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St. Cloud pulls away from Miami late

For two periods, Miami remained competitive with the top-ranked team in Division I on the road.

The RedHawks were down just one goal after 40 minutes, but No. 1 St. Cloud State ran off three straight markers in the final frame to seal Miami’s 5-1 loss at the Herb Brooks Center on Friday.

Miami defenseman Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Ryan Poehling, the Montréal Canadiens’ first-round pick in 2017, scored twice and added a pair of assists for the Huskies.

Grant Hutton netted the lone goal for Miami, which lost its seventh straight game and extended its winless streak to 13 (0-9-4).

RECAP: Just 38 seconds in the game, Jack Poehling slammed home a one-time feed from brother Ryan Poehling on a 2-on-1 to give St. Cloud State (19-4-2) the early lead.

Miami (9-14-4) appeared to have tied it midway through the period when Gordie Green stuffed a wraparound just inside the post, but it was ruled no goal on the ice and no conclusive angle showed the puck completely across the goal line.

The RedHawks legitimately evened the score when Hutton wound up at the top of the faceoff circle, pump faked and aimed a modified slap shot into the far corner of the net at the 2:22 mark of the second period.

But just 53 seconds later, the Huskies went ahead for good when Jimmy Schuldt ripped a one-timer inside the near post from the blue line on the power play.

Ryan Poehling made it 3-1 four minutes in the final stanza, as he played give-and-go with Blake Lizotte, who sent a return pass through the crease where it was shoveled into the back of the net by Poehling.

Ryan Poehling extended the Huskies’ lead to three when he skated through the Miami defense, went in alone and beat RedHawks goalie Jordan Uhelski glove side with 12:15 remaining in regulation.

Patrick Newell capped off the scoring with a turnaround wrister from the faceoff dot that hit off the inside of the far crossbar 1:16 to play.

STATS: Hutton’s goal was his second in three games. That moved him into third place unofficially on Miami’s all-time defenseman scorers list with 28 goals.

— Green snapped a string of five games without a point, as he picked up the primary assist.

Josh Melnick, returning after a six-game injury absence, earned the secondary helper, giving him points in eight straight contests in which he has dressed.

It was career point No. 101 for Melnick, who tied Pat Leahy and Mitch Ganzak for 50th on the RedHawks’ career leaderboard.

THOUGHTS: Despite allowing a goal 38 seconds into the game, Miami played pretty well for 40 minutes, but St. Cloud State dominated the third.

The Huskies led for all but 91 seconds – the first 38 and 53 between Hutton’s goal and SCSU’s eventual game winner.

Defensively, the RedHawks have been sloppier lately, which has compounded the other woes that have culminated in this 2½-month winless streak.

Miami’s Gordie Green (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

St. Cloud State may be the most skilled all-around teams in Division I, and in the final 20 minutes the Huskies played like it.

— Green’s non-goal is tough for Miami, but there really wasn’t a definitive camera angle showing the puck completely across the line.

One suspects that the puck was completely on white ice at the furthest point goalie David Hrenak extended his glove, but that isn’t proof.

Had it initially been ruled a goal it almost certainly wouldn’t have been disallowed, so the call on the ice was going to the be final one either way.

Things like that seem to happen to struggling teams. At least Green picked up a point on Hutton’s goal.

— Melnick’s return was a blessing, as he did not appear any worse for wear due to his lower-body injury. Hopefully Miami’s offense will be rejuvenated with him healthy.

LINEUP CHANGES: Scott Corbett was scratched for the second time this season, and Brian Hawkinson sat for the first time in his career.

Melnick took one of those forward spots, and Zach LaValle dressed in the other after not dressing last Saturday.

It was Uhelski in net, making his fourth start in six games. He has played in six straight, relieving Ryan Larkin in both of his starts in that span.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The game was closer than the final score indicated, but a great college hockey team played great hockey and pulled away from a lesser squad.

Not much more to be said about this one.

It’s an unforgiving league, and one of the things BoB said was paramount to a solid Miami second half was not letting a losing streak snowball, and that’s exactly what has happened to the RedHawks since the start of 2019.

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Preview: Miami at St. Cloud State

St. Cloud State and Miami played two dynamic games in Oxford that saw the RedHawks rally to tie both nights against the top-ranked team in Division I.

That was two months ago, and it feels more like two years. MU is 0-7-1 since and is riding a 12-game winless streak.

The Huskies may have left points on the table when visiting Miami but SCSU has been unbeatable at home. St. Cloud State is 10-0 at the Herb Brooks Center and has outscored its opponents, 43-14 in its home rink.

BoB takes a look at the upcoming series between these teams:

WHO: Miami RedHawks (9-13-4) at No. 1 St. Cloud State Huskies (18-4-2).

WHERE: Herb Brooks Center (5,519), St. Cloud, Minn.

WHEN: Friday – 8:07 p.m.; Saturday – 7:07 p.m.

ST. CLOUD STATE RADIO: KZRV-FM (96.7) and KVSC-FM (88.1), St. Cloud, Minn.

MIAMI RADIO: WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.

NOTES: We talked about this two months ago: Few teams in college hockey can match St. Cloud State’s offense.

The Huskies lead the conference in scoring, averaging 3.75 goals per game, and they haven’t fattened up against a few weak opponents. They’ve netted at least four in 15 of their 24 contests.

SCSU’s depth is the envy of the NCAA. Seven skaters are averaging at least three-quarters of a point per game and 12 have points totals in double figures.

Among forwards, Patrick Newell is in a four-way tie atop the NCHC scoring leaderboard with 25 points on 12 goals and 13 assists.

Senior Robbie Jackson has a 10-12-22 line after finishing 15-27-42 last season. He has 103 career points with the Huskies.

Freshman Nolan Walker has been a huge addition for St. Cloud State, netting six goals and adding 15 helpers, and Blake Lizotte has scored eight times while picking up 11 assists.

Ryan Poehling, a first-round pick of Montreal in 2017, has a 3-15-18 line, and Easton Brodzinski and Kevin Fitzgerald have scored 10 goals each.

Jimmy Schuldt and Jack Ahcan share the team lead in defensemen points with 20 each.

Nick Perbix, a Tampa draft pick, is having a stellar rookie season for the Huskies, going 1-10-11 with a plus-15 rating that is tied for tops on the team.

David Hrenak, a Los Angeles Kings selection, has logged 1,031 minutes but has a .902 save percentage, and Jeff Smith has a .918 save percentage, and he relieved Hrenak in SCSU’s most recent 5-1 loss at North Dakota.

Miami’s Jordan Uhelski (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

St. Cloud State has excelled not only at staying out of the box but not allowing goals when it is shorthanded. The Huskies have surrendered just eight goals on the man advantage on only 77 chances.

It’s unclear who will start in net for Miami. Jordan Uhelski has started three of the last five games and has relieved Ryan Larkin in the other two.

