonder what the deuce is going on.
Opponents are getting way too good of looks and goaltending is underperforming. And Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado College are both near the bottom of the NCHC standings table.
Miami should’ve been past this, with Louie Belpedio playing the best hockey of his career in Games 1-20, Grant Hutton continuing to prove himself one of the best undrafted D-men in the conference. Chaz Switzer, Scott Dornbrock and Grant Frederic had all shown improvement.
Alec Mahalak has also displayed a lot of promise and his confidence level seems to rise each night.
Forwards Gordie Green, Josh Melnick and Casey Gilling all are outstanding defensively, but too often Miami’s centers and wings aren’t getting back or don’t pick up opponents as they cruise toward the Miami net.
Miami needs to tighten up, and quickly. Time is running out on the regular season, and drawing a low seed in the conference tournament is tantamount to a death sentence in the NCHC.
LINEUP CHANGES: Carter Johnson returned to the lineup for the first time since the Bowling Green series. Carson Meyer was also back after being scratched in the finale at UNO.
Zach LaValle and Ryan Siroky did not dress.
On defense, Dornbrock returned after missing the second game vs. the Mavericks. He replaced Frederic.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s a four-game losing streak for Miami, its longest of the season.
Now three games under .500, the RedHawks’ path the NCAAs gets a lot tougher. MU really needed to sweep these games to have a decent shot at home ice for the first round of the NCHC Tournament and the potential for an at-large berth.
Not that it’s mathematically impossible by any stretch, but the odds of Miami reeling off a bunch of wins in a row against its remaining opponents are not strong.
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.
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Grant Hutton had scored five times in Miami’s first four games, including a pair of multi-goal contests.
Still sitting on five markers eight games later, the junior defenseman hit the net twice in 38 seconds, breaking a tie at the end of a crazy second period as the RedHawks beat Bowling Green, 6-3 at the Slater Family Ice Arena on Friday.
Hutton’s surge capped off a middle stanza that saw MU extend its lead to two only to see that evaporate in a span of 3:45.
Miami (6-6-1) opened the scoring 6:15 into the game. The RedHawks held the puck in the offensive zone for more than a minute after the end of their first power play, and during a pileup at the top of the crease, Carter Johnson backhanded one that was stopped by goalie Eric Dop, but Ben Lown fired it in from the side of the cage for his first career goal.
Bowling Green (6-5-3) answered by scoring at the end of a long shift as well. Miami goalie Ryan Larkin shut down a point-blank shot, but about 30 seconds later, Connor McDonald whipped a firm wrister into the corner of the net to tie it at the 13:50 mark.
The RedHawks regained the lead 2:01 later on a wrist shot by Kiefer Sherwood from the point that seemed to fool Dop. It was initially waved off for goaltender interference, but it was ruled a goal after a fairly brief review.
The Falcons trimmed the deficit to one, 3-2 with 9:26 left in the middle stanza when Brett D’Andrea slammed home a one-timer in front of the net off a feed by Cameron Wright.
They tied it when Tyler Spezia skated through the Miami defense, went in for a breakaway and backhanded one into the back of the net with 5:41 remaining in that frame.
Hutton penetrated on the power play, whipped off a defenseman, corralled his own rebound and buried it with 1:35 left before intermission.
Thirty-eight seconds later, he rifled one from just inside the blue line for his third point of the period to make it 5-3.
Carson Meyer slammed home an empty netter with 17.3 seconds remaining to cap the scoring, recording a marker for the third straight game.
Hutton’s 2-1-3 line tied a career high in points set earlier this season at Maine. Kiefer Sherwood also recorded three points, going 1-2-3.
Lown not only scored his first collegiate goal, he earned his first multi-point game as a RedHawks, picking up a helper.
Belpedio, fellow blueliner Grant Frederic and forward Conor Lemirande all finished with a pair of assists.
These teams wrap up their weekend series at 7:07 p.m. on Saturday.
MIAMI 2-3-1 – 6
at BGSU 1-2-0 – 3
First period—1. Miami U., Lown 1 (Johnson, Frederic) 6:15; 2. BGSU, McDonald 1 (Kruse, Rauhauser) 13:50; 3. Miami U., Sherwood 3 (Belpedio, Lemirande) 15:51.
Second period–4. Miami U., Melnick 5 (Lown, Hutton) 2:59; 5. BGSU, D’Andrea (Wright, S. Craggs) 10:34; 6. BGSU, Spezia 1, 14:19; 7. Miami U., Hutton 6 (Belpedio, Sherwood), ppg, 18:25; 8. Miami U., Hutton 7 (Frederic, Knies) 19:02.
Third period–9. Miami U., Meyer 4 (Lemirande, Sherwood), ppg, eng, 19:43.
Shots on goal–Miami U. 8-9-10-27. BGSU 4-5-5–14. Power plays–Miami U., 2-for-4; BGSU, 0-for-3. Goalies–Miami U., Larkin (6 of 9 shots saved); BGSU, Dop (12-17), Bednard (9-9).Officials–Referees: Tony Czech, Dan Kovarik; Linesmen: Frank Hempel, T.J. Likens. Attendance: 2,157.
