OXFORD, Ohio – For Miami, PairWise doesn’t matter, seeding has been wrapped up and the RedHawks even know their first-round opponent in the NCHC Tournament.
That means after Friday’s 3-2 loss to North Dakota, Saturday’s regular season finale will be little more than a glorified exhibition.
For official purposes that is. Miami can certainly conjure up reasons to take its last game at Cady Arena in 2016-17 seriously.
Trying to gain momentum heading into a brutal road trip – the same one that saw the RedHawks’ season end last year – would be the most obvious.
But it’s been no secret Miami would open the NCHC Tournament on the road for weeks now, and the RedHawks still went winless the entire month of February and have opened March 0-1.
Next week’s opponent, Minnesota-Duluth, swept Miami to end the 2015-16 season and just went 1-0-1 vs. the RedHawks last weekend. The Bulldogs are ranked second in Division I.
There is the legacy play. Miami has won at least 12 games in every season under Coach Enrico Blasi, and his worst two seasons from a wins standpoint were Years 1 and 3 (1999-2000 and 2001-02), when the team won 13 and 12 games, respectively.
But that was with recruits from the previous administration. With his own players, Blasi has won at least 15 games each season, although two of the previous three campaigns have seen the RedHawks win exactly that many with sub-.500 winning percentages.
So Miami needs to win on Saturday and advance to Minneapolis just to tie Blasi’s low-water mark in terms of wins.
To be fair, the RedHawks have tied seven times, so essentially that have 12½ wins. But the team’s .379 winning percentage is 47th out of 60 Division I teams.
And hey, the NCHC’s lone knock – right or wrong – is the lack of an identity and natural rivals. North Dakota was one known quantity when this league was formed. The Native-American-turned-avion-nicknamed team has appeared in more championships than any team in Division I (13) and is second in titles (8).
Oh yeah, UND won the national championship in 2016. Can Miami possibly get up to play this team on its home ice, even in a down year?
Because the RedHawks didn’t do that in their penultimate home game of the season. North Dakota had seven shots in the first four minutes, and if it hadn’t been for Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, it could’ve been 2-0 before many found their seats at Cady Arena.
The RedHawks had their moments on Friday but there was zero sustained pressure. On the other side, the Other Hawks controlled the puck in the offensive zone for shift after shift.
Shots on goal are not the be-all, end-all of hockey stats, but when a team is outshot by a 2-to-1 margin or greater in all three periods, that’s not a coincidence. The SOG by period was 16-5, 15-7 and 10-4.
There’s the cliché that winning is contagious. Well, so is not winning, and Miami has failed to secure a victory in 11 of its last 12 games.
A win on Saturday won’t fix the RedHawks’ seed, or their PairWise or even do much to correct their anemic record, but it could point them in the right direction heading into the playoffs.
– Time to dispel the “we’re young” excuse for Miami’s woeful performance this season. North Dakota has eight freshman and 11 sophomores – that’s 19 underclassmen, using the first two years of college definition – and five juniors and two seniors. One of those seniors is a goalie who has logged 18 career games.
– If we’ve learning one positive thing about a player this season, it’s that Gordie Green’s work ethic is top notch. It’s easy to get off your game when the team you play for rivals the Jacksonville Jaguars in terms of winning percentage, but he has thrived while the team has done the opposite. Green has three goals and five assists his last eight games, and Miami only has 19 markers in that span, meaning Green has factored into 42 percent of those. He even laid a player out on Friday and was assessed a bogus charging penalty even though he neither lined his opponent up nor left his feet.
– Impressed with Carter Johnson, who made a great move and just missed the net in the second period and had another quality scoring chance in the third period. Kudos also to Zach LaValle, who has continued to work as hard as anyone this season resulting in eight points in his last 16 games.
– With Louie Belpedio out, it was Josh Melnick who met with officials and UND captain Gage Ausmus during warm-ups. Very telling.
– BoB is not big on criticizing officiating, but seriously, in this game, 7-to-2 on power plays including an extended 4-on-3 that led to the decisive goal? It was a chippy game, no doubt, but come on. That said, UND made the most of those opportunities, outshooting the RedHawks, 17-2 on the man advantage and scoring a shorthanded goals on one of Miami’s chances.
– To complete the thought on penalties, Grant Hutton’s cross check to the head of a player laying in Miami’s crease wasn’t the smartest play of the season, and Conor Lemirande took three minors, eventually resulting in him being relegated to the bench for the balance of the third period. North Dakota a was better at getting under the RedHawks’ skin and watching MU get called for the retaliation.
