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Miami swept by UMD to end season

The 2015-16 season ended for Miami on March 12, after being swept in two games at Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

This campaign ended a day earlier, again after a two-and-out in the conference quarterfinals and on the same ice surface.

The RedHawks’ season ended with a 5-3 loss to No. 3 UMD at Amsoil Arena on Satuday, as Miami finished with its fewest wins since 1990-91.

Brenden Kotyk and Nick Wolff scored early in the first and second periods, respectively, to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.

Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

But Miami (9-20-7) ran off the next three, as Justin Greenberg found the net on the power play with 8:18 left in the middle stanza and Kiefer Sherwood and Anthony Louis connected 1:48 apart early in the third period, giving the RedHawks a 3-2 advantage.

That was the fourth lead of the series for Miami.

Once again Minnesota-Duluth (23-6-7) came back. Jared Thomas tied it at three with 6:35 to play, Alex Iafallo put UMD ahead for good 2:12 later and Dominic Toninato sealed it with a late empty netter.

Miami forward Justin Greenberg (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Louis finished his career with 126 points, as he tied John Ciotti and Dave McClintock for 20th on Miami’s all-time leaderboard. It was his first marker in 14 games.

Greenberg is also a senior, registering a goal in his final collegiate game.

Sherwood’s goal was his 14th of the season, tying him with Louis for the team lead.

The RedHawks are now 0-8-1 in their last nine games at Amsoil Arena and are 0-4 in the postseason there. Overall they have not beaten the Bulldogs in their last 10 meetings (0-8-2), with their last victory over UMD coming on Feb. 21, 2015.

This was just the fourth season in the program’s 39-year varsity history it has failed to reach the 10-win mark and the first time it has happened under coach Enrico Blasi. It’s the first time since Blasi’s inaugural season that Miami has posted consecutive losing records, which it last did in 1998-99 and 1999-2000.

The RedHawks finished the season winless in their final 10 and 1-12-2 in their last 15. MU had not gone 10 games without a win since 1990-91 but did that twice this season.

Miami loses three seniors – Greenberg, Louis and defenseman Colin Sullivan.

The RedHawks open the 2017-18 season on Oct. 6 against Providence at Cady Arena.

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.

Miami falls in OT in NCHC opener

Miami had played in 10 overtime games this season without suffering a loss.

That streak was broken on Friday, as No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth edged the RedHawks, 5-4 in an NCHC Tournament best-of-3 opener in the quarterfinal round at Amsoil Arena.

Alex Iafallo skated behind the crease and had his wrap-around denied by MU goalie Chase Munroe, but Dominic Toninato was there at the top of the crease to slam home the game winner 7:24 into the extra session.

Miami is winless in its last nine games, going 0-8-1 in that span, and faces elimination on Saturday.

Parker Mackay stole the puck from Josh Melnick, skated across the slot and wristed one home to give Minnesota-Duluth the lead 5:21 into the first period.

Miami (9-19-7) answered with a pair of goals in the next 64 seconds. On a 2-on-1, Gordie Green passed through the slot to Zach LaValle, who skated around sprawled-out UMD goalie Hunter Miska and deposited the puck in the net to tie it.

Carson Meyer put the RedHawks ahead when he beat two defenders to a loose puck to gain the zone then ultimately grabbed the rebound off an outside shot from Anthony Louis, burying it to make it 2-1.

Moments later, there was a pile-up in the Miami crease, and RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin was injured. He did not return and was replaced by Munroe, who had not played in a game in three months.

The Bulldogs (22-6-7) tied it at two when Nick Wolff fired a blue line shot that caromed off the end boards to Riley Tufte, who was wide open at the side of the net for a tap-in at the end of a long shift with 16:16 left in the second period.

Green one-timed a shot from the slot off a pass by Grant Hutton from behind the UMD net as Miami regained the lead, 3-2 with 4:06 remaining in the middle stanza.

That RedHawks lead was short-lived, as Iafallo skated the length of the ice on a 2-on-2, crashed the net and backhanded it past Munroe to tie it just 43 seconds later.

Miami took its third lead of the game with 8:46 to play in regulation when Ryan Siroky whipped a puck on net from along the boards, and it hit a body in the slot, trickling past Miska.

