Colorado College and Miami have been the two least successful teams since the formation of the NCHC, but both are on upswings and could challenge for NCAA berths next spring as well as make runs at all-important home-ice seeds for the first round of the conference tournament.
The Tigers were 4-1-1 before their brutal start to the league schedule, as they dropped their first four NCHC games against St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth and are still looking for their first league win of 2018-19.
Meanwhile, Miami split both of its opening series in conference play and are looking to make an early move in the ultra-competitive NCHC.
BoB takes a look at the upcoming series between these teams:
WHO: No. 20 Miami RedHawks (8-4) at Colorado College Tigers (4-5-1).
WHERE: World Arena (7,380), Colorado Springs, Colo.
WHEN: Friday – 10:07 p.m.; Saturday – 8:07 p.m.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 9-7-2.
LAST SEASON HEAD-TO-HEAD: Colorado College, 2-1-1. Nov. 3 – Miami, 3-2, OT; Nov. 4 – Colorado College, 2-1; Jan. 26 – Colorado College, 6-3; Jan. 27 – Tie, 4-4.
COLORADO COLLEGE RADIO: Both nights – KRDO-FM (105.5 and 92.5) and KRDO-AM (1240), Colorado Springs, Colo.
MIAMI RADIO: Both nights – WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
TELEVISION: Friday – AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain (DirecTV Ch. 683, Dish Network Ch. 414).
NOTES: Colorado College opened NCHC play by facing the top two teams in Division I the past two weekends — St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth — and were outscored, 15-5 in four losses.
The Tigers have been well balanced in their scoring early this season, with eight skaters averaging at least half a point per game.
Ten forwards have recorded at least four points for Colorado College, with Nick Halloran and Trey Bradley tied for the team lead at nine.
Alex Berardinelli is tops in Tigers goals with five, including two shorthanded, and Westin Michaud has scored four times and added three assists.
Grant Cruikshank (2-4-6), Mason Bergh (0-5-5) and Chris Wilkie (3-2-5) round out Colorado College’s scoring leaders, although Wilkie has missed the last four games.
Freshman Bryan Yoon leads the team in defenseman points with five, including one goal, and Kristian Blumenschein has four assists.
Andrew Farny, Ben Israel, Zach Berzolla and Alex Pernitsky have been the other regulars on the blueline.
Alex Leclerc has logged nine games in net and will likely start both games this weekend. He has a 2.62 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
Amazingly, the Tigers have had 51 power play chances compared to 29 for their opponents and have scored 10 times on the man advantage as well as three shorthanded goals.
But Colorado College is just 72.4 percent on the penalty kill and has surrendered a pair of shorties.
Gordie Green has led the RedHawks by tallying 10 points in his last seven games, including five goals, and Josh Melnick has notched nine points in six games. Casey Gilling is 1-4-5 in his last five.
Miami is 7-for-26 (.269) on the power play the last seven games.
Two trends MU would like to reverse: The RedHawks have been outshot by an average of 14 SOG the last three games and have given up five third-period goals in that span.
A major penalty was a key reason Miami’s four-game winning streak ended on Saturday.
The No. 20 RedHawks led by two goals early but lost, 6-3 to Nebraska-Omaha in the series finale at Baxter Arena, partly due to three power play goals scored during a Mavericks five-minute man advantage.
Miami went up, 2-0 in the first period but allowed a Mavericks goal with 61 seconds left in the opening frame.
RedHawks captain Josh Melnick was given a major and game misconduct for spearing midway through the second period and UNO scored three times on the ensuing power play to give the team a lead which it would not relinquish.
It was the first win of the season for the Mavericks and the most goals against for the RedHawks in 2018-19.
RECAP: Miami (7-3) took the lead on a 5-on-3 when Melnick slid a lateral pass across the top of the faceoff circles, and Grant Hutton one-timed a rip past goalie Evan Weninger.
With one UNO (1-6-1) skater back, Hutton had a shot blocked, but the puck trickled to Phil Knies in the right faceoff circle, and he whipped one just under the crossbar to make it 2-0 a minute later.
But Taylor Ward batted home a bad-angle shot off a rebound from a point-blank Mason Morelli chance with 61 seconds left in the opening frame.
Melnick’s penalty put Miami down two men, and UNO’s Fredrik Olofsson roofed one from the right faceoff dot to tie it.
Kevin Conley scored from nearly the same spot on a partly-deflected pass 96 seconds later, giving the Mavericks their first lead of the weekend, 3-2.
Another 1:57 passed before Chayse Primeau one-timed a backdoor pass from Conley at the side of the cage, giving UNO a two-goal lead.
Miami cut its deficit to one when Gordie Green knocked home a long rebound from the inside edge of the faceoff circle less than two minutes into the final stanza.
But UNO’s Tristan Keck extended his team’s lead to two late in the third period, and Morelli netted his second of the night when he poked home a centering feed from behind the net.
STATS: Green scored for the fourth straight game and extended his points streak to five games.
He has five goals and five assists during his hot streak.
— Melnick has a four-game points streak (2-6-8), and Hutton and Jonathan Gruden both picked up points for the third straight contest.
— After a slow start on the power play, Miami has scored on the man advantage five straight games, going 6-for-19 in that span.
THOUGHTS: The elephant on the ice in this game is the Melnick penalty. The ensuing power play was obviously critical.
There was no replay on the UNO feed on NCHC.tv, so here’s what I think after going reviewing that segment of the game on the site:
— It appears Melnick rammed his stick between the legs of an UNO skater after the two battled for the puck along the boards for an extended time.
— The case could be made that said skater interfered with Melnick as he attempted to vacate the area.
— The NCAA is tightening up in certain areas, and while I’ve certainly witnessed way worse hits in recent years that have not been called, college hockey is now replaying nefarious incidents and is obviously not afraid to dish out majors.
— All that said, a minor was certainly warranted. Considering what we’ve seen called majors the first four weekends, it’s not out of line that Melnick received a major.
The upgrade was extremely costly to Miami, as the Mavericks scored twice in the final three power play minutes that wouldn’t have happened had the call been a minor. Those three goals flipped a 2-1 Miami lead to a 4-2 UNO advantage.
— The Mavericks had already tilted the ice in their direction heading into their scoring barrage, having trimmed the RedHawks’ lead to one after Miami jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and the penalty provided UNO the fuel to seize control of the game.
LINEUP CHANGES: Forwards Zach LaValle and Carter Johnson did not dress.
Christian Mohs and defenseman Andrew Sinard did, giving Miami seven defensemen.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This is the first disappointing loss of the season, not because UNO was winless but because Miami had the lead and let it get away.
To be fair, Nebraska-Omaha is definitely better than the 0-6-1 record it sported entering this contest, but good teams rarely lose when they take two-goal leads.
The series ends in a split and Miami finishes its first 10 games with a 7-3 record, and not to put words in anyone’s mouth but I’m guessing under the off-season circumstances the coaching staff is happy with a .700 winning percentage through the first weekend in November.
But the schedule gets a lot tougher the rest of the way, and the RedHawks can ill afford to have discipline lapses turn would-be wins into losses.