– With this being the first time seeing the Fighting Hawks live this season, their skating and puck control stood out as two of their top attributes. They also move the puck extremely well on the power play. Hard to believe they were just two games over .500 entering this weekend. As usual, their fans traveled well, as this was the loudest any opposing fan base has been in this rink all season.
– With the regular season wrapping up, it’s about time we consider hanging numbers of more recent members of the Miami hockey clique on the brick wall at Cady Arena. For now, Andy Greene and Ryan Jones certainly seem worthy of having their respective 23 and 26 mounted in the Zamboni end.
– Louie Belpedio was in the concourse wearing a knee brace. Sounds like he’s just week-to-week, but unfortunately for Miami, do-or-die mode starts next week for this team. Obviously his return would help tremendously.
FORWARDS: C-. Just 12 shots from this group. The LaValle-Sherwood-Green line was undoubtedly Miami’s best. Overall, this corps wasn’t particularly impressive on defense as well.
DEFENSEMEN: C-. The listed pairings bore little resemblance to how these blueliners were actually implemented in game. Scott Dornbrock had a decent game overall but coughed up the puck for the decisive breakaway goal. Other than an errant turnover, Grant Frederic played one of his better games.
GOALTENDING: B+. Again, when a goalie faces 41 shots and many are Grade-A chances, three goals against is a pretty good night. Larkin kept Miami in the game by stopping the first seven shots he faced in the opening four minutes. Other than arguably the breakaway, there was little he could’ve done about any of his goals against.
LINEUP CHANGES: For the third straight game, it was Alex Alger (F), Bryce Hatten (D) and Belpedio sitting. Hatten has been scratched for 15 of the last 16 games, so if Belpedio returns, it would be the expense of one of Friday’s starters on defense. With his forward corps relatively healthy, it appears this 12 from this game will be the group Blasi heads into the tournament with.
Having watched a lot of hockey at a lot of levels, it’s not hyperbole to say this is one of the most frustrating teams to watch in this lifetime.
Unfortunately, that cliché about “close” counting doesn’t refer to hockey and hand grenades, or else Miami would be in much better shape after its 3-3 tie at No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth on Friday.
Because in many ways, close is what the RedHawks (9-16-7) are to being a successful team and not one mired seven games under .500, facing a brutal road series to advance in the NCHC Tournament in two weeks just to extend their season. And it’s frustrating that they’ve not been able to close teams out too many times this season.
Close – amazingly – is what Miami is to defaulting to home-ice advantage in that round despite a 5-12-5 league record, as the team is only six points out of that elusive fourth seed. Frustrating because with Duluth and Denver running away with the top two seeds, the points threshold for that seed is lower than in any of the four seasons of the NCHC.
Close in forward depth, as this team has true offensive stars in Anthony Louis, Kiefer Sherwood, Josh Melnick and Carson Meyer. Gordie Green’s stock has soared the past two months, and Willie Knierim seems to be figuring it out at a steady, big guy, 19-year-old-in-D-I pace. Frustrating because the other seven forwards on the roster have a combined total of seven goals.
Close at defense, an area BoB highlighted at the beginning of the season with half of its studly blue line from 2015-16 graduating, as Grant Hutton is becoming a leader among this group and youngsters like Chaz Switzer appear to be gaining confidence. Frustrating because that progress has been too slow for some, veterans are making too many unforced mistakes and opponents are still setting up shop in front of the Miami net far too often with over 90 percent of the regular season in the books.
Well past close to “arrived” status in net, as Ryan Larkin has been a savior for this team – pun intended – as he has faced far too many A-plus scoring chances this season but still owns a .912 save percentage. Even that area is frustrating because he appears to be either tiring or losing a bit of confidence and has allowed the occasional soft goal in recent weeks that never would’ve gone in during December or January.
Close because this team showed a flash of excellence when it ran off five straight wins around the holidays and outscored its opponents, 18-2 in the third period and overtime during that span, with Melnick netting a pair of highlight-reel OT winners. Frustrating because the RedHawks suffered through an 0-7-3 span – their longest winless stretch in a quarter century – and are currently 1-8-2 in their last 11 during their most important games when they were given every chance to move up both in PairWise and the NCHC standings to earn their way into the NCAAs. And oh yeah, they’ve been outscored, 16-4 in the third period in their last seven, giving up multiple goals in the final stanza in every one of those contests.
This weekend is a microcosm of close and frustrating. Miami came back from 2-0 on Thursday to tie the second-ranked team in college hockey on the road, then after the Bulldogs (20-5-7) surged ahead again, the RedHawks again evened the score at three. Finally UMD buried a power play chance with a minute and a half left. Miami salvaged a tie on Friday and earned the extra league point.
