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ECHL report: Gacek excels in debut

Alex Gacek shuffled between three ECHL teams in 2016-17, but he finished seventh in rookie goals and ninth in points by a first-year player in that league.

Alex Gacek as a senior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Gacek, a 2016 Miami graduate, scored 26 times and dished for 26 assists en route to a 52-point rookie campaign with South Carolina, Orlando and finally Atlanta.

Gacek started the season with South Carolina but was traded to Orlando on Dec. 29. On March 7 he was acquired by Atlanta at the trade deadline.

Gacek ended the season with a plus-11 rating and his shooting percentage was 18.7.

OTHER ROOKIES: Matthew Caito played just 23 games with Toledo during the regular season, but the defenseman scored eight times and added six assists.

Caito picked up his first pro hat trick vs. Fort Wayne on Nov. 25 as part of a five-game stretch in which he found the net seven times.

Caito also played with Grand Rapids (AHL) for 13 games before returning to Toledo for the playoffs, racking up nine more points in 17 games. He logged eight games with the Walleye at the end of 2015-16 following Miami’s season.

Taylor Richart (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Defenseman Taylor Richart netted seven goals and picked up 13 assists in his first pro season.

Playing for Utah, Richart was limited to 48 games in 2016-17 but still finished second on the team in blueliner goals. He was tops among ex-Miamians in ECHL defenseman points with 20.

Defenseman Colin Sullivan made his pro debut with Atlanta this spring after wrapping up his season season in Oxford.

Sullivan earned his first career assist at Greenville on April 2.

LEADING AT INDY: Alex Wideman led all former RedHawks in ECHL points last season with 55.

Alex Wideman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

He was tops on Indiana in assists (33) and shootout goals (3) and has already racked up 94 points in 128 games in the league.

Wideman played juniors in Indianapolis for two years prior to his Miami career, and now calls his former rink home.

MINORS MASTERTON: Alden Hirschfeld required season-ending brain surgery in 2015-16 but returned to post a career-high 49 points last season for Toledo.

Hirschfeld also set high marks in goals (23) and plus-minus (17).

After earning a promotion to AHL Grand Rapids, Hirschfeld collapsed on the bench as the result of a seizure on Jan. 8, 2016 and underwent a craniotomy on March 14, during which a malformation on his brain was removed.

MILESTONES: Gary Steffes needed two points to reach the 200 mark for his career entering the final game of the 2016-17 regular season.

His line in that contest: 1 goal, 1 assist, capped off by a clinching marker in a 4-2 win over Wichita.

Steffes also scored his 100th ECHL goal late last season and has rolled up 105 in four seasons in that league.

PLAYOFFS?! PLAYOFFS?!?! No former Miamian advanced to the championship series, but Kevin Morris and Matthew Caito both posted nine points as their respective teams qualified for the conference final.

Morris played 19 games with Manchester, scoring five goals and adding four assists, and defenseman Matthew Caito racked up a goal and eight helpers.

Dynasty team Allen was bounced in the second round, and Gary Steffes finished with three goals and three assists in that team’s postseason.

See also: BoB’s look at RedHawks in the NHL, as well as RedHawks in the AHL in 2016-17.

On deck: BoB takes a look at Miamians in other leagues.

A look at all RedHawks that appeared in ECHL games this season:

Regular season
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Alex Wideman Indianapolis F 70 22 33 55 -19 26
Alex Gacek Atlanta F 61 26 26 52 11 16
Alden Hirschfeld Toledo F 55 23 26 49 17 27
Gary Steffes Allen F 68 21 26 47 19 43
Kevin Morris Manchester F 66 16 20 36 9 93
Tyler Biggs Kalamazoo F 58 13 19 32 -14 42
Taylor Richart Utah D 48 7 13 20 -5 14
Chris Joyaux Tulsa D 54 1 14 15 7 22
Matthew Caito Toledo F 23 8 6 14 7 18
Will Weber Fort Wayne D 67 3 6 9 4 76
Devin Mantha Fort Wayne F 25 2 4 6 2 2
Colin Sullivan Atlanta D 6 0 1 1 -2 6
Justin Vaive Cincinnati F 1 0 0 0 0 0


Goalies

Player Team GP Min. W L GAA Sv% SHO
Ryan McKay Utah 7 288 2 3 3.53 .862 0
Connor Knapp Norfolk 14 774 2 10 3.65 .893 0
Jay Williams Orlando 10 364 1 3 3.95 .895 0

Playoffs
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Kevin Morris Manchester F 19 5 4 9 26
Matthew Caito Toledo F 17 1 8 9 15
Gary Steffes Allen F 9 3 3 6 4
Alden Hirschfeld Toledo F 13 1 5 6 7
Tyler Biggs Kalamazoo F 7 0 5 5 8
Taylor Richart Utah D 3 0 0 0 2
Will Weber Fort Wayne D 8 0 0 0 4
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Miami falls to UMD again, ending season

The shorthanded goal has been a Miami nemesis all season, and on Saturday a pair of them contributed to the end of the RedHawks’ season.