Miami’s ninth game of the season was its first true road contest, but the No. 20 RedHawks kept up their MO of winning by wide margins.
Gordie Green found the net twice as MU scored the final three goals in a 4-1 win vs. Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena on Friday, extending its winning streak to four games.
This was also the NCHC opener for the RedHawks (7-2), who played six of their first eight games this season in Oxford and the other two in Erie, Pa., in the Ice Breaker Tournament.
During their recent hot spell, the RedHawks have surrendered just three goals and none in the third period.
Miami goalie Ryan Larkin won his fifth straight game, stopping 19 of 20.
RECAP: Jonathan Gruden scored his first career goal when he skated behind the UNO net and shot it off the back of goalie Evan Weninger on the power play just 79 seconds into the game.
The Mavericks (0-6-1) tied it with a Taylor Ward goal on a tic-tac-toe passing play as he swept in a pass from the top of the crease with 2:53 remaining in the first period. That tally was also scored on the man advantage
Miami regained the lead 66 seconds later on a blue line blast by Grant Hutton that was deflected in by Brian Hawkinson for his first career goal.
With 5:27 left in the middle stanza, Gordie Green jarred the puck from an UNO defender in the Miami zone, and Scott Corbett seized it and fired a shot off the crossbar. The puck skipped through the top of the crease and Green batted it out of the air as it dribbled into the back of the cage.
Green picked up his second marker of the night with an emphatic rip into the empty net from the outside edge of the faceoff circle with 22 seconds to play after controlling a Josh Melnick two-line outlet pass.
STATS: The Green-Melnick combo on Miami’s top line continues to dominate, as Green extended his multi-point game streak to four and Melnick picked up multiple points for the third consecutive contest.
Green has scored in three straight games and is 4-5-9 during his points streak. Melnick has scored twice and earned five assists in his last three.
— Hawkinson also has points in three straight, including his first career goal in this one.
— Larkin has allowed just three goals during his five-game win streak and has stopped 123 of 126 shots in that span (.976).
— This was the fourth straight game in which Miami did not allow a third-period goal, and the RedHawks have given up just three in nine contests this season.
In 2017-18 they surrendered 46 tallies in 37 games after the second intermission, including a pair in overtime.
THOUGHTS: Miami, once again, played a full 60 minutes against a team they were supposed to beat, and the RedHawks won for the seventh time, with six of those wins coming by three or more goals.
In other words, they’re beating teams they should beat and doing so in decisive fashion.
This was both the first true road game and the inaugural league contest for Miami, which passed both tests with high grades.
And UNO may be winless but it is not a bad team, or at least the Mavericks didn’t play that poorly. Their shot total of 20 is somewhat deceiving because they generated a lot of chances.
A road win in this league, regardless of the opponent’s status, is a major accomplishment, and in this game Miami pulled out the victory on hostile ice and looked good doing so.
— Great job answering the tying UNO goal late in the first period goal by regaining the lead before intermission. That was the Hawkinson deflection on the Hutton blast and eventual game winner.
— Can’t say enough about how well Green is playing. He has nine points in four games and his defense is as good as his offense. He made his first goal happen with his forechecking, as he knocked the puck loose and scored on the rebound from Corbett’s ensuing shot.
— I’d been to all of the first eight games and this was the first one I’d seen on TV, but Derek Daschke looked even better on the tube than live. Twice a last-second desperation play prevented a slam-dunk goal, and he picked up two assists, giving him five points in his last four.
Daschke was probably even more amped to play against the school he was formerly committed to. Mentioned this last weekend but he continues to better every game.
— Prior to this game, only four Miami forwards had played every game but had not scored, and Hawkinson and Gruden both took their names off that list.
Gruden had been snakebitten, as the Ottawa Senators’ fourth rounder was expected to contribute right away.
Yet Hawkinson played three full USHL seasons – 164 games – and only scored 10 times with just 16 assists. Despite his lack of scoring in juniors Hawkinson has a 1-5-6 line in nine games with Miami.
Gruden has tons of raw talent and it should be fun to watch him develop, and Hawkinson has taken complete advantage of his opportunity in Miami’s lineup and has already become a regular on the penalty kill.
— Karch Bachman hit a post early and then a crossbar-and-post later in the game. He had three goals in the first four games this season and continues to get better in other aspects.
He is scoreless in five straight but has been pretty unlucky recently and it feels like he’s going to break out again soon.
— This game was broadcast nationally on one of the regional Fox Sports Channels, and UNO announcers Dave Ahlers and David Brisson did a fabulous job.
Both are very fair in their announcing – regularly complimenting Miami players for their play – and extremely knowledgeable.
Ahlers is a former AHL announcer and Brisson played briefly in the pros after graduating from UNO.
FORWARDS: A-. A well-played game by this entire corps, up and down the lines. Green was the standout with Melnick not far behind. Gruden still makes too many high-risk passes but hopefully this goal will vault his game another level.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. Especially liked Daschke’s play although he did turn one over for a near-goal. Rourke Russell also stood out, and watching from a higher vantagepoint it was easier to appreciate his geometrical smarts in his usage of the boards on defensive-zone passes.
GOALTENDING: A. The goal against was on a magnificent passing play that was basically a 2-on-oh at the top of the crease. Larkin is a key reason for Miami’s hot start and his rebound control is as good as it’s ever been since he came to Oxford.
LINEUP CHANGES: Only one: Up front, Carter Johnson was back in the lineup after sitting last Saturday. He has now played three straight series openers but has sat in consecutive finales.
He replaced Andrew Sinard, who was the seventh defenseman in Game 2 vs. Colgate last weekend.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Winless or not, UNO played pretty well and Miami was better.
The Mavericks hurt themselves with undisciplined penalties early and the RedHawks took advantage with a power play goal.
Omaha is obviously in a down year but this was still a quality win for Miami.
OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Larkin had one shutout in his freshman season and one more as a sophomore.
Six starts into 2018-19, the Miami junior has already blanked more opponents than in his first two years combined.
On Saturday, he recorded his third clean sheet of 2018-19, a 30-save effort in a 6-0 win over Colgate at Cady Arena that wrapped up a weekend sweep for the RedHawks.
It was the fourth straight win for Miami in the all-time series, as the RedHawks have outscored the Raiders, 18-2 during their winning streak vs. CU and 40-17 overall.
MU wrapped up its four-game homestand with three consecutive victories and is 5-1 on its home ice this season.
RECAP: Just 2:48 into the first period, Josh Melnick backhanded a pass to Gordie Green at the blue line, and Grant Hutton received a drop pass from Green, skated into the high slot and wired one home on the stick side on a 4-on-4.
It remained 1-0 until the 7:49 mark of the middle frame, when Green fed a pass to Melnick from the point to the side of the cage, where Melnick rammed in a bad-angle one-timer on the power play.
With 3:14 left in that period, a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle by Alec Mahalak handcuffed goalie Andrew Farrier, and Scott Corbett was there to knock in the rebound on the opposite side for his first career goal, making it 3-0.
