OXFORD, Ohio – Before coming to Miami, hockey opportunities were scarce for Grant Hutton.
No team in the USHL wanted him, and college offers were nearly non-existent.
“From his freshman year to now, potential NHL free agent signing, just his game, his defensive ability, his offensive ability has all come from his hard work and his willingness to do extra,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “He’s bought into how he needs to play at this level.”
Hutton is from Carmel, Ind., the Indianapolis suburb that produced former RedHawk Cameron Schilling – who has played 10 games in the NHL – as well as current Miami forward Scott Corbett.
Hutton’s father, G.R. Hutton, logged a season with USHL Omaha and G.R.’s father also coached hockey. So as soon as Grant learned how to walk, his family threw him on skates.
After two seasons with the Indiana Ice Under-16 team, Hutton hoped to make the Ice’s USHL team, which had drafted him. He was excited about the prospect of playing for the team he watched growing up less than a half hour from his home.
Hutton didn’t ultimately stick with the Ice, as he dressed just four games with Indiana that season and spent the majority of the campaign with NAHL Corpus Christi, which had tendered him.
“It was just one of those deals where obviously I wanted to be in the USHL but I was still young and wasn’t quite there yet,” Hutton said.
Prior to the following season, Hutton, now 18, attended the camps of two USHL teams – Des Moines and Tri-City.
Both cut him.
So that fall it was back to Corpus Christi. In parts of two seasons there, Hutton scored 10 goals and assisted on 19 others in 85 games.
At the trade deadline, Tri-City – one of the USHL teams that snubbed him the previous off-season – traded for him and called him up. In 20 games there he went 1-1-2.
He returned to Tri-City for his final juniors season in 2014-15 but that team again cut Hutton as it was in a rebuilding process.
Then Des Moines – the other USHL team that had released Hutton – traded for his rights and he logged 11 games there.
Des Moines again told Hutton that things weren’t working out, and it was back to the NAHL.
“They even tried to play me at forward for one game, but that was a terrible idea,” Hutton said. “I had no idea what I was doing up there.”
Hutton joined Janesville, but unlike some of his previous stops, this one would prove fulfilling.
With current teammate Zach LaValle leading the team in points, Hutton racked up four goals and 10 assists in 32 games, going a remarkable plus-26 in just half a season.
His plus-minus was largely the effect of Janesville’s 49-11 regular season record, as the Jets advanced to the conference final that spring.
So a season that started with Hutton yet again being rejected by the USHL ended up being one of his best on-ice developmental experiences.
“I was super upset, it totally sucked, but it was one of those things now – looking back at it – it was 100 percent the best thing that could’ve happened to me in my hockey career,” Hutton said. “Obviously I ended up at Miami, and I’m super grateful for that, but just in terms of going to a place where I was a role player, I was used in all situations. I wasn’t sitting in the stands. We were on an unbelievable team…I’ve never been on a team like that in my life. Everyone was good hockey players and good people, and we just meshed really well, and I think I developed – in terms of my junior career, for sure I took the biggest step in Janesville, just maturing as a player and as a person.”
In three seasons of juniors, Hutton played for five teams in two leagues and was cut five times, with two teams releasing him twice.
“For me, I think I learned a lot about myself, went through a lot of adversity, and it’s helped me immensely in my career because I’ve gone through a lot of these experiences that some guys may not have had to go through,” Hutton said. “When hard times come around I feel like I’m prepared for that kind of thing.”
His struggle to find a USHL suitor is baffling considering he has missed three games in three seasons since coming to Oxford.
“I think a little bit of everything plays into that, right?” Hutton said. “First and foremost, you have to find a place where you fit in. All these teams I kept going to, other than Tri-City when I first got called up, had good right-handed defensemen. I always felt like I could compete with all of them at that level, but I think it’s hard in terms of confidence when you go into a new place and you aren’t really given a shot, and if you are given a shot, you make one mistake and you end up back in the stands.”
With three years of juniors service, Hutton, now 20, had only three Division I teams interested in him. Air Force was one but Hutton hadn’t considered that route, and Bentley wanted his services but he would have to walk on there.
Option three was Miami.
Though the RedHawks courted Hutton, there was certainly no guarantee ice time would be available for him entering his freshman year. The 2015-16 RedHawks featured five senior defensemen plus sophomores Louie Belpedio and Scott Dornbrock.
Hutton was the lone freshman on D, and he fully expected to sit most of his Division I rookie season.
But when the defensive pairings were announced for Game 1 of 2015-16, Hutton’s name was on the lineup sheet, and he earned an assist in his inaugural NCAA game vs. Providence.
“When I was in the lineup opening night I was totally shocked – this is absolutely crazy,” Hutton said. “Obviously all the hard work paid off, and I always believed in myself, but I was mentally prepared to have to take a step back and develop my game and learn from those guys, even if it meant being in the stands, which I was OK with.”
Hutton played in 35 of 36 games his first season, and with all of the veterans already on the Miami blueline he was able to gain experience in lower-leverage situations in adapting to the college game.
“It was one of those things where I think I was in an awesome situation to come in and learn from those guys,” Hutton said. “I wasn’t thrown into a role where I had to do too much. I was lucky enough I came into a situation where my role was: Play defense. Don’t let other teams score. And I love doing that, so it was super easy for me.”