Minnesota-Duluth beat Miami, 3-1 in Game 2 of a best-of-3 NCHC Tournament quarterfinal series, completing a sweep of the RedHawks.

Miami (15-18-3) finished the season with four consecutive losses, all on UMD’s home ice.

It was the first three-game playoff series loss by the RedHawks since 2009 vs. Northern Michigan, and March 12 ties the earliest ending to a Miami season since 2005.

The Bulldogs’ Kyle Osterberg opened the scoring with an unassisted shorty just 96 seconds into the game. He stripped Miami senior defenseman Matthew Caito at the blue line and went in alone, beating senior goalie Jay Williams on the stick side.

Minnesota-Duluth (17-14-5) made it 2-0 with 3:09 left in the first period on a power play goal by Andy Welinski, which he scored on a slap shot off a drop pass from Jared Thomas.

An outlet pass from Karson Kuhlman found Tony Cameranesi, who juked Williams and beat him on the forehand with 7:14 left in the middle stanza.

Miami senior forward Kevin Morris (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami senior forward Kevin Morris (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The RedHawks cut the deficit to two when freshman forward Jack Roslovic corralled a loose puck, skated in and centered one to senior forward Kevin Morris for a tap-in with 2:48 left in regulation, but Miami could pull no closer.

MU actually outscored UMD 5-on-5, netting the only even-strength goal of the game, but allowed all three of its goals on special teams — one on the man advantage and two shorthanded.

Miami ended the season with one SHG for and seven against.

The RedHawks were 7-2 in NCHC Tournament games entering this weekend and 2-0 on the road, having swept St. Cloud State in 2014.

Miami loses seniors forwards Morris, Alex Gacek, Sean Kuraly, Andrew Schmit and Michael Mooney, defensemen Matthew Caito, Taylor Richart and Chris Joyaux and goalies Williams and Ryan McKay.

The team said it expects 13 freshman to come to Oxford this fall.

Analysis: When does the movie come out?

OXFORD, Ohio – A movie could be made about this season, and it could be better than most sports flicks in recent history.

Hey, they’re making one about John Scott, aren’t they?

Miami shut out Colorado College, 4-0 at Cady Arena on Saturday to complete a series sweep of the Tigers on Senior Night and the final regular season home game of a number of players’ careers.

Need a solid plot?

A team that didn’t have enough offensive weapons (at least at the beginning of the year) takes on one of the toughest schedules in Division I and fails early – almost catastrophically so – posting a 5-9-2 first half, with the final two games being a pair of losses against one of the worst teams in college hockey in the Tigers.

The team is in utter turmoil, both on and off the ice, heading into Christmas break.

Then it seemingly gets worse as senior goalie Ryan McKay, who has had a stellar career in Oxford, is suspended indefinitely for an outburst as he leaves the ice.

That leaves the netminding reins to Jay Williams, who couldn’t get a starting gig in the USHL and has had to share the cage with McKay for almost all of four years.

Including 2015-16, when Williams was left in to allow seven goals in the season opener and then benched for almost the remainder of the calendar year, not picking up his first win until Jan. 3.

Following the GoalieGate loss, the team was 6-11-3.

The team has gone 9-3 since and somehow gotten itself into NCAA Tournament contention, capping its home slate with a pair of wins over Colorado College, the same team that Miami couldn’t beat in December.

The finale is played in front of one of the best Cady Arena crowds in recent history.

Enough drama?

How about Anthony Louis scoring with two seconds left to send Miami to a 2-1 win over Bowling Green?

Or a come-from-behind win against top-10 St. Cloud State in an action-packed 3-2 win at Cady Arena?

Or another key road win at BGSU after trailing 1-0 after the first period?

Or a beloved usher and huge Miami hockey fan suffering from Stage 4 cancer, coming back for that final home game in what was one of the most emotionally-powerful moments in recent memory in the northeast corner of Cady Arena?