Melnick and Green connected again, as Melnick threaded a pass through two defenders from the inside edge of the faceoff circle to a wide-open Green, who fired it into the vacant half of the net with five seconds left in a second period that saw MU score three times.
Midway through the final stanza, Casey Gilling fed a one-time pass to River Rymsha, who was crossing the blue line, and Rymsha found the top corner of the net as he stepped into a slap shot.
Hutton wrapped up the scoring as he eluded three defenders while carrying the puck from the blue line to the slot before backhanding one in to the stick side with 5:03 left in regulation.
STATS: Larkin leads all of Division I in shutouts with three. His save percentage of .966 is second in the NCAA and he is third in goals-against average (0.83).
His five career clean slates moves Larkin into a tie with Dan Kodatsky for seventh all-time on the Miami leaderboard.
Green finished with a goal and three assists for four points, the second-highest total of his career only to his five-point effort vs. Maine on Oct. 20, 2017.
It was his second three-assist game as a RedHawk.
Hutton ended the night with two goals and a helper, becoming the first skater to score twice or more in a game this season. It was his fifth career multi-goal game and the fourth time he has picked up three points.
Melnick also notched three points – the third time he has done so in a Miami sweater – on a goal and two assists.
Green has seven points in his last three games including six this weekend and Melnick picked up five points this series.
It was the third career multi-point game for Mahalak, who tallied two assists and wrapped up the series with three points.
Miami scored in all six periods this weekend and has goals in seven consecutive frames overall.
THOUGHTS: Miami played with maximum effort from the opening faceoff to the final horn, as the RedHawks were still bombarding the offensive zone in the closing minutes trying to add another score.
Too many times for too many years Miami has had trouble closing out wins, but at least for the first month of this season, the RedHawks have wielded a killer instinct late in games.
Colgate didn’t play poorly on Friday but fell behind early in this one and sort of threw in the proverbial towel the final 20-25 minutes on Saturday, and rather than sit back and play not to lose, Miami absolutely took it to the Raiders in the sixth period of the weekend, punishing them physically and on the scoreboard.
At this point, the RedHawks are better than Colgate. They aren’t 6-0 better though, but both teams got the outcomes they deserved: Miami didn’t let up the entire game and the Raiders did.
And good teams take advantage when that happens. That’s the difference between the first eight games of 2018-19 and their 110 contests the previous three seasons.
And that’s what makes this such a big win heading into NCHC play.
— Corbett returned to the Green-Melnick line and all three ended up finding the net. They combined for eight points (Green 1-3-4, Melnick 1-2-3, Corbett 1-0-1).
We heaped praise on this line for its play on Friday but it was even better in this game at both ends.
— This is as locked in as Larkin has been since coming to Oxford. In his last four starts he is 4-0 with a .981 save percentage, stopping 104 of 106 shots.
He’s second in the NCAA in save percentage at .966 only to a Lake Superior goalie whose last name is Mitens (how do you compete with that)?
And that’s been a big difference in Miami’s start: It’s virtually impossible to have a successful season when your team save percentage is .883 and your starter finishes at .886, which was the case in 2017-18.
Quality goaltending can help a decent team become a great one, and while there’s no way Larkin maintains his current save rate, he has the ability to steal wins for the RedHawks.
FORWARDS: A. The passing by this corps was so much crisper than in any other game this season. Yeah, Green and Melnick were studs, but their supporting cast was strong as well. Karch Bachman continues to generate chances with his speed. Gilling keeps winning key draws and impressing with his defense, plus he set up Rymsha’s goal. Sophs Ben Lown and Phil Knies continue to play above their size. Zach LaValle is earning playing time by stepping up. Corbett scored his first career goal and plays a high-energy, physical style. Etc., etc.
DEFENSEMEN: A. Hutton, Mahalak and Rymsha were the standouts among this group. This was Hutton’s best game at both ends, and probably the same could be said for Mahalak, who picked up two assists and earned some power play time. Rymsha’s goal was an absolute blast with pinpoint accuracy.
GOALTENDING: A+. About as perfect of a game as a goalie could play. He turned 30 shots aside and faced some Grade-A chances. He seemed more comfortable going side to side this weekend and gave up almost zero second chances.
LINEUP CHANGES: Corbett replaced Johnson, both on the first line and in the lineup, as Johnson was a scratch.
Defenseman Andrew Sinard dressed for the second time this season as Christian Mohs sat out.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Percentagewise, this equals Miami’s best start through eight games since 2010-11.
The locker room is much more unified than in recent seasons.
Goaltending has been phenomenal. Defense has been solid. The RedHawks are starting to score goals.
Even those in the stands are having a lot more fun, and hopefully more will show up as we enter the cold-weather months and super-skilled league opponents come to town.
Miami has a lot going for it, but the RedHawks also haven’t played a true road game yet, suiting up for six at home and two on neutral ice. They also haven’t started league play.
MU will tackle both of those obstacles next week in its NCHC-opening series at Omaha.
Maybe Miami, picked to finish last in the conference, ends up being the biggest surprise in the NCAA. Maybe the RedHawks do struggle in league play as was predicted.
But if they keep up the kind of effort they put forth this weekend, the dividends will eventually come for this program.
At least by playing the game the right way the foundation is now being laid for future success.
OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Larkin extended his personal winning streak to three games for the third time in his career, and he stopped 12 shots in the third period – including several high-percentage chances – to preserve the win.
He finished with 28 saves as Miami beat Colgate, 4-1 at Cady Arena on Friday. In his last three outings, Larkin has turned aside 74 of 76 shots or 97.4 percent.
The RedHawks (5-2) improved to three games over the .500 mark for the first time since the end of the 2015 season.
Miami scored twice before the Raiders generated their first marker, and the RedHawks closed the win out with two more unanswered goals.
MU has won three straight meetings vs. Colgate (2-2) – all at Cady Arena – outscoring the Raiders, 12-2 in that span.
RECAP: Fourteen minutes into the first period, Derek Daschke centered a pass to Gordie Green, who juked before whipping a shot home on the forehand from the slot to open the scoring for the RedHawks.
Miami extended its lead to two when Phil Knies snuck home a short-side wrist shot from the left wing 96 seconds into the middle stanza.
Colgate’s Josh McKechney netted his first goal of the season with 7:35 left in the second period with one second left on a Raiders power play, cutting their deficit to one.
But Miami reestablished a two-goal lead six minutes later when Alec Mahalak sprung Josh Melnick loose up the middle, and Melnick eluded two defenders, penetrated the zone and ripped one over Mitch Benson’s blocker from the high slot.
Zach LaValle capped off the scoring for the RedHawks, as he corralled a puck on the left faceoff dot, maneuvered it to the sweet spot and wired one top shelf just inside the near crossbar with 6:19 left in regulation.
STATS: Green and Melnick finished with a goal and an assist each. It was the second tally of the season for both.
Knies’ goal was also No. 2 of this campaign, and it was the first for LaValle, his first since March 10, 2017.
Daschke picked up a career-high two helpers. He and River Rymsha ended the night a team-best plus-2.
THOUGHTS: Miami actually started the night a little soft on defense, allowing multiple quality chances early, but overall the team played well all night.