The RedHawks have played some of their best hockey against top-ranked opponents like Minnesota-Duluth. This was probably the toughest series on Miami’s entire season schedule, and even without its captain, MU hung with the Bulldogs both games.
But it’s the story of the season: the RedHawks couldn’t get the win either night. Close doesn’t count in hockey.
– Is this series an example, like we talked about last week, of a team that is playing loose because home ice and PairWise are no longer factors? At six games under .500 heading into this weekend, these outcomes really don’t matter except for NCHC Tournament seeding. That takes a lot of pressure off a team that was in a bad place after the recent St. Cloud series. The focus now is getting better next weekend and preparing for that all-important best-of-3 in two weeks.
– How much of an impact does the return of Justin Greenberg and the loss of Louie Belpedio have on this team? Greenberg’s injury hurt the team on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle, and Louie Belpedio missed this weekend after being kneed last weekend. Those changes can affect the chemistry of a team – positively or negatively – and based on where Miami was for the Denver series and where it was this weekend, it seems like the RedHawks got a boost from Greenberg and were more fired up after losing their captain.
– And on the latter, BoB wishes a speedy return to Belpedio, who is a team leader on and off the ice and a delight to talk to. He’s had some struggles this year with penalties and turnovers, but captaincy on this team is very difficult. We even saw it affect Austin Czarnik, one of the best Miamians in team history and a current NHLer who could play there for the next decade.
– In fairness to the above, injuries really have played a role with this team, as Meyer, Larkin, Belpedio, Greenberg and Jared Brandt have all missed time this season, and with just three extra skaters on the team, Miami doesn’t really have the depth to absorb personnel losses. Christian Mohs hurt his knee before the season even started and has been out for the season, which put the RedHawks shorthanded from Day 1.
– Miami was mathematically eliminated from home ice after failing to secure three points on Friday. Long story as short as possible, if the RedHawks won out and Nebraska-Omaha won on Saturday then was swept next weekend, and St. Cloud State was swept, that would be best albeit super-unlikely scenario, as Miami would finish in a three-way tie with whatever the Sioux are calling themselves these days and the Huskies. But the RedHawks would still be 3-4-1 against those two teams and would end up with a six seed. So much for the suspense.
– In the bizarre stats area, Hutton is now tied with Melnick for best shooting percentage on the team, as both have scored nine times on 49 shots (.184). Maybe Brandt’s first career goal in Oxford last Saturday instilled confidence in him, as he had 27 shots on goal all season entering this weekend and fired six times in these two games, finding the net twice.
– Tapping the old memory banks to recall a team that was more self-strangulation inducing, the 2000-01 Cincinnati Mighty Ducks come to mind. That team had to use 12 goalies during the regular season and lost player after player to Anaheim and Detroit, that team’s affiliates. They finished above .500 but took an early exit from the playoffs.
Yet another one got away from Miami late.
Avery Peterson scored on the power play with 1:21 left in regulation to lift Minnesota-Duluth to a 4-3 win over the RedHawks at Amsoil Arena on Thursday, sending Miami to its fifth straight loss.
The RedHawks have won just one of their last 10 games (1-8-1).
The Bulldogs struck first when a blue line blast by Nick Wolff was stopped by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, but Adam Johnson was able to bat home the rebound from the side of the net 13:00 into the first period.
Minnesota-Duluth (20-5-6) made it 2-0 just 68 seconds into the second frame Dominic Toninato fired home a one-time pass from Karson Kuhlman after a RedHawks turnover.
Miami (9-16-6) cut the lead to one when Grant Hutton skated behind the UMD net and somehow found Jared Brandt in the slot, passing through a pair of bodies, and Brandt buried his shot stick side with 12:53 left in the middle stanza.
The RedHawks tied it on a power play blast by Hutton off a one-time feed by Kiefer Sherwood with 8:15 left in the second period.
Ninety-four seconds into the third period, the Bulldogs went ahead again, 3-2 on a Neal Pionk rip from the top of the faceoff circle.
But Miami again battled back, tying the score at three as Carson Meyer corralled a loose puck in the slot and shoveled it into the net with 10:45 to play in regulation.
Peterson whipped his game-winning shot in after taking a drop pass from Riley Tufte, who skated across the blue line and eluded a RedHawks defender.
Hutton finished with a goal and an assist, and Josh Melnick and Anthony Louis added two assists each in the losing effort.
It was the third career multi-point game for Louis and his second of the season, and Melnick tallied two helpers for the third time in 2016-17.