Miami's seniors are honored before Saturday's game (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s seniors are honored before Saturday’s game (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

We’ve got the characters too, most notably seniors playing their final games with the RedHawks, and all at the top of their game.

There’s Williams, who was never considered good enough to start for any of his juniors teams, posting a sub-2.00 goals-against average since taking over in net exclusively.

He set two school records in that home finale, one for being the first goalie to post a double shutout in a weekend, another for longest consecutive shutout streak at nearly 150 minutes.

And believe us, his story is actually even better than that.

Insert shameless self-promotion: BoB has a feature coming out about Williams in a couple of days.

How about Taylor Richart, the bust-your-hind-quarters defenseman you just can’t help but love? At 5-feet-9 he had earn a spot on an NAHL roster and then a USHL roster before coming to Miami, where he had to overtake several other more highly-touted blueliners to crack the lineup every night and gets beat up like a pinata on a game-by-game basis.

Taylor Richart celebrates his second goal in an as many nights on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Taylor Richart celebrates his second goal in an as many nights on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

He can seeming do everything on the ice and has elevated his game more than just about anyone in his four years, but he simply hasn’t been a scorer in college.

Richart had one goal in 127 games prior to this weekend. All his did in his final two regular season home games is find the net in both and earn a first star in one contest and second in the other.

Rudy has nothing on Richart.

Or Sean Kuraly? The big power forward who is the son of Miami’s all-time leading sniper notched 19 goals last season but couldn’t find the net with a GPS the first half of 2015-16. After bearing the weight on the world on his shoulders, he had some of his captaincy duties whittled away so he could concentrate on making awesome happen on the ice again.

It’s safe to say he has, tallying 15 points in 12 games and anchoring the Columbus line comprised of the wily veteran and a pair of super-talented freshmen in Kiefer Sherwood and Jack Roslovic.

We can’t forget Alex Gacek who tore his patellar tendon off the bone prior to his Miami career, and how it took years for him to regain his confidence. It’s not even debatable that he is playing the best hockey of his career.

Same goes for Kevin Morris, the super-smart son of an AHL coach who has a 3.6 GPA and has posted six goals in 11 games after finding the net just eight times in his previous 96 contests.

Same goes for Chris Joyaux, who has been so steady on the blueline since joining the team in the fall of 2012.

Same goes for transfer Andrew Schmit, who has gotten to play with his cousin, Conor Lemirande, forming the Crash Cousins line. He is one of the team’s most punishing hitters in recent history but has just eight penalty minutes in 2015-16.

And there’s Michael Mooney, who works so hard when he does get in the lineup and has saved this team’s bacon when it had battled injury woes with his ability to move into any position.

Matthew Caito wasn’t able to play on senior night, coincidentally missing just the second and third games of his Miami career, making the double shutout even more impressive.

It’s unlikely his season is over, and one of the steadiest two-way defenseman to dress for this team since Andy Greene must return for the RedHawks to have any realistic chance at an NCAA run.

BoB won’t forget McKay, whose .917 career save percentage is the fourth-best in school history, and his 1.39 goals-against average as a freshman is easily the best of any goalie to don the pads in Oxford.

Don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes here and not trying to take a side for that reason or stir anything up, but it’s shame how his Miami career has likely ended, without the benefit of taking a victory lap for his final regular season home game.

Good luck topping that, Hollywood.

Kuraly said at intermission on Saturday that this class hopefully has a couple more memories to make before its players go their separate ways to pursue their dreams, both on and off the ice.

The way this big screen-worthy regular season has gone, fans have to feel like the script has several more scenes to be written.

Even if that’s not the case, it’s been an Oscar-worthy story that’s played out the past couple of months.

Other thoughts…

– For five periods this weekend, Miami played decent hockey, good enough to outscore CC. The RedHawks finally got it right in the sixth and final frame, scoring three unanswered goals on 22 shots, as the puck seemed to spend half of that stanza in the Colorado College goal crease. A plus-7 goal differential is great, but a more skilled team would’ve buried some of its ample chances this weekend.

– A night after racking up nearly 14 minutes of power play time vs. 93 seconds for Miami, it’s mind blowing that Colorado College took 14 minutes in first-period penalties for dust-ups with officials, including contact with a linesman.