The final score is a tribute to the RedHawks’ effort and execution, as Colgate was better than 4-1 indicates.
Fortunately for Miami, Larkin was on form from the opening whistle, as he had to turn aside five shots in the first few minutes.
Even when Colgate pulled to within one, it never felt like the game was in doubt, and Melnick’s pure-effort goal made it 3-1 and really seemed to deflate the Raiders.
— This was Green’s best game of the early season, and he and Melnick showed off their chemistry in this one.
And they did so with Carter Johnson as their third, as he moved onto that line with Scott Corbett scratched.
Miami’s early-season success had come without huge offensive contributions from the Melnick-Green tandem, but they were a force in this win.
— Derek Daschke has seemed to get better every game. His first assist was on a high-precision feed to Green in the slot, and he also picked up a secondary helper on Knies’ marker.
— Monte Graham’s faceoff percentage is north of .700 – which is insanely high – and he won a draw in the third period that went right to LaValle, who loaded up for Miami’s fourth goal.
Graham was 4-0 in the circle.
FORWARDS: B+. Melnick and Green (Grelnick?) were stars 1 and 1a among this corps. Knies and LaValle both found the net on well-located shots. Brian Hawkinson played his grinder role and provided energy. Ryan Siroky was his physical self and played solid defensively. Christian Mohs – limited to nine games last season after knee surgery the previous year – looked a step better than in previous games, especially early.
DEFENSEMEN: B-. A little sloppy early but solid enough overall. Daschke was the standout in this group, both with his passing and his shut-down play as his stock continues to rise. Rourke Russell also seems to be in a constant state of improvement as he seems to be gaining confidence every night. River Rymsha has been a pleasant surprise as he impresses with his two-way play and hockey IQ.
GOALTENDING: A. Couldn’t see the Colgate goal live and there is no clear replay, so no idea if Larkin had a chance on it, but either way he made some excellent stops early and turned 28 shots aside overall. A strength of his as a freshman was his rebound control, and once again in 2018-19 opponents are rarely getting second chances vs. Miami with him on net. The Raiders created quality chances throughout but Larkin was having no part of it.
LINEUP CHANGES: Corbett was a head-scratching scratch up front, as Johnson was not only back on the lineup card but moved to the top line with Green and Melnick. The move didn’t seem to affect the duo, as each went 1-1-2.
Mohs was also back in the lineup, dressing for the fourth time this season.
Grant Frederic did not play after skating in the finale vs. UMass-Lowell.
FINAL THOUGHTS: True, Miami hasn’t played an NCHC contest yet, and this hasn’t been as a brutal of a non-conference schedule as in 2017-18 but considering the RedHawks’ off-season, 5-2 is a solid start.
Miami should’ve beaten Colgate and it did. Same with Alabama-Huntsville, same with Mercyhurst.
Sounds axiomatic, but at times in recent seasons the RedHawks have underachieved against lesser-skilled opponents.
And this is another example of Miami not only getting into the win column but leaving little doubt late.
In this game plus the three others vs. UAH and Mercyhurst, the RedHawks have scored five times in the third period. MU’s lead after 40 minutes has been at least two in all four of those contests.
That means Miami is establishing the lead in the opening two periods and pulling away late.
Will the RedHawks be able to keep that MO against its league foes, all of which will be better than Colgate?
We’ll see, but winning these October non-conference games in decisive fashion has to give the RedHawks confidence heading into NCHC play.
OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Larkin’s 2018-19 debut was worth the one-day wait.
The junior stopped all 11 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over Alabama-Huntsville at Cady Arena on Sunday, earning his third career shutout.
Jordan Uhelski, expected to back up Larkin, started and won on Saturday while Larkin did not dress.
The win completes a series sweep for the RedHawks (2-0), who have won their first two games for the first time since 2013-14.
RECAP: The game was scoreless through the first period, but Brian Hawkinson teed up River Rymsha with a pass across the blue line, and Rymsha buried it just inside the post 5:39 into the second frame.
Less than three minutes later, a blast by Alec Mahalak tricked off the glove of goalie Mark Sinclair, and Karch Bachman was there to slam home the rebound.
Early in the third period, Josh Melnick whipped a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle that beat Sinclair. With 6:14 left in regulation, Ryan Siroky was denied on his initial attempt at the side of the net but batted one into the air, off Sinclair’s back and into the net.
STATS: Rymsha and Hawkinson led Miami with two points apiece. Rymsha scored once and set up another and Hawkinson earned a pair of helpers.
Larkin’s last shutout was Oct. 27, 2017 vs. Connecticut. All of his perfect sheets have been in October and at home.
Miami was 37-15 on faceoffs for a .714 win percentage. Casey Gilling was 14-3 on draws and Melnick 13-3 in the circle.
How about a strange one: Grant Hutton was the lone MU defenseman without a shot. The others combined for 15.
THOUGHTS: The first period was slow but once Rymsha’s shot went in, Miami dominated the balance of the game.
When it came to 50/50 pucks, the RedHawks won almost every physical battle and not only were faster but outhustled UAH as well.
By the third period the Chargers (0-2) were a beaten team. The final shot totals reflect that: 45 Miami, 11 UAH.
— Let’s give one of the stars of the game to the facility. This was a 3 p.m. game when the temperature is about its highest, and it was 90 degrees out for opening faceoff.
The ice certainly wasn’t January-Edmonton-in-the-1990s-caliber but it held in the near-record heat.
— Alabama-Huntsville captain Kurt Gosselin, who was booted for his hit on Carter Johnson in the opener, was absent from Sunday’s lineup. It’s unclear if the team or an outside entity made that call.
He should miss multiple games for that hit. It’s everything hockey is trying to take out of its game for the long-term well being of its players.
— Not to bore about a non-sexy subject, but Miami’s faceoff success is an area in which it has struggled for several years.
Gilling has been key in this realm since Day 1 and isn’t afraid to voice concerns to officials when he thinks draws are unfair.
Melnick’s numbers are outstanding early, as are those of Monte Graham, who won a team-best 11 draws on Saturday.
— While the 2-0 start is exciting, Miami has been above .500 early each of the four recent seasons in which it has finished below that mark.
The RedHawks started 2013-14 at 6-2-1, were 3-1-1 to open 2015-16, 3-1-2 in their first six of 2016-17 and reached 4-3 last season before their descent.
Miami’s problem in recent unsuccessful campaigns has been earning wins in those cold-weather months.
FORWARDS: A. This was a solid effort by all. We saw some suspect passing on Saturday but this corps seemed to tighten that up in that game. Loved Siroky’s combination of persistence and athleticism on his goal. Thought Gruden was much better in this game than in the opener. Thought Bachman was as much as force as in the opener. In the second period he stole the puck and nearly scored despite having a defender draped on his during a shorthanded chance. As mentioned, MU dominated on faceoffs.
DEFENSEMEN: A. This corps actually outshot the opposition, firing 15 shots while the entire UAH team managed just 11. None of those chances were Grade-A. Rymsha went 1-1-2 including the first goal and eventual game winner, Hutton and Mahalak picked up assists. Granted UAH lacks a lot of elite offensive talent but Miami’s D-corps shut the Chargers down in this game.