Louis now has 122 points for his career, tying him with Reilly Smith for 29th on Miami’s all-time leaderboard.
These teams wrap up their weekend series at 8:07 p.m. on Friday. The RedHawks need a minimum of two points in that contest or they will be eliminated from the possibility of a home ice series to open the NCHC Tournament in two weeks.
They are currently in seventh place, and unless they move up would face either Denver or UMD to open the conference tournament.
In terms of scoring, the first two periods of Saturday’s game played out exactly the same as Friday’s game: No goals in the first, Miami takes the lead in the second, St. Cloud ties it.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, the Huskies also potted the next two goals in the third period again in a 3-1 win in St. Cloud as SCSU wrapped up a weekend sweep.
Miami (9-13-6) has just one victory in its last seven games and is winless in five straight on the road.
Josh Melnick put the RedHawks ahead when he wired a shot off the inside of the far post after Gordie Green had stolen the puck and fed Melnick in the slot.
Just 83 seconds later, St. Cloud State’s (15-14-1) Jimmy Schuldt beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on the glove side for a power play goal after the RedHawks were unable to clear the puck, tying the score.
It remained 1-1 until the Huskies’ Nick Poehling centered one from along the boards to Jake Wahlin for a tip-in goal with 2:37 left in regulation.
Jacob Benson tacked on an empty netter with 56 seconds to play, capping off the scoring.
Miami dropped to 3-9-3 on the road and have just one league win away from Cady Arena.
With the loss, the RedHawks remain in seventh place in the NCHC and are now five points out of tie for fifth and sixth, spots held by Nebraska-Omaha and SCSU.
Miami hosts Denver in a two-game series next weekend.
OXFORD, Ohio – In its final regular-season meeting against No. 10 Western Michigan, Miami finally earned its first win of 2016-17 vs. the Broncos – barely.
Thanks to Josh Melnick’s two-goal performance, the RedHawks took a three-goal lead into the third period and held on for a 4-3 victory at Cady Arena on Friday, as they wrap up their pre-playoff slate 1-3 against WMU.
Miami (9-11-6) took the lead just 1:38 into the game on the power play when Grant Hutton and Gordie Green traded passes at the blue line, and Hutton whipped a hard wrist shot that found the net.
But just 21 seconds later, the Broncos (14-7-3) tied it when a Colt Conrad corralled a missed WMU shot at the side of the net, wrapped around the cage and shoved it across the goal line.
With 17 seconds remaining in the opening period, Miami went ahead for good as Kiefer Sherwood fired a slap pass to Josh Melnick, who tipped it in from the top of the crease on the man advantage.
Melnick extended the lead to two just 1:19 into the middle stanza when he was hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway and converted the ensuing penalty shot, beating goalie Ben Blacker on the forehand after slowing down as he approached the net.
The RedHawks made it 4-1 less than four minutes later. Colin Sullivan fired a pass the length of the ice, which was chased down by Anthony Louis, and Louis dropped a pass to trailer Willie Knierim, who was at the side of the net. Knierim poked at the puck once, and the rebound sat in the crease momentarily before Knierim buried the rebound.
Les than two minutes into the third period, Western Michigan’s Sheldon Dries tipped a blueline pass from Cory Schueneman through the legs of Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, cutting the RedHawks’ lead to two.
Five minutes later, the Broncos’ Neal Goff netted his first goal of the season as his slap shot from the blue line deflected off a Miami skate and into the corner of the net to make it 4-3.
Larkin stopped 44 shots, including one on a blast from the edge of the faceoff circle late in the third period to preserve the lead, for his second-highest save total this season as Miami snapped a four-game winless streak.
It was the second multi-goal game of Melnick’s career. His other one also came this season and at home in a 3-2 win over St. Cloud State on Jan. 6.
Knierim netted his fourth goal of the season, with all coming in his last 13 games. Hutton recorded his sixth marker of the campaign.
The RedHawks moved into sixth place in the NCHC, passing SCSU, which lost on Saturday. Miami moved up two shots to 22nd in the PairWise rankings.
MU is off next week and heads back to the road for a weekend set at St. Cloud State on Feb. 10-11.
Miami again trailed, 3-1 after two periods on Saturday, but unlike the night before, there would be no late heroics.
Neither team scored in the final stanza and the RedHawks fell at No. 7 North Dakota by that two-goal margin, splitting the weekend series.
Miami had scored five unanswered goals on Friday to pull off a 6-3 win. The loss snaps a five-game winning streak and six-game unbeaten stretch.
