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Down 3, Miami salvages tie vs. DU

Miami didn’t win on Saturday, but it did come back from three down to eke out a tie in its regular season finale.

That was on the road vs. the fifth-ranked team in college hockey.

After falling behind, 3-0 less than five minutes in, the RedHawks rallied for a 3-3 tie at No. 5 Denver on Saturday and earned the extra point in the NCHC standings with a 3-on-3 win.

Despite earning seven conference points in its final four games, Miami finished last in the eight-team NCHC.

The RedHawks enter the playoffs having won just two of its last 15 games (2-10-3). They will travel to No. 2 St. Cloud State next week to open the NCHC Tournament in a best-of-3 series.

RECAP: Just 4:19 into the first period, Denver had already taken a 3-0 lead.

Henrik Borgstrom centered one from behind the net to Jarid Lukosevicius in the slot for a one-timer 73 seconds into the game.

Eighteen seconds later, Ryan Barrow went in alone and beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on the forehand.

In another three minutes, Adam Plant found the net from the outside edge of the faceoff circle on a wrister through traffic.

Then the comeback.

The RedHawks converted on a 2-on-0, with Gordie Green tapping home the centering feed by Kiefer Sherwood with 3:15 left in the first period as a Denver defender collided with goalie Tanner Jaillet.

Jaillet finished the period but did not play the balance of the game.

New Pioneers goalie Dayton Rasmussen was beaten on his first shot. After Zach LaValle won a battle along the boards, the puck found Karch Bachman, who skated in and fired one home from a bad angle.

Bachman tipped home a blue-line shot by Louie Belpedio to tie it.

In the 3-on-3 overtime, Phil Knies stole the puck and wired one home over Rasmussen’s shoulder.

STATS: This was the 16th straight game in which the team that scored first also scored second.

That means either Miami or its opponent has taken a 2-0 lead or more in every contest since Jan. 5. The odds of that happening at random are over 65,000 to 1.

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

— The RedHawks snapped a seven-game streak without a power play goal, and they also scored in the first period for the first time in eight contests.

Miami’s first-period goal total and its PPG total have been identical in nine straight games.

— It was the first multi-goal game of Bachman’s career. The sophomore has already tripled his rookie goal-scoring input, as he has six markers this season vs. two in 2016-17.

— Sherwood extended his team-best points streak to four games. He is 2-3-5 in that stretch and picked up a pair of assists in this contest.

THOUGHTS: What a crazy ending.

A Miami team that went 0-3-1 on a four-game road trip vs. Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado College and was 1-8-1 in its previous 10 contests broke even in its last four against North Dakota and Denver.

Crazier is that the RedHawks’ opponents that took a 3-0 lead the past two weekends finished 0-1-1 in those games.

Craziest: In Miami’s last 16 games, the team that has scored first has also netted the next goal. So RedHawks games have had a 2-0 score at some point in every contest since early January.

These games were irrelevant to Miami from a seedings perspective, but a 1-1-2 record in its last four regular season contests vs. North Dakota and at Denver should at least inspire hope.

— A big positive to take away from this game is Bachman’s scoring. He has been partly inaccurate, partly snakebitten while being placed on skill lines this season, and with his speed if he can start to find the net regularly his final two years could be very lucrative.

LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: At forward, Carson Meyer was reinserted and Christian Mohs did not dress.

It was just the second game Meyer has missed this season.

FINAL THOUGHTS: These games were irrelevant in terms of the RedHawks’ place in the tournament world but had to give them momentum heading into the NCHCs.

They hung with one of the top dogs in D-I for 125 minutes on the road.

It’s the beauty of March: A poor regular season can be reversed with a conference tournament win.

And desperation can be a strong weapon. St. Cloud State will play in the NCAAs, and any subsequent opponent in the NCHC field would likely be in that boat as well.

There is no future beyond next weekend if Miami doesn’t win this series.

Four years ago the RedHawks were in the same predicament and also faced St. Cloud in the first round. Miami won that series and ultimately fell a goal short in the NCHC championship game.

The odds of an NCAA berth for Miami are long, but a desperate RedHawks team again faces an elite SCSU team that will play on college hockey’s biggest stage regardless of this weekend’s outcome.

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Slow start vs. Denver dogs Miami

Denver had three power play chances in the first period and scored on two of them.

