OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Larkin’s 2018-19 debut was worth the one-day wait.
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.
— 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.
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.
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.
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.
Miami entered 2017-18 with just three seniors, but its 2018-19 roster features 10 first-year RedHawks.
One is an NHL draftee – Johnny Gruden was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round last month.
Of the 10, five are forwards, four are defensemen plus one goalie. That brings Miami’s full roster to 15 wings and centers, nine blueliners and three netminders.
Two key names were missing from the RedHawks’ roster: Fs Matej Pekar and Ryan Savage.
Pekar was committed to UNO but switched to Miami this spring, following assistant coach Peter Mannino. He was drafted one spot ahead of Gruden, No. 94, by the Buffalo Sabres.
Since this is a sensitive subject that could negatively affect Pekar, BoB will not report any speculation about if or when he will join the team.
Savage, son of former NHL forward and RedHawks standout Brian Savage, signed an NLI prior to 2017-18 but will play another season in juniors after going 8-7-15 in 48 USHL games. He will join the RedHawks in 2019-20.
A glance at the newest official members of the Miami hockey community:
71 JONATHAN GRUDEN
From: Farmington Hills, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: USNDT, 61 GP, 28-32-60.
Notes: Gruden has the best credentials of any incoming player. He was drafted by Ottawa 95th overall in June and kept a point-a-game place for the USNDT and posted 15 goals and 19 assists in 25 games vs. USHL opponents.
His father, John Gruden, is a former NHL defenseman who logged 92 games over parts of six seasons with Boston, Ottawa and Washington. He is now the coach of OHL Hamilton, which makes Jonathan Gruden choosing the college path interesting.
In addition to his points production, he has impressed with his two-way play, and he also can play multiple forward positions. Coach Enrico Blasi really likes versatility.
Where he fits in this season: There’s rarely a sure thing in college hockey, but barring injury Gruden will almost certainly skate on one of the top two pairings this season and should excel.
The RedHawks will need his offensive talents, as six forwards from 2017-18 have moved on.
18 MONTE GRAHAM
From: Hanover, Mass.
2017-18 stats/team: Muskegon (USHL), 57 GP, 10-15-25.
Notes: The former Boston College commit (actually still on the Eagles’ 2018-19 roster!) is the cousin of former NHLer Tony Amonte and current Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle.
Graham has already played three full seasons in the USHL, logging 173 games and notching 21 goals and 36 assists. He is known for his skating, and he racked up 95 PIMs last season.
While he went from eight points to 24 in his first two USHL seasons, he climbed just one point to 25 in 2017-18.
Where he fits in this season: Not a big offensive guy in juniors, but Graham reached the 10-goal mark for the first time last season, so he may slide into a starting role.
Miami only has nine returning forwards, so opportunities for ice time should be ample for rookies up front.
14 NOAH JORDAN
From: Toronto, Ont.
2017-18 stats/team: North York (OJHL), 47 GP, 18-20-38.
Notes: Jordan played four seasons for St. Michael’s of the Ontario Junior Hockey League then was back in that league for his overage season in 2017-18. He netted 18 goals and dished for 20 assists in 47 games with North York and also tied for the team lead in playoff points with 12 in 11 games.
Jordan is 21, and only 20 Division I players are taller, according to College Hockey News. Originally a Quinnipiac commit, Jordan switched to Miami in April.
Where he fits in this season: The OJHL is considered a slight step above the NAHL, so we’ll see how that offensive success translates in the NCAA.
With Conor Lemirande graduating, a player exhibiting a similar style could be welcome for the RedHawks.
19 BRIAN HAWKINSON
From: Aurora, Colo.
2017-18 stats/team: Tri-City (USHL), 58 GP, 6-10-16.
Notes: Hawkinson has played the past three seasons with USHL Tri-City, where he was team captain last season. He was also teammates with Graham the duo’s first two juniors campaigns.
Known as a do-anything-to-win type, he enters 2018-19 with 164 games of regular-season experience in the USHL. He notched just 10 points in his first two seasons combined in that league, but he stepped up with a 6-10-16 line last year.
Tri-City lists him at 5-10, 175 while other sites have him at 5-9-146.
Where he fits in this season: Hard to say because smaller forwards are usually known for their offense and Hawkinson is more of a grit guy.
A ton of USHL experience should make for a smooth transition to the college game.
25 SCOTT CORBETT
From: Carmel, Ind.
2017-18 stats/team: Dubuque (USHL), 59 GP, 6-18-24.
