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AHL report: Vets, rookies shine

Miami continued its strong presence in the AHL in 2016-17.

Seventeen former RedHawks logged games in the NHL’s top development league, with Andy Miele finishing 14th in points and Jack Roslovic ending up sixth in rookie scoring.

Blake Coleman tied for 11th in rookie goals with 19, and Roslovic tallied 35 assists, tied for second among first-year players.

BoB takes a look at ProHawks’ milestones and highlights of the 2016-17 AHL season.

Andy Miele (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

MODEL OF CONSISTENCY: In Miele’s last four seasons, his assist totals have been 45, 44, 44, 44.

In his first season with Lehigh Valley, Miele led all former Miamians in points with 57. He has now logged 420 career games, racking up 119 goals and 249 assists for 368 points.

RATED ROOKIES: Roslovic was second in points by an ex-RedHawk with 48, scoring 13 goals and setting up 35 more for 48 points, and he finished second in the entire league in rookie helpers with Manitoba.

Coleman went 19-20-39 and was tied for third in rookie plus-minus at plus-21.

Blake Coleman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

OTHER NEWCOMER HIGHLIGHTS: Sean Kuraly scored 14 goals and picked up 12 assists for 26 points in his first season with Providence, recording a plus-10 rating.

FIRSTS: Speaking of rookies, Anthony Louis and Matthew Caito scored their first career AHL goals in 2016-17.

After wrapping up his Oxford career in March, Louis found the net in Milwaukee on April 8, putting Rockford ahead, 2-1 in an eventual 4-2 win for the IceHogs.

Caito picked up his first two league points the same night in a 6-0 home win vs. San Antonio, earning the primary assist on the third goal and finding the net on the Griffins’ final tally.

MILESTONES: Pat Cannone is tops in games played among current former RedHawks pros with 421, edging Miele out by one. Three current skaters have logged over 300 AHL games.

– In addition to being called up to the NHL for the first time in 2016-17, Cannone notched his 150th career assist. He has 89 goals, 152 assists and 241 points in 421 AHL games.

– Defenseman Vincent LoVerde eclipsed the 300-game and 100-point mark, racking up a career-best 35 points for Ontario. He is plus-89 in five AHL seasons and plus-105 in six pro campaigns.

– Forward Carter Camper surpassed the 250-point mark by putting up six goals and 29 assists for 35 points in his seventh AHL season and his first with Albany. He reached the 30-point mark for the sixth straight season.

Austin Czarnik (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

PLAYOFFS?! PLAYOFFS?!?!?!? No ex-Miamian won the Calder Cup this season, but Austin Czarnik’s Providence Bruins advanced to the Eastern Conference final, with the former captain logging 17 postseason games. Czarnik notched three goals and four assists for seven points, tops among former RedHawks skaters.

The P-Bruins eliminated Hershey in the second round, ending the season of former teammate and close friend Riley Barber, who was second in Miami Calder Cup scoring with five points.

Kuraly also played part of the playoff season with Providence, dressing six times and dishing for an assist. He was the only ex-Miamian to skate in both the Stanley Cup playoffs and Calder Cup playoffs, combining for two goals and a helper in 10 postseason games.

See also: NHL report: 6 made debuts in ’16-’17

On deck: BoB takes a look at Miamians in the ECHL.

A look at all RedHawks that appeared in AHL games this season:

2016-17 AHL REGULAR SEASON STATS

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Andy Miele Lehigh Valley F 65 13 44 57 -15 54
Jack Roslovic Manitoba F 65 13 35 48 -17 22
Blake Coleman Albany F 52 19 20 39 21 56
Pat Cannone Iowa F 73 9 29 38 0 26
Vincent LoVerde Ontario D 61 9 26 35 5 68
Carter Camper Albany F 47 6 29 35 -3 18
Riley Barber Hershey F 39 13 14 27 4 12
Sean Kuraly Providence F 54 14 12 26 10 37
Cameron Schilling Ontario D 72 8 18 26 -2 49
Austin Czarnik Providence F 22 6 17 23 0 4
Marc Hagel Binghamton F 53 2 8 10 -11 39
Justin Vaive Rochester F 66 3 6 9 -6 90
Matthew Caito Grand Rapids D 13 1 1 2 1 6
Anthony Louis Rockford F 13 1 1 2 -9 4
Trent Vogelhuber San Antonio F 15 0 2 2 -2 8
Kevin Morris Syracuse F 2 0 0 0 -1 5


Goalies

Player Team GP Min. W L GAA Sv% SHO
Jeff Zatkoff Ontario 8 458 2 4 3.01 .900 0

2016-17 AHL PLAYOFF STATS


Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Austin Czarnik Providence F 17 3 4 7 -2 10
Riley Barber Hershey F 12 1 4 5 2 4
Andy Miele Lehigh Valley F 5 1 2 3 -1 4
Carter Camper Albany F 4 2 0 2 1 2
Cameron Schilling Ontario D 5 0 2 2 3 0
Blake Coleman Albany F 4 0 1 1 -1 6
Sean Kuraly Providence F 6 0 1 1 0 23
Vincent LoVerde Ontario D 5 0 0 0 -1 6

It turns out we didn’t know Jack

So the biggest question surrounding the Miami hockey team this off-season was: Will Jack Roslovic return for 2016-17?