Hutton, who is third in Miami hockey history in defenseman goals, did not score once as a freshman, picking up five assists. He earned NCHC defenseman of the week honors once and blocked 38 shots.
With all of the departed senior blueliners, Hutton relished the opportunity to move into a more offensive-oriented role and log minutes on the power play his sophomore season.
He was happy with his progress the summer before his second year, and from Game 1 the puck started finding the net. Hutton scored his first career goal in Providence on opening night 2016-17.
Hutton finished that season with nine goals, tops among Miami defensemen, and he tied Belpedio for first in points by a blueliner with 17.
“He wouldn’t shoot the puck his freshman year – I think he was afraid to get it off for some reason,” Blasi said. “Once he started shooting the puck, it started going in – obviously he’s got a hard shot – I think his confidence from playing and feeling good about what he does on a day-to-day basis has helped his overall game probably.”
Junior season, Hutton racked up five goals the first four games of the season. He ended up leading all college hockey defensemen with 13 goals, and he added 14 assists.
It was the fourth-most goals ever by a Miami blueliner.
“It’s no coincidence that he shoots extra pucks every day and then they end up in the back of the net, but he puts in the work to get what he deserves,” junior forward Gordie Green said.
Green joined the team after Hutton’s freshman season, so he doesn’t know life at Oxford without Hutton being a major scoring threat.
“I kind of joke with him: The Grant that I know wasn’t the Grant Hutton his freshman year,” Green said.
Immediately following 2017-18, both RedHawks assistants and six non-seniors left, and the pro game was beckoning the undrafted star.
Hutton said he pondered the decision during a family trip, and he and Josh Melnick – also a highly-skilled senior-to-be with pro aspirations – publicly announced via social media that they would return for their senior season.
“I love it here so much, ultimately that was what brought me back,” Hutton said. “Obviously I knew Mel was probably coming back and everybody knows how close we are. We were going to be in or out together. Once we mutually decided we were coming back it was a done deal, there was no more speculation. I know I called Rico right away once I made my decision and said hey, I’m coming back, just wanted to let you know first. I just didn’t want to have any regrets leaving this place – it’s amazing.”
Both Hutton and Melnick were assistant captains last season and they were named co-captains prior to 2018-19.
“He’s someone that everyone respects, and each follows his lead, no matter what that is,” Melnick said. “The best thing is he knows what to say at the right time, and that’s been the biggest thing for us this year. Whenever something may not be going the right way, he knows what to say and guys listen and respect that. On top of that he works extremely hard both on and off the ice, so he sets a good example as well.”
As captain, Hutton has seven goals and 13 assists this season, leading the team in blueliner goals. His 20 points rank fourth on the team.
“It’s been an awesome learning experience,” Hutton said. “For me, I just wanted to be able to bridge the gap between the coaches and the players – I think that’s the primary role of a captain. I think the biggest thing for the captain is you have to portray both sides, so whatever the players are thinking, you’ve got to be able to voice that to the coaches and if the coaches are thinking things, whatever they’re preaching you’ve got to be able to preach it to the players as well.”
For his career, Hutton has 29 goals, the third-most ever in Miami history among blueliners behind only Kevin Beaton and Dan Boyle.
He also has 41 assists for 70 points, the fourth-highest defenseman total in the Cady Arena era. Matthew Caito, Chris Wideman and Belpedio are the only others to record more in their RedHawks careers since the rink opened.
“He has grown so much as a player since we’ve gotten here,” Melnick said.
Both Green and Melnick talked about the advantage of having Hutton on the ice during their shifts.
“From a forward perspective, if you’re working hard in the corner you know you can get the puck up to him at the point and you’d better go to the net because you know it’s coming,” Melnick said.
Said Green: “He’s really smart when he picks and chooses when to step in the rush,” Green said. “It’s definitely just a comfortability thing, knowing that you’re on the ice with him, and especially on the power play, he’s our go-to guy. Anyone who has that hard of a shot and that accurate of a shot is a threat at all times.”
Hutton said he was recently talking to his father, G.R., about the magnitude of his four-year transformation from unwanted to Miami captain.
“Can you actually believe what’s going on?” Hutton said. “We were talking about preparing not to play freshman year, and it’s kind of taken off.”
Said Blasi: “He’s a very mature young man so he’s kind of taken that in stride. He knows he’s got a lot of work to do and every day is a challenge, but you just take it from there and whatever happens, happens and you control the things you can control and you go from there. The maturity and the growth is something that we as a program and a coaching staff really emphasize in terms of growing our players, whether we’re winning championships or not. That’s the most important thing that we do is to develop our players to become better at what they do, and a lot of the credit goes to the player and the individual and we just try to hold them accountable to the standard that they set.”
And when the RedHawks’ season ends, NHL teams will be drooling to sign a player of Hutton’s caliber, with a stature and skill set custom made for the pro game.
But if it wasn’t for Miami, that evolution may have never occurred, and Hutton has treasured his years in Oxford.