GOALTENDING: A. Hard to slight Larkin for not facing a difficult shot. He was perfect, albeit on 11 non-high-quality chances. This has to be a confidence boost for Larkin after last season when he posted an .886 save percentage.
LINEUP CHANGES: Two key ones: Larkin started in net after Jordan Uhelski earned the win in the opener, and Carter Johnson was out up front after getting cheap-shotted on Saturday.
Zach LaValle also sat among the forward corps, and Noah Jordan and Christian Mohs took the ice in their place.
Coach Enrico Blasi stuck with his starting six on D for Game 2, which is even more interesting because it was 20 hours between starts instead of the normal 23:30, and often a coach will go with a rested player in such a situation, but Andrew Sinard, Grant Frederic and Chaz Switzer all sat out for the second straight night.
UP NEXT: Miami will play in Pennsylvania for the first time since Robert Morris hosted the RedHawks six years ago at the Penguins’ home rink.
MU faces Providence at 4 p.m. on Friday, and if it wins will face the Notre Dame-Mercyhurst winner in the championship at 7:35 p.m. on Saturday but would play in the consolation vs. the loser of the other game at 4 p.m. Saturday. All games will be played at Erie Insurance Arena, home of the OHL Erie Otters.
In late 2012, MU took second in Pittsburgh, beating Ohio State before losing to the hometown host. Both scores were 1-0.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This weekend will provide a much better indication of where Miami is in early-to-mid October.
A strong showing could earn the RedHawks some much-needed respect into a four-game homestand.
At least against UAH, the forwards, defensemen and goalies were all superior. Much tougher test against this weekend’s foes.
OUT (6): Conor Lemirande (graduated), Kiefer Sherwood (turned pro), Carson Meyer (transferred), Austin Alger, Alex Alger, Willie Knierim.
IN (5): Jonathan Gruden, Noah Jordan, Monte Graham, Brian Hawkinson, Scott Corbett.
RETURNING (10): Srs. – Josh Melnick, Ryan Siroky, Zach Lavalle; Jrs. – Gordie Green, Karch Bachman, Carter Johnson; Sos. – Casey Gilling, Ben Lown, Phil Knies, Christian Mohs.
NOTES: Gordie Green hit his stride midway through his freshman year and has gotten better seemingly every game since, as he led the team in goals (15) and points (33) as a sophomore.
Newly-named captain Josh Melnick makes everyone around him better and finished with nine goals and a team best-tying 21 assists for 30 points in 2017-18.
Phil Knies was last season’s freshman goals leader with 11, including six in a four-game road trip in January, he finished with 20 points, and fellow college rookie Casey Gilling added 19 and was one of the team’s best in the faceoff circle.
Ben Lown (4-11-15) was the other significant contributing freshman up front.
Speedster Karch Bachman nearly tripled his rookie points output, posting 16 points including seven goals after earning six as a freshman. The Florida Panthers draft pick netted three goals the final four games.
Senior Ryan Siroky is the only other returning regular starter from last season. He dressed for 33 games and was of the team’s best hitters and played solid defense, contributing two goals and a pair of assists.
Zach Lavalle, Carter Johnson and Christian Mohs logged a combined 46 games, and Johnson locked down a lineup spot the second half of the season with his energetic play.
Not counting Johnson, that’s only seven every-night forwards back, meaning five other slots would be open each night. Even if all 10 veterans start that leaves two openings for newcomers.
“If you look at those guys, they took huge strides last year, especially toward the end,” Melnick said. Obviously those guys have to step into bigger roles now, and I think they’re ready for that. It’s easy for me to say they’ve been really good this preseason, but it’s 100 percent true. Also, the guys that are coming in are really exciting – you’ve got some really skilled and dynamic players all throughout the forward lineup.”
Of the freshmen, Jonathan Gruden is a near certainty to claim one of those lineup spots. Playing for the U.S. National Team the past two seasons, the Ottawa Senators’ fourth-round pick rolled up 34 points in 25 games vs. USHL competition last season as a 17-year-old while going plus-28.
Monte Graham has serious NHL pedigree, as he is the cousin of Wild center Charlie Coyle and former NHL forward Tony Amonte. A New Englander, the former Boston College commit boast plenty of juniors experience, as he has played two full USHL seasons.
Noah Jordan is 6-feet-5 and skated for North York in Ontario Juniors last season. He scored 18 goals in 2017-18, and the Toronto-area native led his team in playoff points.
Brian Hawkinson has three seasons of USHL experience and is known for his grit and leadership. He was the captain for Tri-City in 2017-18, where he notched 16 points.
Scott Corbett is another Carmel, Ind., product, the same hometown as former defensemen Cameron Schilling and Grant Hutton. He is known as more of a playmaker and has good size at 6-1 and 187.
“I think we’ve got like guys that are (solid), guys that need to take another step in terms of their production, and then we’ve got some guys that understand they’re playing a certain role, and they have to perform,” Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said. “I like the depth we have, it’s going to be a struggle each weekend to see who’s going to play, and that’s a good thing – that breeds competition in practice, and everybody has to elevate their game.”
Though Miami was below average offensively last season, the RedHawks finished ninth in Division I on the power play (23.2 percent).
Then again, MU’s defensive duo accounted for 13 of those 35 PPGs and managed just two markers in last season’s final 11 games on the man-advantage.
Depth was an issue among centers and wings, as only eight forwards were able to generate seven or more points last season.
“When we came here in the summer just to work on stuff, we actually started to get a lot better then,” Melnick said.
Since 2014-15, Miami has won just 36 games, its lowest three-season total since 1989-92.
As a result, the RedHawks parted ways with two assistants and 11 players this off-season and they hope the influx of new talent – both on the ice and the bench – will vault them to more victories.
With all of the moving parts within the program, game-action anticipation has never been greater. Fortunately for the RedHawks, opening night is Saturday vs. Alabama-Huntsville.
“I think you’re always excited to start a new season,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “But I think with the last five months the way they played out, just focusing on games and getting better as a team and moving forward, I think everyone’s excited, I’m excited, we’re ready to go.”
Peter Mannino was hired as associate head coach at the end of March, and Joel Beal was named assistant in June.
Mannino, a former NHL goalie and NCAA Tournament champ with Denver, was an assistant at in-conference rival Nebraska-Omaha last season after winning a Clark Cup as the assistant of the USHL’s Chicago Steel.
Beal was an assistant at Sacred Heart the past five seasons and an associate head coach since 2016, and on the ice he starred at Union in the early 2000s.
“Peter is very outgoing, energetic, very positive, kind of throws a lot of things at you and makes you think about 10, 15 things at once, and Bealer is very systematic, very cerebral, thinks about things, makes sure that we’re not missing anything,” Blasi said. “Both are very positive – Bealer’s a very positive guy – both are hardworking guys, trustworthy guys you can count on. That’s what you want in a staff and that’s what you want out there recruiting for your program. The dynamics of the three of us – we all bring something different to the table and yet…we mesh together. With both of them, my conversations were very similar in the fact that I felt like we could connect right away and build from there. And I think we see the game the same way, I think we see the type of team we want to be, where the game is going, the way we want to develop our players and inspire our players and the process in which to do it. Those are all things that will continue to grow as we go through the days, and the games, and the practices, but we get along really well.”
