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Small forward Louis big in the clutch

OXFORD, Ohio – Too small to succeed.

That has been the label given to Anthony Louis his entire life, but he continues to rack up the points despite his detractors’ criticism.

The senior forward who is listed at 5-feet-8, 158 pounds has climbed Miami’s all-time points leaderboard in his four years in Oxford and is currently 22nd in team history with 125 on 45 goals and 80 assists.

Anthony Louis with Team USA in 2012-13 (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“I tend to use it as motivation,” Louis said. “I always wanted to prove people wrong and make it to the next level.”

Louis grew up in Winfield, Ill., a far west suburb of Chicago but now lives slightly closer to the city in West Chicago. He scored 60 times in 66 games between Team Illinois’ Bantam Major and his Under-16 seasons, earning his way onto the U.S. National Development Team.

On the Under-17 team in 2011-12, he netted 27 goals in 49 games, and he was second on the Under-18 team with 51 points the following season, second-best on the team despite facing much tougher competition.

Anthony Louis in the NCHC Tournament his freshman year (Cathy Lachmann/BoB)

Louie Belpedio, MU’s captain and junior defenseman, played and lived with Louis in Ann Arbor on the USNDT. Belpedio is also from Chicago, and with the tandem’s dads being longtime friends, so too have Belpedio and Louis.

“He keeps proving people wrong – that’s one of his best traits,” Belpedio said. “People always told him he’s too small, and he’ll never made it. Every level he moves up, he gets better. He proves to people that size isn’t necessarily the biggest factor, and his heart’s bigger than his body is.”

Louis turned those negative stereotypes into positives, and he said he developed a thick skin when it comes to dealing with negative comments surrounding his play.

“I wouldn’t say I didn’t believe in myself but I knew it was going to be harder because people thought I was too small,” Louis said. “I definitely used it as a motivator to myself what I could do, and prove people wrong that didn’t believe in me. It made me work (harder) than I would’ve if they weren’t doubting me.”

He earned a silver medal his final season prior to college with the U-18 squad, and Louis also keyed a Four Nations championship by recording five points in four games.

Despite that resume, every team in the NHL passed him by with their first six selections of the 2013 draft. That is, until the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks picked him last in that round.

Louis is named to the NCHC All-Tournament team in 2013-14 (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The hometown Louis was the 181th overall pick in June of 2013.

“Obviously it’s a dream come true,” Louis said. “It’s just the first step to hopefully a few more to make the team. Growing up watching them, it was awesome, and I always wanted to play for them. Now that it’s only a few steps away, it’s going to be a lot of hard work but it’s a pretty exciting process ahead of me.”

Following in a familiar line of players from the Chicago area, Louis chose to play for Miami, where he began his career in the fall of 2013. Knowing the Wingels brothers – NHLer Tommy and brother Johnny, a current senior and student coach – helped seal his decision.

“The culture here at Miami is a big reason why I committed here,” Louis said. “Everyone here has really lived by The Brotherhood – I know there’s some people who think that’s not true – but they really do live by it here, from the staff to the players, all around at the school, just unbelievable people here at Miami. The fans, obviously, and atmosphere are incredible.”

He said the combination of playing against international competition like in the Four Nations tournament parlayed with the U.S. team taking on college teams in exhibitions prepared him for life in Division I college hockey.

But it was a slow start for the offensive whiz, as he was limited to four goals and three assists in his first 17 games wearing a RedHawks sweater.

Anthony Louis in the outdoor game at Soldier Field his sophomore season (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“Getting used to the system, and obviously guys are bigger,” Louis said. “I don’t think I was as consistent my freshman year, and I was in my own head a little bit, but as I grew as a player I obviously learned how to handle that. Once I did things started going much (better) for me.”

Louis began to thrive as that season progressed. He recorded eight goals and seven assists the final 15 games, notching points in all four of Miami’s postseason games.

While the RedHawks fell a goal short in the NCHC Tournament championship game, Louis earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team as he finished that event with four goals and a pair of helpers.

Louis followed up on that campaign by tallying nine goals and a career-best 27 assists as a sophomore, and once again Louis exceled as games became more important.

He scored twice and set up five more goals in six postseason games, including a 1-1-2 line vs. Providence in his lone NCAA Tournament contest.

Louis scores on this shot at Bowling Green his junior season (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

In his junior season, Louis amassed 11 markers and 15 assists, and although Miami was limited to two playoff games – in the first round of the NCHC Tournament at Minnesota-Duluth – he scored once and dished for two helpers in that series.

That gave Louis a career 7-9-16 line in 12 postseason games his first three seasons in Oxford, as he has loved college hockey’s spotlight.

“I have a lot of fun with it,” Louis said. “I know a lot of guys are pretty nervous and overthink things. I just try to take it all in and enjoy the atmosphere. I think it’s the most fun time of the year.”

Named an assistant captain last summer, Louis’ goal and points totals are career highs, as he is 13-24-37 this season. For his career, he has 45 goals and 80 assists for 125 points, ranking him 22nd all-time among RedHawks skaters.

Louis celebrates after scoring vs. UNO his senior year (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

One more point would move Louis into a three-way tie for 20th.