“It’s been the best four years of my life, by far,” Hutton said. “I tell people all the time, if I had 60 offers, there’s no way I’d go anywhere (else), knowing now what I know about Miami. It’s the best place in the world. We have amazing fans, we have an amazing support system, incredible facilities, the education is top-notch and the people that I’ve been able to meet here are going to be with me the rest of my life. It’s just such a surreal place. It’s almost hard to put into words, you almost can’t say enough good things about Miami University as a whole and the Miami hockey program. It’s such a special place – it means so much to me. I tell people all the time: You’ve got to come over here and check out Miami. I can’t imagine being anywhere else but here.”
OXFORD, Ohio – No one in the history of Miami hockey can match Josh Melnick’s clutch goal resume.
The NCAA still uses 5-on-5 overtimes, so scoring is relatively rare in those five-minute frames.
But Melnick has netted three OT winners in his career plus two more in 3-on-3s following the extra sessions.
“It never fails, right? It’s always him,” senior defenseman Grant Hutton said. “I think he gets rewarded for all the little things he does, and that’s why he seems to be so clutch, whether it be blocking shots or winning a small battle on the boards, he does the little things, and if you do the little things, you’re going to get rewarded all night long. I think that’s the best way to describe him being clutch is him doing the right thing over and over and over again. That’s not always flashy, it’s not always the highlight-reel play. But he makes the right play all the time, and at the end of the night when he gets that scoring opportunity in overtime, maybe a 3-on-3, a shootout, whatever it is, the puck goes into the net for him.”
Melnick was born and grew up in Annandale, New Jersey, about 50 miles west of New York City. He fell in love with hockey thanks to his step-father, David Crandall.
Melnick played prep hockey as well as soccer and lacrosse at Delbarton, a private New Jersey high school that was close enough for him to live at home.
He eventually dropped the other two sports and was dominant on the ice his final two years of preps. His junior season he scored 22 goals and picked up 25 assists in 28 games, and he racked up 62 points including 46 helpers in 26 contests as a senior.
The following season, Melnick, 18 at this point, headed to Youngstown of the USHL. His first season there he posted a 7-21-28 line in 52 games.
In 2012-13, he returned to the Phantom and his numbers ballooned. He notched 14 goals and a league-leading 48 assists in 60 games, including a five-point performance that included a hat trick vs. Fargo.
Melnick had intended to play Division I hockey for Princeton but decommitted within the final month of his final juniors season.
Within weeks Melnick had committed to Miami following a visit to Oxford.
“I fell in love with the campus right away, and everything that the program stands for,” Melnick said.
He also would be joining former Youngstown teammates, which he said factored into the decision, as he was close friends with Kiefer Sherwood, and Conor Lemirande and Grant Valentine also played with Youngstown during Melnick’s juniors career.
Melnick adapted to the college game with ease. He assisted on Miami’s first goal of 2015-16 and scored in that inaugural NCAA game as well, Oct. 9, 2015 vs. Providence at Cady Arena for a two-point night.
“We had a lot of seniors on our team my freshman year and I think that was huge, just getting guidance from them on a daily basis and being able to play with some of those guys right off the start was really good in terms of learning what it takes at this level,” Melnick said.
The next night he would become the first player in Division I history to score a 3-on-3 goal following the conclusion of overtime. College hockey had allowed conferences the option to adopt that format for league points the previous off-season.
Though PC was not in Miami’s conference, the teams skated three a side anyway following what was officially a 2-2 tie, and Melnick lit the lamp.
Two months into his sophomore season, Melnick found the net in overtime to beat Colorado College for his first official OT winner, and he did it in spectacular fashion.
Teammate Carson Meyer threw a wrister at the net, and it grazed off the side of Melnick, who batted it out the air and into the short side of the net.
Two games later, Melnick tallied the tying goal in the final minute vs. St. Cloud State. Then he scored the game winner in overtime.
Early in his junior season, he victimized Colorado College in OT again, this time burying a rebound on a loose puck at the top of the crease.
He added another 3-on-3 goal to earn Miami a conference point earlier this season vs. St. Cloud State on Dec. 1.
That gives Melnick three official overtime winners plus two 3-on-3s in supplemental OT, and he has six official career game winners. Over 15 percent of his career goals have gone in the GWG column.
“That doesn’t surprise me because he’s the first guy that we’re sending over the boards,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “Everything that you would say about him is true. He’s the leader of our team in a lot of ways.”
Some perspective: No Miamian has ever even scored two career overtime winners since Cady Arena opened in 2006-07.
— Melnick is the only RedHawk with multiple OT goals in a season since at least 2000.
— The last Miamian to post two career OTWs in a career was Alec Martinez, whose first won the final game played at Goggin Arena, clinching the RedHawks’ CCHA opening-round tournament series.
— Chris Michael is the last Miamian to score an OT winner in consecutive seasons, doing so in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
“It’s just being in the right place at the right time, and when you go to overtime it’s a little more sense of urgency,” Melnick said. “And when you get the puck in those situations you’ve got to bear down.”
Freshman season he was voted the team’s rookie of the year by his classmates and was a finalist for Miami’s most valuable player award.
Named assistant captain as a sophomore, his points total jumped by two each of the next two seasons.
Junior Gordie Green has been his linemate for much of those campaigns. Green notched 21 points as a freshman but vaulted to a team-best 15 goals and 33 points last season.