RedHawks players, coaches and fans got their answer just a month before classes started, as the first-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets officially signed with his NHL club on Monday, ending his college career.

Here’s how we got to this point.

Miami's Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Roslovic was drafted 25th overall by Winnipeg last June. His talent was undeniable, as he turned heads playing for the U.S. National Development team. He had maintained that school was important to him, which is a key reason he chose Miami over the Ontario Hockey League, in which Flint (Mich.) held his rights.

In Oxford, Roslovic scored eight times in the RedHawks’ first 13 games, and on a team that struggled mightily to find the net early in the season, he was a savior.

Things went south for Miami toward the end of the 2015 calendar year, which the RedHawks finished 0-5-1. They were swept at Colorado College, the NCHC cellar dweller, in early December to wrap up the first half of the season.

Bad things go down when things go badly for sports teams, and the series against CC was nearly a breaking point for Miami. It wasn’t a well-kept secret that Roslovic considered leaving the team at that point, but to his credit remained in Oxford and finished the school year.

Defenses adjusted to Roslovic, who found the net just two more times in 2015-16. His defense also left much to be desired at times and he turned the puck over frequently.

But keep in mind he was 18 entering his freshman campaign, which overall was an immensely successful one, evidenced by the seven assists he picked up the last 12 games playing on a line with two other Columbus-raised forwards.

Fast forward to late last month: The Trade. His OHL rights were swapped from Flint to London, which everyone figured had to happen for a reason. That reason was one part of equation must’ve changed and London now thought it could lure Roslovic north of the border for his fourth juniors-eligible season.

Some Canadian media had his departure as a done deal. London has a history of picking off college and would-be collegiate players and is expected to be loaded after winning the Memorial Cup this spring.

Also on the pro-London side for Roslovic is the presence of Kole Sherwood, younger brother of RedHawks forward Kiefer Sherwood, who stars for the Knights.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

But the NHL draft came and went, as did Winnipeg’s camp earlier this month, and Roslovic still had not packed his hockey bag for Canada.

This story came out in the Winnipeg Sun two weeks ago, in which Roslovic ultimately indicated the plan was for him to return to Oxford this fall.

One comment did leave the door open, however:

“We had a good team, there were just a few mishaps throughout the season that bit us,” said Roslovic. “But it was a great time. It’s a great college town. Going to school is definitely not my forte, but I kept up with my grades and had good marks.

Maybe not the most PC remark, but he’s 19 and people should respect honesty among athletes. And like he said, he received good grades.

By all accounts he had a strong camp with the Jets, but as the days after continued to click by, the odds increased that Roslovic would return to Miami.

Over the weekend, however, word started to get out that he had signed, which killed his NCAA eligibility.

Personal bias here, but BoB thinks he would learn more about improving his defense and other non-scoring aspects of his game if he stayed. Reilly Smith said as much in his final season at Miami, and look what the Oxford experience has done for him.

It probably won’t matter. Roslovic can flat-out play, and all paths likely will lead him to a lucrative NHL career. If he has improved enough, he may stick with Winnipeg (a long shot at this point) or be assigned to its AHL club (a lot more likely) and never see a puck drop with London.

Whatever happens after today, BoB respects the incredibly difficult decision this must’ve been for the teen sensation.

And whichever team he lands on this fall will be lucky to have him lacing up the skates.

BoB would like to wish the ultra-talented forward the best of luck in his professional career and thank him for a fun season.

We just selfishly wish we could’ve seen a couple more years of him.

Miami falls to UMD again, ending season

The shorthanded goal has been a Miami nemesis all season, and on Saturday a pair of them contributed to the end of the RedHawks’ season.

Minnesota-Duluth beat Miami, 3-1 in Game 2 of a best-of-3 NCHC Tournament quarterfinal series, completing a sweep of the RedHawks.

Miami (15-18-3) finished the season with four consecutive losses, all on UMD’s home ice.

It was the first three-game playoff series loss by the RedHawks since 2009 vs. Northern Michigan, and March 12 ties the earliest ending to a Miami season since 2005.