“I think that’s obviously a huge accomplishment for him, and I’m happy for him and everything that he’s done,” Belpedio said. “Obviously we’re playing top teams every night, so for him to be able to do that says a lot about him.”

But beyond the offensive stats, Louis has worked to become a more complete player in his four years at Miami.

“My defensive game has gotten much better – this is my first year of penalty killing,” Louis said.

Louis is also proud of how much physically stronger he has become since that freshman campaign. Belpedio has been impressed with Louis’ leadership this season.

“Just because I wear the ‘C’ and he wears the ‘A’ doesn’t mean he’s not just as much of a leader as I am,” Belpedio said. “We work well with each other, and we’re two guys who like to lead by example. He’s a good leader, and he might not be the most vocal guy in the world, but he’s got character traits about him that make everyone else around him better.”

Louis is set to graduate in May, when he will earn a degree in sports management. From there it’s on to the pros, and no matter how his future career in hockey evolves, he will always cherish his Miami years.

“My experience at Miami has been incredible,” Louis said. “All of the people that I’ve met, and as a whole my teammates I’ve grown with – a lot of lifelong friends that I’ll have. And from a hockey (standpoint), it’s just been incredible playing in front of the fans here. Throughout the country, even the alumni supports us well. It’s truly a Brotherhood here. It’s pretty much everything I expected coming in. I’ve really enjoyed it. Hopefully it’s not over.”

Analysis: Miami still battling despite odds

Miami has not won in six weeks, but its next loss will be its last of the season.

The RedHawks lost their NCHC Tournament first-round opener in their best-of-3 series, 5-4 in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena on Friday and now face elimination in that series.

Miami’s path from here on out couldn’t be more clear: Win or go home. The RedHawks would need to win on Saturday and Sunday at No. 3 UMD then run the table in the semifinal and final of the league tournament in Minneapolis.

That would earn them a berth into the NCAA Tournament, which, of course, is one and out.

An unlikely scenario made more improbable considering the first half of the opening sentence. Miami is 0-8-1 in its last nine and 1-11-2 since Jan. 14.

To Miami’s credit, it took the third-best team in Division I to overtime in the Bulldogs’ home building on Friday despite missing captain Louie Belpedio and losing stud goalie Ryan Larkin in the second period.

The RedHawks led three times in the game (2-1, 3-2 and 4-3) but were unable to close out the win, a common theme in 2016-17.

Backup goalie Chase Munroe had not logged a minute in exactly three months, and after stopping just three of the first five shots he faced, he turned aside 26 of the final 28. He faced a shooting gallery in the final 20 minutes of regulation and overtime, and didn’t get a lot of help from his skaters defensively.

It would’ve been easy for this team to mail it in, considering the near impossibility of its task of winning this tournament.

But the RedHawks didn’t quit, and in a season that will likely go down as their worst in a quarter century, that’s an encouraging sign.

Crazy things happen in conference tournaments, and it would take a run that makes 2013-14 look tame just for Miami to return the position it was in three years when it came within a goal of advancing to the NCAAs despite a 12-19-3 regular season record.

Miami goalie Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The RedHawks have their backs against the boards but are playing with passion, and in Game 2 we’ll see if that’s enough to extend the season.

Other thoughts…

– No idea what Larkin’s injury is or how severe, but when a goalie leaves a game and doesn’t return he rarely returns the next night. Already Belpedio-less, that makes MU’s chances of advancing in this round even more remote. If there is a bright spot it’s that Munroe earned valuable conference tournament experience, and as we recall, Jay Williams was shaky early before finding his groove, as was Charlie Effinger before him.

Miami forward Zach LaValle (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– Scorers’ list from Friday boom: Ryan Siroky and Zach LaValle, in the bottom six of the forward list on the lineup card all season, both scored in this one. It was just their third and second goals of the season, respectively, although LaValle especially seems to have picked it up a notch recently. This is encouraging because Miami was able to hang without its go-to snipers finding the net, and also the lack of scoring from non-top six forwards has been well documented here.

– Scorers’ list from Friday bust: Josh Melnick hasn’t scored in seven games and Anthony Louis has been stuck on 13 goals for 13 games. Kiefer Sherwood was limited to one shot. Scoring from tertiary forwards is great, but the top players need to be top players in the playoffs for teams to advance.

– Yet another Gordie Green update. Hate to be redundant but Green has been the hottest forward on the team with seven points in four games and 11 in his last 10 – more than anyone else on the team.

– Speaking of points surges, two assists on Friday give Grant Hutton eight points in his last seven games. He picked up three helpers the first 28 games but has five in the last seven. On a team that has struggled mightily the past two months, it says a lot that a pair of underclassmen in Green and Hutton are two of the RedHawks’ top points producers. Green is a freshman and Hutton is a defenseman.

– Shots were close the first two periods: 14-12 UMD. Shots after: 27-10 UMD. Miami has now been outshot in 13 straight regulation periods. The RedHawks have allowed 474 shots while generating just 320 during their current 1-11-2 skid.