“He’s a complete player – I think he’s probably the most complete player that we have,” Green said. “I’ve had the honor of playing with him for pretty much the last two years and he’s probably been the easiest player I’ve ever gotten to play with. He does everything right and you can count on him. He’s been a lot of fun to play with.”
In 2018-19 Green is again tops on Miami in goals with 11 and is second in points by just one.
The team leader is Melnick, who is also second on the RedHawks in markers with 10.
“He’s definitely a player that makes everyone around him better,” Green said. “That’s why it’s fun playing with him – we play against all of the top lines because our coach wants Melly out there to shut them down as well as generate offense against them. And he’s always out there for the penalty kills, he’s usually the first one to take that big draw.”
This season his points rate is at a career high, as he averages exactly a point a game with 26 in 26 contests. He missed six games with an upper body injury.
So in addition to his reputation for scoring in the clutch, Melnick has exemplified consistency in the points column. His season totals are 25-27-29-26.
That’s a total of 107 points, tied for the 45th with Blake Coleman on the all-time RedHawks’ leaderboard.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling, and I’m very honored to be recognized with some of the names that are there as well,” Melnick said. “But a huge portion of that credit goes to the players that I’ve been able and fortunate enough to play with in my four years here.”
As impressive as his offensive numbers are, Melnick has been one of the top defensive forwards on the team each season.
“I think that’s definitely one of my strengths as a player – being able to play in all three zones and being able to defend well,” Melnick said. “That’s something that I’ve focused on a lot through the years and continue to improve on. Obviously playing well in the O-zone is important, but you’ve got to be able to play on both sides of the puck.”
In addition to playing against opponents’ top forwards, he logs as much ice time on the penalty kill as any RedHawk. Miami has even played four forwards with him in a defense slot late in games this season.
“One of the things that makes Melly so special is his ability to make plays under pressure, and obviously his defense — 1-on-1 he can skate with anybody, he uses his body well, he’s not huge in terms of the size department, but he’s really good at protecting the puck and he makes really good decisions with the puck,” Hutton said. “When you get the puck back (in the defensive zone), you still have to get it out of the zone, you still have to transition to offense, and he makes that transition so easy. As a defenseman, if I go back and I’ve got to make a play, I know I can put the puck anywhere for him – on his feet, on his backhand, behind him – anywhere in the general vicinity – he’s going to get the puck and he’s going to get it out.”
After last season, there was uncertainty as to whether Melnick would have the opportunity to eclipse the 100-point mark. With both assistant coaches and six non-seniors leaving the program, it was unclear if Melnick would return for his senior year.
But early in the off-season, he and Hutton told the world via social media they would both be back for their final year.
“It was a tough decision, but in the end it was fairly easy decision,” Melnick said. “I talked with my family and thought about it, but at the end of the day, for me, I love it here, and I wanted to come back and spend my final year – getting my degree was also important to me – but spending another year with the people that we’re surrounded by every day and getting a chance to leave my mark a little bit more.”
And his game has further evolved this season, as he has improved drastically in the faceoff circle.
“He takes a lot of pride in that, and that’s becoming such an important part of the game because the game nowadays is more about puck possession,” Hutton said. “You win the faceoff, it’s much easier to start with the puck than to go get it. The coolest thing is he pulls the other forwards along with him. They see him taking faceoffs, well if Melly’s taking faceoffs and doing the extra work, then you’ve got to do it too, right? Not only has he gotten better but his teammates have gotten better because they’ve followed his lead.”
He has been resilient in his quest to improve his faceoff numbers, as he has been one of the last players off the ice during practice because of his work in the circle.
“That’s one of the things I focus on during the week, especially closer to game day,” Melnick said. “I feel like I’ve noticed it more as the years go by, but the more draws you can win, obviously that just means more possession for your team and it really shows in the long run of the game.”
He has won 55 percent of his draws in 2018-19. A faceoff win by Melnick directly led to a Miami goal last weekend.
“He’s not a natural centerman, so when we moved him to center way back when he really had to learn the position, positionally, and then he had to be effective taking faceoffs,” Blasi said. “That’s a credit to Josh and his hard work and his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team. He’s the guy that everybody kind of looks to, to lead the way in practice and games. He’s out in every faceoff and special teams (situation). Obviously we really missed him as you can tell from our record without him in the lineup.”
The RedHawks went 0-6 earlier this season while Melnick was out.
“The kid’s unbelievable,” Hutton said. “He does things every week in practice where we’re like, what in the world? It doesn’t even make sense. Physically, there are things that he can do that (most) people can’t. He just has a special skillset and a special mindset, he’s a super-hard worker. He’s super honest with himself – he doesn’t try to be someone he’s not, and that’s the coolest thing about Josh. He’s so humble and so honest, it shows up in his game, right? He works his ass off every single day and everyone benefits from that.”
Melnick and Hutton were named co-captains this season, a fairly unusual move in hockey but one that has worked well for program.
“I think the relationship is very solid, and so anytime you do something like that the two guys have to get along, and have to kind of share the load,” Blasi said.
Hutton has been more vocal while Melnick has played a more lead-by-example role, and Melnick always leads the pre-game huddle speech when the team congregates around the net.