The Bulldogs’ Kyle Osterberg opened the scoring with an unassisted shorty just 96 seconds into the game. He stripped Miami senior defenseman Matthew Caito at the blue line and went in alone, beating senior goalie Jay Williams on the stick side.

Minnesota-Duluth (17-14-5) made it 2-0 with 3:09 left in the first period on a power play goal by Andy Welinski, which he scored on a slap shot off a drop pass from Jared Thomas.

An outlet pass from Karson Kuhlman found Tony Cameranesi, who juked Williams and beat him on the forehand with 7:14 left in the middle stanza.

Miami senior forward Kevin Morris (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami senior forward Kevin Morris (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The RedHawks cut the deficit to two when freshman forward Jack Roslovic corralled a loose puck, skated in and centered one to senior forward Kevin Morris for a tap-in with 2:48 left in regulation, but Miami could pull no closer.

MU actually outscored UMD 5-on-5, netting the only even-strength goal of the game, but allowed all three of its goals on special teams — one on the man advantage and two shorthanded.

Miami ended the season with one SHG for and seven against.

The RedHawks were 7-2 in NCHC Tournament games entering this weekend and 2-0 on the road, having swept St. Cloud State in 2014.

Miami loses seniors forwards Morris, Alex Gacek, Sean Kuraly, Andrew Schmit and Michael Mooney, defensemen Matthew Caito, Taylor Richart and Chris Joyaux and goalies Williams and Ryan McKay.

The team said it expects 13 freshman to come to Oxford this fall.

Analysis: Still hope for Miami

Remember some of those losses at the end of the 2013-14 regular season?

A 5-2 loss at home against Western Michigan. A 3-0 defeat at Cady Arena at the hands of St. Cloud State. A 5-2 beat down at Denver.

And who could forget that 9-2 shellacking in Grand Forks during which Miami surrendered eight goals in the first two periods.

Granted that team beat Denver in its regular season finale, but it had little chance to advance to the NCHC championship game after a miserable 12-19-3 showing in its first campaign in the then-newly formed league.

But it swept SCSU in its own building and came within a goal of winning the conference tournament.

The point is: Despite the mercurial showing thus far in 2015-16, anything can happen in the postseason, and Miami has a dramatic history in recent years.

Here’s the problem with that rah-rah theory: The RedHawks have yet to beat the Bulldogs this season.

UMD is 3-0-1 vs. Miami, outscoring it 14-4.

And unlike two years ago when SCSU was a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs are a game over .500 and 13th in the PairWise, far from safe as an at-large team.

All that aside, Miami has a flare for the dramatic when it has it gets into nothing-to-lose mode.

When it made its championship game run, the RedHawks were playing miserable hockey entering the NCAAs and barely got into the field.

The point is: Despite the poor showing this weekend, there’s no reason to write off next weekend’s paramount series.

And there is hope that the RedHawks could still make it to Minneapolis and beyond.

Other thoughts…

– Andrew Schmit got beat 1-on-1 for the first UMD goal. Willie Corrin was able to skate around Schmit, put an initial shot on and grab his own rebound for the initial marker.

– Wow, what a beautiful tic-tac-toe goal by the Columbus line. Just amazing how quickly Jack Roslovic was able to re-direct the puck to Kiefer Sherwood, and how he was able to finish.

– Sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio fired a pass up the ice that was intercepted at his own blue line, ultimately resulting in the go-ahead goal for UMD.

– Guess this comes down to being spoiled, but it’s tough to not have a playoff series on home ice, with that being practically a given the past decade. Would gladly trade the pre-paid season ticket refund, and some, to have Miami host another series.

Miami swept by Minn.-Duluth

After surging above .500 last weekend for the first time since late October, Miami finished its regular season a game below that mark.

The RedHawks were swept at Minnesota-Duluth, falling 3-1 in the series finale on Saturday.

It was just the second losing regular season for Miami in its past 11 campaigns, but both have come in the last three years.

The Bulldogs (15-14-5) opened the scoring when Willie Corrin drove to the net and had his initial shot saved by senior goalie Jay Williams, but the rebound came back to Corrin, who slammed it home 6:44 into the first period.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The RedHawks (15-16-3) tied it with 1:47 left in the opening stanza, as senior forward Sean Kuraly intercepted a pass and centered it to freshman forward Jack Roslovic. Roslovic one-touched it to freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood for a tap-in from the side of the net.

UMD took the lead for good when a rebound popped into the air, was controlled by Charlie Sampair and deposited in the net on Williams’ short side 2:26 into the final frame.

Alex Iafallo sealed it with an empty netter in the closing seconds.

Sherwood’s goal was his sixth in eight games, and Roslovic recorded his third helper in his last three contests. Kuraly also earned an assist on the RedHawks’ goal, as he wrapped up his final regular season with 16 points in his last 14 games.