– It was listed at 3,155, but the crowd at Cady Arena on Saturday seemed larger and was certainly rocking, despite, well…OK…enough with the music bashing – it’s gotten a little better. If Miami does get back to Cady for a series against Minnesota-Duluth, we will need loud fans at the game. Forget spring break…doesn’t having the campus and the Oxford bars to yourselves with a best-of-3 hockey series sound more appealing?

– Miami graduate Nick Brunker did play-by-play for this game and was fantastic, to the surprise of no one who has ever heard his broadcasts. Few have worked harder to advance their broadcast media careers, as Brunker actually got kicked out of the press box of a Cincinnati Mighty Ducks game as a high school student for trying to perfect his craft and record his own calls when there wasn’t ample room, and he later excelled as the PxP guy for the Cincinnati Cyclones.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A. Zach Lavalle won a battle along the boards that ultimately led to Richart’s goal, opening the scoring. Roslovic’s beautiful centering pass led to Morris’ laser one-time finish. Not sure if Kuraly intentionally tipped a pass to Sherwood for Goal No. 3 or if it was inadvertent – we’ll call it deliberate, we’re feeling generous – but what a play. Freshman Josh Melnick (this deep into a write-up this is really Melnick’s first reference?) won a boards battle to get the puck to neutral ice then stole a pass and fed it to Louis for the ENG. Lots of offensive positive here.

DEFENSEMEN: A-. Good work without it two-way leader in Caito. If we had to nitpick, this group did turn it over a couple of times early but seemed to tighten up late, even as Colorado College started taking more chances in the third period (thus the 10 shots in the final 20 minutes for CC). Richart not only scored, he gloved a puck down and shuffled it ahead quickly to Roslovic, leading to the Sherwood goal. Apparently there’s nothing Richart can’t do right now.

Jay Williams makes one of his 24 saves on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Jay Williams makes one of his 24 saves on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

GOALTENDING: A. Not as many difficult saves for Williams as on Friday, but this is a weekend the senior will likely tell his grandchildren about. Fifth-five shots, 55 saves in 120 minutes, including 24 of 24 in this one. His rebound control was excellent again, and the TV color guy mentioned that as well. It’s only the third time a Miami goalie has posted back-to-back shutouts and the first time one has blanked a team twice in a weekend. Williams’ shutout streak is now 148:52, the longest in team history. Cody Reichard held the previous mark at 141:41. David Burleigh also posted back-to-back zeroes and went 136:05 between goals against.

LINEUP CHANGES: It was the same 19 as Friday for the RedHawks. Caito, Schmit and Loe missed their second straight games, while Colin Sullivan, Mooney and Ryan Siroky dressed for the second consecutive night.

Analysis: Sweep of CC now paramount

Pulling off a sweep at Western Michigan was going to a tall order, even with the Broncos struggling this season.

Miami fell, 4-1 in the series finale in Kalamazoo on Saturday, but fortunately for the RedHawks, they only fell one spot in PairWise and did not drop in the conference standings, as both teams they are tied with were defeated as well.

Miami remains in a three-way tie with Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth for the all-important fourth and final home ice spot for the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

The problem is: The RedHawks would lose the tiebreaker vs. both teams if they remain even. We’ll explain more thoroughly if it appears this scenario may come to fruition, but for now, trust us, Miami takes sixth if they can’t surge past one of both of these teams.

As we explained yesterday, the RedHawks control their own destiny to a large degree, as they host last-place Colorado College next week and head to UMD to wrap up the season.

(And it could end up Miami and UMD play back-to-back weekends: Imagine the carnage if those teams met four or five times in nine days)

Sweeping hapless Colorado College at home next weekend is now paramount if the RedHawks want home ice, and if that happens it will greatly increase the team’s chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

As for the game itself, Miami outshot WMU, 31-28 including 8-2 the final period. The RedHawks didn’t play that badly but allowing a goal in the final second of a period is devastating.

The Broncos capitalized on the momentum of that second goal by adding a third early in the second period and Miami was essentially done.

The RedHawks’ goal came on a pretty passing play, with Kevin Morris putting it in for his fifth goal in nine games.

Other thoughts…

– So that’s five shorthanded goals against this season for Miami, and zero for. The RedHawks are one of only five teams in Division I without a shorty and the lone team in the NCHC.

– Realizing that down by two goals midway through the third period a team is going to pinch, but the RedHawks’ defense was flat-out miserable on WMU’s fourth goal. Both defensemen were caught up the ice and Anthony Louis weakly flailed at the outlet stretch pass that ultimately resulted in the final goal.

– Senior night is next weekend. How will the team handle the Ryan McKay situation? Tune in next week.