“For me it’s just continuing to be who I am and not really changing the type of player or the type of person I am,” Melnick said. “Making sure we’re holding guys accountable on a daily basis, but all the guys on the team are great and easy to get along with, so for the most part it’s been pretty smooth.”
Said Hutton: “He’s respected by everybody – you don’t have a choice because of how special he is as a player and as a person.”
That consistent level of excellence has carried over into the classroom as well for Melnick, who is a four-time member of the NCHC All-Academic Team.
Unfortunately for Miami, Melnick’s time in Oxford is running short, as the RedHawks play their final two regular season games this weekend.
And while he said his time as Miami has gone too quickly – with each season zooming by faster – Melnick has carved a permanent legacy into RedHawks hockey history.
“As an overall experience it’s definitely been the best four years of my life,” Melnick said. “Coming in, I think one of the biggest things for me was not only developing as a player, but developing as a person. I’ve grown so much over the past couple of years, again, as a player and a person, and I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences for anything.”
Both teams scored five times in the first two periods.
But a Kobe Roth goal with 13:17 left in regulation was the difference maker in No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth’s 6-5 win over Miami on Saturday.
In a crazy game that saw the Bulldogs score twice in the first 90 seconds and ultimately fall behind by a goal in the second period, UMD (21-9-2) completed a four-game season series sweep of the RedHawks.
MU dropped its third straight game and is 0-11-2 in its last 13 games on the Bulldogs’ home ice.
RECAP: Just 86 seconds into the game, the Bulldogs led by two thanks to a pair of Nick Wolff goals scored on outside shots, 23 seconds apart.
Miami (11-19-4) went on a two-man advantage and powered home a pair of quick goals of their own, tying it on markers scored 55 second apart.
Josh Melnick whipped a wrister home from the high slot on the 5-on-3, and Jonathan Gruden grabbed a rebound off a Grant Hutton shot and backhanded it home to tie the score at the 5:42 mark of the opening stanza.
Riley Tufte tipped home a slap pass from the edge of the crease on the power play to give Minnesota-Duluth a 3-2 lead with 10:30 left in the first frame.
The RedHawks again answered with a man-advantage goal of their own, as Hutton ripped a shot from the high inside edge of the faceoff circle that found its mark with 3:34 left in the first period.
A blue line blast by Dylan Samberg put UMD ahead by one again, 4-3 less than three minutes into the middle stanza, but Gordie Green tied it for Miami with a one-timer from the slot off a centering feed by Ryan Siroky along the boards.
RedHawks forward Carter Johnson stole the puck behind the Bulldogs’ net, wrapped around and poked it into the net less than two minutes later to give the RedHawks their only lead.
But with 20 seconds left in the second period, Parker Mackay cleaned up a rebound off a blue line wrist shot by Scott Perunovich to tie the score at five.
The game winner also was scored on a rebound, as Roth banged home a Billy Exell shot from the side of the net 6:43 into the third period.
STATS: Hutton finished with a goal and two assists, tying his career high in points. It was his fourth-ever three-point game.
— Melnick and Green both found the net and picked up a helper. Green snapped a five-game goalless streak and Melnick recorded his third tally in five games.
With 107 career points, Melnick moved into a tie with Blake Coleman for 45th on Miami’s all-time leaderboard.
— Gruden broke out of a 12-game skid without a marker, and Johnson scored for the first time since opening night.
— The RedHawks were 3-for-5 on the power play, scoring three times on the man advantage for the first time since Jan. 12, 2018 in an 11-7 loss at Omaha.
Miami also gave up two PPGs on four chances. MU is 15 of 24 on the penalty kill in its last eight games, a clip of 62.5 percent.
— The RedHawks generated just 19 shots and have failed to put up more than 22 shots in five consecutive contests. They have been outshot by 94 in that span, or 19 shots per game.
THOUGHTS: Miami played much better overall than on Friday, especially considering the RedHawks went down two within the first 90 seconds.
MU was assisted by a 5-on-3 later in the first period, as the team scored twice to tie it.
The RedHawks actually led heading into the final minute of the second period but ultimately two Minnesota-Duluth rebound goals in the final stanza were the difference.
As tough as Miami has had it at Amsoil Arena, it’s looking more likely the RedHawks return there for their first-round NCHC Tournament series again.
MU has gone to Duluth two of the previous three years for the best-of-3 and its season has ended there both times.
— Gruden seems to be heating up at the right time. He made a highlight-reel pass to set up Phil Knies‘ goal on Friday and scored one of his own in this game.
— Funny how a game with the same officials as Friday played about at an equal level physically sees these teams combine for nine power play chances after racking up only two in the series opener.
Even the UMD broadcasters were commenting on that and how calls against both teams that weren’t made on Friday were minors on Saturday.
Miami and UMD combined to go 6-for-11 on the man advantage for the weekend (54.5 percent).
— Jordan Uhelski made the start and allowed six goals on 39 shots. It wasn’t one of his better games, and Ryan Larkin was not in top form on Friday.
LINEUP CHANGES: River Rymsha was back in the lineup after serving his league-imposed one-game suspension. He replaced Noah Jordan.
The only other move was Uhelski in net for Larkin.
STANDINGS: At 5-15-2 in the NCHC, Miami is locked into a seven or eight seed.