UND got on the board first, as Zach Yon took advantage of a turnover, fed ahead to Dixon Bowen who separated from his defenseman, skated wide toward to net and beat RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin just 3:00 into the game.
Miami (8-9-5) answered 44 seconds later, as Josh Melnick stole the puck along the boards and kicked it out to Carson Meyer in the high slot, who threw a pass to Anthony Louis at the side of the net for a one-time tap in.
North Dakota (13-7-3) went ahead for good when Shane Gersich entered the zone and sent a pass to Tyson Jost, who slid one across the slot to Austin Poganski for a tap-in with 11:36 left in the opening frame.
UND scored the final goal shorthanded, as Joel Janatuinen stripped Louis in the Miami defensive zone and dropped a pass to Rhett Gardner, who whipped one past Larkin with 15:47 remaining in the middle stanza.
North Dakota dominated in shots, 34-15, reaching double digits each period while holding the RedHawks to six or fewer in all three frames.
Louis’ goal gives him a seven-point point streak, the longest by any Miami player this season. He now has 115 career points, tied for 35th with Marty Guerin and Bobby Marshall on the all-time list.
Melnick has picked up points in six straight games, with five markers and four assists in that span.
The RedHawks fell into a tie for sixth in the NCHC with St. Cloud – as both have 16 points – and they slipped one spot to 21st in the PairWise rankings.
Miami heads will head to Nebraska-Omaha for two games next weekend.
The comeback at Ohio State seemed impressive, but Miami topped that on Friday.
After falling behind by two, the RedHawks scored five unanswered goals to beat No. 7 North Dakota, 6-3 at Ralph Engelstad Arena, extending their winning streak to five games and their stretch of unbeaten contests to six.
Miami (8-8-5) was down, 3-1 entering the third period, with its lone goal coming by Gordie Green 3:30 into the game on a shot by Zach Lavelle that deflected off Green’s skate at the side of the net.
Anthony Louis cut the deficit to one just 55 seconds into the final stanza when he slammed a loose puck home from the top of the crease.
The RedHawks tied it 4:03 into that frame when Carson Meyer took a pass on the right wing, skated in alone and backhanded it home.
Thanks to a similar set-up, Karch Bachman got behind the defense at the same spot, took it in and scored on the forehard to make it 4-3 with 12:11 left in regulation.
After a North Dakota (12-7-3) goalie change, Ryan Siroky stickhandled at the top the crease and shoveled one through the five hole with 8:59, extending Miami’s lead to two.
Miami took advantage of a major power play, as Louie Belpedio ripped one from the blue line to cap off the scoring onslaught with 4:02 to play.
Belpedio ended the night with a game-high three points on a goal and two assists. Louis finished with a marker and a helper, with Kiefer Sherwood and Josh Melnick also adding two points on a pair of assists.
Several RedHawks extended points streaks. Louis and Sherwood have recorded points in six straight, with Louis going 3-6-9 and Sherwood recording a 4-6-10 line in that span.
Louis has three straight multi-point games and moved into a tie with Andy Greene and Andy Cozzi for 37th on the team’s all-time points leaderboard with 114.
Melnick has tallied points in five games in a row, scoring five times and picking up three helpers. Belpedio has six points in three games.
With the win, the RedHawks jumped eight spots in the PairWise to 20th. Miami remains tied for fifth in the NCHC but has two games in hand over St. Cloud State, as both teams have 16 points.
North Dakota and Western Michigan are just one point ahead of the pair.
Miami and UND wrap up the weekend series at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday.
OXFORD, Ohio – One of the more captivating things about hockey is how teams that appear dead on the frozen water at one point of a season can quickly reverse that negative trend.
The Miami everyone wanted to play in November and early December has made a significant move in the conference and PairWise the past month, as it won its fourth straight game on Saturday, 4-1 over St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.
The RedHawks (7-8-5) were in last place in the NCHC after their 10th straight non-win on Dec. 9 and dipped as low as 42nd out of 60 teams in the all-important PairWise Rankings, which determine at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament and seeding.
Thirty days later, Miami has shifted into a tie for fifth in the conference and is a point away from fourth. In theory the RedHawks could move as high as third with a pair of wins next week.
MU is up to 28th in PairWise and has much work to do to warrant at-large consideration, but the team is still up 14 spots in a month with plenty of hockey remaining against high-quality opponents.
So what’s the difference? A quick summary…
– Health. A young Miami team already lacking a ton of depth couldn’t catch a break in this department the first 16 games. Carson Meyer, Louie Belpedio, Ryan Larkin, Jared Brandt and Josh Melnick – all major contributors on RedHawks Version 2016-17 – missed a combined 15 games with various injuries and illnesses. All are currently healthy now and playing at a high level.