Senior co-captain Josh Melnick said the energy the duo has brought to the program has been contagious.
“They’re obviously two younger guys and they bring sort of a different perspective to the locker room,” Melnick said. “As a whole, they’ve settled in really well, and I think they’re getting a good feeling of what our program’s about and also helping re-establish the things that we want to work on to get the program back to where it was in the past.”
Miami’s roster, which was not completed until late July, features five new forwards, four on defense and two in net. Two of the 11 are graduate students completing their fourth years of hockey eligibility.
“I think we’ve brought in some guys that will know their role – they were recruited to it,” Blasi said. “I think they’re a little bit older, we’ve got some Clark Cup championship-caliber players who have been through it, understand how to win a championship, guys that have been captains on their teams, and we have one (Jonathan Gruden) that played on the U.S. Development Team, played in the Worlds, and played with (the forward) that’s probably going to be the first overall pick in this (2019’s) NHL draft (Jack Hughes) and played on the same line with him. These are all positive things, and then you add two postgrads to the new faces, and we’ve got guys that are real positive and a tight freshman group.”
Both Melnick and defenseman fellow co-captain Grant Hutton love what they’ve seen from the newest Hawks.
“I think it’s everything we’ve expected and more,” Hutton said. “A lot of these guys are a lot of key, role players that know they’re here for a reason. You see it a lot in college hockey where guys may be goal scorers or big points guys in juniors or whatever it may be, and they get to college and they’re kind of shell-shocked. Gruden is our only true freshman at 18 years old and a lot of older guys that are coming in are mature, and I think that’s the biggest thing. Usually you talk about college hockey being a place where players have the opportunity to mature and develop, but it’s a huge plus when you get players that come in and have some of that maturity, some of that development. We’re pretty lucky with the group we have coming in, and I think it adds more excitement.”
Said Melnick: “They all assimilated right into things quickly – they’re all great people off the ice, and I think a lot of the reason we have high energy is because those guys have a lot of energy. They came here ready to work, and they know what the program stands for and what it’s been like in the past, and they’re ready to help get it back to that point.”
During the summer before the new players arrived, the returning players reached out to the freshman class to welcome them to the program, Melnick said.
The off-season didn’t start well for Miami. Within days of the RedHawks’ final game, it was announced that assistant coaches Brent Brekke and Nick Petraglia would not return as well as four players.
Two other prominent forwards also left the team early in the off-season, with one turning pro and the other transferring.
That’s on top of Miami not qualifying for the NCAA Tournament or even making it out of the NCHC quarterfinal round for the third straight season after qualifying for 10 of the previous 12 national championships.
“This is something that, I don’t look at this as a job, this is my life,” Blasi said. “When your life isn’t going the way you think it should go in terms of guys not playing up to their capabilities or even some of the things I might’ve done in the last couple of years that were wrong decisions. You assess, you evaluate, you try to be better – we all have opportunities to be better every day, we’re no different and I’m no different – and if I told you I wasn’t frustrated or disappointed in certain occasions, I’d be lying to you. But I can also tell you that I’m very proud of some of the things that have happened in the past couple of years. I believe in my heart that these are necessary steps that need to happen to move forward and become better. When we built the program, we went through some tough times, but nobody talks about those because nobody remembers those, everybody just remembers the wins and the Frozen Fours and the championships. I can tell you there were times where we had the same frustrations, the same disappointments, but they were necessary disappointments and necessary things that we needed to get through to get to the next level, and that’s what we’re going to do right now.”
Some positive things happened this off-season well. Multiple prior Omaha recruits switched to Miami following Mannino’s hiring, including defenseman Derek Daschke.
“Obviously at first it was a little difficult with having to (deal with) some difficult situations, to be honest with you,” Blasi said. “Once we started to kind of shape our team around the guys we have coming back, finishing off the recruiting and finishing off the staff, and getting together as a staff and kind of formulating our plan and getting to know each other on a different level, and then obviously have our team come back and work with them and kind of creating their identity. It’s been a lot of fun. ‘Reenergize’ is a work that we’ve been using a lot lately.”
And both Melnick and Hutton, both seniors and destined for lucrative professional careers, announced they were returning this fall.
“I give Hudson, Melly a lot of credit, them and the senior class – Lavs (Zach Lavalle) and (Ryan) Siroky – that helped shaped the spring and the summer to make sure when these new guys came in, that our program was in a good place and we were going to hit the ground running.”
Miami played some quality hockey down the stretch last season, and Blasi said his team will seize that momentum and carry it into this campaign.
“Those are some of the things we were really proud of,” Blasi said. “To stick with it and to keep fighting, that’s a character trait that you can’t teach. And that’s something that’s in our locker room, that’s something that’s in our culture. I was very, very proud of the team and the way they played. Now, do we want to win at the end? Of course. Everybody does. But at the same time, you have to take a step back and assess the situation, and I believe that how we played was really important for the guys coming back in the spring and the summer and for our recruits, to say hey, we’re not that far off. We just need to maybe work a little harder, improve one or two percent. If everybody can do that, then we have something. When you’re in the moment, it doesn’t seem like it, and I know it probably doesn’t seem like it to the general fan – and we have great fans and great supporters, some of which have expressed their support and some of them haven’t, and that’s OK too – but when you take a step back and you see all the developments that have happened over the past couple of years, I think you’ll look back and say, hey, maybe if we didn’t go through that we don’t get to that next level.”
He pointed out that Miami was ranked as high as No. 14 in the PairWise after its big January home win over powerhouse Denver.
“It just shows that we have a group that isn’t rolling over, we’re not going to quit,” Hutton said. “We’re here because we want to be here, we’re here because we love each other, we love Miami, and we want to be the best possible hockey team that we can be every single night and ultimately reach our goal of bringing a championship back to Oxford.”
Blasi said that he, as well as both assistants, have been actively involved in recruiting this off-season and has hit the road with one or both on several occasions as Miami tries to fortify its roster for the coming years.
“I think the culture of the program is still very strong in terms of what we believe in and the way we do our business from day to day,” Blasi said. “We may tweak some things here and there but I think The Brotherhood and the family and the relationships and the process is still something that we still focus on, it’s still all about developing these young men to play at the next level or develop them to be better people on a day-to-day perspective. But at the end of the day, recruiting is your bloodline – that’s never going to change – and so recruiting is very important, and our team is very important. We have to make sure we’re focused on both equally and we’re doing what we need to do to help these men that we have get to the next level and win games and play at a high level, maybe reach levels that they thought they couldn’t reach. That’s part of what we do as coaches is inspire them and push them in a good way to make them play better than even they think they can.”
Though the season doesn’t start until Saturday, Melnick he noticed a marked difference in the locker room already.