The Pioneers added another goal early in the second period for a three-goal lead it would not relinquish in Friday’s 6-3 DU win over Miami at Magnuss Arena.

The RedHawks (11-18-4) did pull to within a goal in the closing minutes but No. 5 Denver punched in a pair of late markers to seal the win.

Miami has lost 10 straight March games and is 0-9 in this month the past three seasons. The RedHawks are 0-7-1 on the road since their last victory outside of Oxford on Dec. 8, and they have a 2-10-2 overall record in their last 14 games.

RECAP: It was the Dylan Gambrell show early.

The DU forward scored on the backhand from the slot to open the scoring, and his shot from the same area was tipped in by Jarid Lukosevicius to make it 2-0.

Rudy Junda extended the DU lead to three when he took a behind-the-net feed from Kolin Olischefski, was denied by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin and batted home the rebound.

The RedHawks cut the deficit to two when Kiefer Sherwood knocked home a one-time pass from Phil Knies on a 3-on-1.

With 10:14 left in the second period, Logan O’Connor centered a pass to Henrik Borgstrom, and the puck hit off Borgstrom’s skate and into the net, making it 4-1.

Miami trimmed the lead to two with five minutes remaining in regulation when Conor Lemirande penetrated the zone and had his pass into the slot hit a Denver player and carrom in.

The RedHawks’ Casey Gilling’s feed also hit a Pioneers defender, deflecting off a stick and into the net with 3:57 remaining.

But a seeing-eye shot from the blue line by Adam Plant found the cage with 2:23 left to make it 5-3, and Colin Staub capped the scoring with an empty netter.

STATS: Slow starts have been the norm for Miami in recent weeks, as the team has been outscored, 9-0 in the first period its last seven games.

Miami’s Rourke Russell (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The RedHawks also have not scored a power play goal in that seven-game span, going 0-for-22 on the man advantage.

Denver (18-8-7) had five power play chances, scoring on two of them. Miami was on the man advantage once.

— It was the first career multi-point game for Rourke Russell, who picked up two assists.

— Sherwood has scored in consecutive games for the second time this season and has a team-best three-game points streak.

— Gilling scored for the first time in seven games. Lemirande had not scored in his last 25 contests.

THOUGHTS: Did we mention the early power play goals for Denver?

An opponent just can’t give the Pioneers three chances in the first period and expect to win, especially on their home ice.

Then it was 3-0, and that pretty much sealed Miami’s fate for the night.

To the RedHawks’ credit, they battled until the end, trimming a 4-1 Denver lead to one before ultimately surrendering a fifth goal followed by an empty netter.

Being an early no-show has been a theme for Miami this season and is a tough way to make a living in the ultra-competitive NCHC.

— Both early goals were scored because Denver was allowed to control the slot. Gambrell skated laterally to get in there for his goal, and he did the same from the opposite direction on goal No. 2, which was tipped in by Lukosevicius – a player allowed to camp out at the top of the crease.

— It was a strange night for redirected pucks. Miami had one go in off a skate and another hit a stick, as both completely changed direction en route to the net.

One could argue the RedHawks got somewhat lucky in getting back into the game, since those consecutive goals took the score from 4-1 to 4-3.

To be fair, Denver also scored one – its fourth of the night – when a centering feed hit Borgstrom’s skate before finding its mark.

LINEUP CHANGES: Up front, Christian Mohs dressed for just the eighth time this year, and Zach LaValle was in the lineup for only the second time in eight contests.

Carson Meyer was the notable scratch, as the Columbus Blue Jackets draftee has struggled this season. It’s the second time he has not played this season. Willie Knierim was also out of the lineup.

No changes on defense.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Officially these games mean nothing for Miami, which has one clear route to the NCAA Tournament: Beat St. Cloud next week and win the NCHC Tournament.

But it would’ve been nice if there were more positives to be taken from this game.

The RedHawks did battle after falling behind by three, which is admirable in an essentially meaningless game, and Sherwood continues to shine after a sub-par first half.

That’s the boom from this one.

The negatives: Opponents didn’t pay a price in the slot – a recurring theme – the team got off to a slow start, etc.

Ideally, it would be nice to have momentum heading into the opening round of the conference tournament. Denver and SCSU are the elite of the elite in this conference, and Miami needs to show it can compete on the road against Division I’s best.