Larkin has been the regular starting goalie most of the season but has allowed 19 goals in his last five outings, including the two in which he was pulled.

The RedHawks are hoping Josh Melnick will return to the lineup for this weekend’s series. The team’s leading scorer with 19 points has missed the last six games with a lower body injury, and Miami is 0-6 with him out.

Four straight shutouts for UMD vs. Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – The last series Miami played against Minnesota-Duluth, the RedHawks were shut out on the road, 4-0 in the opener and 3-0 in the finale.

The No. 5 Bulldogs repeated that feat this weekend by identical scores.

Miami defenseman Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

After beating MU 4-0 on Friday, UMD reeled off its fourth straight shutout vs. Miami, 3-0 at Cady Arena on Saturday.

The RedHawks have not scored against UMD in 257:08.

Miami (9-11-4) played without both captains – Josh Melnick and Grant Hutton – and starting goalie Ryan Larkin watched the game from the bench.

The RedHawks’ winless streak has reached 10 games, with their last win coming over two months ago.

RECAP: Minnesota-Duluth (14-6-2) opened the scoring when Scott Perunovich tipped home a wrister from the blue line by Nick Swaney on the power play at the 17-minute mark of the first period.

Midway through the second frame, Miami was on a two-man advantage when the RedHawks’ Jonathan Gruden had a shot blocked and UMD’s Justin Richards went in for a breakaway but was hooked from behind by Derek Daschke, resulting in a penalty shot as one skater returned to the ice.

Richards scored, going backhand to the stick side to make it 2-0.

The Bulldogs sealed it 4:13 into the third period when Noah Cates stripped Casey Gilling, and the loose puck ended up on the stick of Swaney, who was all alone at the top of the crease for a slam-dunk goal.

STATS: Overall, Miami’s scoreless drought has reached 141:26. The RedHawks set a school record by being blanked for over 240 minutes in 2017-18, which included its shutout weekend at Duluth.

— The RedHawks finished with the same faceoff percentage both nights (.333). They went 18-36 in the circle in this game after struggled to a 20-40 mark on Friday.

— Miami slipped to 1-8-1 in January games dating back to last season and is 4-16-3 overall in the second half the past two campaigns.

— For over two months, the RedHawks have been in pursuit of win No. 10. They are 1-19-6 since 2016-17 going after that elusive 10th victory.

— MU dropped to 1-13-1 in its last 15 meetings with the Bulldogs.

THOUGHTS: Like Friday, Miami was buzzing in the first period despite its lack of star power, but once again a late first-period goal by Minnesota-Duluth completely deflated the RedHawks.

The two-man advantage-turned-shorthanded-rush-turned-penalty-shot also represented a major momentum swing in the game, since it was an excellent opportunity for Miami to tie the score that went horribly, horribly wrong.

From there, it was obvious that Bulldogs goalie Hunter Shepard wasn’t going to give up a pair of late goals, as he was outstanding in shutting Miami out for the fourth straight time.

— Hutton was given a game misconduct and not a disqualification on Friday, so the decision to sit him was on Miami’s coaching staff.

It was a bad penalty for sure and I have no problem scratching him for a game, especially with the team mired in a deep slump.

Hutton is an exceptional talent and a wonderful young man, but as a senior he hasn’t taken that step forward that we’ve seen elite NHLers-to-be often take their final season.

One pro scout said he hasn’t seen an urgency in his game this year. Sometimes even elite players need a wake-up call, and hopefully a night in the stands will rejuvenate Hutton.

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

No Hutton, no Melnick and no Larkin against the No. 5 team was a tall order for the RedHawks, but sometimes a shake-up is needed when a team is struggling.

— Melnick is battling a lower-body injury and Larkin was pulled after allowing four goals on 22 shots on Friday.

Hopefully Melnick will return next weekend.

— The current review process has to stop. It’s ruining games.

Everyone wants calls to be correct. But there has to be a limit.

A UMD player went down behind the play in this game. After the next whistle, the officials went under the headsets for several minutes to see if a penalty was warranted.

On Friday the officials went to the booth to decide Hutton’s penalty, even know everyone in the building knew he was getting 5-and-10.

Coach Enrico Blasi asked for a review on UMD’s goal, citing the puck might have gone out of play prior to it going in. The original no-call was upheld.

The best is when a goal is scored and there’s a review to see if the play was off-side a minute earlier.

You know, because in baseball when someone hits a home run, they go back to see if that ball one call really should’ve been a strike five pitches prior.

I give credit to college hockey for being open to rules changes to better the game (except shootouts, but that’s for another day), so I have one:

Give teams two timeouts instead of one. Challenge anything you want. If you’re wrong, you lose a timeout, as it is now.

But no other reviews except inside five minutes of the third period and overtime.

At all.

You hired a second ref for each game, let the officials do their jobs.

— It’s too bad the weather kept a large number of fans away on Saturday.

The roads were brutal after the game, and many smartly stayed home.

The attendance was listed as 2,018 but I suspect that includes season ticket holders who have paid for their seats. Actual attendance was closer to one thousand.

A large number at the rink were in town for the whole weekend anyway.

I can’t express how much I hate to name drop, especially when it’s someone I’ve never met with a name as prestigious and sensitive as his, but when conditions are poor I’ll always think of that series nine years ago when Brendan Burke was killed.

For those not in the know, Burke and his friend died in a car accident on horrible roads northwest of Oxford the day of a Friday game vs. Lake Superior State.

Burke, the team manager at the time and son of former NHL general manager Brian Burke, was a pioneer when he came out as openly gay months before the wreck, gaining national attention.

That weekend’s weather could’ve claimed any of us who traveled to Oxford for those games.

Burke died on a Friday, and the team didn’t find out until later that night, but its members did The Brotherhood proud by scoring seven goals the first 29 minutes of Saturday’s game against a ranked Lakers team in a 10-4 win.

Not a team on the planet, including the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, could’ve beaten Miami for that period and a half.

— Back to Friday for a second: Blasi was caught yelling at associate coach Peter Mannino on the bench early in the second period.

Miami’s Alec Mahalak (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

If there’s a disagreement between coaches, that’s something that needs to be handled in private at intermission, especially when a team is struggling as Miami clearly is.

LINEUP CHANGES: Andrew Sinard stepped in for Hutton, as the RedHawks are down to seven healthy defensemen.

Grant Frederic and Chaz Switzer are both out with lower body injuries.

Uhelski got the start for Larkin after the senior’s strong performance in the second half of Friday’s game and stopped 36 of 39 shots in the loss.

His save percentage is now .922. Larkin is at .923.

Noah Jordan also started up front for the fourth time this season as Carter Johnson was scratched.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D-. An upgrade from ‘F’ on Friday only because they generated better shots and Shepard was outstanding, but seriously, 13 shots and zero goals?