Three quick W. Michigan goals doom Miami

For the third straight game, the final score of Miami’s game was 4-1.

Unfortunately for the RedHawks, after consecutive wins, they fell at Western Michigan on Saturday, snapping a three-game winning streak and a string of four straight wins on the road.

Griffen Molino recorded a hat trick to lead the Broncos, who salvaged a series split vs. Miami.

WMU (8-19-3) opened the scoring with 1:23 left in the first period when Jade McMullen tipped home a shot from in front of the net.

In the final second of that frame, Nolan LaPorte won a faceoff back to Molino, who wired a shot into the far corner of the cage to make it 2-0 heading into the first intermission.

The Broncos extended their lead to three when Molino ripped one past RedHawks senior goalie Jay Williams off a stretch pass shorthanded 1:30 into the second period.

That’s three goals in a span of 2:53.

Miami (13-14-3) finally got on the board less than 2½ minutes later, as senior forward Kevin Morris banged home a pass by sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio in front of the net.

But Western Michigan regained its three-goal lead when Molino skated in off a stretch pass from Chris Dienes and wired it into the net with 8:52 left in regulation.

Morris scored for the fifth time in nine games, and Belpedio and freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood – who collected assists on Morris’ goal – earned assists to extend their points streaks to four games apiece.

Miami remained tied for fourth in the NCHC, as both Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth lost on Saturday. All have four conference games remaining.

The RedHawks are currently tied for 16th in the all-important PairWise rankings.

Miami plays its final two regular season home games next weekend vs. Colorado College before wrapping up its slate with a pair of games at UMD.

Analysis: Forward thinking

OXFORD, Ohio – It’s funny how quickly things can change in hockey.

Three weeks ago, Miami was a one-line team, and the star of that forward combination was even fading.

Looking at the RedHawks’ past three games, including Friday’s 3-1 win over Denver at Cady Arena, it’s hard to rank their lines, as all are contributing in that all-important goal column.

And when they aren’t, they’re at least creating scoring chances or playing responsibly on defense.

Kevin Morris knocks home the clinching empty-net goal on Friday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Kevin Morris knocks home the clinching empty-net goal on Friday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Forwards Kevin Morris and Anthony Louis have been major reasons for Miami’s rejuvenated offense. Yes, they accounted for three points on Friday, including two of the team’s three goals, but as usual with hockey, there’s much more beyond the surface.

Morris’ pass to Roslovic for the eventual game-winner was as impressive as the goal itself, and his two-way play has made him one of the best forwards on the team in recent weeks.

Louis played well on D vs. No. 13 Denver (12-8-5) and was a pest all of Friday as he continues his annual second-half surge for Miami (10-11-3).

And yes, Roslovic was better as well, as he seemed more involved than he has been in the past few games, which is scary for opponents, especially with so many other forwards playing at a high level that opponents need to account for defensively.

Also, the fourth line didn’t account for any goals on Friday, but that Crash Cousins-plus-Ryan-Siroky unit played well in its grinding role after Conor Lemirande recorded a hat trick last Saturday.

Not to discount the defense corps, with the exception of a turnover-turned-goal, and the goaltending in this game in the least. But most that follow this team knew those areas weren’t going to be an issue this season.

Need a stat to back up blueliner play: Senior Taylor Richart blocked eight shots on Friday.

Other thoughts…

– Justin Greenberg made an incredibly selfless play on the PK in the first period, throwing his body at the puck near his defensive blue line to get the puck down the ice when Miami really needed a clear. Greenberg’s play hasn’t been mentioned above, but holy cow, talk about a candidate for most-improved player at this season’s awards banquet.

– Another player not mentioned to this point: Alex Gacek. It’s mind blowing that someone his size is able to lay out players twice his size, which he did multiple times on Friday. Yet another senior that is playing some of his best hockey in his final stretch run.

– It was Week 3 in GoalieGate for the RedHawks. Freshman Evan McCarthy was again the backup, as senior Ryan McKay was scratched. The reason for his suspension, or whatever we’re calling it, has been discussed ad nauseum, and BoB has no idea what the aftermath has been between McKay and the coaching staff, but here’s hoping it ends soon. McKay has been an exemplary player for 3½ years, and it’s tough to see this happen to a senior during his final stretch run. That said, even when McKay is reinstated, Jay Williams has been a wall in his absence, posting a .947 save percentage, so it may be tough for him to get into games with an .867 mark since the North Dakota series.