– Third-period turnaround. As documented previously, Miami was outscored, 14-3 during its 0-7-3 run in the third period. During their winning streak, the RedHawks have netted 11 goals in the last frame. Opponents: 2. They’re finishing stronger and appear in better shape than earlier in the campaign. Miami found ways to lose games it led the first couple of months and now is pulling them out late.
– Power play. With plenty of minutes under its belt as a unit, the Belpedio-Melnick-Anthony Louis-Kiefer Sherwood-Meyer group has impressed with its puck movement, and after going six straight games without a goal on the man-advantage (0-for-19), Miami is 4 of 13 (30.8 percent) in the three contests since.
– Melnick on fire. The sophomore scored one time in the first 16 games but has found the net in four straight, netting five goals and setting up another in that span. That includes two overtime winners and the tying goal on Friday. He wins the hardest-to-figure-out-how-he-scored award, as after watching his Saturday goal live and several more times on replay it was still unclear how the redirected the puck in. Both OT goals were highlight-reel quality but also required slow-mo.
– Confidence in other forwards. Forgive if anyone is left out, but among freshmen, Gordie Green is getting better every game, so is Willie Knierim. Alex Alger is a solid fourth-line pest, and Karch Bachman has a great shot and better speed, and he has huge upside.
– Defense is a little more stable. Miami isn’t quite where it was last season, but that’s because Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart were about as steady as it gets in the NCAA in terms of shut-down D-men. With their departure the returning blueliners are higher in the depth chart consistently facing better forwards, and it’s a tough adjustment. But Grant Hutton, who was so strong as a freshman, is becoming more consistent, and Grant Frederic continues to improve and has been better about staying out of the box. The RedHawks allowed 90 shots in a weekend series in Denver – remarkably tying both games – but has surrendered an average of just 24.0 in the eight games since and had outshot opponents in seven straight before Saturday’s game.
– Sherwood is taking over portions of games. There are times now when no one can take the puck away from Sherwood, and he’s exponentially tougher to defend with his passing game evolving. His double-clutch before sliding a pass through to Green for Miami’s second goal on Saturday is a prime example: Teams can no longer play for that lethal shot from the left faceoff circle. The NCHC clearly has the scouting report on Sherwood’s happy zone, but he is moving around on power plays and inflicting damage elsewhere, having adjusted to the conference’s adjustment. And he scored the RedHawks’ first shorthanded goal of the year to open the scoring.
– And of course, a little puck luck. As everything seemed to be going wrong for Miami, that intangible made things worse at times, as the RedHawks hit posts and were victimized by bad bounces. The Hockey Gods appear to be balancing things out recently, as opponents are drawing iron and not getting breaks they were the first couple of months.
FORWARDS: B. This corps scored a goal shorthanded, at even strength and on the power play. The forwards really didn’t generate a ton of chances, but they cashed in on the Grade-A opportunities. And St. Cloud State always seemed to have sticks and bodies in the shooting lanes. If we had to nit-pick, the bottom two lines didn’t do a whole lot and haven’t scored much all season. We could also mention that 12 forwards managed just 17 shots and a few were weak one at an idle goalie.
DEFENSEMEN: B. It’s been a gradual process, but the blueliners are getting beaten less often than in weeks past. The Huskies entered this weekend averaging nearly 3½ goals per game but had limited chances and just one marker in this game, thanks largely to this group. This was one of Hutton’s better games, and he added the cherry on top with the ENG in the final minute after intercepting the puck at center ice. Scott Dornbrock blocked five shots.
GOALTENDING: A. Notice how goaltending wasn’t mentioned before. The reason is that Larkin has been steady throughout, and without him Miami would not have seven wins. That said, he was even better than usual in this game, stopping 28 shots, with his lone blemish being a heat-seeking laser off a drop pass. Larkin faced some difficult shots but as is his MO allowed a very limited number of rebounds.
LINEUP CHANGES: Same six on D, same goalie, just one change up front. Carter Johnson was scratched for the first time this season in favor of Alger. With four straight wins and the team playing its best hockey of the season, the lineup card probably won’t change a whole lot.
OXFORD, Ohio – After playing enough free hockey, Miami has gotten quite good at it.
Having gone to the extra session eight times in 19 games, the RedHawks won their third overtime game of the season on Friday, 3-2 over St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.
The paragraph would’ve generated ample laughter if written six weeks ago, but Miami has been clutch late in games.