Williams stopped 18 of 20 shots in the losing effort.

Despite the loss, MU actually moved up a spot in the PairWise and is currently tied for 22nd.

The RedHawks will return to Minnesota-Duluth next weekend for a best-of-3 opening-round series in the NCHC Tournament as the No. 5 seed.

Miami is 7-2 all-time in the league tournament, including 4-1 in the quarterfinal round. But the RedHawks went 0-3-1 against the Bulldogs in the regular season, scoring just three goals in the season series.

The best-of-3 will be played on March 11-13. Times are TBA.

Analysis: When does the movie come out?

OXFORD, Ohio – A movie could be made about this season, and it could be better than most sports flicks in recent history.

Hey, they’re making one about John Scott, aren’t they?

Miami shut out Colorado College, 4-0 at Cady Arena on Saturday to complete a series sweep of the Tigers on Senior Night and the final regular season home game of a number of players’ careers.

Need a solid plot?

A team that didn’t have enough offensive weapons (at least at the beginning of the year) takes on one of the toughest schedules in Division I and fails early – almost catastrophically so – posting a 5-9-2 first half, with the final two games being a pair of losses against one of the worst teams in college hockey in the Tigers.

The team is in utter turmoil, both on and off the ice, heading into Christmas break.

Then it seemingly gets worse as senior goalie Ryan McKay, who has had a stellar career in Oxford, is suspended indefinitely for an outburst as he leaves the ice.

That leaves the netminding reins to Jay Williams, who couldn’t get a starting gig in the USHL and has had to share the cage with McKay for almost all of four years.

Including 2015-16, when Williams was left in to allow seven goals in the season opener and then benched for almost the remainder of the calendar year, not picking up his first win until Jan. 3.

Following the GoalieGate loss, the team was 6-11-3.

The team has gone 9-3 since and somehow gotten itself into NCAA Tournament contention, capping its home slate with a pair of wins over Colorado College, the same team that Miami couldn’t beat in December.

The finale is played in front of one of the best Cady Arena crowds in recent history.

Enough drama?

How about Anthony Louis scoring with two seconds left to send Miami to a 2-1 win over Bowling Green?

Or a come-from-behind win against top-10 St. Cloud State in an action-packed 3-2 win at Cady Arena?

Or another key road win at BGSU after trailing 1-0 after the first period?

Or a beloved usher and huge Miami hockey fan suffering from Stage 4 cancer, coming back for that final home game in what was one of the most emotionally-powerful moments in recent memory in the northeast corner of Cady Arena?

Miami's seniors are honored before Saturday's game (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s seniors are honored before Saturday’s game (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

We’ve got the characters too, most notably seniors playing their final games with the RedHawks, and all at the top of their game.

There’s Williams, who was never considered good enough to start for any of his juniors teams, posting a sub-2.00 goals-against average since taking over in net exclusively.

He set two school records in that home finale, one for being the first goalie to post a double shutout in a weekend, another for longest consecutive shutout streak at nearly 150 minutes.

And believe us, his story is actually even better than that.

Insert shameless self-promotion: BoB has a feature coming out about Williams in a couple of days.

How about Taylor Richart, the bust-your-hind-quarters defenseman you just can’t help but love? At 5-feet-9 he had earn a spot on an NAHL roster and then a USHL roster before coming to Miami, where he had to overtake several other more highly-touted blueliners to crack the lineup every night and gets beat up like a pinata on a game-by-game basis.

Taylor Richart celebrates his second goal in an as many nights on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Taylor Richart celebrates his second goal in an as many nights on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

He can seeming do everything on the ice and has elevated his game more than just about anyone in his four years, but he simply hasn’t been a scorer in college.

Richart had one goal in 127 games prior to this weekend. All his did in his final two regular season home games is find the net in both and earn a first star in one contest and second in the other.

Rudy has nothing on Richart.

Or Sean Kuraly? The big power forward who is the son of Miami’s all-time leading sniper notched 19 goals last season but couldn’t find the net with a GPS the first half of 2015-16. After bearing the weight on the world on his shoulders, he had some of his captaincy duties whittled away so he could concentrate on making awesome happen on the ice again.

It’s safe to say he has, tallying 15 points in 12 games and anchoring the Columbus line comprised of the wily veteran and a pair of super-talented freshmen in Kiefer Sherwood and Jack Roslovic.

We can’t forget Alex Gacek who tore his patellar tendon off the bone prior to his Miami career, and how it took years for him to regain his confidence. It’s not even debatable that he is playing the best hockey of his career.

Same goes for Kevin Morris, the super-smart son of an AHL coach who has a 3.6 GPA and has posted six goals in 11 games after finding the net just eight times in his previous 96 contests.