DEFENSEMEN: C. Too many shots allowed and this corps did zilch offensively. But with Hutton out, Sinard seemed to thrive with more ice time and Alec Mahalak showcased his defensive talents more with the additional TOI available.

GOALTENDING: B+. Uhelski had zero chance on the first and third goals and the other was on a penalty shot.

STANDINGS: Miami has fallen to 29th in the PairWise and is in sixth place in the NCHC with a 3-7-2 record.

The RedHawks trail fifth-place North Dakota by six points and are seven out of fourth, which is the last home-ice spot for the league tournament.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s necessary to take a step back and realize that this was always going to be a rebuilding season.

After three straight sub-.500 seasons and a 7-2 start, this 0-6-4 skid feels like a Lucy-again-pulling-away-the-football moment, but it’s important to realize that success this season was always going to be a tall order.

With six non-seniors and both assistants leaving, the RedHawks pieced this team together in the summer, and still – still – at 9-11-4 have exceeded expectations.

It’s just frustrating to see Miami play so well against No. 1 St. Cloud for 120 minutes and then get manhandled by the fifth-ranked team seven weeks later.

What we’ve seen in four months of the 2018-19 is a major step ahead in the process toward being an NCAA contending team.

But as Minnesota-Duluth showed this weekend, the RedHawks still aren’t there. At least not right now.

Fortunately for Miami, there’s still plenty of season left to turn that around.

UMD 3-goal burst sinks Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – For the first 18 minutes, Miami played evenly against No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth and nearly matched the Bulldogs in shots.

But a UMD goal late in the opening period and three more in an 89-span of the second spelled a 4-0 loss for the RedHawks at Cady Arena on Friday.

Hunter Shepard stopped all 23 Miami shots he faced for Minnesota-Duluth, which doubled up the RedHawks in that category the final 40 minutes.

The loss extended Miami’s winless streak to nine games, its longest stretch since going 0-9-1 to close out 2016-17.

RECAP: The RedHawks (9-10-4) appeared to win an offensive-zone faceoff on the power play, but the puck shot back to neutral ice, where Nick Swaney beat the defense to it, skated in, was partially tripped by Miami’s Derek Daschke and recovered to roof one glove side with 1:24 left in the opening stanza.

The Bulldogs (13-6-2) made it 2-0 when Jackson Cates redirected a slap pass in from Dylan Samberg after the RedHawks’ Jonathan Gruden turned the puck over along the boards 3:45 in the middle frame.

Noah Cates one-timed one past Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on the power play 55 seconds later off a feed from Scott Perunovich to make it 3-0, sneaking his slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle inside the far post.

Just 34 seconds passed before UMD’s final goal, which was scored after Larkin lost his stick while being bumped out of position, and Parker Mackay deposited a behind-the-net pass from Justin Richards into the vacated net.

That ended Larkin’s night, as he was relieved by Jordan Uhelski.

Miami’s Jordan Uhelski (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The game got chippy late, as RedHawks captain Grant Hutton was later given a major and game misconduct for checking from behind and MU’s Karch Bachman and UMD’s Riley Tufte were assessed roughing penalties after their lines paired off following an interference call against the Bulldogs.

STATS: Coming off the bench, Uhelski stopped all 15 shots he faced.

— Miami was 20-40 (.333) in the faceoff circle.

— The RedHawks shut out Minnesota-Duluth in the third period, snapping a string of 15 straight frames allowing a goal.

— Eleven of Miami’s 23 shots came on its five power plays, as the RedHawks spent 8:06 on the man-advantage.

— This was the third time this season MU has been blanked.

THOUGHTS: It’s become a recent MO for Miami: The RedHawks came out strong again but were once again deflated when allowing that first goal.

With 90 seconds left in the first period, Miami went on the power play so it appeared the worst-case scenario would be a 0-0 score heading into the second with a brief 5-on-4 to start the next frame.

Instead, Swaney’s shorthanded goal in the final minute-plus gave UMD a huge momentum boost heading into intermission.

Arena staff made its best effort to fire up fans by cranking ABBA, but three Bulldogs goals early in the second frame later essentially sealed the game. That makes eight middle-stanza goals against in five games for the RedHawks.

To be fair, once again MU battled hard in the third period but the outcome had been decided by that point.

Duluth was the better team in practically every aspect: The Bulldogs scored twice at even strength, once on the power play, once on a Miami power play, they dominated on faceoffs, seizing loose pucks, were way better passing, miles better defensively and got better goaltending.

— The major on Hutton was the right call. He had multiple seconds to decide if he was going to bury Cole Koepke, who had his back to the play along the boards, and the ultra-strong Hutton followed through and hammered him face-first into the glass.

Especially as a captain, Hutton can’t make that play.

— Uhelski prevented this game from being 7-0 or 8-0, stopping a breakaway and a 3-on-1. Following the latter, a Miami fan yelled “where’s the rest of your team?” There was no answer.

Miami’s Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

— Miami had taken a major step forward on draws this season, especially with the addition of Monte Graham, but the team has been miserable in the circle recently. The RedHawks are 40.9 percent on faceoffs their last six games and have won a third or fewer draws in three of those contests.

Part of the reason for that is…segue…

— Miami’s leading scorer, Josh Melnick, was scratched for the third straight game with a lower body injury. He is considered week-to-week.

His absence is huge because in addition to his 19 points, he is solid on draws and one of the team’s best defensive forwards in addition to being a team captain.

Miami’s River Rymsha (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

GRADES

FORWARDS: F. Thirteen forwards scored zero goals and generated 14 shots, many of which were of the low-percentage variety. Despite the decent shot total on the power play, there was no flow on the man-advantage from this corps. Gruden had an easy clear opportunity on the second UMD goal but overskated it. He was also the forward at the point when Swaney blew past all five Miami skaters to score on his breakaway. This Melnick-less group’s passing wasn’t particularly impressive either. Scott Corbett dished out a couple of good hits, but that was one of very few forward highlights.

DEFENSEMEN: D+. Friday’s game footage will not be used by Hutton for his personal highlight reel. He was late reacting when Jackson Cates scored that second goal and as mentioned above, he deserved his major. Daschke was a little flat-footed on that shorthanded breakaway. UMD managed 37 shots, equaling the fourth-highest total allowed by Miami this season. River Rymsha was first star out of this group.

GOALTENDING: B-. The first goal was on a breakaway, the second Larkin had no chance on, the third he should’ve stopped and the fourth he lost his stick and positioning when he was bumped at the side of the crease. Larkin wasn’t that bad but he wasn’t great either. Uhelski was great and had to be or this one would’ve gotten out of hand. Individually Larkin was a C-, Uhelski an A.

Miami’s Zach LaValle (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

LINEUP CHANGES: Melnick missing his third straight game was the biggest news in terms of the lineup. It was hoped he would return for this series but he will shoot for Colorado College next weekend.