The RedHawks are tied with Omaha for seventh place but are technically behind the Mavericks because they lose the tiebreaker, which is goal differential in head-to-head meetings (UNO has outscored Miami, 12-11 in their four meetings).
MU is six points behind sixth-place Colorado College but cannot win the tiebreaker vs. the Tigers because of a 1-3 head-to-head mark.
St. Cloud State has locked up the No. 1 seed, and if the season ended today that’s where Miami would head. Minnesota-Duluth is likely to finish second, as the Bulldogs are four points ahead of Denver.
One of those three teams will host Miami in two weeks. SCSU is No. 1 in the PairWise, UMD is third and Denver sixth.
The RedHawks host Western Michigan next week while Omaha travels to North Dakota.
MU is No. 34 in the PairWise.
FINAL THOUGHTS: One weekend left in the regular season and all that’s left to decide is where Miami will head for the NCHC Tournament.
For whatever reason the RedHawks have had more success in Denver than Duluth or St. Cloud, but Denver is also the least likely opponent for Miami, as the Pioneers would have to rally from four points down to catch UMD.
However, Duluth heads to St. Cloud State next week while Denver hosts Colorado College.
Miami needs a strong finish to its regular season against Western Michigan next week to carry some confidence into the postseason.
It’s official: Miami will open the NCHC Tournament on the road for the fourth straight season.
Denver beat the RedHawks, 5-2 at Magness Arena on Saturday, which dropped MU 13 points behind the fourth-place Pioneers with four games remaining.
The top four seeds host best-of-3 series in the first round of the conference tournament.
RECAP: Denver’s Jarid Lukosevicius buried a one-timer from just inside the faceoff circle, set up by an Emilio Pettersen feed from the wall at the 3:31 mark of the first period.
The score remained 1-0 for over a period and a half until Miami’s Josh Melnick tied it shorthanded, whipping a shot just under the crossbar on a 2-on-1 after he and Brian Hawkinson played give-and-go with 5:17 left in the second period.
But the Pioneers would break it open in a 17-second span of the third period on a pair of goals Jack Doremus. He redirected a wrist shot by Griffin Mendel into the net at 5:17 and fired a slapper that beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin moments later.
The RedHawks cut the deficit to one, 3-2 when Zach LaValle lunged into the crease to poke home a rebound after Filip Larsson couldn’t control a wrist shot by Monte Graham with 11:47 left in regulation.
Denver regained its two-goal lead on the power play, with Lukosevicius shoveling home a centering feed in the slot with 7:46 remaining.
Colin Staub sealed it with an empty netter, as he chased down a clearing pass and tapped it in.
STATS: The four goals allowed in the third period is the most surrendered in a frame this season for Miami.
— Melnick extended his points streak to three games, as he has two goals and two assists in that span.
With 105 points, the senior is now 47th on the RedHawks’ all-time scoring list.
— LaValle’s marker was his first since Oct. 27.
— Denver led on the shot counter, 43-17. For the weekend, the Pioneers outshot Miami, 90-38.
— The RedHawks did not score on the power play for the fourth straight game, and they are 13-for-20 on the penalty kill in their last six (65.0 percent).
THOUGHTS: Miami played pretty evenly with Denver following the first goal and set itself up to steal some road points with the score tied at one after 40 minutes.
But defending the slot area was a major issue for the RedHawks, who allowed two deflection goals and a one-timer by a loosely-covered Lukosevicius, arguably the best scorer on the team.
Even the empty netter was scored from that area.
Miami battled hard in this game, tying the score at one and cutting a two-goal deficit to one, but the sixth period of the weekend at altitude ultimately spelled the RedHawks’ demise.
— Normally a 1-1 weekend at the seventh-ranked team in Division I would be considered a victory, and it is to a large degree, but because Miami has dug itself such a deep hole in the standings, it needed more than three points for any chance at home ice for the playoffs.
With that decided, at least the RedHawks know for sure they will be packing their bags for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the only question remaining is where they will be heading.
— River Rymsha dished out a solid hit in the closing seconds and was chased down by Slava Demin as the horn sounded, but little came from it.
After review, Rymsha was assessed a major and game misconduct for a supposed hit to the head that even the homer Denver broadcasters didn’t see.
According to the broadcasters on Altitude Network, Miami coach Enrico Blasi was initially confrontational with DU coach David Carle before his handshake, though that was not shown.
On replay, it appeared the skater’s head dropped down as he wound up for a hard dump-in. Going full speed, there’s no way Rymsha could’ve known that or reacted to it in time.
Someone ask Rymsha how he feels about replay, since this is the second time he gotten 5-and-10 for a hit none of the four officials saw live and he’s now one misconduct away from a one-game suspension.
Typically don’t like to call out college broadcasting, but DU’s on-air team on Altitude was defending Demin for running Rymsha because the hit was late in the game. So a player is supposed to get a free pass because of how much time is left?
Why not just call the game when the margin reaches three goals?
— While we’re on the subject, Altitude did refer to Bray Crowder, who is 6-feet-6, as the second-tallest skater on Miami. That is correct.
The tallest? That would be Alec Mahalak at 6-9.
That’s even more hilarious considering the box score from Denver had Andrew Sinard – the RedHawks’ actual tallest player at 6-7 – listed as on the ice for two goals against when Mahalak was actually out there.