Analysis: Home finale still meaningful

OXFORD, Ohio – For Miami, PairWise doesn’t matter, seeding has been wrapped up and the RedHawks even know their first-round opponent in the NCHC Tournament.

That means after Friday’s 3-2 loss to North Dakota, Saturday’s regular season finale will be little more than a glorified exhibition.

For official purposes that is. Miami can certainly conjure up reasons to take its last game at Cady Arena in 2016-17 seriously.

Trying to gain momentum heading into a brutal road trip – the same one that saw the RedHawks’ season end last year – would be the most obvious.

But it’s been no secret Miami would open the NCHC Tournament on the road for weeks now, and the RedHawks still went winless the entire month of February and have opened March 0-1.

Next week’s opponent, Minnesota-Duluth, swept Miami to end the 2015-16 season and just went 1-0-1 vs. the RedHawks last weekend. The Bulldogs are ranked second in Division I.

There is the legacy play. Miami has won at least 12 games in every season under Coach Enrico Blasi, and his worst two seasons from a wins standpoint were Years 1 and 3 (1999-2000 and 2001-02), when the team won 13 and 12 games, respectively.

But that was with recruits from the previous administration. With his own players, Blasi has won at least 15 games each season, although two of the previous three campaigns have seen the RedHawks win exactly that many with sub-.500 winning percentages.

So Miami needs to win on Saturday and advance to Minneapolis just to tie Blasi’s low-water mark in terms of wins.

To be fair, the RedHawks have tied seven times, so essentially that have 12½ wins. But the team’s .379 winning percentage is 47th out of 60 Division I teams.

And hey, the NCHC’s lone knock – right or wrong – is the lack of an identity and natural rivals. North Dakota was one known quantity when this league was formed. The Native-American-turned-avion-nicknamed team has appeared in more championships than any team in Division I (13) and is second in titles (8).

Oh yeah, UND won the national championship in 2016. Can Miami possibly get up to play this team on its home ice, even in a down year?

Miami's Ryan Larkin makes one of his 38 saves on Friday (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Ryan Larkin makes one of his 38 saves on Friday (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Because the RedHawks didn’t do that in their penultimate home game of the season. North Dakota had seven shots in the first four minutes, and if it hadn’t been for Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, it could’ve been 2-0 before many found their seats at Cady Arena.

The RedHawks had their moments on Friday but there was zero sustained pressure. On the other side, the Other Hawks controlled the puck in the offensive zone for shift after shift.

Shots on goal are not the be-all, end-all of hockey stats, but when a team is outshot by a 2-to-1 margin or greater in all three periods, that’s not a coincidence. The SOG by period was 16-5, 15-7 and 10-4.

There’s the cliché that winning is contagious. Well, so is not winning, and Miami has failed to secure a victory in 11 of its last 12 games.

A win on Saturday won’t fix the RedHawks’ seed, or their PairWise or even do much to correct their anemic record, but it could point them in the right direction heading into the playoffs.

Other thoughts…

– Time to dispel the “we’re young” excuse for Miami’s woeful performance this season. North Dakota has eight freshman and 11 sophomores – that’s 19 underclassmen, using the first two years of college definition – and five juniors and two seniors. One of those seniors is a goalie who has logged 18 career games.

– If we’ve learning one positive thing about a player this season, it’s that Gordie Green’s work ethic is top notch. It’s easy to get off your game when the team you play for rivals the Jacksonville Jaguars in terms of winning percentage, but he has thrived while the team has done the opposite. Green has three goals and five assists his last eight games, and Miami only has 19 markers in that span, meaning Green has factored into 42 percent of those. He even laid a player out on Friday and was assessed a bogus charging penalty even though he neither lined his opponent up nor left his feet.

– Impressed with Carter Johnson, who made a great move and just missed the net in the second period and had another quality scoring chance in the third period. Kudos also to Zach LaValle, who has continued to work as hard as anyone this season resulting in eight points in his last 16 games.

– With Louie Belpedio out, it was Josh Melnick who met with officials and UND captain Gage Ausmus during warm-ups. Very telling.

– BoB is not big on criticizing officiating, but seriously, in this game, 7-to-2 on power plays including an extended 4-on-3 that led to the decisive goal? It was a chippy game, no doubt, but come on. That said, UND made the most of those opportunities, outshooting the RedHawks, 17-2 on the man advantage and scoring a shorthanded goals on one of Miami’s chances.

– To complete the thought on penalties, Grant Hutton’s cross check to the head of a player laying in Miami’s crease wasn’t the smartest play of the season, and Conor Lemirande took three minors, eventually resulting in him being relegated to the bench for the balance of the third period. North Dakota a was better at getting under the RedHawks’ skin and watching MU get called for the retaliation.

– With this being the first time seeing the Fighting Hawks live this season, their skating and puck control stood out as two of their top attributes. They also move the puck extremely well on the power play. Hard to believe they were just two games over .500 entering this weekend. As usual, their fans traveled well, as this was the loudest any opposing fan base has been in this rink all season.

– With the regular season wrapping up, it’s about time we consider hanging numbers of more recent members of the Miami hockey clique on the brick wall at Cady Arena. For now, Andy Greene and Ryan Jones certainly seem worthy of having their respective 23 and 26 mounted in the Zamboni end.