– As far as who outplayed whom between Denver and Miami, the first period was pretty even. MU generated a scoring chance in the opening seconds, but there were few of those in the opening stanza and both teams buried theirs. The RedHawks dominated the second period, and Denver was very strong in the final stanza, although Miami played well also. Very well-played game, the type we’ll likely see more of in the second half of the NCHC season.

– Well, the students were back for the first time since, well, before Thanksgiving, and it seemed to be an enthusiastic crowd. But the attendance for this game was still south of 3,000, which was disappointing, especially considering the magnitude and quality of this game.

And unfortunately for some fans that meant the return to non-rock for the entire game and not just the first and third periods plus most of the second. Apparently there was no reason to stop at bringing back four-decades-old Village Idiots steamer YMCA and band favorite from the same Musak era Sweet Caroline – a pro-Boston fossil, which…hey wait…doesn’t Miami dislike Boston after all of those BC and BU losses in the NCAAs? Fortunately we also added in 1950s great “Shout” to its almost exclusively dance club repertoire, as opposed to the rock selections every other rink in North America touts. Hey, let’s not stop there: Let’s break out some Irving Berlin and then work ourselves back to Beethoven and eventually the Baroque era for some Bach and Vivaldi. Worth repeating: Having been to hockey games in over a dozen states and now six Canadian provinces, beautiful Cady Arena has easily the worst music selections of any rink I’ve ever attended. Not even close.

– Sean Kuraly took two minors on the same shift at the end of the second period. The first one could’ve been debated. The second one for charging was un-captain-like. He has played so much better in recent weeks but he can’t let his emotions get the better of him.

– Were Taylor Richart’s eight blocks mentioned above? They were, but let’s mention them again.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A-. Two goals plus the empty netter, but still a great effort against a hot team with two solid goalies. Lots of standouts in this one: Morris for one, but also Roslovic, Louis, Greenberg – liked Zach LaValle in this one too as he continues to gain confidence.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Denver is a bit of a one-line team, and this corps was pretty good for the most part. Grant Hutton did turn the puck over for the Pioneers’ first goal, but he came back and played well after that. Amazing to see how much better Scott Dornbrock has gotten from Game 1 to Game 24. Richart had eight blocks. In case that wasn’t mentioned above.

GOALTENDING: A. To say Williams stole this game might be an overstatement, but Miami certainly doesn’t win without his effort. He looked a little vulnerable early, which is not uncommon with Williams, but he was a rock the final 40 minutes. A great pass and backhand resulted in Denver’s lone goal, and Williams made two unbelievable saves in the third period to preserve the 2-1 lead. Williams has allowed just six goals in his four-game winning streak and has a goals-against average of 1.33 since taking over in net.

LINEUP CHANGES: None. As mentioned previously, Coach Enrico Blasi typically likes to stick with a starting 18 by this point in the season, and it looks like this is the group. Hard to blame him, as it would be difficult to pick a weak link, but it’s always tough to see quality players sit in the stands, like Colin Sullivan and Devin Loe. The goaltending situation has been discussed at length, and it’s unclear if/when McKay will be re-instated.

Secondary scoring huge for Miami

Miami broke out with seven goals on Saturday, and its scorers had a combined nine markers this season entering that game.

While it’s obviously insane to expect that kind of offense from second-, third- and fourth-line forwards on a regular basis, the RedHawks – at least for one night in a 7-3 win vs. Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena – appeared to be over the forcefield-across-the-threshold-of-the-net blues that plagued them for many of their first 22 contests.

The reaction from 800 miles to east, behind a computer screen in a cozy back room, was 50 percent what-in-the-world-is-going-on-but-this-is-awesome and 50 percent it’s-about-time-some-of-those-shots-that-had-been-whistling-just-wide-or-off-posts-the-past-four-months-finally-found-twine.

The obvious question no one has the answer to is: Is the drought finally over or was this a three-hour reprieve?

Miami entered this weekend 53rd out of 60 in Division I in offense. The RedHawks aren’t that bad.

Miami's Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami scored seven times on Saturday, and only one of those was by a usual sniping suspect: Anthony Louis.

The RedHawks aren’t that good. No team is.

The word of the night, and the series, and the past nine days for that matter dating back to the Bowling Green win, is encouraging.

Two more words could determine how the rest of this season goes for MU: Secondary scoring.

Team leader Jack Roslovic, who had nine tallies this season, has one goal in his last 10 games. Josh Melnick is second overall with six but has one marker in 11 tilts.