Notes: Another older player with ample USHL experience, Corbett started his Major Juniors career in the NAHL but has been in the U the past season and a half.
The dual citizen committed to Miami last week, becoming the third player from the northern Indianapolis suburb to join the RedHawks in the past dozen years, with Cameron Schilling and Grant Hutton being the others.
Corbett was solid in his first full season in the USHL, going 6-18-24 in 59 games with Dubuque. He has good size for a forward competing in the ultra-physical NCHC.
Where he fits in this season: He hasn’t been a big points producer in juniors but Miami hasn’t gotten much production from its third and fourth lines in recent seasons so he may have the opportunity to thrive.
Again, with nine returning forwards, starting slots will be there for the taking so Corbett and the four other newbies up front should get long looks this fall.
13 DEREK DASCHKE
From: Troy, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: Chicago (USHL), 56 GP, 8-21-29.
Notes: Peter Mannino was Daschke’s coach for Clark Cup-winning Chicago of the USHL this spring.
Daschke was committed to Nebraska-Omaha, where Mannino was an assistant, but when Mannino was hired by Miami this off-season, the blueliner switched his commitment to the RedHawks.
His commitment is definitely in the top five news items from this program this off-season. Daschke has played in the USHL since 2014 and he was the captain of that championship Steel team last season.
He has a laser of a shot and found the net eight times last season, adding 21 assists.
Where he fits in this season: It’s hard to imagine, barring injury, Daschke not contributing right away.
He’s big, he’s experienced, he can shoot the puck and he’s joining a team that has just five returning D-men.
4 ANDREW SINARD
From: Brentwood, Tenn.
2017-18 stats/team: Aberdeen (NAHL), 58 GP, 0-19-19.
Notes: Sinard is a shut-down defenseman with a huge reach, and he also picked up 19 assists last season with NAHL Aberdeen.
He started his Major Juniors career with USHL Cedar Rapids but has been with the Wings since. Sinard does not have a goal in 96 juniors games, but he has impressed with his shut-down prowess.
Where he fits in this season: The only two similar players in recent Miami history are Brian Sipotz and Michael Findorff, and neither were full-time starters, although Sipotz played six seasons with Chicago of the AHL.
We’ll see if Sinard can buck that trend.
3 BRAYDEN CROWDER
From: Sudbury, Ont.
2017-18 stats/team: Muskegon (USHL), 55 GP, 5-14-19.
Notes: Like Daschke, Crowder was also committed to Nebraska-Omaha but switched to Miami after Mannino was brought in as an assistant.
Crowder left Canada two seasons ago, and after staying in the NAHL in 2016-17, he jumped to the USHL and went 5-14-19 with Muskegon, finishing plus-11.
Miami will be his 10th team in six seasons, so the blueliner should welcome the stability. His father, Troy, was a tough guy who logged 150 NHL games over seven seasons, amassing 433 PIMs to go along with his nine goals and seven assists.
Where he fits in this season: A 6-6 defenseman who scores five goals in the USHL is very intriguing, especially since he was 18 when last season started, and big guys typically develop later.
81 RIVER RYMSHA
From: Huntington Woods, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: Dartmouth (NCAA), 28 GP, 1-2-3.
Notes: Like former Miamian Marc Hagel, Rymsha completed his degree with a year of eligibility remaining due to an injury that cost him the majority of a season, so he will work on his graduate studies at Miami.
Rymsha, who will not turn 22 until next month, played just 63 games at Dartmouth and scored three goals accompanied by five assists.
He is known as a physical D-man with a high hockey IQ. Rymsha also boasts a strong hockey pedigree, as his father, Andy, played six games with Quebec of the NHL and his brother is a Los Angeles Kings prospect.
Where he fits in this season: He has not played more than 28 games in an NCAA season and has just eight points, so it’s unlikely he goes Grant Hutton this season.
But another steady blueliner with plenty of college experience can’t hurt on a team that will start the season with five D-men who are freshmen or sophomores.
32 JORDAN UHELSKI
From: Burton, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: Alabama-Huntsville (NCAA), 32 GP, 12-18-2, 3.05, .907.
Notes: Another fifth-year senior situation, as Uhelski was a major contributor in net for Alabama-Huntsville the past two seasons.
He played 55 games with the Chargers the past two seasons, posting a .907 save percentage and recording 18 wins.
Where he fits in this season: Chase Munroe and Grant Valentine were expected to vie for the backup job this season, but Munroe is not listed on Miami’s roster and Uhelski is.
Boasting a quality resume, Uhelski could move into the No. 2 spot and push Larkin for starts.