– Louie Belpedio was in the concourse wearing a knee brace. Sounds like he’s just week-to-week, but unfortunately for Miami, do-or-die mode starts next week for this team. Obviously his return would help tremendously.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C-. Just 12 shots from this group. The LaValle-Sherwood-Green line was undoubtedly Miami’s best. Overall, this corps wasn’t particularly impressive on defense as well.

DEFENSEMEN: C-. The listed pairings bore little resemblance to how these blueliners were actually implemented in game. Scott Dornbrock had a decent game overall but coughed up the puck for the decisive breakaway goal. Other than an errant turnover, Grant Frederic played one of his better games.

GOALTENDING: B+. Again, when a goalie faces 41 shots and many are Grade-A chances, three goals against is a pretty good night. Larkin kept Miami in the game by stopping the first seven shots he faced in the opening four minutes. Other than arguably the breakaway, there was little he could’ve done about any of his goals against.

LINEUP CHANGES: For the third straight game, it was Alex Alger (F), Bryce Hatten (D) and Belpedio sitting. Hatten has been scratched for 15 of the last 16 games, so if Belpedio returns, it would be the expense of one of Friday’s starters on defense. With his forward corps relatively healthy, it appears this 12 from this game will be the group Blasi heads into the tournament with.

Analysis: Close doesn’t count in hockey

Having watched a lot of hockey at a lot of levels, it’s not hyperbole to say this is one of the most frustrating teams to watch in this lifetime.

Unfortunately, that cliché about “close” counting doesn’t refer to hockey and hand grenades, or else Miami would be in much better shape after its 3-3 tie at No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth on Friday.

Because in many ways, close is what the RedHawks (9-16-7) are to being a successful team and not one mired seven games under .500, facing a brutal road series to advance in the NCHC Tournament in two weeks just to extend their season. And it’s frustrating that they’ve not been able to close teams out too many times this season.

Close – amazingly – is what Miami is to defaulting to home-ice advantage in that round despite a 5-12-5 league record, as the team is only six points out of that elusive fourth seed. Frustrating because with Duluth and Denver running away with the top two seeds, the points threshold for that seed is lower than in any of the four seasons of the NCHC.

Close in forward depth, as this team has true offensive stars in Anthony Louis, Kiefer Sherwood, Josh Melnick and Carson Meyer. Gordie Green’s stock has soared the past two months, and Willie Knierim seems to be figuring it out at a steady, big guy, 19-year-old-in-D-I pace. Frustrating because the other seven forwards on the roster have a combined total of seven goals.

Close at defense, an area BoB highlighted at the beginning of the season with half of its studly blue line from 2015-16 graduating, as Grant Hutton is becoming a leader among this group and youngsters like Chaz Switzer appear to be gaining confidence. Frustrating because that progress has been too slow for some, veterans are making too many unforced mistakes and opponents are still setting up shop in front of the Miami net far too often with over 90 percent of the regular season in the books.

Miami goalie Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami goalie Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Well past close to “arrived” status in net, as Ryan Larkin has been a savior for this team – pun intended – as he has faced far too many A-plus scoring chances this season but still owns a .912 save percentage. Even that area is frustrating because he appears to be either tiring or losing a bit of confidence and has allowed the occasional soft goal in recent weeks that never would’ve gone in during December or January.

Close because this team showed a flash of excellence when it ran off five straight wins around the holidays and outscored its opponents, 18-2 in the third period and overtime during that span, with Melnick netting a pair of highlight-reel OT winners. Frustrating because the RedHawks suffered through an 0-7-3 span – their longest winless stretch in a quarter century – and are currently 1-8-2 in their last 11 during their most important games when they were given every chance to move up both in PairWise and the NCHC standings to earn their way into the NCAAs. And oh yeah, they’ve been outscored, 16-4 in the third period in their last seven, giving up multiple goals in the final stanza in every one of those contests.

This weekend is a microcosm of close and frustrating. Miami came back from 2-0 on Thursday to tie the second-ranked team in college hockey on the road, then after the Bulldogs (20-5-7) surged ahead again, the RedHawks again evened the score at three. Finally UMD buried a power play chance with a minute and a half left. Miami salvaged a tie on Friday and earned the extra league point.

The RedHawks have played some of their best hockey against top-ranked opponents like Minnesota-Duluth. This was probably the toughest series on Miami’s entire season schedule, and even without its captain, MU hung with the Bulldogs both games.

But it’s the story of the season: the RedHawks couldn’t get the win either night. Close doesn’t count in hockey.

Very frustrating.

Other thoughts…

– Is this series an example, like we talked about last week, of a team that is playing loose because home ice and PairWise are no longer factors? At six games under .500 heading into this weekend, these outcomes really don’t matter except for NCHC Tournament seeding. That takes a lot of pressure off a team that was in a bad place after the recent St. Cloud series. The focus now is getting better next weekend and preparing for that all-important best-of-3 in two weeks.