Same goes for Chris Joyaux, who has been so steady on the blueline since joining the team in the fall of 2012.

Same goes for transfer Andrew Schmit, who has gotten to play with his cousin, Conor Lemirande, forming the Crash Cousins line. He is one of the team’s most punishing hitters in recent history but has just eight penalty minutes in 2015-16.

And there’s Michael Mooney, who works so hard when he does get in the lineup and has saved this team’s bacon when it had battled injury woes with his ability to move into any position.

Matthew Caito wasn’t able to play on senior night, coincidentally missing just the second and third games of his Miami career, making the double shutout even more impressive.

It’s unlikely his season is over, and one of the steadiest two-way defenseman to dress for this team since Andy Greene must return for the RedHawks to have any realistic chance at an NCAA run.

BoB won’t forget McKay, whose .917 career save percentage is the fourth-best in school history, and his 1.39 goals-against average as a freshman is easily the best of any goalie to don the pads in Oxford.

Don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes here and not trying to take a side for that reason or stir anything up, but it’s shame how his Miami career has likely ended, without the benefit of taking a victory lap for his final regular season home game.

Good luck topping that, Hollywood.

Kuraly said at intermission on Saturday that this class hopefully has a couple more memories to make before its players go their separate ways to pursue their dreams, both on and off the ice.

The way this big screen-worthy regular season has gone, fans have to feel like the script has several more scenes to be written.

Even if that’s not the case, it’s been an Oscar-worthy story that’s played out the past couple of months.

Other thoughts…

– For five periods this weekend, Miami played decent hockey, good enough to outscore CC. The RedHawks finally got it right in the sixth and final frame, scoring three unanswered goals on 22 shots, as the puck seemed to spend half of that stanza in the Colorado College goal crease. A plus-7 goal differential is great, but a more skilled team would’ve buried some of its ample chances this weekend.

– A night after racking up nearly 14 minutes of power play time vs. 93 seconds for Miami, it’s mind blowing that Colorado College took 14 minutes in first-period penalties for dust-ups with officials, including contact with a linesman.

– It was listed at 3,155, but the crowd at Cady Arena on Saturday seemed larger and was certainly rocking, despite, well…OK…enough with the music bashing – it’s gotten a little better. If Miami does get back to Cady for a series against Minnesota-Duluth, we will need loud fans at the game. Forget spring break…doesn’t having the campus and the Oxford bars to yourselves with a best-of-3 hockey series sound more appealing?

– Miami graduate Nick Brunker did play-by-play for this game and was fantastic, to the surprise of no one who has ever heard his broadcasts. Few have worked harder to advance their broadcast media careers, as Brunker actually got kicked out of the press box of a Cincinnati Mighty Ducks game as a high school student for trying to perfect his craft and record his own calls when there wasn’t ample room, and he later excelled as the PxP guy for the Cincinnati Cyclones.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A. Zach Lavalle won a battle along the boards that ultimately led to Richart’s goal, opening the scoring. Roslovic’s beautiful centering pass led to Morris’ laser one-time finish. Not sure if Kuraly intentionally tipped a pass to Sherwood for Goal No. 3 or if it was inadvertent – we’ll call it deliberate, we’re feeling generous – but what a play. Freshman Josh Melnick (this deep into a write-up this is really Melnick’s first reference?) won a boards battle to get the puck to neutral ice then stole a pass and fed it to Louis for the ENG. Lots of offensive positive here.

DEFENSEMEN: A-. Good work without it two-way leader in Caito. If we had to nitpick, this group did turn it over a couple of times early but seemed to tighten up late, even as Colorado College started taking more chances in the third period (thus the 10 shots in the final 20 minutes for CC). Richart not only scored, he gloved a puck down and shuffled it ahead quickly to Roslovic, leading to the Sherwood goal. Apparently there’s nothing Richart can’t do right now.

Jay Williams makes one of his 24 saves on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Jay Williams makes one of his 24 saves on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

GOALTENDING: A. Not as many difficult saves for Williams as on Friday, but this is a weekend the senior will likely tell his grandchildren about. Fifth-five shots, 55 saves in 120 minutes, including 24 of 24 in this one. His rebound control was excellent again, and the TV color guy mentioned that as well. It’s only the third time a Miami goalie has posted back-to-back shutouts and the first time one has blanked a team twice in a weekend. Williams’ shutout streak is now 148:52, the longest in team history. Cody Reichard held the previous mark at 141:41. David Burleigh also posted back-to-back zeroes and went 136:05 between goals against.

LINEUP CHANGES: It was the same 19 as Friday for the RedHawks. Caito, Schmit and Loe missed their second straight games, while Colin Sullivan, Mooney and Ryan Siroky dressed for the second consecutive night.