Defenseman Andrew Sinard sat after playing six straight games, as the RedHawks elected to use 13 forwards. Zach LaValle dressed in that extra spot after being scratched for the last six.

Uhelski was the starter last Saturday and ended up logged 35 relief minutes in this one.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It was the first regular season home game for Miami in seven weeks and proved quite anticlimactic.

It feels like the game could’ve been completely different had Swaney not scored late in the first period but that seemed to shift the Bulldogs’ play to a higher gear and Miami could not match UMD in any facet for the balance of the game.

Minnesota-Duluth looks like a team poised to repeat as national champions, and in this game, the RedHawks were nowhere near that level.

Close again but Miami falls to WMU

Once again No. 20 Miami felt short by the slimmest of margins.

The RedHawks lost by one for the second straight night, 3-2 at No. 14 Western Michigan on Saturday after dropping a one-goal decision the night before.

Miami (9-9-4) fell to the .500 mark for the first time since the start of the season and are winless in their last eight, going 0-4-4.

Matthias Samuelsson fired in the game winner from the high slot early in the third period after Western Michigan had taken two previous one-goal leads, only to have Miami answer both times.

The RedHawks were without standout Josh Melnick for the second straight night, and regular starting goalie Ryan Larkin also did not play.

Miami’s Derek Daschke (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

RECAP: Western Michigan (13-6-1) won an offensive zone faceoff and Cole Gallant dropped a pass to Josh Passolt, who whipped it past Miami goalie Jordan Uhelski 2:12 into the game.

The RedHawks tied it with 5:43 left in the opening frame when Ben Lown skated in on the right wing and centered a pass that hit a skate and caromed to Derek Daschke, who was wide open in the slot and slammed it home.

Miami’s Jonathan Gruden (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

With 6:51 left in the middle stanza, Colt Conrad fed Passolt on a 2-on-1 for a one-timer that put Western Michigan back on top, 2-1.

Miami again pulled even when a 2-on-1 became a 2-on-0 as the Broncos’ lone defender, Cam Lee, blew a tire in his defensive zone. Jonathan Gruden took a pass from Brian Hawkinson and after his initial shot was denied, he poked it past goalie Trevor Gorsuch with 1:26 remaining in the second period.

But Western Michigan regained the lead for good as a well-placed wrister by Samuelsson from between the faceoff circles beat Uhelski with 14:35 left in regulation.

STATS: Passolt scored twice and finished the weekend 3-1-4 as he is almost certainly on his way to a weekly league award.

— Lown ended the night with a team-best two points, both on assists for his first multi-helper game of the season and the second of his career.

— Daschke scored for the fourth time this season, tying him with Grant Hutton for the team lead among defensemen, and Gruden’s goal was his second of the season, as he has four points in his last six games.

— Opponents have scored against the RedHawks in 13 straight periods.

— Both teams had three power plays but only 2:11 of time on the man-advantage. That’s because twice after Miami took penalties, WMU was whistled for a minor of its own within seconds.

So it’s a rough 0-for-3 for both teams.

THOUGHTS: Miami didn’t play badly at all, especially considering it was in a hostile arena against the hottest team in Division I, but once again the win didn’t come.

WMU deserves a lot of credit for the weekend sweep, as the Broncos are flat-out impressive in every aspect, and it’s easy to see why they’re second in the NCHC.

Western Michigan was ranked No. 14 coming into this weekend and was unbeaten in its previous eight. Make that 10 now and watch that ranking go up on Monday.

— Daschke’s line was impressive enough – one goal, six shots, three blocks, only Miami skater with a plus-rating – but he was a defensive menace to WMU all game, poking loose pucks away and getting his stick in the way of passes. Plays well beyond his 22 collegiate games.

Miami’s River Rymsha (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

— Speaking of defensemen, River Rymsha was a standout in this game by laying out a couple of huge hits and playing great shut-down defense.

Rymsha’s father, Andy Rymsha, was interviewed on CBS College Sports during Friday’s game. Andy Rymsha played for Western Michigan and logged six NHL games with the Quebec Nordiques.

— Hutton has stepped his level up the past few games at both ends of the ice. He has four assists in his last four games and has played better in his own end as well.

Miami’s Jordan Uhelski (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

— Uhelski in net was a major surprise. Was this a message to the team that it was too reliant on Larkin to make big saves, or are they pacing Larkin, who has already logged roughly 5,000 minutes as a RedHawk and been banged up several times during his Miami career?

Uhelski made a phenomenal save on a breakaway and was solid overall.

— Melnick remained out with a lower body injury. Hopefully it will not linger into the upcoming four-game homestand.

— Win No. 10 has been a major hurdle for this program the past few seasons. Miami is 1-17-6 in its last 24 games chasing its 10th win.

LINEUP CHANGES: Just Uhelski for Larkin. Uhelski stopped 30 of 33 shots.

Coach Enrico Blasi likes to have his lineups pretty well set around this point of the season, and with the exception of Melnick and Larkin, this looks like the 20 he will head into the stretch run with.

STANDINGS: Miami dropped to sixth in the conference at 3-5-2, leading just Omaha and Colorado College.

The RedHawks slipped to No. 26 in the PairWise, which determines which teams earn at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. Miami would need to climb to 14th or better to warrant consideration.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Despite a lot of the positives surrounding the program, the winless streak is becoming unwieldy.

The RedHawks are at .500 for the first time since opening night, which isn’t going to get them into the NCAA Tournament, regardless of how difficult their league schedule is.

The effort is there, the passion is there, the process is there, and while those are all great things, the wins still need to be there at the end of the season or else this team will once again be done playing by St. Patrick’s Day.

Miami mid-season report

Especially considering the state of the Miami hockey program in mid-March, the first half of the 2018-19 season has to be considered a major success.

Following the RedHawks’ third straight first-round exit from the NCHC Tournament and subsequent dismissal of both assistant coaches, Miami received zero consideration as a preseason top 20 and was picked to finish last in its conference.

But the No. 16 RedHawks have stuck it to critics, as they enter the back half of their regular season schedule three games over .500, their best pre-January mark in four years.

The two coldest-weather months have been problematic for Miami in recent seasons, choc with top-10 in-conference matchups and long road trips.

Cold snaps
Miami by month

Season January February March/April 2nd half
2015-16 5-3-1 5-2-0 0-4-0 10-9-1
2016-17 4-3-1 0-5-1 0-4-0 4-12-2
2017-18 1-4-1 2-5-1 1-3-1 4-12-3
Totals 10-10-3 7-12-2 1-11-1 18-33-6

The RedHawks are 8-24-5 after New Year’s the past two seasons – a paltry .284 winning percentage – including 2-15-4 (.190) on the road.