– How much of an impact does the return of Justin Greenberg and the loss of Louie Belpedio have on this team? Greenberg’s injury hurt the team on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle, and Louie Belpedio missed this weekend after being kneed last weekend. Those changes can affect the chemistry of a team – positively or negatively – and based on where Miami was for the Denver series and where it was this weekend, it seems like the RedHawks got a boost from Greenberg and were more fired up after losing their captain.

– And on the latter, BoB wishes a speedy return to Belpedio, who is a team leader on and off the ice and a delight to talk to. He’s had some struggles this year with penalties and turnovers, but captaincy on this team is very difficult. We even saw it affect Austin Czarnik, one of the best Miamians in team history and a current NHLer who could play there for the next decade.

– In fairness to the above, injuries really have played a role with this team, as Meyer, Larkin, Belpedio, Greenberg and Jared Brandt have all missed time this season, and with just three extra skaters on the team, Miami doesn’t really have the depth to absorb personnel losses. Christian Mohs hurt his knee before the season even started and has been out for the season, which put the RedHawks shorthanded from Day 1.

– Miami was mathematically eliminated from home ice after failing to secure three points on Friday. Long story as short as possible, if the RedHawks won out and Nebraska-Omaha won on Saturday then was swept next weekend, and St. Cloud State was swept, that would be best albeit super-unlikely scenario, as Miami would finish in a three-way tie with whatever the Sioux are calling themselves these days and the Huskies. But the RedHawks would still be 3-4-1 against those two teams and would end up with a six seed. So much for the suspense.

– In the bizarre stats area, Hutton is now tied with Melnick for best shooting percentage on the team, as both have scored nine times on 49 shots (.184). Maybe Brandt’s first career goal in Oxford last Saturday instilled confidence in him, as he had 27 shots on goal all season entering this weekend and fired six times in these two games, finding the net twice.

– Tapping the old memory banks to recall a team that was more self-strangulation inducing, the 2000-01 Cincinnati Mighty Ducks come to mind. That team had to use 12 goalies during the regular season and lost player after player to Anaheim and Detroit, that team’s affiliates. They finished above .500 but took an early exit from the playoffs.

W. Michigan tops Miami again

OXFORD, Ohio – Western Michigan continued its in-season dominance of Miami on Friday.

The No. 10 Broncos held off the RedHawks, 2-1 at Cady Arena in the first game of a two-game weekend set, extending Miami’s winless streak to four games. MU is now 0-3 against Western Michigan this season, and has been outscored, 13-6 by the Broncos.

After WMU controlled play early, Cam Lee’s wrister found the corner of the net 6:01 into the first period to open the scoring.

Miami's Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The Broncos (14-6-3) had a would-be marker in the final seconds of the opening frame waved off after a 14-minute review, as WMU was ultimately declared off-side. Western Michigan outshot Miami, 16-4 in the first 20 minutes.

The RedHawks (8-11-6) tied it on just their second shorthanded goal of the season, as Kiefer Sherwood held the puck along the boards before finding Grant Hutton on the left wing, and Hutton slid a pass across the slot the Louie Belpedio, who buried it 8:15 into the second period.

But the Broncos answered less than four minutes later when Wade Allison’s pass from behind the Miami net found the stick of Hugh McGing, who tapped it into the side of the cage to give WMU the lead for good.

The RedHawks remain in seventh place in the NCHC, one point behind St. Cloud State and 10 ahead of cellar dweller Colorado College with nine league games remaining.

Miami also slipped another spot in the PairWise rankings to 24th. The RedHawks would need to improve to at least No. 14 to warrant NCAA Tournament consideration.

Belpedio’s goal was his third in five games and sixth of the season. Sherwood, second on the team in points with 26, had been held off the scoresheet three straight games.

These teams wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

Miami shocks UND with 5 late goals

The comeback at Ohio State seemed impressive, but Miami topped that on Friday.

After falling behind by two, the RedHawks scored five unanswered goals to beat No. 7 North Dakota, 6-3 at Ralph Engelstad Arena, extending their winning streak to five games and their stretch of unbeaten contests to six.

Miami (8-8-5) was down, 3-1 entering the third period, with its lone goal coming by Gordie Green 3:30 into the game on a shot by Zach Lavelle that deflected off Green’s skate at the side of the net.

Anthony Louis cut the deficit to one just 55 seconds into the final stanza when he slammed a loose puck home from the top of the crease.

The RedHawks tied it 4:03 into that frame when Carson Meyer took a pass on the right wing, skated in alone and backhanded it home.

Thanks to a similar set-up, Karch Bachman got behind the defense at the same spot, took it in and scored on the forehard to make it 4-3 with 12:11 left in regulation.

After a North Dakota (12-7-3) goalie change, Ryan Siroky stickhandled at the top the crease and shoveled one through the five hole with 8:59, extending Miami’s lead to two.

Miami's Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami took advantage of a major power play, as Louie Belpedio ripped one from the blue line to cap off the scoring onslaught with 4:02 to play.

Belpedio ended the night with a game-high three points on a goal and two assists. Louis finished with a marker and a helper, with Kiefer Sherwood and Josh Melnick also adding two points on a pair of assists.

Several RedHawks extended points streaks. Louis and Sherwood have recorded points in six straight, with Louis going 3-6-9 and Sherwood recording a 4-6-10 line in that span.