Analysis: No. 4 seed paramount for Miami

Is it too early to schedule watch?

Especially since we’re in the online world, the answer is a definite ‘no’.

Besides, there are only five games left in the regular season and all of them will be important for Miami, which beat Western Michigan, 4-1 at Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo on Friday.

Thanks to that win, the RedHawks are currently in a three-way tie for fourth with Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth — both of whom lost on Friday — and that No. 4 spot is paramount if Miami wants to qualify for its 10th NCAA Tournament in 11 years.

As opposed to missing it for the second time in three seasons.

Here’s why this race is so important…

North Dakota and St. Cloud have run away with the top two spots. The RedHawks can’t even mathematically catch either team.

And Denver is a win away from securing a top-three spot, so the 1-3 seeds are off the table for Miami, unless it wins out and the Pioneers lose out. Which is not realistic.

That leaves the fourth spot as the last remaining one for home-ice advantage in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

To round out the field, Western Michigan – especially after the RedHawks’ win on Friday – and Colorado College are virtually locked into the bottom two spots.

Meaning Miami will battle UMD and UNO for the four, five and six seeds.

Six plays the third-place finisher between UND, St. Cloud and Denver on the road. No thanks.

Five travels to the winner of this three-team cluster. In other words, it plays the hottest team of these three on the road. Again, nah.

In the scenario in which the RedHawks finish fifth or sixth, they will likely not have the wins necessary to keep an at-large possibility alive, which is why the next 15 days are so important.

The good news is that Miami is playing its best hockey of the season. More good news is that the other two teams the RedHawks are battling for that coveted home-ice spot face tougher remaining slates.

UMD is at North Dakota again on Saturday after losing to UND in overtime on Friday, then it travels to second-place St. Cloud State for a pair of games next week before capping its regular season by hosting Miami.

UNO hosts St. Cloud on Saturday after falling to SCSU, 4-1 on Friday. The Mavericks wrap up their regular season with two against North Dakota at home and a pair at Denver.

Miami is at seventh-place WMU for one more on Saturday, hosts last-place Colorado College next week and finishes with a series at Minnesota-Duluth. Those opponents are a combined 24-54-9.

And if the RedHawks can’t put up a good showing in this stretch run, they don’t deserve NCAA consideration anyway.

Winning three of its final five would be just OK for Miami and would probably hurt its PairWise. Taking four would be preferable, and running the table would be ideal.

A losing record in this span would be devastating and would likely result in a road trip for a best-of-3 and then having to at minimum advance to Minneapolis for a shot at an NCAA berth.

Other thoughts…

– Anthony Louis scored his eighth and ninth goals of the season on Friday. We’ve mentioned his second-half surges before but haven’t thoroughly evaluated.

Miami's Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

This is Louis’ third season with Miami, and he has 10 goals in 52 games in October, November and December and 20 in 55 contests in January and beyond.

In terms of points, Louis has recorded 32 of his points before New Year’s and 50 after, or an average of 0.62 vs. 0.95.

And he has been clutch in the postseason, recording 13 points in 11 games in the NCHC and NCAA Tournaments, including six goals.

– This was the 29th game of Miami’s season and the first time the RedHawks have scored multiple goals in the first period. They had just 12 markers in the first 28 opening frames this season.

Miami goalie Jay Williams (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami goalie Jay Williams (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

– Jay Williams stopped 27 of 28 shots to earn the win in this game and has been a rock since taking over following GoalieGate. Williams is 7-2 with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in the nine-plus games since, and that’s with two five-goal games, with both featuring multiple tallies he had zero chance on.

– Jack Roslovic and Josh Melnick combined for just one assist on Friday but were still integral to the team’s scoring. Roslovic would’ve gotten third assists for two of the goals, and Melnick’s helper was the direct result of him stealing a puck at center ice and lifting it ahead to Louis, who did his thing to make it 1-0. Roslovic also just missed a goal at the end of the second period, so he’s still making offensive contributions, even if they aren’t showing up on the scoresheet.

Analysis: Columbus line thriving

OXFORD, Ohio – In its second game since being assembled, the all-Columbus line accounted for a pair of goals.

That was the difference on Saturday in Miami’s 3-2 upset win over No. 3 St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.

It was a risky move by Coach Enrico Blasi, as the RedHawks’ offense was scoring at its best clip of the season.

It was senior center Sean Kuraly scoring the go-ahead goal that made it 2-1 midway through the second, and minutes later freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood banged home the third Miami tally.

Freshman forward Jack Roslovic set up the latter with an NHL-caliber pass through multiple defenders and the top of the SCSU crease.

Scoring has been an issue all season, and Miami was held to one goal on Friday but quietly there is cause for optimism.