Miami’s Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Once again, Minnesota-Duluth answered quickly, as Karson Kuhlman slid a pass through two defenders to Tufte, who was wide open in the slot. Munroe made the initial save but Tufte corralled his own rebound and scored just 65 seconds after the RedHawks’ goal to make it 4-4.

Green finished with a goal and an assist, giving him helpers in four straight games and seven points in that stretch. Hutton earned a pair of assists and has 10 points in his last 11 contests.

Game 2 is scheduled for 8:37 p.m. on Saturday.

Analysis: Seniors, families will be missed

It turned out the sweep of Colorado College two weeks ago would be the last feel-good moment for the 2015-16 Miami hockey team.

In a season filled with drama, some uplifting, some not so much, the RedHawks fell to Minnesota-Duluth, 3-1 on Saturday, completing a sweep by the Bulldogs in the best-of-3 NCHC Tournament quarterfinal series that ended MU’s season.

This is always the hardest piece to write of the season. Fifty-nine of 60 teams finish each season with losses, and for many players it’s the last high-level competitive hockey game of their careers, so what good does it do to kick a team and its players when they’re down in what could be the last thing written about them?

Last season, I didn’t do an analysis piece following the Providence loss. It just didn’t seem like there was a reason to.

Plus they were serving deep fried calamari with jalapeno peppers across the street from the rink in Providence, and I had to get my fill.

We have seven months to write about areas in which this team needs to improve, and with the team announcing that 13 freshmen will be coming in combined with what this season’s rookies did, it should be an exciting fall in Oxford.

But we’ll simply leave it at this for now: We wondered out loud if this team would have the offensive firepower to qualify for the NCAAs this season with the loss of studs Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman and Riley Barber.

Turns out the RedHawks didn’t. They’re tied for 43rd out of 60 Division I teams with a 2.39 goals-per-game average, and they found the net nine times in six games vs. Minnesota-Duluth, or 1.5 times per contest.

Now allow me a selfish moment.

This was the 10th season at Cady Arena, and we’ve had season tickets since the rink opened and attended most home games the final few seasons at the Old Goggin.

In that time, I’ve never needed Miami hockey more than in 2015-16.

First, we were fortunate enough to make friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime with some of the unbelievable people that are the parents of some of these players. We consider ourselves especially close with several of this group’s senior parents.

We sit in the next section over from the family section, and with @HockeyChica1 taking outstanding photos each season – many of which families use for the Night of Celebration collages that are created for each player – we mingle with a lot of the players’ immediate families.

And really quick: If you get a chance to meet some of these parents, you should really take advantage of the opportunity. The media have created a stereotype that athlete family members are borderline psychotic lunatics, but for the most part that couldn’t be further from the truth.

One set of parents drove to every home series this season despite living nearly 1,000 miles away, and another flew halfway across the country to see each game at Cady Arena. These are amazing people that make amazing sacrifices for their kids from ages three to 23, and despite the perception, not all of them are executive-level rich.

We will miss them greatly, every one of the departing seniors: Forwards Kevin Morris, Alex Gacek, Sean Kuraly, Andrew Schmit and Michael Mooney, defensemen Matthew Caito, Taylor Richart and Chris Joyaux and goalies Jay Williams and Ryan McKay.

So anyway, last March I was essentially laid off from Scripps-Howard owned WCPO, where I worked for 18 years, dating back to 1997 when I was in college. Starting out, I took any menial job with The Cincinnati Post to be in the business and by the time the paper folded in 2007 I was making a decent living as a writer and editor.

I figured the contacts I had made there would land me a lateral or better job in the media field. It didn’t, but I was given the opportunity through Scripps to build a site that covered high school sports in Northern Kentucky at a significant pay cut.

I took advantage, and while it took several years, we were beating The Enquirer badly in that area with a fraction of the staff despite not being promoted.

Now back to last March. Not only was the plug pulled on the site I had worked on for years to build, WCPO decided it didn’t want to host RedHawkey – which was the medium I used to write about Miami hockey for the previous five seasons – even for free.