Louis has three straight multi-point games and moved into a tie with Andy Greene and Andy Cozzi for 37th on the team’s all-time points leaderboard with 114.

Melnick has tallied points in five games in a row, scoring five times and picking up three helpers. Belpedio has six points in three games.

With the win, the RedHawks jumped eight spots in the PairWise to 20th. Miami remains tied for fifth in the NCHC but has two games in hand over St. Cloud State, as both teams have 16 points.

North Dakota and Western Michigan are just one point ahead of the pair.

Miami and UND wrap up the weekend series at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday.

Analysis: MU still reeling in 3rd period

A week off and the return of two key players were not enough to lift Miami out of the doldrums.

Despite a promising start that saw the RedHawks jump out to a two-goal lead, Cornell rallied to a 4-2 win over MU on Friday.

That makes eight straight games without a win for Miami (3-7-4), its longest winless span in two decades. And in the third period, the RedHawks have allowed 14 goals during their slump. They’ve scored twice.

Closing out games has been a residual theme for Miami over the past decade – since That Game That Will Not Be Mentioned, really – but right now this team is really in a third-period funk.

The parity in college hockey is too great to give games away, and this is the second time during this skid that Miami has done just that. Flip those losses to wins – not a stretch considering MU led by two late in the second period of both games in question – and the RedHawks are 5-5-4.

In the NCHC, one or two games over .500 is good enough for NCAA consideration, and Miami would be right there.

Youth becomes less of an excuse every time this team takes the ice. Yes, the RedHawks still have 14 freshmen on their roster, but they’ve been playing competitive games for two months now and most of these guys come in at 19, 20 or 21 now.

We’ll say it again: Having a young team means so much less in hockey than it does in the Big Two. There’s the older player factor (only Willie Knierim is a true freshman) and these guys play 70-game seasons in juniors prior to college.

Of the previous eight seasons, Miami has advanced in the NCAA Tournament three times. Twice it has been during the freshman-heavy recruiting campaign. The other was 2009-10, a team with eight sophomores and only four seniors, went to the Frozen Four.

That’s not to say this team won’t get better as the season progresses. But there’s no excuse for any team to squander multiple multiple-goal leads late.

The RedHawks play 34 regular season games. This was Game 14, with Game 15 set for Saturday night. Miami returns home to host Colorado College for a pair, which will take the team to the midway point of its schedule.

Granted, four ties essentially equals two wins, but the RedHawks need to string together some W’s quickly or they could be looking at another short postseason and long off-season.

Other thoughts…

Miami's Carson Meyer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Carson Meyer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– First a couple of positives. Carson Meyer returned after missing four straight games, and he scored Miami’s first goal. In 10 games he has three markers and eight assists for a freshman-best 11 points.

– Captain Louie Belpedio also was back in the RedHawks’ lineup, having sat the last six with a lower body injury. Miami was outshot in every game he was out – 220-151 in those contests – and the RedHawks actually led, 31-25 in SOG on Friday. On the flip side, he took three penalties down the stretch and Cornell scored Goal No. 4 on the second minor.

Miami forward Karch Bachman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami forward Karch Bachman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– Goals: Other than Meyer, Grant Hutton scored his fourth of the season after posting no goals and five assists in 2015-16. Also, freshman Karch Bachman recorded the first of his college career. This pair led the team in shots: Bachman finished with six and Hutton – a defensive defenseman – ended the night with five.

– Miami was only on the power play twice on Friday while Cornell (6-3-1) had six chances on the man-advantage. That differential of minus-4 opportunities was a season low for the RedHawks. MU was outscored, 1-0 on the man-advantage and obviously lost by one goal overall.

– Talk about a slick highlights reel: Check out the one the Big Red put together for Friday’s game. Or, considering the outcome, maybe just watch the first half.

Analysis: Tie is pleasant surprise

Blog of Brotherhood doesn’t make predictions on games, and Friday was Exhibit A as to why that’s the case.

After losing five straight games – three of which were at home – Miami skated to a 1-1 tie against No. 1 Denver at Magness Arena, which is at an altitude of over 5,000 feet.

When we last left the RedHawks, they were drubbed in their own building by Nebraska-Omaha, 6-2 a night after blowing a 4-1 lead in what was ultimately a 6-4 loss.

Miami goalie Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami goalie Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

In addition to proving that hockey is impossible to predict, we are reminded of another of the sport’s axioms, which is that goaltending is king and a dominant goalie can steal games. Miami was outshot, 39-21 including 15-3 in a first period that saw the RedHawks emerge with a 1-0 lead.

Granted Ryan Larkin didn’t pick up the win, but Miami had little chance if he didn’t stop 45 shots, 38 of which were official because they happened in regular and the legitimate overtime (the other seven were in five minutes of 3-on-3, which in itself is mind-blowing).

The RedHawks were still without captain Louie Belpedio on Friday and showed they are still capable of hanging with the best team in college hockey for 65 minutes.

That has to help this team’s confidence.

There was nowhere to go but up after the giant egg Miami laid last Saturday, and the RedHawks deserve a lot of credit for their significant ascension from six days earlier.