Josh Melnick (right) celebrates his goal with teammate Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Josh Melnick (right) celebrates his goal with teammate Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The Columbus line lit the lamp twice in this game. The Garden Gnome line (Josh Melnick-Anthony Louis-Alex Gacek) netted the other two this weekend.

The combination of Kevin Morris and Zach LaValle have lit the lamp four times in the past seven games, and the Crash Cousins line accounted for three – all on Conor Lemirande’s hat trick – two weeks ago at UNO.

This team won’t make people forget about the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers, granted, but in a brutal six-game stretch that saw the RedHawks face UNO on the road and Denver and St. Cloud State at home, Miami averaged 3.3 goals.

The back-to-back losses were tough because they were at home and every game is so important now, but ultimately Miami went 4-2 during arguably its toughest three-week stretch of the season and played some very good hockey in the process.

These guys hung with the third-best team in Division I for most of the weekend.

Now the RedHawks will have to take that success to the road, where they play five of their final seven regular season games.

Other thoughts…

– The RedHawks did not get a PairWise boost from this win. In fact, they dropped a spot despite beating the second-ranked team in college hockey. That means it’s more likely Miami will have to win the NCHC Tournament to secure an NCAA berth. But the RedHawks have gone to the NCHC final both seasons of the league’s existence, winning one title and posting a 7-2 overall record in the conference tourney.

– Ryan McKay was still not with the team this weekend. He is still on an indefinite suspension, but he is still in Oxford. Not sure what’s going on behind the scenes, but while McKay’s actions when he left his last start were clearly wrong, it’s been four weeks and he’s a senior. Here’s hoping he and the coaching staff can make amends soon. It’s hard to watch a player’s final stretch run go down like this, especially somehow who has contributed so much to this team. The Brotherhood is more than just lip service, right?

– SCSU entered play with a power play north of 31 percent, the second-best clip in Division I, but Miami allowed just five man-advantage opportunities on the weekend and killed all of them. The RedHawks retain the title of college hockey’s top PK unit at 93.5 percent.

– Very disappointed that only 2,534 watched Miami’s biggest home win of the season. North Dakota isn’t coming to Oxford this season, so this is the best team that visits Cady Arena. Granted Miami isn’t ranked, but really? Less than 70 percent of capacity? Still, that almost doubled the attendance for the Miami-Bowling Green basketball game played a few blocks north hours earlier.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. It was a fantastic second period, especially by the newly-formed Columbus line. Melnick scored as well, but linemate Alex Gacek got beat 1-on-1 for the first SCSU goal. And yes, that fourth line was caught deep again on a St. Cloud goal. Freshmen Jack Roslovic, Melnick and Kiefer Sherwood have been three of the best Hawks in terms of offensive production recently, which bodes well for the next couple of seasons. Kuraly is the hottest with 10 points in seven games.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Speaking of freshmen, really liked the play of Grant Hutton this weekend. Beyond the two assists he played very well in his own end. Colin Sullivan had a rare start and did his typical solid thing. Louie Belpedio scared everyone in the first period when he went down the tunnel but he returned and picked up a key assist. Holding SCSU to 23 shots is an impressive body of work.

GOALTENDING: B+. Williams probably should’ve had the first goal with his glove, but as usual, he got better as the game went on. He stole the show in the third period with 11 saves, including several on excellent scoring chances. Williams had no chance on the tic-tac-toe second goal.

LINEUP CHANGES: Blasi went with Devin Loe over Andrew Schmit on the fourth line. Loe had sat eight straight games and is another player you’d like to see on the ice more, although he went minus-1. Sullivan had not dressed in six contests and replaced Chris Joyaux, who was a scratch for the first time since opening night.

Preview: St. Cloud State at Miami

WHO: No. 3 St. Cloud State Huskies (22-5-1) at Miami RedHawks (10-12-3).

WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio.

WHEN: Friday–7:05 p.m.; Saturday–7:05 p.m.

TV: Friday–Fox Sports Alternate (DirecTV Ch. 608); Saturday–None.

ST. CLOUD STATE RADIO: Both nights–KCML-FM (99.9).

MIAMI RADIO: Both nights–WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio; WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.

NOTES: St. Cloud State has 123 goals or 4.39 per game, the second-best clip in college hockey.

Miami's Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The Huskies have eight players with 20 points or more, compared to Miami, which has just one (Jack Roslovic), and six SCSU skaters have scored at least 10 times.

Kalle Kossila has 11 goals and 24 assists for a team-best 35 points, and Joey Benik leads the team in markers (17) and is second in helpers (16).

Rounding out the team’s 30-point club is David Morley with a line of 10-21-31.

Captain Ethan Prow leads all blueliners in points with 26, including five goals.