Altitude also kept referring to Miami’s recent winless streak as being 11 games, which is very polite but inaccurate. The RedHawks lost 11 games during an 0-11-4 stretch.
That’s 15 games. Eleven was also in the game notes, which is likely where they got that info.
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LINEUP CHANGES: Only one from Friday: Crowder was back from his upper-body injury. He missed two games.
As a result, Carter Johnson did not dress as Miami went with seven defensemen.
STANDINGS: At 5-13-2 in league play, Miami is in seventh place in the NCHC, one point ahead of Omaha and three behind sixth-place Colorado College.
St. Cloud State clinched the league regular season title this weekend, so the No. 8 seed will head there.
UMD and Western Michigan will likely finish in the two and three spots, so there’s a good chance the RedHawks travel to one of those two campuses for the conference tournament.
MU is tied for No. 35 in the PairWise rankings.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Four games remain in the regular season – two away, two at home – and at this point it’s all about getting ready for the postseason.
The road win on Friday was definitely nice but Miami needs to play better for 60 minutes if it hopes to advance to St. Paul next month.
Speaking of Minnesota, the RedHawks are off to their favorite home away from home next week: UMD.
But what a statement MU could make if it could pull off a win or two in its final road series of the regular season against the No. 3 team in Division I, where Miami is winless in its last 11.
OXFORD, Ohio – The longest Miami winless streak in over a quarter century is over.
The RedHawks snapped a 15-game, 0-11-4 skid with a 4-2 win over Nebraska-Omaha at Cady Arena, giving MU its first win in nearly three months.
It was the second-longest victory drought in team history, with its worst — just two games longer — coming at the end of the 1990-91 season.
Gordie Green racked up three assists in the Miami win, and Josh Melnick and Scott Corbett finished with a goal and a helper apiece.
RECAP: Miami scored first for the first time in 14 games when Josh Melnick kicked a pass to himself and swept a short pass to Derek Daschke at the faceoff dot for a one-timer that snuck in the short side 7:50 into the first period.
Phil Knies appeared to have scored seconds later, but the initial call of good goal was waved off because it was ruled UNO goalie Evan Weninger’s helmet had been dislodged.
But Knies found the net found the net again at 11:06, and this time it counted. Casey Gilling fired a shot from the high slot that Weninger couldn’t handle, and Knies poked the loose puck in to make it 2-0.
Knies had stolen the puck at the blue line, shielded the defense and dropped a pass to Gilling to set up his goal.
The RedHawks went up three when Green sent a cross-ice pass to Corbett, who trapped it with his skate and beat Weninger short side from the top of the faceoff circle midway through the second period.
The Mavericks cut the lead to one on a 2-on-1 goal by Chayse Primeau and a blue line blast by Jalen Schulz later that frame.
But Miami sealed it with just under four minutes left in regulation, as Green fed Melnick on a 3-on-2 for a rip from the center of the faceoff circle that snuck under the crossbar.
STATS: It was the second career three-assist game for Green, with the other coming earlier this season against Colgate on Oct. 27.
– Corbett recorded his first career multi-point game, and it was the first for Melnick since Miami’s last win, which came on Nov. 17 at Colorado College.
– Andrew Sinard, whose outlet pass to Green resulted in Corbett’s eventual game winner, earned an assist for his first career point.
– Daschke is now tied with Grant Hutton for the team lead in defenseman goals with six, and Knies snapped a 13-game scoring drought.
THOUGHTS: What a relief for Miami.
In terms of standings, this win does little to help the RedHawks except increase the odds they don’t finish last in the NCHC.
But psychologically it had to do wonders.
The third period was the most entertaining frame MU had played in a while, with a high pace of play, plenty of physicality and tons of quality scoring chances for both teams with the score still close.
Miami will need the boost, as the remainder of its schedule is brutal, with all but two of its regular and postseason games almost certainly away from Cady Arena.
Not to take away from this sorely-needed win, but it’s fair to point out that Omaha is seventh in the eight-team league, and it took all Miami had just to split with the Mavericks in Oxford.
The RedHawks will need to play much, much better against much, much better teams, or they will be done by or on St. Patrick’s Day once again.
– Miami did not have a single healthy scratch in this game, as it had just 19 skaters and two goalies available. Bray Crowder, who was hurt on Friday, did not dress for the first time this season, leaving the team with 13 healthy forwards and six defensemen.
Fortunately for the RedHawks, they have a bye next weekend, giving their banged-up players additional time to heal.
– Not sure about the timing of the season ticket renewal offers. There was an announcement and accompanying note on the end zone monitors offering incentives and potential prizes for renewing this weekend.
As in now, as in over a month before this season ends.
One could smell the desperation in the air, and as of game time Saturday, apparently only a handful jumped on the early offer.
FORWARDS: B-. The three goals by this corps were great, but they are still taking too many risks and getting out of position too often. For example, three times in the second period forwards played chicken with UNO skaters that had the puck, trying to strip them while they were on collision course to gain momentum the other way, and none succeeded. Miami wasn’t scored on during any of those occasions but each time the skater was taken out of position. That’s not smart hockey, especially with the lead. Only 15 total shots by 13 forwards against a team that allows 35 per game. Green was outstanding and was named first star but Knies was BoB’s choice, as he was all over the ice all night. Melnick and Corbett were also standouts, and Christian Mohs had good legs and gave the team much-needed energy.