Unfortunately, this game did little to inspire confidence.

Photos: North Dakota at Miami

Images from the series played between North Dakota and Miami University at Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio, on Feb. 23-24, 2018. All photos by Cathy Lachmann/BoB.

Miami loses late lead, ties NorDak

OXFORD, Ohio – On Friday, Miami battled back from three down to win.

One night later, No. 12 North Dakota was the team overcoming a multiple-goal deficit.

But unlike the RedHawks, the Fighting Hawks were only able to salvage a tie after evening the score on a pair of third-period goals for a 2-2 draw at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Miami (11-17-4) earned the extra point in 3-on-3 play after the game was officially ruled a tie, giving the RedHawks five of a possible six points on the weekend.

Despite the strong showing this weekend, Miami clinched last place in the NCHC. Three teams are tied for fifth, six points ahead of the RedHawks. All have two regular season games remaining.

So it is possible for MU to tie at least one of those three, but Miami cannot win a tiebreaker against any of them.

Melnick

Miami’s Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

After the completion of this game, St. Cloud clinched the conference title, so the RedHawks will travel there for their first-round NCHC Tournament series in two weeks.

RECAP: The teams were scoreless after the first period, but Miami’s Josh Melnick gave Miami the lead when he stole a puck at his defensive blue line and skated in for a breakaway, pounding the puck into the pads of North Dakota goalie Cam Johnson.

At first it appeared Johnson had made the save, but the referee by the net ruled it a goal, a shorthanded tally at the 4:23 mark of the middle stanza.

The RedHawks made it 2-0 just 26 seconds into the third period when Carter Johnson slid a pass through the slot that Kiefer Sherwood rifled home.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

But at the 4:20 mark of the final frame, a shot by the Fighting Hawks’ Hayden Shaw from a bad angle hit the glove of Miami goalie Ryan Larkin and trickled in.

Exactly three minutes later, UND’s Nick Jones redirected a blue-line shot by Colton Poolman to tie the score.

After five minutes of 5-on-5 overtime, Sherwood found the net in the 3-on-3 to give Miami the extra league point.

STATS: It was the ninth goal of the season for Melnick, and Sherwood scored his seventh. Melnick led Miami with three points on the weekend.

— It was just the second time in 14 games the RedHawks allowed fewer than two goals.

— Make that six straight games with neither a power-play nor a first-period tally.

— And Miami still hasn’t won a Saturday game since Nov. 18.

— Both Melnick and Louie Belpedio reached 80 career points this weekend. Melnick has 27 goals and 53 assists, while Belpedio has scored 25 times and dished out 55 assists. Belpedio is a senior while Melnick is a junior.

That duo is tied for the team lead in active career points, and Sherwood is two back with 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points. He’s also a junior.

THOUGHTS: Torn again.

Happy with a 1-0-1 weekend against North Dakota? Of course. Is Jack Johnson still hated in Oxford?

For the most part it was a very well-played series by Miami in a down year against a national power.

Cady Arena was rocking and these were two extremely entertaining games to watch.

But it’s hard to be happy about yet another third-period collapse. Winning the 3-on-3 skills competition point does nothing to assuage that.

When the final chapter is written about RedHawks Version 2017-18, near the top of the list of what went wrong this regular season will be the inability to close out games.

And this has been a problem for a number of years.

Miami has shown glimpses of excellence this season, but it cannot afford to continue flipping wins to ties and losses.

— Not happy with the penalties in this game on multiple fronts. Karch Bachman was taken down in the second period by a player also committing interference and possible a felony or two and there was no call.

A too-many-men call was missed. Miami had one power play, North Dakota (14-11-9) three including a major. That’s a night after concurrent minors against the RedHawks resulted in the Fighting Hawks’ second goal on Friday.

Penalty minutes were 19-2 on Saturday.

— That said, Rourke Russell’s minor penalty was undisciplined, and Carson Meyer’s major was deserved.

Russell had just turned the puck over and took a blatant chop at the steal-ee. Meyer saw numbers on the back of jersey and barreled into his guy anyway.

That’s a major in the NCAA.

— Speaking of the Meyer hit, someone decided to make that the hit of the game on the scoreboard at Cady Arena. A dangerous hit from behind. A major penalty and ejection.

Wise up, Cady staff.