“A lot of the times when people ask what’s most exciting about this year and what’s different, I think it’s the energy, and it’s just coming from everyone,” Melnick said. “It’s honestly kind of crazy to be around, because everybody’s so positive and confident and we just can’t wait to get out there.”
Check back for a positional breakdown of the RedHawks.
It’s been the most eventful off-season in Miami hockey history, and four months still remain until the puck drops in 2018-19.
Starting just days after the RedHawks’ NCHC opening-round tournament loss at St. Cloud, a nearly non-stop flow of news has hit the internet.
A quick timeline:
March 11 – Miami’s best-of-3 first-round NCHC series at St. Cloud ends with an overtime loss. The RedHawks took the Huskies to Game 3 and led the finale, 3-1 but ultimately fell, 4-3 in the extra session.
March 16 – Stories surfaced that both assistant coaches, Nick Petraglia and Brent Brekke, were relieved of duties. One report added that four players from 2017-18 would not be back as well, which turned out to be true.
March 20 – Junior Kiefer Sherwood turns pro, signing with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks after playing three seasons and recording 86 points in Oxford.
March 29 – Peter Mannino, an assistant at Nebraska-Omaha, was named to Brent Brekke’s vacated associate head coach position. He was an NCAA title-winning goalie for Denver and played briefly in the NHL, and he was a head coach in the USHL before taking his post with the Mavericks.
May 22 – The Athletic reports that sophomore and Columbus Blue Jackets draftee Carson Meyer is leaving Miami after two seasons. That makes six players to leave the team since the end of the season.
May 31 – Seniors-to-be Grant Hutton and Josh Melnick go on record stating they will return this fall. Melnick has 81 points in three years at Miami, and Hutton scored 13 goals in 2017-18, the most by a RedHawks defenseman in a quarter century.
Also in the past week – Miami’s 2018-19 preliminary roster was posted on its site without any freshmen listed. Absent were Willie Knierim, Alex Alger, Austin Alger and Bryce Hatton.
June 2 – Sacred Heart assistant Joel Beal is named to Petraglia’s vacated spot. That rounds out the coaching staff. He was a solid player at Union and coached there as an assistant for two seasons before joining the Sacred Heart staff. That team has improved significantly in his five seasons on its bench, and he was promoted to associate head coach.
June 7 – Petraglia was named the director of external relations. As expected, the former RedHawks goalie and MU graduate was retained within the athletic department.
Now that we’re caught up, let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these events.
MIAMI FALLS TO ST. CLOUD – Not a shocker here, as the RedHawks were an eight seed and St. Cloud was No. 1, with all three games played in Minnesota. Miami played solid hockey in this set but as has happened so many times in recent years, it could not hold a two-goal lead in Game 3. The RedHawks gave up a late second-period goal, the tying marker with six minutes left in the third period and of course the series-clincher in OT.
That capped off Miami’s third straight losing season and its fourth in five years. Prior to that, the RedHawks had not posted a sub-.500 record since 2004-05.
Which led to this…
BREKKE, PETRAGLIA OUT – It’s an unfortunate part of the game, but this is a business and sometimes the most decent, passionate and hard-working people can’t translate those attributes into wins, and both coaches were casualties as a result.
Sub-par recruiting was a major reason for their departure. Brekke had been a Miami assistant for 10 seasons, Petraglia eight, and those two were exclusively responsible for bringing talent to Oxford.
Since the players that both coaches inherited graduated and Miami’s on-ice talent has been solely their responsibility, the quantity of highly-talented skaters and goalies in Oxford has dwindled.
On Thursday, Petraglia was named the director of external relations. Brekke was recently offered the Alaska-Fairbanks job and turned it down.
SHERWOOD TURNS PRO: This was somewhat surprising because Sherwood took a step back the first half of the season and appeared to need that fourth season in Oxford to prepare for his pro career.
Overall in 2017-18, he seemed less pro-ready than classmates Grant Hutton and Josh Melnick – both of whom recently announced they would be back – but it sounds like Sherwood had surgery prior to last season and that contributed to his slow start.
That deeply-personal decision is extremely difficult and different for everyone, and BoB wishes Sherwood nothing but the best in the pros. He scored twice in 11 games with AHL San Diego.
For a Miami team that finished seventh in the eight-team NCHC in scoring last season, that’s a major offensive cog that will be missing from its lineup.
MANNINO NAMED ASSISTANT: The former netminder won an NCAA title in Denver and led Calder Cup playoff runs with Chicago and Wilkes-Barre in the AHL. He logged six NHL games with Atlanta, Winnipeg and the New York Islanders.
He clearly has the playing experience and he knows the NCHC, both from playing against most its current teams with Denver and more recently by coaching at UNO.
Mannino should understand the type of players it takes to win in this league, and he will be a primary recruiter for the RedHawks, who have recently struggled in this area.
For what it’s worth, BoB has heard nothing but praise for Mannino in his brief stint with the team, but that’s pretty standard when a team that has struggled brings in a fresh face.
But because he’s inheriting an entire team he did not recruit, it will take time to see the effects of a Mannino-recruited team.
F Matej Pekar, a Czech player previously committed to UNO, has since switched allegiances to Miami, and he is expected to join the RedHawks this fall.
Two more players could defect from the Mavericks and follow Mannino to Oxford as soon as this fall.
TEDDYGATE: Making an already-eventful off-season a lot more bizarre is the saga of Carson Meyer, who discharged a 25-inch tapeworm, which is believed to be the cause for his struggles the past season and a half.
Meyer lit it up the first half of his freshman year but missed a handful of games down the stretch of 2016-17 due to what was believed to be mononucleosis. He did not improve last season, and in May, The Athletic broke the story that “Teddy” had exited Meyer.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, Meyer also announced that he was exiting Oxford in favor of his hometown Ohio State.
Meyer indirectly blamed the coaching staff for its handling of his situation, which was more bad pub the team didn’t need in an already tumultuous spring.
That’s one more forward out of an already-decimated corps for 2018-19.
It’s a horrible situation for Meyer, who has been a shell of himself for a season and a half and will almost certainly have to redshirt in 2018-19.
BoB mirrors the Miami coaching staff in wishing Meyer nothing but the best in his hockey career moving forward.
HUTTON, MELNICK RETURNING: The worst part of the off-season for the college hockey fan is the waiting. At any point from the final horn of a campaign’s last game to the puck drop the following fall, a player could bolt for the pros.
That chance was elevated for standouts Hutton and Melnick in recent months after watching their roster from 2017-18 disintegrate. Both are pro-ready and both will be entering their senior seasons for a Miami team that will likely be picked to finish near the bottom of the league standings.
For everything that hasn’t gone right for the RedHawks this off-season, having two of your studs publicly tell your fanbase they are coming back – and doing so while inserting some much-needed positive comments about the program – couldn’t have come at a better time.
And Hutton and Melnick aren’t just outstanding players, they’re leaders. They’ll be co-captains this season. And they’re class acts.
THE ABRIDGED ROSTER? Miami recently posted its 2018-19 roster with no freshmen and just 15 skaters and four goalies, so obviously it will be updated.