The biggest statistical difference between the RedHawks’ 0-7-3 stretch and their current 3-0 run? They were outscored, 14-3 in the third period and beyond during the former and have notched 10 goals to their opponents’ one in the three since, all wins.
Instead of giving games away late, Miami is pulling off wins thanks to third-period rallies.
Two of those three wins have been decided in overtime, with Josh Melnick netting the game-winning markers in both. He also scored late in the first period at Ohio State with five seconds left in the first period to cut Miami’s deficit to one, 2-1, completely changing the course of that eventual 6-3 MU win.
Yes, St. Cloud State has dropped to No. 20 and was without a top player and coach Bob Motzko, holdovers from the World Juniors who were unable to reach Oxford by game time, but the Huskies are still an excellent, well-coached team that is outstanding at shutting down shooting lanes.
The RedHawks definitely had to earn this win, and despite all of their first-half issues are just two games under .500 with a chance to climb into a tie for fifth in the NCHC with another win on Saturday parlayed with a Nebraska-Omaha loss (the Mavericks fell to North Dakota, 9-1 on Friday).
Sure, Miami had some bad luck with key injuries and illnesses early, but the team just didn’t look confident in these clutch situations the first two months of the season. The RedHawks found ways to lose, but now they’re finding ways to win these tight contests against quality opponents.
Even if it isn’t showing up on the score sheet, you can see certain players evolving, which from a fan perspective is one of the most fun things about college hockey.
Carson Meyer and Ryan Larkin have been the co-valedictorians of this Miami freshman hockey class to this point, no doubt, but Gordie Green is playing with so much more confidence, and so is Willie Knierim, who has a ton of upside largely – pun somewhat intended – because of his size. a great example. So is Karch Bachman, who has blazing speed and a wicked wrister but doesn’t seem to get put into situations that could garner success.
Defenseman Grant Frederic also quietly seems to get better every game, and Jared Brandt has been that steady defensive D-man Miami always seems to bring in to shore up that corps.
This team is so much better now that in was during the 0-7-3 skid, and a key win like this is a major validation of that statement.
– Not sure I’ve seen a game in which dumb penalties have resulted in all of the final three critical goals. Miami’s Colin Sullivan, a fifth-year senior who we’ve praised here repeatedly and at times questioned why he hasn’t played more, drove a player into the boards late in the third period of a 1-1 game despite seeing the number on the back of his jersey from the Indiana border. And St. Cloud went ahead on a power play goal it scored as a result, but fortunately for Miami the Huskies took an even dumber penalty a half minute later, and the RedHawks’ Melnick scored both the tying and go-ahead goals on the resulting major.
– (continued) With his team leading, 2-1, Jacob Benson targeted the head of Meyer on an open-ice hit and rightly drew a five-minute major and was booted from the game. Fortunately Meyer wasn’t hurt, but Melnick scored both of his goals on that penalty, which were the tying and game-winning goals. Guessing Benson isn’t a really popular player on SCSU right now.
– Is it really that hard for linesmen to drop pucks for faceoffs? Does anyone really want to see multiple re-drops?
– The power play. Miami had its struggles early on the man-advantage but scored both of its late goals on Melnick PPGs, giving the RedHawks three tallies in their last 10 chances over the past two games. They were 0-for-19 in their previous six contests. Still looking for that first shorty though – MU is one of only nine D-I teams without one this season.
– On a personal note, a win like this, and the OSU one, and the Colorado College one, make it a lot more fun to come to the rink. I can’t wait for Saturday’s game. At 3-8-5, it was harder to get psyched for the 65-minute drive to Cady Arena.
– Understand the J-term concept but still hate seeing the rink mostly void of students and fans overall. The attendance was 1,717. Not much expected for Game 2 either.
– On another personal note, I apologize for not doing more in terms of pro and FutureHawks updates the first half of the season. Lots going on, but hope to rectify that during this critical final months of the season, and we promise to write some player features down the stretch. Thanks for everyone’s patience and understanding.
FORWARDS: B+. This was a tough gig for this group, as Miami’s forwards faced a quality group of shut-down defensemen and goalie, but they managed three goals, all in the final 10 minutes of regulation and OT. Finishing with 34 shots is good, but a few too many were weak looks with no traffic that had zero chance to hitting the net. In addition to the obvious (Melnick-Louis), really liked Meyer’s all-around game, and Kiefer Sherwood and Justin Greenberg have really improved on their faceoffs, although I admit I’ve never seen anyone win draws consistently like Sherwood does, dropping to one knee each time.