In net, Charlie Lindgren leads all of college hockey in wins (21) and minutes (1,562). He has a 2.04 goals-against average and a save percentage of .927.

St. Cloud State is second in college hockey with a power play percentage of 31.7.

If the Huskies have an Achilles’ heel, it’s their penalty kill. Opponents are converting 22.8 percent of their chances on the man advantage.

SCSU is riding a six-game unbeaten streak and has won four in a row, during which the team has scored 25 goals.

Miami leads the all-time series, 13-9-2, but has lost four of its last five meetings. This is the first time these teams have played in Oxford since Feb. 21-22, 2014.

The RedHawks have just one more home series after this weekend.

Analysis: Margin for error low for Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – The better team won both games this weekend at Cady Arena.

Unfortunately for Miami, that meant after winning the series opener against Denver, the RedHawks fell to the Pioneers, 5-3 in the finale on Saturday.

The strange thing about Game 2 was Miami was badly outplayed in the first period but came away from that frame with the lead.

The RedHawks were much improved in the second and third periods but were outscored in both.

Typically in the ultra-competitve NCHC, teams splitting against a ranked in-conference team is OK, so long as they are beating the bottom dwellers.

The problem for Miami is it dug itself such a deep hole that 1-1 weekends are no longer suffice if it hopes to get back into NCAA Tournament contention.

At 24th in the PairWise, the RedHawks still have much work remaining before any serious NCAA talks can begin. And Miami now will play the majority of its nine remaining games away from Cady Arena.

As mentioned before, strength of schedule will help Miami if it gets to .500 or above, but one caveat as we move forward: The NCAA now requires teams to post at least a .500 winning percentage to qualify for an at-large bid.

But judging from its positioning in PairWise (24th) vs. its record (two games under .500), this looks like it will probably be a self-policing situation. Just wanted to throw it out there.

A 6-3 finish to the regualar season would suffice the winning percentage requirement, assuming Miami can win at least one in the best-of-3, and there’s a good chance that in that scenario that series would be played in Oxford.

It may take a 7-2 mark plus a trip to Minneapolis to get into the top 14 in PairWise, which is probably where Miami would need to advance to for a fairly safe NCAA berth.

The RedHawks’ small margin for error makes next weekend so important and such a high-risk, high-reward series, since wins will be tough to come by against the second-ranked (in the PairWise) Huskies but could be very lucrative.

Other thoughts…

– Back to the game…too many turnovers, especially in the first period when Miami seemingly was essentially in penalty kill mode for 20 minutes. Forwards didn’t seem to get back on D or backcheck very well, and after standing on his head for the first four periods of the weekend, senior goalie Jay Williams led in a couple of outside shots he normally stops. The flip side of that is: Denver is a very good team that played a very good game in most facets (goalie Tanner Jaillet wasn’t that great would be the only knock on the Pioneers in this one).

– Jack Roslovic’s set-up of Kiefer Sherwood was world class and was shown repeatedly on the big screen, as it should have been. A world-class play by a world-class player. He still needs to stop trying to carry the puck through three and four players, which he was probably able to get away with at the last level.

– Obviously skaters cannot record saves, but both Alex Gacek and Chris Joyaux kept pucks from going into the net by sprawling across the crease. Great effort by both on their respective “saves”.

– Our nightly GoalieGate update: There is no update. Ryan McKay was scratched again on Saturday, and it’s unknown if/when he will return. One thing of note regarding goalies: Ryan Larkin is with the team but is recovering from an upper body injury and is out for the season. Larkin, the cousin of Detroit Red Wings star Dylan Larkin, came to Oxford earlier this month to start on classwork and will be a freshman this fall. Good move by him and by the program.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C. They scored all three goals, but as mentioned above, the backchecking and defense by this group left much to be desired, and they turned the puck over way too much. Nice to see the Roslovic-Sherwood combo generating offense as well as Kuraly scoring by driving the net. So glad to see Alex Gacek having a solid senior season.

DEFENSEMEN: C. Kind of a comme ci, comme ca game for this group. No standouts for either good or bad reasons. It does bear mentioning that Louie Belpedio has been much more solid overall since returning from Finland.

GOALTENDING: C-. Tough call here. Williams was the difference in the first period but was 16 of 21 the final 40 minutes. To be fair, he had zero chance on the first goals, and on the fourth one Shore ended up with puck all alone in the slot for multiple seconds after an unfortunate bounce for Miami. And Williams made the initial save on the third goal. The second and fifth ones were two he would’ve wanted back, but the fifth one was a laser that found the top corner of the net.

LINEUP CHANGES: None again. This is the fifth straight game Coach Enrico Blasi has gone with these 18 skaters plus Williams in net.