I was filled with anger as the executive I met with there implied that my RedHawkey writing didn’t even matter. I immediately thought back to a couple years prior when a father hugged me at the rink after I had written a feature about his son while the family was undergoing major health issues, and I wanted to ask him to tell that family what I did didn’t matter, but I thought better of it.

And this double-whammy was a professional embarrassment, as in an economy that is still struggling as badly as Ohio State’s power play unit, finding a good-paying job the past year has been exceedingly difficult.

Fortunately from a writing perspective BoB accepted this writer-photographer team, which is something I am grateful for.

My wife has been extremely understanding and patient with my ongoing fiscal struggle, because there have been times over the past year when I have not been easy to live with.

But this program allows me the opportunity to get away from all of that, even just for a few hours. The stress and frustration created by this being my worst year by far from a professional standpoint goes away when I come to the rink.

This season I needed that temporary escape more than ever.

Miami finished 15-18-3, and that’s unfortunate. But personally, sometimes being able to get away from it all and just get to the games and surround myself with people I greatly respect and consider friends is a lot more important than wins and losses.

Even though some of the families we have bonded with will likely never return to Cady Arena, with their sons having graduated, in our minds they will always be a part of that beautiful rink and this program that we so cherish.

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: NCAA path now brutal for Miami

Coming back from a game down in a best-of-3 series is arduous, exponentially so on the road.

But add in that Miami led twice in Game 1 – including by a pair of goals, 4-2 – before allowing three third-period tallies, and that task becomes herculean.

Unfortunately for the RedHawks, that’s the position they are in after Friday’s 5-4 loss at Minnesota-Duluth in the opening game of their best-of-3 NCHC Tournament quarterfinal round road series.

It’s the type of demoralizing loss that is tough to come back from at any level, in any sport. It almost would’ve been better if Miami (15-17-3) had lost this game 6-0.

Now the Bulldogs (16-14-5) smell blood and want to close this thing out, because playing a third game in three days is a hindrance on many levels, especially with a clear-cut No. 1 goalie in Kasimir Kaskisuo.

The RedHawks have exceled when faced with elimination in past years, but they are now 0-4-1 vs. UMD this season and need to win back-to-back games on the Bulldogs’ home ice just to advance to Minneapolis.

And what are the odds that Kaskisuo, one of the top goalies in Division I, much less the conference, stops .818 of his shots faced again in a best-of-3?

It’s looking grim for Miami, but the team did finally break through for four goals after being held to four in four previous games vs. UMD, so hopefully that offensive confidence carries over to the final two games of this set.

Other thoughts…

– Noticing this more recently, but the defense was soft on a couple of these goals in terms of challenging opponents. Cal Decowski was left alone at the blue line for the first goal, which granted was on an outstanding tip-in, but still, this was an even-strength tally. Three others were on 2-on-2s. Louie Belpedio was aggressive on one skater at the blue line but was ultimately rendered off-balance and Miami was scored on.

– Seems like UMD is targeting Miami senior goalie Jay Williams’ glove side. One goal he definitely would’ve wanted back (the tying marker that made it 2-2), and he was beaten that way multiple other times, albeit on point-blank chances.

– Great to see senior defenseman Matthew Caito back, as Miami had clearly struggled in his absence, although it’s unclear if he’s 100 percent after missing two weeks. Still, less than 100 percent of Caito is better than most Division I blueliners.

– Freshmen Zach LaValle and Ryan Siroky both scored, which they haven’t done much of this season, and hopefully doing so on this stage will set the tone for them heading into next season in a class that has already been a successful one with the initiation of Josh Melnick, Jack Roslovic, Kiefer Sherwood and Grant Hutton.

– Minnesota-Duluth is giving credibility to the theory that the No. 5 seed is worse than the lowest three because the Bulldogs are still fighting for an NCAA berth. This is an impressive team that underachieved during the regular season but appears to be peaking at the most opportune time. That’s not good for Miami.

Three late goals doom Miami

Miami is almost certainly one loss away from having its season end.

The RedHawks saw a two-goal lead vanish, as they surrendered three unanswered third-period goals in a 5-4 loss at Minnesota-Duluth on Friday in the first game of a best-of-3 series.