— Miami looked extremely tired in the third period. Second game in two nights, of course, but that’s true of every team in college hockey in the third period every Saturday.

It was unusually humid and warm for this area in February, but again, both teams had to deal with that.

— With this being the final home game, I think it’s time to lobby for some additional players’ numbers to be added to the Zamboni end walls.

Andy Greene has been out of Oxford for 12 years. It’s time his name goes up. Ryan Jones graduated in 2008. Same goes.

A decade plus on both. What in the world is everyone waiting for?

The first two are no-brainers, but I’d add Andy Miele to that list as well.

He won the Hobey Baker seven years ago. That’s long enough.

In two years, add Austin Czarnik. He’s already been gone since 2015 and he epitomized Miami hockey values both on and off the ice as much as anyone else on that wall.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C. Sherwood finished with seven shots and Green had six. It’s so nice to have Sherwood playing as well as he did in 2016-17. Melnick created his own goal with the steal in his own zone, and Sherwood’s came after Miami won board battles, so both markers came off of hard work.

DEFENSEMEN: C+. North Dakota controlled the puck more than Miami, so it’s sort of comme ci, comme ca to point out that Grant Hutton, Alec Mahalak and Chaz Switzer all blocked three shots, and Scott Dornbrock added two blocks. Russell took two penalties and one of those chances resulted in a North Dakota goal.

GOALTENDING: B. Hard to fault a guy for a tip-in from the slot, but the first one was all Ryan Larkin. He should’ve gloved the puck but it bounced out and into the net. But he was 28 of 30 and made some outstanding saves.

LINEUP CHANGES: None. This looks like the 19 that coach Enrico Blasi will ride into the NCHC Tournament.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It was senior night, and overall a 1-0-1 weekend vs. North Dakota is a great send-off for Louie Belpedio, Scott Dornbrock and Conor Lemirande in their final home series.

Unfortunately, this class made the NCAA Tournament just once, and that was their freshmen seasons.

Miami will finish last in the NCHC for the second time since the league’s inception in 2013-14 and will head to the road for the fourth time in five years to open the league tournament.

In the eight-team conference, the RedHawks have finished eighth, second, fifth, seventh and now eighth again since joining the league.

Next weekend, Miami heads to Denver for a series that means zilch to the RedHawks in terms of points/seeding/NCAA Tournament qualifying.

The focus now is all on their series at St. Cloud State in two weeks.

Miami goes down 3, wins in OT

OXFORD, Ohio – It was a bizarre night for Miami’s offense.

The RedHawks eclipsed the 240-minute scoreless mark – equivalent to four full games – for the first time in school record, and then scored four times to erase a three-goal deficit in a 4-3 overtime win over No. 12 North Dakota at Cady Arena on Friday.

Miami trailed, 3-0 eight minutes into the second period before netting four straight goals, capped off by Ben Lown’s game winner 59 seconds into the extra session.

That snapped a five-game losing streak for the RedHawks and a five-game winless stretch vs. the Fighting Hawks (0-4-1).

MU had not scored a goal since the first game of its home series vs. St. Cloud State on Feb. 9 and establishing the team record for the longest scoring drought at 240:24.

RECAP: Grant Mismash fired a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle that snuck inside the far post through a screen 13:54 into the first period.

Christian Wolanin made it 2-0 shortly into a two-minute 5-on-3 on a one-time blast off a feed by Colton Poolman at the 2:17 mark of the second period.

Five minutes later, North Dakota (14-11-8) extended its lead to three when Johnny Simonson tapped in a loose puck in the crease after Simonson was denied by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on a breakaway.

After making the save, Larkin was taken out by a pursuing teammate, leaving the net empty for the trailing Simonson.

But 48 seconds after that goal, Josh Melnick slid a pass through two defenders to Alec Mahalak in the slot, and Mahalak buried the first marker of his career just under the crossbar on the glove side.

The RedHawks (11-17-3) cut the deficit to one when Phil Knies took a feed from Kiefer Sherwood wrapped around the back of the net and tucked it past goalie Cam Johnson 1:42 into the third period.

Miami tied it just 2:18 later when Melnick threaded one to Gordie Green at the faceoff dot, and Green’s shot hit a body and popped over Johnson into the back of the net.

Grant Hutton stole a puck along the boards and in the same motion batted the puck ahead to Lown on the right wing, and Lown skated into the faceoff circle and went far post for the game winner 59 seconds into overtime.