BoB takes a look at five things Miami needs to do to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

1. Better special teams. The RedHawks are in the bottom half of the NCAA in both power play and penalty kills, with a 16.4 percent efficiency rate on the man advantage and a 79.4 percent PK clip. They have just four PPGs in their last eight games and are just 14 of 21 on penalty kills their last five contests (66.7 percent). Miami has tried pretty much every one of its skaters on the man-advantage and still needs to improve its chemistry.

2. Less time in the defensive zone. Teams have set up camp in Miami’s third of the ice at times and obviously it’s counterproductive to have your best players chasing the puck in their own zone for a minute or more.

3. Better road play. The RedHawks are a stellar 6-2-2 at Cady Arena but are 2-3-1 on opponents’ campuses and 1-1 on neutral ice. And with the exception of Providence, those road foes were not among college hockey’s elite – Colorado College, New Hampshire and Omaha plus Mercyhurst in its home city. Miami has scored just 18 goals in eight games away from Oxford. And we documented the RedHawks’ recent road struggles in the second half above.

4. Cut out the major penalties. The NCAA has made its point: The bar for five-and-a-game has dropped significantly, and three guys who are not cheap-shot artists in the least have all been booted from games this season.

5. Avoid major skids. Last season it was a 1-9-1 stretch. In 2016-17 Miami endured both 10- and 11-game winless streaks. An 0-6-1 span doomed 2015-16. Those types of streaks are season killers, so the RedHawks must have a thicker skin than in past seasons when facing adversity.

Now, five reasons to be optimistic about MU’s second half:

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

1. Effort. This team does not quit, and there’s no reason to believe it will during the stretch run of the regular season. That attribute was exemplified during Miami’s last series, a pair of ties vs. No. 1 St. Cloud State during which the RedHawks fell behind by one goal six times and rallied to even the score each time. Karch Bachman has been one of the leaders in this area, as he has parlayed his game-changing speed with a suburb compete level, resulting in him leading the team in goals with seven and generating multiple scoring chances almost every game.

2. Goaltending. Throw out last season’s numbers for Ryan Larkin. He was voted team MVP as a freshman and is even better in 2018-19, boasting a 1.89 goals-against average and .936 save percentage – which is five whole percent better than his sophomore year when he finished at .886. Part of the credit belongs to Jordan Uhelski, who has performed well when called upon and was a game saver in both ends of the St. Cloud State series. Uhelski has a .915 save percentage but as importantly the graduate senior has also helped push Larkin, who did not have a similar foil last season.

3. Freshmen are improving. Derek Daschke is clearly the freshman MVP of the first three months of the season, as he leads that class in points (3-9-12) and has been exceptional in his own end as well. And he continues to improve on seemingly a nightly basis. Scott Corbett is thriving in his grinding role while wielding a quality shot that has netted him three goals, and he stood out vs. SCSU. Same with Brian Hawkinson, who is 1-6-7 and has been a better forward than those stats indicate. Monte Graham is a faceoff stud and is starting to demonstrate skills in other areas. Big D-men Bray Crowder and Andrew Sinard also seem to be adapting to the college game. Jonathan Gruden (1-6-7) is raw but has tons of upside and could take off once the calendar flips.

Miami’s Phil Knies (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

4. A healthy Knies? Phil Knies suffered an upper body injury at Cady Arena on Nov. 10, so Knies should be nearing a return. The sophomore will have missed seven weeks by the time the second half starts with the puck drop in Providence. Knies has been a critical part of Miami’s offense, scoring 11 times as a freshman and posting three goals in 12 games this season.

5. The defense corps is deeper. Daschke’s presence is huge, and River Rymsha has been a pleasant surprise, forcing himself onto the lineup card each night with his impressive two-way play. Crowder has dressed for all 18 games, and Sinard has seen the ice six of the last seven games. With sophomores Rourke Russell and Alec Mahalak earning regular spots, that has severely curtailed the number of starts for Chaz Switzer and Grant Frederic, who were decent five and six defensemen last season. Of course, standout and captain Grant Hutton leads this corps with a skill set that will likely land him in the NHL within two years.

Now, the schedule…

After a Sunday exhibition vs. the University of Guelph (Ont.), Miami heads to No. 10 Providence. The RedHawks were already shut out by the Friars on neutral ice in October. Then it’s off the Kalamazoo to face No. 17 Western Michigan.

Back home for a pair against Colorado College and two vs. No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth.

Miami then heads to No. 1 St. Cloud State, followed by a home series vs. Omaha before its one off week of the second half.

The final three series? At No. 8 Denver, at No. 4 UMD, home vs. No. 17 WMU.

A look at the final 18 regular season games:

Date Opponent Time
Jan. 4 at Providence 7:00
Jan. 5 at Providence 7:00
Jan. 11 at W. Michigan 7:00
Jan. 12 at W. Michigan 7:00
Jan. 18 MINN.-DULUTH 7:35
Jan. 19 MINN.-DULUTH 7:05
Jan. 25 COLO. COLLEGE 7:35
Jan. 26 COLO. COLLEGE 7:05
Feb. 1 at St. Cloud State 8:07
Feb. 2 at St. Cloud State 7:07
Feb. 8 NEBRASKA-OMAHA 6:30
Feb. 9 NEBRASKA-OMAHA 7:05
Feb. 22 at Denver 9:07
Feb. 23 at Denver 9:07
March 1 at Minn.-Duluth 8:07
March 2 at Minn.-Duluth 8:07
March 8 W. MICHIGAN 7:35

The NCHC standings…

All eight teams have played eight out of 24 league games, or one-third of their conference slate, and Miami is currently tied with Denver for that all-important fourth spot.

The four spot is crucial because it’s the final home-ice slot for the NCHC Tournament. Miami has not hosted a league tournament series since 2015 but has a legitimate shot this winter.

Team GP W L T XP Pts.
St. Cloud State 8 6 0 2 1 21
Western Michigan 8 4 3 1 1 14
Minn.-Duluth 8 4 3 1 0 13
MIAMI 8 3 3 2 1 12
Denver 8 4 4 0 0 12
North Dakota 8 3 5 0 0 9
Omaha 8 2 5 1 1 8
Colo. College 8 2 5 1 0 7

Miami played well overall the first half of 2018-19, better than many expected.

The challenge of course is for the RedHawks to sustain that level of success during their annual murderer’s row of opponents in the winter months.

But heading into the pressure cooker three games over .500 and playing with the type of intensity Miami has exuded the first three months, returning to the NCAAs is now a real possibility.

Miami draws again vs. No. 1 St. Cloud

OXFORD, Ohio – It happened again.

Like Friday, every time No. 1 St. Cloud scored, Miami answered, resulting in a 2-2 tie in the series finale at Cady Arena on Saturday.

And this time, the RedHawks (9-6-3) picked up the extra conference point, as Josh Melnick batted home a one-timer in the 3-on-3.