Miami has still won three straight.

This team has seven excellent defensemen and two fantastic goalies. It doesn’t need to lead the NCAA in goals.

The RedHawks are now at 2.38 per game, up to 49th, and an average of 3.17 during their current 4-1-1 run. If they can come close to that clip, the back end should take care of the rest, and this could be a fun couple of months.

Only once in the past 11 games has Miami allowed more than three goals, so three should be enough most nights.

Back to the secondary scoring.

Could Kevin Morris could find the net a few more times during the stretch run like he did in both ends of this series?

Or is it a reach to suggest that Zach LaValle, who seems to get better every game, could start pumping in the occasional goal?

How about an occasion tally – not three a night, obviously – from wide-bodied Conor Lemirande, who showed an ability to use his hands to find the net and was able to tip in a shot while in the goalie’s face (with help from linemate and cousin Andrew Schmit, who picked up primary assists on two of his goals)?

Miami's Sean Kuraly (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Sean Kuraly (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The biggest question of this set is Sean Kuraly, since he has the potential to generate the most offense of this group.

Can he continue to play at the level he has the last three games, during which he has six points?

These don’t seem like outrageous questions to anyone who has seen this team frequently, and if the answer is “yes” to most, that goals-per-game average should continue to improve along with the team’s win total.

It was just one game, of course, but that’s on top of two other wins vs. highly-ranked teams, which has to have a confidence carryover for the entire team heading into a crucial four-game homestand and the second half of the NCHC slate.

Other thoughts…

– Miami did get a little sloppy with the big lead and could’ve finished better. Amazingly, the RedHawks were actually outshot overall, 30-27 after netting six goals on 12 shots in the second period.

– It was comical that when UNO scored late, the scoreboard operator initially gave the score to Miami, as the top of the screen read 8-2. Force of habit from the previous period, perhaps.

– Coach Enrico Blasi’s starting 19 were the same on Saturday as Friday. Evan McCarthy was still listed as the backup goalie.

– Speaking of Blasi, let’s give some credit to the coaching staff as well for this mid-season turnaround. Two weeks ago Miami was 6-11-3 and one point away from the NCHC cellar. Somehow they got this team to turn it around and win a couple of close games, followed by this not-to-close game.

– Segueing again, if Louis doesn’t score with two seconds left to beat Bowling Green last weekend, does Miami go into Omaha Friday and Saturday and pound the seventh-ranked team in Division I back-to-back nights on its own rink? Probably not?

Roslovic’s late goal sinks OSU

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In its one trip to the state’s capitol this season, it was a freshman from the area that scored the game winner for Miami in its first road game of the season.

Forward Jack Roslovic banged home a rebound with 1:33 left in regulation to lift the RedHawks to a 3-2 win over Ohio State at Value City Arena on Friday.

Miami's Jack Roslovic buries the game winner with 1:33 left (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Jack Roslovic buries the game winner with 1:33 left (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The Buckeyes (0-3) had tied the score 72 seconds earlier.

Miami senior forward Andrew Schmit hit the top corner of the net to open the scoring 9:56 into the first period, the third goal of his career and his first of 2015-16.

RedHawks defenseman Louie Belpedio lost the puck when he fell to the ice, leaving OSU’s Anthony Greco alone with goalie Ryan McKay, and Greco flipped a backhand over the sprawling McKay to tie the score shorthanded 6:54 into the middle stanza.

Like Schmit, Miami freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood also went top shelf on the glove side to beat Buckeyes goalie Matt Tomkins, giving the RedHawks a 2-1 lead 3:14 into the third period. It was Sherwood’s first career goal, and he is also from Columbus.

Greco tied it again with 2:45 remaining in regulation when he buried a one-time centering feed from behind the net by David Gust.

Melnick set up the game-winner with a perfect feed from the side boards to senior forward Kevin Morris, who whipped a shot on net that Tomkins saved, but the rebound trickled to the side of the net for a waiting Roslovic, who buried it.

Morris was the only Miami skater with multiple points, finishing with two assists. McKay stopped 25 shots to earn the win, the 30th of his career.

Four MU freshmen picked up points. Ryan Siroky earned an assist for his first career point.

The RedHawks (1-1-1) extended their unbeaten streak at Ohio State to five games (4-0-1), and overall Miami has won five games in a row vs. the Buckeyes.

The series finale will be at 8 p.m. at Cady Arena in Oxford.