STATS: Lown and Melnick both finished with two points, with Lown going 1-1-2 and Melnick picking up a pair of helpers.

It was Lown’s third career multi-point game, and Melnick – the team leader in assists – has recorded at least two five times this season.

Knies is now second on the RedHawks in goals with 11.

— Miami may have snapped out of its offensive funk, but its power play is still MIA. Despite six chances, this was the fifth straight game in which the RedHawks have not scored on the man advantage.

— But the PK has fared better, going 18-for-20 (90.0 percent) in that span.

— It was also the fifth consecutive contest in which Miami has failed to score in the first period.

THOUGHTS: This was one of those here-we-go-again-is-there-a-nearby-deep-frier-I-can-stick-my-head-in type of starts during which the RedHawks were down multiple goals 22 minutes in and behind three a few minutes after.

Larkin probably would’ve liked the first one back and the second was on a 5-on-3, so those weren’t exactly caused by poor skater play.

All-world forward Shane Gersich got behind the defense on the third goal, so yeah, that one is on that corps.

And Miami outshot North Dakota in the first period – all three and overtime in fact – so it’s not like the RedHawks didn’t show up.

That’s what makes this win so impressive. Three-goal leads can snowball, especially against teams like Miami that are struggling for wins.

With not much to play for, the RedHawks stunned a Fighting Hawks team that has tons to play for each night.

Miami’s fate is nearly sealed in the conference, and UND is fighting for home-ice advantage in the league tournament and is on the NCAA bubble.

The RedHawks may be fighting very long odds to get back to the NCAA Tournament, but at least they showed on Friday they are going to fight.

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

— North Dakota may be down a bit this season but this team still skates and moves the puck very well. The Fighting Hawks’ fans also numbered in triple digits. And they were vocal.

— Hutton’s play on the overtime winner shows why pro teams are salivating. He stole the puck along the boards and sent a perfect outlet pass to Knies in one motion. If he didn’t get the puck ahead that quickly, North Dakota would’ve had a player in Knies’ face as he penetrated the zone.

This guy has a great chance to play in the NHL in a couple of years.

Miami’s Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

— Melnick’s assist on Mahalak’s goal may have actually been intended for Green. Both were between the faceoff circles, and when it slid past Green, Mahalak stepped into it. Miami went back to that play for its third goal, as Melnick fed Green with both in nearly identical spots.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. Melnick’s passing was at a peak level in this game, as both of his assists came from the corner along the goal line to the edge of the slot. Freshmen Lown and Knies both scored and have both improved drastically as the season has progressed. Knies also blocked four shots. Carter Johnson didn’t get a point but his steal ultimately led to the Melnick-to-Green goal that tied it. Overall this corps was solid defensively as well, especially on the penalty kill.

DEFENSEMEN: B+. Mahalak scored, Hutton’s play on the game-winner was amazing and Louie Belpedio picked up an assist on Mahalak’s goal. It was a good night for this group, as North Dakota finished with just 17 shots despite six power plays. The one blemish is that Rourke Russell did get beat on the third UND breakaway that led to a goal, and he also inadvertently took out his own goalie on that play.

GOALTENDING: C+. Yes, Larkin allowed three goals on 17 shots (.824), but he faced a handful of Grade-A chances and was taken out of the play on one of those goals. The first one was stoppable, but the second was a 5-on-3 missile from the high slot. He also held UND off the scoreboard the final 33 minutes, allowing Miami to come back.

LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: Carter Johnson was back in the lineup while Zach LaValle sat. Johnson contributed to Green’s goal.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is what the second half of the season in this league should be about: Thrilling, well-played games between teams ranging from good to top-ranked.

That’s how it was every weekend down the stretch three years ago when Miami won the NCHC Tournament.

As a fan, as soon as a game ended you couldn’t wait to get back to the rink the next night or weekend.

This season definitely hasn’t gone as planned, but this night was a reminder of how entertaining meaningful games in this league are in late winter.

From the RedHawks and their fans’ perspective, the only thing lacking was the standings relevance, as Miami is competing for neither a league title nor home-ice advantage.

Hopefully the full stretch-run experience will return to Cady Arena next season.

No blanking way: Another 0 for Miami

It’s not the type of hat trick Miami was hoping for.