It was Miami’s third straight game in Duluth, and its third straight loss. The RedHawks finished the regular season with a road series vs. the Bulldogs and were swept.

UMD (16-14-5) opened the scoring when Austyn Young tipped home a blueline wrister by Cal Decowski just 4:34 into the game.

Miami (15-17-3) tied it on a goal by freshman forward Zach LaValle, who fired in a bad-angle shot with 7:43 left in the first period.

The RedHawks went ahead, 2-1 when a Bulldogs defensive zone pass hit the skate of sophomore forward Conor Lemirande and slid to freshman forward Ryan Siroky, who whipped in the off-balance shot 4:11 into the middle stanza.

UMD tied it again on a blueline shot by Adam Welinski on the power play with 10:01 to play in that frame.

But Miami regained the lead just 18 seconds later, as senior forward Alex Gacek and junior forward Anthony Louis played give and go, with Gacek centering a pass to Louis, who skated in and backhanded one past Bulldogs goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo.

The RedHawks went ahead two just three minutes later, as a blast by sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio found twine to make it 4-2 after two periods.

Unfortunately for Miami, there were still 20 minutes left.

Adam Johnson cut the lead to one when he drove the net 2-on-2 and beat senior goalie Jay Williams 4:54 into that stanza.

With 8:48 left in regulation, Neal Pionk tied it on a power play rip from the blue line.

The game winner came from Carson Soucy, just his second marker of the season, as he was the trailer on a 2-on-2 and shot the puck in from the slot.

Ten of the RedHawks’ skaters recorded a point, with Louis recording a goal and an assist for a team-best two points.

Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

At this point, the only way Miami could earn an NCAA Tournament berth without winning the NCHC Tournament would be if it advanced to the title game and lost, thus giving the RedHawks a requisite .500 record, and everything went right for them in the PairWise rankings, which would be an extreme longshot.

The RedHawks are currently tied for 23rd and would need to improve to 14th or better to have a legitimate shot at an at-large bid.

Game 2 of this series is at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday, and Game 3 – if necessary – would be at 8:07 p.m. on Sunday.

Preview: Miami at Minnesota-Duluth

WHO: Miami RedHawks (15-16-3) at Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (15-14-5).

WHAT: NCHC best-of-3 quarterfinal series.

WHERE: Amsoil Arena, Duluth, Minn.

WHEN: Friday–8:07 p.m.; Saturday–8:07 p.m.; Sunday–8:07 p.m. (if necessary)

TV: None.

MIAMI RADIO: All three nights–WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio; WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.

MINNESOTA-DULUTH RADIO: All three nights–WWAX-FM (92.1), Duluth, Minn.; KQDS-FM (95.5), Grand Rapids, Minn.; WJJY-FM (106.7), Brainerd, Minn.; WXCX-FM (105.7), Pine City, Minn.

NOTES: Miami was swept in Duluth last weekend, and the RedHawks return to UMD with their season on the line.

Miami is 0-3-1 vs. Minnesota-Duluth and has scored just four goals against Kasimir Kaskisuo and the Bulldogs this season.

And that has been the MO for UMD – it has allowed just 68 goals in 34 goals for a 2.00 average, with Kaskisuo posting a 1.86 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.

Only two Bulldogs have reached the 20-point mark, with just Tony Camenaresi over 30 (9-22-31). Austin Farley has 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points, including eight of UMD’s 20 power play tallies.

Tied for 22nd in the PairWise rankings and a game under .500, the axiom of the year is that Miami needs to win this series to have a shot at an NCAA Tournament berth, and the RedHawks probably need to win the NCHC Tournament to earn a spot among the national field.

Miami has yet to win against Minnesota-Duluth this season, finishing the regular season 0-3-1 vs. the Bulldogs, and the RedHawks were swept in Duluth last weekend, getting outscored, 8-1.

It doesn’t look good for MU, but consider that the RedHawks are 7-2 all-time in the NCHC Tournament and 4-1 in this round including 2-0 on the road.

Miami has won this round both seasons of the NCHC’s existence to advance to the Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis.

The RedHawks also have not lost a best-of-3 series since 2009 when Northern Michigan rallied to win Games 2 and 3 at Cady Arena after losing the series opener.