WHO: Colorado College Tigers (5-3) at Miami University RedHawks (3-3).
WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio.
WHEN: Friday – 7:35 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.
COLORADO COLLEGE RADIO: KRDO-AM (1240), KRDO-FM (105.5), Colorado Springs, Colo.
NOTES: Remember that Colorado College team that the NCHC beat up the first few years of the league’s existence?
You know, the team that the media kept saying was going to get better one of these days but has finished dead last in the league three of the first four seasons ?
Well, that day has arrived. And what’s scarier: Not a single CC player that has logged a game this fall is a senior.
The Tigers are just outside the USCHO’s top 20, having split in Vermont, swept Alaska-Anchorage, taken 1 of 2 at then-No. 17 New Hampshire and went 1-1 vs. North Dakota.
That’s not a doormat’s resume.
Colorado College has only outscored opponents by one goal, but the Tigers are 4-0 in one-goal games. So the Tigers are finding a way to win the tight games, an area in which Miami has improved so far this season.
Nick Halloran leads the conference in points (4-8-12), and Mason Bergh is tied for first in the NCAA in goals (7) and is tied with Gordie Green for second in the league with 11 points.
But this CC team hasn’t been particularly deep, as that duo has scored 46 percent of the team’s goals. Tyler Gooch is the only other Colorado College player with two goals – 11 others have one.
Among Tigers forwards, Trey Bradley has a goal and seven assists and Westin Michaud has scored once and picked up five helpers.
Colorado College has not gotten much offensive production from its defense. As a team, the Tigers have just two goals and seven assists from their blueliners.
CC has not been great on special teams, converting power plays at an NCHC-worst 12.5 percent clip and killing just 74.3 percent of man-advantage opportunities.
The RedHawks are second in the NCAA on the power play at 34.3 percent and are tied for the Division I lead with 12 PPGs.
Defenseman Grant Hutton has five of those for Miami, tops in college hockey.
However, the Tigers have been excellent at drawing penalties, as they have been on the power play 48 times already.
Colorado College and North Dakota played each other last weekend in the first conference contests of the season. This weekend every NCHC team except UND will compete against league opponents.
With the Tigers rejuvenated, this conference gets that much tougher. The PairWise has the Tigers at 13 and Miami at 49.
Except for Cornell, every one of the RedHawks’ remaining opponents is ranked in the top 25.
A four-goal second period was crucial in Miami’s win on Friday.
A day later, a five-tally opening frame was the RedHawks’ demise.
Maine scored the first five goals and held on for a 6-3 win over Miami in a penalty-laden series finale on Saturday.
The two-game set saw 19 goals scored 115 penalty minutes assessed. The RedHawks (1-3) won the opener, 7-5, earning a weekend split.
It took the Black Bears (2-2) just 1:01 to register a marker. Eduard Tralmaks took a long neutral-zone pass, crossed the blue line along the boards, skated around a Miami defender and tucked the puck inside the far side of the net.
Just 1:21 later on a 5-on-3, Patrick Holway scored on a blast from the slot that snuck inside the post on the stick side.
At the 8:07 mark of the first period, Tralmaks fired a pass across the high slot to Brady Keeper, who ripped one past Miami goalie Ryan Larkin from the top of the faceoff circle.
Less than three minutes later, Patrick Shea shoveled home a slap pass from the side of the net off a feed by Holway.
Exit Larkin, as the standout had stopped just 7 of 11 shots. Enter Grant Valentine, who made his RedHawks debut.
With 2:13 left in the first frame, Maine again capitalized on a two-man advantage. A shot from Mitchell Fossier snuck through Valentine’s pads.
Larkin was back in net for the final two periods.
Miami did get one back before the first 20 expired. Defenseman Grant Hutton threw a puck toward the net, and it hit a stick or skate and caromed to a wide-open Phil Knies, who deposited it in the net for his first collegiate goal with five seconds remaining.
Midway through the second period, Maine’s Emil Westerlund sent a pass from behind the Miami net to a wide-open Tim Doherty, who skated around Larkin and tapped it home to make it 6-1.
The RedHawks cut the deficit to four with 3:47 left in that stanza, as Louie Belpedio teed up Grant Hutton from the center of the faceoff circle, and his blast beat Black Bears goalie Jeremy Swayman on the glove side.
Miami pulled its goalie in the final minutes, and Hutton connected again when he whipped a wrist shot into the far side of the net.
Hutton finished with two goals and an assist, giving the blueline four markers and a helper for the weekend.
Knies ended the game with a goal and an assist, and Gordie Green picked up a pair of assists, giving him a 2-5-7 line for the weekend.
The RedHawks were 3-for-5 on the power play and were 7 of 10 for the series.
There were a pair of skirmishes after the outcome was no longer in doubt. Green, Carson Meyer and Rourke Russell were all assessed roughing minors after a pushing-and-shoving incident in the second period.
Belpedio and Keeper were given game misconducts for a dust-up midway through the third period, as 89 combined penalty minutes were dished out.
Miami returns home to face Connecticut in a weekend series on Friday and Saturday.