Other thoughts…

Miami's Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– It was hoped Belpedio would be back this week, but the lower-body injury that he is battling through cost him a fifth straight game. Miami is 0-4-1 without him. His return – whenever that is – will bolster the D-corps substantially and give coach Enrico Blasi more flexibility on his lineup card.

– Carson Meyer missed his third straight game. Hopefully with the off week for Thanksgiving next weekend, Miami will have both Meyer and Belpedio back when it resumes action at Cornell on Dec. 2. Meyer was starting to make a major impact, going 2-8-10 to lead all freshmen.

– There were three total power plays in this game – two for the RedHawks and one for Denver – and six combined penalty minutes assessed. No, really. Miami had averaged seven power plays and six penalty kills through its first 11 games. Neither team scored during the man-advantage, snapping a four-game stretch in which the RedHawks had allowed at least two PPGs. So that’s a positive.

– It was great to see Grant Hutton get a goal after an uncharacteristically poor showing last weekend. He did not register a goal his freshman year but has three in 12 games in 2016-17 and is arguably the top shut-down blueliner on the team.

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

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

– In the that-wouldn’t-have-happened-last-year department, how about Anthony Louis stripping a player to set up the Hutton goal? He’s always been a very good player but never was a major factor on D and along with Kiefer Sherwood has to be one of the top picks for most improved player.

– Believe it or not, this was just the third time this season Miami has blanked an opponent in the third period. Teams have outscored the RedHawks, 11-0 in the previous six third periods and Miami snapped a six-game streak in which it had been scored on in the final frame.

Analysis: Louie-Louis pair key in MU win

OXFORD, Ohio – After Saturday, Cady Arena might want to add the Kingsmen’s 1963 hit “Louie Louie” to its repertoire.

Or maybe amend the spelling to “Louie Louis”.

Louie Belpedio scored two goals on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Louie Belpedio scored two goals on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The duo of Louie Belpedio and Anthony Louis scored Miami’s first three goals in its 5-0 win over Maine in its series finale, as the Chicago-area pair has netted six of the RedHawks’ nine markers in the first three games of this homestand.

It was an amazing eight days for Belpedio, who struggled mightily in the first period vs. Ohio State last weekend but scored the team’s lone goal in the next stanza. That seemed to turn his game around, and although he is still prone to the occasional turnover, he has been exception at moving the puck, especially on the power play.

Then there’s Louis, whose game has jumped miles ahead from his first three seasons to this homestand that opens his final season in Oxford. It took him 10 games to find the net in 2015-16, and he had three plus an assist this weekend on 15 shots, many of which his hard work created. He seems physically stronger and more driven this fall than at any other time wearing a Miami sweater.

And yet the most-improved offensive player award is in no way clear-cut, as Kiefer Sherwood makes an excellent case for that. Like Louis, he is doing much more at a higher level than filling the scoresheet.

Just based on the three games in this homestand, Carson Meyer looked much more comfortable on the ice from Period 1 to Period 9, and the stats prove that out, as he had three assists in this game and had a goal erased on a delayed, delayed off-side call.

Karch Bachman’s blazing speed and skills make him an easy top-6 forward, and he is just starting to reach his potential. Gordie Green has been feisty and it seems inevitable he will start putting up points soon playing to the right of Bachman and Sherwood.

Throw in Josh Melnick, the most complete forward on the team and on-ice leader despite being a sophomore, and that’s six forwards plus a power play quarterback defenseman we just mentioned that could be elite both in the NCHC and nationally.

And that’s without mentioning Ryan Larkin, who stopped 33 shots for his first shutout. It’s safe to say he’s the real deal and is going to steal some games over his career, and every competitive team needs great goaltending to win critical games.

There’s certainly a lot to like about Saturday’s performance, especially since scoring was a weakness for Miami last season, but before we punch our tickets to the Frozen Four, some perspective…

Maine didn’t get great goaltending. In fact, the Black Bears weren’t a terribly impressive lot. They had two outstanding goals on Friday but sort of mailed it in after Miami went up multiple goals on Saturday.

Still, the RedHawks showed on Friday they could respond while trailing three times to salvage a tie and in this game they were able to step on a team’s throat late, something they haven’t always exceled at.

To accomplish both against Maine, they needed offense from a team that scored just 86 times in 36 times last season and saw its first-round pick that tied for the team’s points lead walk this summer after one year.

Coming off a 15-18-3 season with 14 freshmen and no Jack Roslovic – or Sean Kuraly or Matthew Caito for that matter – we’ll take 2-1-2 at this point with 2.80 goals for per game and an average of just 1.80 against.

Other thoughts…

– Hate to gloss over Larkin’s performance, but offense was so much more of a concern entering this season, and this team has always found quality kids between the pipes. Now to gush a little: Larkin has been absolutely amazing in his first three home games. He has a .955 save percentage and 1.27 goals-against average at Cady Arena. Keep in mind, this is on a freshman-laden team that has made some defensive mistakes, so he has faced a plethora of high-percentage chances. Miami’s just fine in net, hopefully for the next four years.