In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at the RedHawks’ pipeline and who we can expect to see in uniform this fall.
COACHING STAFF COMPLETE – Miami has little history with Union and Sacred Heart, so it’s unclear if there was any previous relationship between Beal and the RedHawks.
It’s only fair to note that the Pioneers took a step back this past season, finishing with their lowest win percentage since 2013-14, and .421 has been the team’s winning percentage high-water mark with Beal in his role.
But Sacred Heart won just 14 games total in the three seasons before his arrival.
PETRAGLIA REASSIGNED – Petraglia exudes positive energy. If he’s bummed during a losing streak he never shows it.
So he will be a face of Miami athletics to the Blue Line Club and alumni among others and serve as a fundraiser. No doubt he will thrive in his new position.
OXFORD, Ohio – On Friday, Miami battled back from three down to win.
One night later, No. 12 North Dakota was the team overcoming a multiple-goal deficit.
But unlike the RedHawks, the Fighting Hawks were only able to salvage a tie after evening the score on a pair of third-period goals for a 2-2 draw at Cady Arena on Saturday.
Miami (11-17-4) earned the extra point in 3-on-3 play after the game was officially ruled a tie, giving the RedHawks five of a possible six points on the weekend.
Despite the strong showing this weekend, Miami clinched last place in the NCHC. Three teams are tied for fifth, six points ahead of the RedHawks. All have two regular season games remaining.
So it is possible for MU to tie at least one of those three, but Miami cannot win a tiebreaker against any of them.
After the completion of this game, St. Cloud clinched the conference title, so the RedHawks will travel there for their first-round NCHC Tournament series in two weeks.
RECAP: The teams were scoreless after the first period, but Miami’s Josh Melnick gave Miami the lead when he stole a puck at his defensive blue line and skated in for a breakaway, pounding the puck into the pads of North Dakota goalie Cam Johnson.
At first it appeared Johnson had made the save, but the referee by the net ruled it a goal, a shorthanded tally at the 4:23 mark of the middle stanza.
The RedHawks made it 2-0 just 26 seconds into the third period when Carter Johnson slid a pass through the slot that Kiefer Sherwood rifled home.
But at the 4:20 mark of the final frame, a shot by the Fighting Hawks’ Hayden Shaw from a bad angle hit the glove of Miami goalie Ryan Larkin and trickled in.
Exactly three minutes later, UND’s Nick Jones redirected a blue-line shot by Colton Poolman to tie the score.
After five minutes of 5-on-5 overtime, Sherwood found the net in the 3-on-3 to give Miami the extra league point.
STATS: It was the ninth goal of the season for Melnick, and Sherwood scored his seventh. Melnick led Miami with three points on the weekend.
— It was just the second time in 14 games the RedHawks allowed fewer than two goals.
— Make that six straight games with neither a power-play nor a first-period tally.
— And Miami still hasn’t won a Saturday game since Nov. 18.
— Both Melnick and Louie Belpedio reached 80 career points this weekend. Melnick has 27 goals and 53 assists, while Belpedio has scored 25 times and dished out 55 assists. Belpedio is a senior while Melnick is a junior.
That duo is tied for the team lead in active career points, and Sherwood is two back with 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points. He’s also a junior.
THOUGHTS: Torn again.
Happy with a 1-0-1 weekend against North Dakota? Of course. Is Jack Johnson still hated in Oxford?
For the most part it was a very well-played series by Miami in a down year against a national power.
Cady Arena was rocking and these were two extremely entertaining games to watch.
But it’s hard to be happy about yet another third-period collapse. Winning the 3-on-3 skills competition point does nothing to assuage that.
When the final chapter is written about RedHawks Version 2017-18, near the top of the list of what went wrong this regular season will be the inability to close out games.
And this has been a problem for a number of years.
Miami has shown glimpses of excellence this season, but it cannot afford to continue flipping wins to ties and losses.
— Not happy with the penalties in this game on multiple fronts. Karch Bachman was taken down in the second period by a player also committing interference and possible a felony or two and there was no call.
A too-many-men call was missed. Miami had one power play, North Dakota (14-11-9) three including a major. That’s a night after concurrent minors against the RedHawks resulted in the Fighting Hawks’ second goal on Friday.
Penalty minutes were 19-2 on Saturday.
— That said, Rourke Russell’s minor penalty was undisciplined, and Carson Meyer’s major was deserved.
Russell had just turned the puck over and took a blatant chop at the steal-ee. Meyer saw numbers on the back of jersey and barreled into his guy anyway.
That’s a major in the NCAA.
— Speaking of the Meyer hit, someone decided to make that the hit of the game on the scoreboard at Cady Arena. A dangerous hit from behind. A major penalty and ejection.
Wise up, Cady staff.
— Miami looked extremely tired in the third period. Second game in two nights, of course, but that’s true of every team in college hockey in the third period every Saturday.
It was unusually humid and warm for this area in February, but again, both teams had to deal with that.
— With this being the final home game, I think it’s time to lobby for some additional players’ numbers to be added to the Zamboni end walls.
Andy Greene has been out of Oxford for 12 years. It’s time his name goes up. Ryan Jones graduated in 2008. Same goes.
A decade plus on both. What in the world is everyone waiting for?
The first two are no-brainers, but I’d add Andy Miele to that list as well.
He won the Hobey Baker seven years ago. That’s long enough.
In two years, add Austin Czarnik. He’s already been gone since 2015 and he epitomized Miami hockey values both on and off the ice as much as anyone else on that wall.
FORWARDS: C. Sherwood finished with seven shots and Green had six. It’s so nice to have Sherwood playing as well as he did in 2016-17. Melnick created his own goal with the steal in his own zone, and Sherwood’s came after Miami won board battles, so both markers came off of hard work.
DEFENSEMEN: C+. North Dakota controlled the puck more than Miami, so it’s sort of comme ci, comme ca to point out that Grant Hutton, Alec Mahalak and Chaz Switzer all blocked three shots, and Scott Dornbrock added two blocks. Russell took two penalties and one of those chances resulted in a North Dakota goal.
GOALTENDING: B. Hard to fault a guy for a tip-in from the slot, but the first one was all Ryan Larkin. He should’ve gloved the puck but it bounced out and into the net. But he was 28 of 30 and made some outstanding saves.
LINEUP CHANGES: None. This looks like the 19 that coach Enrico Blasi will ride into the NCHC Tournament.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It was senior night, and overall a 1-0-1 weekend vs. North Dakota is a great send-off for Louie Belpedio, Scott Dornbrock and Conor Lemirande in their final home series.
Unfortunately, this class made the NCAA Tournament just once, and that was their freshmen seasons.
Miami will finish last in the NCHC for the second time since the league’s inception in 2013-14 and will head to the road for the fourth time in five years to open the league tournament.
In the eight-team conference, the RedHawks have finished eighth, second, fifth, seventh and now eighth again since joining the league.
Next weekend, Miami heads to Denver for a series that means zilch to the RedHawks in terms of points/seeding/NCAA Tournament qualifying.
The focus now is all on their series at St. Cloud State in two weeks.