#4 Miami 8, #12 Nebraska-Omaha 2

Thoughts after last night’s 8-2 whipping of #12 Omaha.

Overall, it was a thorough beat down as Miami rattled off seven consecutive goals after actually surrendering the first goal of the game just 4:14 in. Six different RedHawks combined for the 8 goals with senior Cody Murphy notching a natural hat trick (3 consecutive goals) while Kevin Morris, Matthew Caito and Michael Mooney found the net for the first time this season. For Mooney, it was his first career goal, shorthanded, while the Omaha net was mysteriously vacated by Omaha head coach Dean Blais, despite trailing 7-2. Bit of a bush league move if you ask us. Senior captain Austin Czarnik recorded four assists, including his 100th and gave up an opportunity to record his first goal of the season when he passed the puck to Mooney on a 2-on-1 break. On the year, Czarnik has a 0-16-16 line in what can only be described as a bizarre start to his senior season.

Miami captain, Austin Czarnik, is now 13th on the RedHawks all-time scoring list. (photo: Miami University)

Thinking more about Czarnik’s scoring line, I wonder if it’s something having to do with last season when this team seemed to be all about individuals rather than the greater good. I wonder if it’s a sign of maturity as a leader on this club that Czarnik isn’t trying to do to much. That he’s more comfortable with the ‘C’ on his sweater? While I still have some leadership concerns with the ‘C’ I think the formal addition of Sean Kuraly and Blake Coleman as assistant captains was an appropriate move.

Coleman was a bit out of his mind last night, but you have to like the combination of skill and snarl he brings. He’s tough to play against and will make his presence known to the opposition when he doesn’t like something.

Other thoughts and notes:

Depth: This team has it. It didn’t last year. I believe Tim Bray said 14 Miami skaters have tallied goals this year and that, amazingly, does NOT include senior captain Austin Czarnik who entered 2014-15 with 37 career goals.

Goaltending: Jay Williams was good, not great last night. I’m sure he’d like to have the first goal back scored off an ugly rebound of a harmless point wrist shot that hit him square in the chest. But, with this offense (and really any offense), two goals or less should get a W and Williams now has 11 of them this year. Those 11 wins are just one short of his career high set his freshman year, the last year of existence for the CCHA. Despite his success, I could see Miami head coach Enrico Blasi give Ryan McKay a start tonight since he hasn’t played in a few weeks. However, this is another important league game. I’d rather see Williams again tonight and then give McKay a start in the Florida College Hockey Classic on either December 28 or 29. There’s certainly no fatigue issue with Williams, or shouldn’t be, because Miami is coming off a bye week, and will have two off-weeks for exams and Christmas before heading south.

Attendance: 2,006? For a matchup of top-15 top-12 squads? I really don’t know what’s going on in the SW Ohio area. The Reds don’t draw. The Bengals don’t draw. And now, Miami hockey doesn’t draw.

Admittedly, I live in Denver and my partner-in-crime Miamibeef04 lives in Columbus. However, Beef was there last night making the two hour drive south. Just because it’s no longer Michigan and Ohio State is no reason that building isn’t full. Here’s a rundown of Miami’s home attendance this year. Because capacity has never really been settled — is it 3,200? 3,642? 4,000? — I’m going with 3,200 to qualify as a sellout.

vs. Bowling Green – 1,860

vs. Ohio State – 3,554 (sellout)

vs. St. Lawrence – 2,589 and 2,663

vs. Colorado College – 3,153 (sellout) and 2,878

vs. Western Michigan – 2,633 and 2,470

Frankly, this is pathetic. You have a top-5 team again. It was one bad season last year. That there aren’t at least 3,000 butts in seats (seriously, it’s not a big building to fill) each night is embarrassing. I don’t want to hear about the new seat licenses, though surely that hasn’t helped. Tickets are available. If you don’t want your season tickets anymore, fine. Walk up and buy a ticket. Good seats still available.

I can guarantee you I will be at Magness Arena here in Denver and World Arena in Colorado Springs when Miami visits the Centennial State twice in February.

Get to the games, people!

Highlights: Here is a link to the highlights from last night courtesy of NCHC.tv

http://www.nchc.tv/omaha/video/omaha-miami-vs-omaha-highlights—12-5-14

And, check out John Lachmann’s analysis at http://www.wcpo.com/sports/redhawkey

Tonight: Miami and Omaha will complete their NCHC weekend series, and the season’s series, tonight at 7:05 PM at Steve Cady Arena in Oxford.