– One player we haven’t really talked about is Jared Brandt. The freshman defenseman hasn’t been sexy but has been very effective in his own end and has a physical streak. As the everyday lineup starts to solidify, Brandt’s name should be on it nightly, bringing much-needed stability to a blue line that lost several four-year starters last off-season.

– Despite the score, Miami actually started pretty slowly in this one. Period 1 bore no resemblance to 2 and 3, and the Meyer non-goal may have been a turning point.

– One more peeve: I really, really don’t like reviewing off-sides after a goal. And yes, I’d say that if Maine had had a goal reversed. Going back and waving off a goal for something that happened 30 seconds earlier is the equivalent of taking back a touchdown because six plays earlier because it’s determined the ball really should’ve been placed at the 38 yard line and not the 39. Replay on goals? Sure. Micromanaging tertiary calls like off-sides when they don’t directly contribute to scores? No thanks.

– Final thought: Belpedio and Louis are both from the Chicago area. They scored the first three goals. Miami won 5-0. The same night, the Cubs won 5-0 to advance to the World Series. Heck of a coincidence.

– OK, one more final thought. Sorry for the delay in getting stuff posted. High school football conflicts plus real work, and Sunday was my birthday. Should be more timely moving forward. Thanks for your patience and thanks always for those who read our rambling prose.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A. Not only is it scary that Miami has Louis-Melnick-Meyer-Sherwood-Bachman-Green as its top six, the third line of Ryan Siroky, Justin Greenberg and Zach LaValle was solid again in this game, albeit it without producing points. Alex Alger played his first home game and impressed with his energy on the fourth line. Conor Lemirande is way better than in his first two seasons. Carter Johnson was a solid grinder on that line as well. That’s all 12.

DEFENSEMEN: B+. It’s weird: As someone who appreciates defense, the good and bad of that aspect seemed somewhat lacking from this game. That’s OK as typically stay-at-home D-men are noticed for bad play a la offensive linemen in football. The game became a lot more physical in the third period, and this corps was involved in much of the carnage, with Grant Hutton dishing out some hits, Belpedio knocking a couple of player around – most notably with an old-school submarine hip check at full speed, and Scott Dornbrock blasting a player in front of the benches, drawing a debatable penalty. Belpedio scored the two goals, which obviously raise the grade, and overall this corps kept its errant turnovers to a minimum.

GOALTENDING: A+. Larkin earned his first career shutout and was in complete control all night. He almost never allows rebounds and was excellent at icing the puck when Miami had the lead, not allowing Maine a chance to get back into the game. Larkin was tested on a 3-on-1 in the final minute but made the save to preserve the shutout. What a performance.

LINEUP CHANGES: Alger replaced Willie Knierim and did a solid job on the fourth line. On defense, Colin Sullivan returned to the lineup as Chaz Switzer was scratched. Andrew Masters was again the backup in net.

Finally a home win for Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – After 239 days, Miami finally found itself in the win column on home ice.

Including this one, Ryan Larkin turned 33 shots aside to lead Miami (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Including this one, Ryan Larkin turned 33 shots aside to lead Miami (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

After an excruciatingly long off-season and a pair of ties in their first two games at Cady Arena, the RedHawks shut out Maine, 5-0 on 33 saves by Ryan Larkin on Saturday to wrap up a 1-0-1 weekend.

The RedHawks’ last win in this building was on Feb. 27 vs. Colorado College, also a shutout. Miami’s last three home wins have all come by blankings.

Miami thought it had the lead in the first period on a bad-angle rip by Carson Meyer, but the Black Bears challenged and the play was ruled off-side.

But the next one counted, as Anthony Louis and Josh Melnick played give-and-go in the offensive zone in the first period, with Melnick dropping a pass to Louis in the slot for a wrister that beat Rob McGovern 3:42 into the second period.

Just 25 seconds later and six seconds into a power play, a wrist shot by defenseman Louie Belpedio beat McGovern on the glove side to make it 2-0.

With 9:42 left in the middle stanza, Belpedio struck again, this time whipping one just under the crossbar from the top of the faceoff circle to extend the RedHawks’ lead to three.

An offensive-zone feed off the transition by Carson Meyer set up a 2-on-0, with Kiefer Sherwood sliding one across to blueliner Scott Dornbrock for a point-blank blast to run it to 4-0 with 13:19 left in regulation, ending McGovern’s night.

Sherwood capped off the scoring with a close-up one-time rip of his own on a centering pass from Karch Bachman feed from the side of the cage. Sherwood had set up the chance with a stretch pass along the boards and then skated into the slot for the goal with 10:46 left.

Sherwood finished with a goal and two assists for a five-point weekend, and Meyer picked up three helpers, as both recorded career highs with three points.

Belpedio’s two-goal game was the first of his career, and Louis ended the night with a goal and an assist, giving him three markers and one helper in two games.

Ryan Larkin’s shutout was the first of his career. He made 24 stops in the final two periods.

After losing its season opener in Providence, MU is unbeaten in its last four (2-0-2).

Miami will host Bowling Green in a two-game set next weekend. The RedHawks swept the Falcons in a home-and-home season series in 2015-16.