DEFENSEMEN: B-. A pretty average game defensively by this group, and Daschke’s laser of a goal boosts its grade into the ‘B’ range. Grant Hutton was solid on D, but it’s rare he is held without a shot.
GOALTENDING: A-. Larkin turned 31 shots aside, including a 2-on-1 that he sprawled across the crease to kick out and multiple other stops on high-percentage chances. The second UNO goal was a shot from the blue line he probably should’ve stopped, but overall he was excellent.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: Noah Jordan dressed in place of the injured Crowder.
Coach Enrico Blasi has tended to go with seven defensemen this season, but he has no choice with just six healthy.
STANDINGS: With the split, Miami remained two points behind seventh-place Omaha and is three points back of sixth-place Colorado College.
Denver holds that all-important fourth spot and is 10 up on the RedHawks with three games in hand.
After all of Saturday’s games, Miami is No. 38 in the PairWise rankings.
FINAL THOUGHTS: So this series split comes heading into an off-week before a pair of tough road series.
Will the time off be helpful at this point or will that kill any momentum the RedHawks may have gained from this win?
Considering the locker room has been essentially converted to a triage unit the week off will probably benefit Miami more than it hurts.
The pressure that the RedHawks – players as well as coaches – had to be under during their 0-11-4 had to be enormous. This win will hopefully have a cathartic effect.
With Miami almost certainly pigeon holed into one of the lower seeds heading into the NCHC Tournament, it’s still all about getting better heading into that all-important best-of-3 postseason series.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
No set of euphemisms can shield the obvious: Minnesota-Duluth has owned Miami the past few seasons.
The Bulldogs are 11-1-1 vs. the RedHawks since the start of the 2016 calendar year and 15-4-2 vs. MU overall.
If there’s good news for Miami it’s that the lone win during its current drought vs. UMD came on home ice last season.
And the RedHawks have defended their home rink well this season, going 6-2-2 at Cady Arena.
BoB takes a look at the upcoming series between these teams:
WHO: No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (12-6-2) at Miami RedHawks (9-9-4).
WHERE: Cady Arena (3,642), Oxford, Ohio.
WHEN: Friday – 7:35 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.
UMD RADIO: KDAL-AM (610), Duluth, Minn.
MIAMI RADIO: WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
NOTES: Duluth is one of the best defensive teams in Division I.
The Bulldogs allow very few shots, and the overwhelming majority of those are snagged by goalie Hunter Shepard.
Minnesota-Duluth is tops in the conference in goals allowed (41) and seventh in the NCAA defensively at 2.05 goals against per game.
Opponents average just 23.0 shots, and the Bulldogs’ defense corps consists of five sophomores and a junior with another junior between the pipes.
Second-round pick Scott Perunovich leads all defensemen in points (18) and the entire team in assists (16).
Blueliners Nick Wolff, the lone junior in this corps, and Kings draftee Mikey Anderson also have offensive ability, as Wolff is 2-7-9 with 62 penalty minutes, and Anderson has scored three times.
Jets second-round pick Dylan Samberg, Louis Roehl and Matt Anderson round out Minnesota-Duluth’s top six on defense.
Shepard led the Bulldogs to the national championship last season by allowing just five goals in four NCAA Tournament contests. He posted a 1.91 goals-against average in 2017-18 and is at 1.92 this season.
Shepard’s GAA is eighth-best in college hockey and he has a save percentage of .916. He has played all but 16 minutes in net for Minnesota-Duluth this season.
Up front, Justin Richards’ emergence has been a major storyline for the Bulldogs. He leads the team with 12 assists and 19 points, and he has also scored seven times, including a pair of game winners.
The sophomore had zero goals in 44 games last season and finished with nine helpers.
Parker Mackay is team captain and one of the top two-way players in the conference. He has a Bulldogs-best eight goals plus eight assists for 16 points.
Only three other UMD forwards have 10 or more points. Senior Peter Krieger is 2-12-14, Wild draft pick Nick Swaney has six goals and six assists, and Tampa Bay selection Cole Koepke has a pair of markers and eight helpers.
Minnesota-Duluth has two more NHL draft picks among its forwards. Riley Tuftes was Dallas’ first-round choice in 2016, and Noah Cates was taken by Philadelphia in 2017.
They have identical 5-3-8 lines.
The Bulldogs are the top penalty killing team in Division I at 92.0 percent, as they have surrendered just six power play goals.
This weekend series is the front half of a four-game homestand for Miami, which is mired in an eight-game winless streak.
With their record at .500 for the first time this season, the RedHawks need to start winning games if they hope to earn home ice in the NCHC Tournament and eventually qualify for the national championship tournament.
Gordie Green is starting to heat up, which is great news for Miami, as he has scored three goals in three games.
Grant Hutton has four points in four games and Brian Hawkinson recorded points in both contests last weekend.
Co-captain Josh Melnick missed both games last weekend with a lower body injury, and there’s no certainty he will play in this series.
Goalie Ryan Larkin did not play the finale in Kalamazoo last week but is expected to play against UMD.