Both teams were assessed a major and game misconduct courtesy of review, and each netted a goal because of the call.

On Friday, the teams tied, 4-4, with SCSU (11-1-2) earning the extra point in the shootout.

Miami, which has completed exactly half of its 36-game schedule, does not play again until a home exhibition vs. Guelph (Ont.) on Dec. 30. The RedHawks head to Providence on Jan. 3-4 for their next regular season action.

RECAP: Just 22 seconds into a major power play, St. Cloud’s Blake Lizotte beat goalie Jordan Uhelski in the slot with 5:10 left in the first period after a pass from teammate Easton Brodzinski caromed to him off a Miami skate.

The RedHawks tied it when a point-blank shot by Ryan Siroky pinballed through the crease to MU’s Casey Gilling, who chopped it across the goal line 5:46 into the middle stanza.

Just 22 seconds into the third period a puck floated loose at the side of the net following a wrister from the blue line, and Easton Brodzniak backhanded it home to put the Huskies ahead, 2-1.

Miami capped the scoring with exactly nine minutes left in regulation, as Scott Corbett tapped home a puck at the side of the net off a shot from the outside of the faceoff circle by Melnick.

After five minutes of overtime, the game was officially ruled a tie, and Melnick wired home a one-timer on the ensuing 3-on-3 to earn the RedHawks the extra point.

STATS: Rourke Russell led Miami with two points on a pair of assists. It was Russell’s second career multi-point game, with the other coming vs. Denver on March 2.

— Gilling and Corbett both scored for the second straight game. Gilling has four markers in his last seven.

— Miami flipped its woeful faceoff numbers from Friday, going 36-25 on draws led by a 17-11 record by Josh Melnick.

— Melnick’s assist was career point No. 99. He is one point away from becoming the 52nd skater in Miami history to record 100 points.

THOUGHTS: Basically copy and paste yesterday’s comments and multiply by two.

Miami has a crushingly long break coming up, so tying the top-ranked team in college hockey twice has to give the team serious momentum heading into Christmas break.

It was another amazing game to watch and another testament to the RedHawks’ resilience.

So for the weekend, St. Cloud scored six times, took six leads, and Miami answered each time.

Miami’s Ben Lown (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Again, against the No. 1 team in college hockey.

— Ben Lown was absolutely everywhere in this game. He did it all – penalty kill, stick handling, passing, winning boards battles despite his diminutive size.

— So River Rymsha was assessed a cross checking major after a skirmish, and St. Cloud scored. Same happened when Jonathan Gruden was buried and a minor was flipped to a 5-and-10, resulting in Gilling’s goal.

This is the new norm for college hockey, so players need to remain on alert. Everything is reviewable, so don’t do anything your mother would disapprove of.

Don’t agree with giving players the boot for fringe majors but the bar has been set so players best keep their cool.

— Attendance was 2,615. Yep, for the top team in D-1. Come on, we can do better. Get to the rink for these all-important contests or give your tickets to someone close by who can make the games.

— Karch Bachman continued to generate scoring chances as a result of his speed. Several times this weekend Miami launched fly pattern passes to see if he can chase the puck down.

Miami’s Scott Corbett (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

His power play passing was markedly improved in this one, as he occupied one of the points and tried to feed passes into the slot.

— Corbett had a strong weekend, scoring in both games and nearly adding another on a breakaway. His game is more physical, but his offense is welcome as he plays on the top line.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B-. Not quite the offensive results from Friday but the effort was still there. Loved the effort from Lown, and Brian Hawkinson seemed to gravitate toward the puck as he generated three shots and blocked two.

Miami’s Jordan Uhelski (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

DEFENSEMEN: B+. Helped cut the SCSU shots down to 30. Have we mentioned St. Cloud entered the weekend the top-ranked team in Division I?

GOALTENDING: A-. Uhelski was 22-for-23 the final 45 minutes and was a major reason Miami was able to earn a pair of ties this weekend.

LINEUP CHANGES: All 19 skaters from Friday were in the lineup again on Saturday.

Larkin was the lone change for the RedHawks, who started Uhelski in net.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This fall it has been more fun to come to the rink than it has been since 2014-15.

Players are holding their own against top-level competition, and this team is bonding better off the ice than in previous seasons.

It’s been an enjoyable first two months, and hopefully the RedHawks’ vigor will continue following an extended break.

Miami scores late to tie No. 1 St. Cloud

OXFORD, Ohio – Four times Miami fell behind by a goal, and each time the RedHawks generated the equalizer against the top-ranked team in Division I.

Miami’s Casey Gilling (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Casey Gilling netted the tying goal as MU salvaged a 4-4 draw vs. No. 1 St. Cloud State at Cady Arena on Friday despite neither leading nor trailing by more than one.

The Huskies (11-1-1) did earn the extra conference point by winning the single-round shootout.

Making the tie even more impressive is goalie Ryan Larkin was injured midway through the first period and RedHawks (9-6-2) finished with backup Jordan Uhelski in net.

RECAP: It was an eventful first period, with both teams scoring three times including once each in the opening 77 seconds.

Miami’s Scott Corbett (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Robby Jackson put SCSU ahead at the 1:08 mark when he fired a shot from the slot that tricked through Larkin and across the goal line. Originally the call was no call, so play continued, but after the next whistle the play was reviewed a ruled a good goal.

Nine seconds later, Scott Corbett drove to the high slot and appeared to have his shot deflect off a defender’s stick and past goalie Jeff Smith on the glove side.

Josh Melnick won the center-ice draw and Gordie Green sprung Corbett loose by seizing the puck along the boards in traffic.

Jackson put St. Cloud ahead three minutes later when he ripped one from the high slot over the shoulder of Larkin on the power play.

An errant defensive-zone pass by the Huskies from the behind the net slid through the slot to a wide-open Monte Graham, who unloaded for the shorthanded tying goal to make it 2-2 just 80 seconds after St. Cloud State had regained the lead.

The Huskies ahead took a one-goal lead when Patrick Newell fed a pass through both Miami defensemen to Sam Hentges for a one-time rip from the inside edge of the faceoff circle with 6:26 left in the opening frame.

And once again Miami answered, as Gordie Green flipped a two-line pass that was chased by Karch Bachman, who took control of it at the blue line, took two strides and went top shelf just under the far crossbar from the left wing with 2:20 remaining in the first stanza.

The score remained 3-3 until late in the second period when Newell skated in along the left wing boards, cut to center ice – beating two Miami defenders in the process – and backhanding one in to give the Huskies the lead.

Gilling leveled it at four when he intercepted a clearing attempt, passed to himself on the near boards and whipped a bad-angle shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle with 7:06 remaining.