DEFENSEMEN: B-. In 11 years of watching every minute of every game at Cady Arena, I’ve never seen a group that is so hard to grade. Grant Hutton got beaten badly on a drive to the net that was stopped by Larkin but was solid otherwise. Scott Dornbrock didn’t have a particularly strong game. Louie Belpedio was excellent overall and picked up two helpers. Miami seriously missed him as a the power play quarterback when he was injured.
GOALTENDING: B+. Larkin had no chance on the first SCSU goal, as he made the initial save on a point-blank rip but no one picked up the goal scorer. The second one was on the power play and hit a post before dropping at the top of the crease for a tap-in. He was 29 of 31 for a .935 save percentage. He did seem a hair shaky early but was outstanding the final 40-plus minutes.
LINEUP CHANGES: Chaz Switzer and Bryce Hatten both sat on defense for the second straight game, and this is about the time the starting 18 solidifies, so they may be the odd men out down the stretch. Hatten was injured almost all of 2015-16 and Switzer logged 121 USHL games before turning 19 and heading to Oxford, so both have bright futures, but their games are still evolving. Karch Bachman was out with an illness last week but returned, sending Alex Alger to the stands. Alger has been a pest and has played well as a fourth-liner, and one wonders if his playing time would be more substantial had he not been absolutely robbed on a blast from the slot earlier this season and rang one off the post on another. Will Ryan Larkin be in net for the remainder of Miami’s games? There’s a good chance, although Chase Munroe’s win vs. Colorado College had to help the team overall, as he proved himself a solid backup.
OXFORD, Ohio – The Mel Man definitely delivers late.
Josh Melnick scored the tying and game-winning goals – with the latter coming in overtime – both on a power play stemming from a major penalty as Miami edged out No. 20 St. Cloud State, 3-2 at Cady Arena on Friday.
Melnick had scored one goal in the first 16 games of the season but has found the net in three straight, with four tallies overall in that stretch. It was also the first multi-goal game of the sophomore’s career.
The game was scoreless until 6:13 remained in the second period, when the Huskies’ Mikey Eyssimont corralled a loose puck in the slot and fed Patrick Newell on the side of the net, and after RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin denied the initial point-blank backhander by Newell, Eyssimont was there at the side of the net to jam home the rebound.
The goal by St. Cloud State (9-9-1) was the only marker of the contest until the final nine minutes of regulation and overtime, which more than made up for the first 51 low-scoring minutes.
Miami’s Carson Meyer tried to put a shot on from a bad angle, but it hit a sliding defender. The puck bounced right back to Meyer at the side of the net, and he centered one to Anthony Louis in the slot, and Louis buried the one-timer through the five hole to tie it with 8:14 remaining.
After the RedHawks’ Colin Sullivan was assessed a minor for cross checking, Eyssimont sent a cross-ice pass to Jacob Benson, who ripped one off the post. The rebound popped into the air and hit the chest of teammate Blake Winiecki, who tapped the puck in to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead with 2:59 remaining.
Thirty-four seconds later, Benson was kicked out of the game for contact to the head of Meyer for an open-ice hit.
And Melnick took it from there.
An offensive-zone pass by Kiefer Sherwood hit a St. Cloud State skate and came back to Sherwood, who threaded a pass through traffic to a wide-open Melnick at the side of the net, and Melnick hammered it home to tie the score on a 6-on-4 with 56 seconds left in regulation.
At the 1:23 mark of overtime, Louis put a close-range shot on net, and the rebound popped out to Melnick, who made a quick toe drag before whipping the puck into the cage to win it.
It was the third straight win for Miami (6-8-5) following an 0-7-3 stretch, and the RedHawks are now unbeaten in their last four – their longest such span since last January.
They have gone to overtime in eight of their 19 contests, winning three and tying the other five.
Since its lowest point, Miami has climbed 11 spots in the PairWise rankings – used to determine NCAA Tournament seeding – to 29th, and while MU remains in seventh place in the NCHC, it is just two points behind Nebraska-Omaha and three back of SCSU with a chance to tie the Huskies with a win on Saturday.
Melnick has five points during his current three-game points streak (4-1-5) and has three multi-point games in his last six.
Louis finished with a goal and an assist, giving him points in four consecutive contests (2-3-5). He moved into solo control of 42nd place on Miami’s all-time points leaderboard with 110, passing former long-time NHLer Brian Savage.
Meyer has the longest points streak on the team at six games, going 3-5-8 since coming back from an illness. He has recorded a helper in four straight.
Ryan Larkin stopped 29 shots to earn the win for Miami.
These teams wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.