The remainder of regulation, the five-minute 5-on-5 overtime and the five-minute 3-on-3 session did not produce a goal for either side, and the Huskies picked up the third league point on a Jon Lizotte shootout goal after Gilling was denied on this attempt.

STATS: Green led Miami with two points, both on assists, giving him five multi-point games this season, and this was his second time with at least a pair of helpers.

Miami’s Monte Graham (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

— It was the first career goal for Graham, and the third in six games for Gilling after he was held scoreless through the first 11.

— Bachman has four markers in his last six contests as he moved into solo control of first on the team with seven.

— Melnick extended his points streak to a team-high four games, and he is 2-3-5 in that stretch. That gives him 98 for his career, with 34 goals and 64 assists.

— Uhelski finished with a RedHawks career-high 31 saves despite coming on in relief. He had three previous starts for Miami but had never stopped more than 24.

— Miami ended the game 0-for-3 on the power play and killed off just one of three SCSU chances. However, the RedHawks did notch a shorthanded goal.

— Despite not winning, St. Cloud State dominated in a couple of key areas. The Huskies were 48-22 on faceoffs and led on the shot counter, 44-30 including 32-17 in the first 40 minutes.

Miami actually led in SOG the final 25 minutes, 13-12.

Here’s the difference in shots: SCSU blocked 22, the RedHawks just eight. Jimmy Schuldt of the Huskies rejected seven himself.

THOUGHTS: Although Miami fell short of a win, this is a huge boost for the program.

Although the process for a young hockey team is more important than the results, the result was a tie vs. the No. 1 team in college hockey three months after conference media slated the RedHawks the worst team in the league.

And the way Miami did it showed the process is working.

The RedHawks weren’t as talented as St. Cloud State, not as deep, not as fast, not as skilled at puck possession.

Miami was shorthanded three times in the first period and lost its starting goalie to an injury less than 10 minutes in. Yet every time the Huskies found the net, the RedHawks answered.

A minute in SCSU scored. Nine seconds later, tie game. Then a minute after the second goal, same. A third time later in the period, all while seemingly nothing was going the RedHawks’ way.

The process has put the team at the threshold of being a really good team just nine months after Miami Marchmageddon.

It’s not just that the RedHawks tied the No. 1 team in the NCAA, playing for the ninth straight weekend, it’s that they are playing the game the right way. Playing physical, battling for pucks along the boards, taking smart angles defensively, getting solid efforts from goaltenders every night.

Miami’s Jordan Uhelski (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Playing to the final whistle regardless of the score.

Miami is very close to becoming a power player in this league again.

— Uhelski. Had to come off the bench cold after Larkin’s injury, and all he did was turn 31 of 33 shots aside including back-to-back point-blank chances at the top of the crease and a handful of others on high-percentage shots.

He also shut down a third-period breakaway.

Even when he’s not playing, he’s contributing by pushing Larkin, who didn’t have tons of competition for the starting job in 2017-18.

Larkin’s save percentage last season was just .886. It’s now .935. Uhelski’s is .910.

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

— Bachman. It’s one of greatest pleasures of following a college hockey team for a number of years: Watching players improve.

Karch Bachman’s stock seems to rise by astounding intervals every night. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a player visibly progress on a night-to-night basis at Bachman’s current rate.

On one shift, he gained the offensive zone with his speed, then when the puck ended up in his corner, he drove an opponent off of it by burying him along the boards, resulting in a sustained attack by the RedHawks.

He’s never been overly physical but it has seemed natural to him recently.

We’re watching the Florida Panthers draft pick develop into a serious force in the NCHC.

— This was one of Jonathan Gruden’s best games. Against the very best in D-I, he got the play started on the Bachman goal. His passing, which has resulted in a number of turnovers early, was extremely accurate and his stick handling was impressive.

— So how about Coach Enrico Blasi holding court with both referees at the beginning of the second period? It actually delayed the start, but the power plays were 3-0 SCSU, with St. Cloud scoring twice on the power play, and a couple of clear penalties against the Huskies were not whistled?

Fantastic move. The result: Zero power plays for St. Cloud the final 45 minutes, three for Miami.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A-. The top three lines all scored, and Graham added an SHG. And Graham was solid beyond his 4-on-5 goal. Liked the way the lower lines battled in this game. Negatives? Gilling had a chance to clear a puck that ultimately resulted in a St. Cloud goal. Faceoff rate of under .333 is unacceptable.

DEFENSEMEN: C+. The Huskies moved the puck extremely well and it seemed like this corps was slow to react at times. A pass on the third goal got through both Rourke Russell and Grant Hutton, and Bray Crowder was beaten at the blue line, helping the Huskies notch their final tally.

GOALTENDING: B+. Larkin should’ve stopped one of the first two St. Cloud goals but faced 11 shots in under 10 minutes, including a handful of high-quality chances. Uhelski had little chance on his two goals against and he was brilliant otherwise. As mentioned above, he denied a point-blank chance and the ensuing rebound plus shut down a late breakaway.

Miami’s Andrew Sinard (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

LINEUP CHANGES: D Andrew Sinard was back in for Chaz Switzer, and up front Christian Mohs took the place of Zach LaValle.

Mohs’ play has improved and he is making a case for regular playing time. He has dressed eight times in 17 games this season.

Sinard was the extra skater and has been in the lineup four of Miami’s last five games. Blasi has kept his ice time down.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a fun game to watch, hopefully one of many we’ll see at Cady Arena the balance of the season.

Seeing St. Cloud State live for the first time, it’s easy to understand why it’s No. 1 in the NCAA. But Miami deserved the tie as much as the Huskies did.

The RedHawks wouldn’t quit, which is becoming a theme with this team.

Win or lose, Miami plays hard for 60 minutes, or in this case 65. Or 70 counting the 3-on-3.

Regardless of the game length, the RedHawks Version 2018-19 certainly battle from start to finish.

That’s a major reason Miami is carrying an above-.500 record into December for the first time in four years, which was same season the RedHawks carried a No. 1 seed into the NCAA Tournament.

Miami blanks, sweeps UAH

OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Larkin’s 2018-19 debut was worth the one-day wait.

Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The junior stopped all 11 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over Alabama-Huntsville at Cady Arena on Sunday, earning his third career shutout.

Jordan Uhelski, expected to back up Larkin, started and won on Saturday while Larkin did not dress.

The win completes a series sweep for the RedHawks (2-0), who have won their first two games for the first time since 2013-14.

RECAP: The game was scoreless through the first period, but Brian Hawkinson teed up River Rymsha with a pass across the blue line, and Rymsha buried it just inside the post 5:39 into the second frame.

Less than three minutes later, a blast by Alec Mahalak tricked off the glove of goalie Mark Sinclair, and Karch Bachman was there to slam home the rebound.

Early in the third period, Josh Melnick whipped a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle that beat Sinclair. With 6:14 left in regulation, Ryan Siroky was denied on his initial attempt at the side of the net but batted one into the air, off Sinclair’s back and into the net.

STATS: Rymsha and Hawkinson led Miami with two points apiece. Rymsha scored once and set up another and Hawkinson earned a pair of helpers.

Larkin’s last shutout was Oct. 27, 2017 vs. Connecticut. All of his perfect sheets have been in October and at home.

Miami was 37-15 on faceoffs for a .714 win percentage. Casey Gilling was 14-3 on draws and Melnick 13-3 in the circle.

How about a strange one: Grant Hutton was the lone MU defenseman without a shot. The others combined for 15.

THOUGHTS: The first period was slow but once Rymsha’s shot went in, Miami dominated the balance of the game.

When it came to 50/50 pucks, the RedHawks won almost every physical battle and not only were faster but outhustled UAH as well.

By the third period the Chargers (0-2) were a beaten team. The final shot totals reflect that: 45 Miami, 11 UAH.

— Let’s give one of the stars of the game to the facility. This was a 3 p.m. game when the temperature is about its highest, and it was 90 degrees out for opening faceoff.

The ice certainly wasn’t January-Edmonton-in-the-1990s-caliber but it held in the near-record heat.

— Alabama-Huntsville captain Kurt Gosselin, who was booted for his hit on Carter Johnson in the opener, was absent from Sunday’s lineup. It’s unclear if the team or an outside entity made that call.

He should miss multiple games for that hit. It’s everything hockey is trying to take out of its game for the long-term well being of its players.

— Not to bore about a non-sexy subject, but Miami’s faceoff success is an area in which it has struggled for several years.

Gilling has been key in this realm since Day 1 and isn’t afraid to voice concerns to officials when he thinks draws are unfair.

Melnick’s numbers are outstanding early, as are those of Monte Graham, who won a team-best 11 draws on Saturday.

REALITY CHECKPOINT:

— While the 2-0 start is exciting, Miami has been above .500 early each of the four recent seasons in which it has finished below that mark.

The RedHawks started 2013-14 at 6-2-1, were 3-1-1 to open 2015-16, 3-1-2 in their first six of 2016-17 and reached 4-3 last season before their descent.

Miami’s problem in recent unsuccessful campaigns has been earning wins in those cold-weather months.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A. This was a solid effort by all. We saw some suspect passing on Saturday but this corps seemed to tighten that up in that game. Loved Siroky’s combination of persistence and athleticism on his goal. Thought Gruden was much better in this game than in the opener. Thought Bachman was as much as force as in the opener. In the second period he stole the puck and nearly scored despite having a defender draped on his during a shorthanded chance. As mentioned, MU dominated on faceoffs.

DEFENSEMEN: A. This corps actually outshot the opposition, firing 15 shots while the entire UAH team managed just 11. None of those chances were Grade-A. Rymsha went 1-1-2 including the first goal and eventual game winner, Hutton and Mahalak picked up assists. Granted UAH lacks a lot of elite offensive talent but Miami’s D-corps shut the Chargers down in this game.

GOALTENDING: A. Hard to slight Larkin for not facing a difficult shot. He was perfect, albeit on 11 non-high-quality chances. This has to be a confidence boost for Larkin after last season when he posted an .886 save percentage.

LINEUP CHANGES: Two key ones: Larkin started in net after Jordan Uhelski earned the win in the opener, and Carter Johnson was out up front after getting cheap-shotted on Saturday.

Zach LaValle also sat among the forward corps, and Noah Jordan and Christian Mohs took the ice in their place.

Coach Enrico Blasi stuck with his starting six on D for Game 2, which is even more interesting because it was 20 hours between starts instead of the normal 23:30, and often a coach will go with a rested player in such a situation, but Andrew Sinard, Grant Frederic and Chaz Switzer all sat out for the second straight night.

UP NEXT: Miami will play in Pennsylvania for the first time since Robert Morris hosted the RedHawks six years ago at the Penguins’ home rink.

MU faces Providence at 4 p.m. on Friday, and if it wins will face the Notre Dame-Mercyhurst winner in the championship at 7:35 p.m. on Saturday but would play in the consolation vs. the loser of the other game at 4 p.m. Saturday. All games will be played at Erie Insurance Arena, home of the OHL Erie Otters.

In late 2012, MU took second in Pittsburgh, beating Ohio State before losing to the hometown host. Both scores were 1-0.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This weekend will provide a much better indication of where Miami is in early-to-mid October.

A strong showing could earn the RedHawks some much-needed respect into a four-game homestand.

At least against UAH, the forwards, defensemen and goalies were all superior. Much tougher test against this weekend’s foes.

2018-19 Miami preview Part IV: Goalies

OUT (2): Chase Munroe, Evan McCarthy.

IN (1): Jordan Uhelski (graduate student).

RETURNING (2): Jr. – Ryan Larkin; So – Grant Valentine.

NOTES: Miami had four goaltenders on its roster last season but finished with a team save percentage of .874, its worst rate in Coach Enrico Blasi’s tenure.

Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Only four teams in Division I allowed more goals than the RedHawks, who surrendered 128 for a per-game average of 3.46.

It was a down year for Ryan Larkin, who stopped 91 percent of the shots he faced in 2016-17 but posted an .886 save percentage last season.

The junior faced a lot of A-plus shots last season but he also let in a number of soft ones from outside.

Larkin was on the ice for all but 85 of the RedHawks’ minutes, going 12-18-5 with a 3.12 goals-agaisnt average. His GAA was up 0.35 from his freshman season.

Jordan Uhelski completed his degree at Alabama-Huntsville and is joining Miami for his final year of eligibility. He has over 3,000 minutes of college experience and a career .906 save percentage.

Grant Valentine, now a sophomore, saw just nine minutes of action and allowed one goal on three shots. With Uhelski coming in as a senior, Valentine has a chance to prove worthy of more time in net the next couple of seasons.

“I expect to have results from our goaltending,” Blasi said. “Ryan has had a great summer, Jordan as an older guy has come in and, I guess I would say I’m impressed the way he’s pushed Larks yet still been very focused on his game, so he’s ready to go if called upon. The two of them have gotten along really well and Val, our third goalie is right there every day and pushing them as well. I think it’s been a good competition for all of them. When you get to know Jordan, he’s very charismatic and he’s always on – he doesn’t take any days off in terms of his attitude and the way he works.”

With all three goalies being different classes, the Zatkoff Effect officially ends, meaning Miami has broken its cycle of having a freshman duo between the pipes every four years.

That trend started in 2008 when primary starter Jeff Zatkoff left following his junior season the same off-season as Charlie Effinger, forcing the RedHawks to bring in both Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp the following fall.

Four years later it was Jay Williams and Ryan McKay, and four more after that Larkin and Chase Munroe were freshmen, but Munroe did not return to the team this season.