The RedHawks set a school record by being shut out for the third straight game, this time 3-0 vs. No. 11 Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena.

That loss mathematically eliminates Miami from the possibility of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and also crushes any hope the team had for home-ice advantage in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

The RedHawks have not scored in 212:01 or more than 10½ periods.

To qualify for the NCAAs by an at-large berth, a team has to have a winning record. Miami is seven games under .500, and running the table through the NCHCs is the only way it could pull that off.

Winning the NCHC Tournament would give the RedHawks an automatic bid.

MU, currently in last place in the conference, can finish no higher than sixth place. It could catch Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado College or Western Michigan but not both of the latter. Though both are technically in striking distance for Miami, CC and WMU play each other and are guaranteed six points between them that weekend.

Which means for the third straight season, the RedHawks will head to the road to open the NCHC Tournament. They were swept by Minnesota-Duluth in both 2015-16 and 2016-17, ending those seasons.

Miami is 0-10-1 in its last 11 games in this building, with its last win coming on Oct. 31, 2014. The RedHawks have been outscored, 44-22 on UMD’s home ice during that stretch.

RECAP: Jared Thomas opened the scoring for the Bulldogs (16-13-3) midway through the first period.

Miami’s Casey Gilling (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

That score held through a second period that saw Miami outshoot UMD, 14-1.

But the RedHawks could not generate the equalizer. Casey Gilling came the closest, ringing one off the post.

With 6:13 left in regulation, Nick Wolff extended the Bulldogs’ lead to two, and Joey Anderson found the empty net with 24 seconds remaining.

STATS: Kiefer Sherwood led all Miami skaters with five shots on goal. Gordie Green and Louie Belpedio added four each.

Chaz Switzer finished with a team-best three blocks.

— Miami played six times in January and averaged 3.67 goals. In six February contests, the RedHawks are scoring 1.33 goals per game and 0.80 in their last five.

— MU’s 34 shots on goal was its second-highest total of the year. The RedHawks fired 44 shots in a 7-1 win over Connecticut on Oct. 28.

— The last time Miami won on Saturday, it was against this team. That was Nov. 18. The RedHawks are 0-7-2 in series finales since.

THOUGHTS: Like last Saturday, Miami deserved a better fate than a 3-0 loss.

The RedHawks once again ran into a hot goalie, as Hunter Shepard turned 34 shots aside in this game and stopped all 50 that he faced on the weekend.

So while it’s easy to look at three straight zeroes and say Miami’s offense must be in complete meltdown mode, in two of these games the RedHawks actually played pretty well.

But when you only play well one night of a series against teams of this caliber, it’s going to be a long season.

LINEUP CHANGES: Coach Enrico Blasi shook things up a little bit, bringing back defenseman Chaz Switzer after two games of sitting out. Grant Frederic was scratched to make room.

Up front, Willie Knierim and Zach LaValle both dressed. Knierim had not played in two games in a row and LaValle was a scratch five straight contests. Not in the lineup were Austin Alger and Carter Johnson.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Yes, Miami could technically pull itself out of eighth place in the conference if it strung some wins together in its final four regular season games, but the RedHawks’ fate has been sealed.

They will head on the road against a top-10 team to open a conference tournament they will need to win if they hope to avoid missing the NCAAs for the third straight season.

Most likely MU will head to St. Cloud State or Denver, two of the top five programs in college hockey.

As an eight seed, Miami nearly pulled that off in 2013-14 by sweeping St. Cloud on the road and beating North Dakota in the semifinal before falling a goal short in the championship game.

But that’s a tall, tall task especially this season with the NCHC being undoubtedly the premier league in Division I.

Miami blanked again at UMD

Back to the house of horrors for Miami.

The RedHawks were shut out in their personal torture chamber, Amsoil Arena, 4-0 vs. No. 11 Minnesota-Duluth on Friday night. It was the second straight game in which Miami failed to light the lamp, bringing their scoreless streak to 152:01.

MU was also blanked by St. Cloud State in its series finale vs. St. Cloud State last Saturday.

The loss drops the RedHawks (10-16-3) a season-worst six games under .500, as they are guaranteed their third straight losing regular season.

Miami slipped to 0-9-1 in its last 10 games in Duluth.

RECAP: A pair of quick goals midway through the first period was all Minnesota-Duluth would need.

Mikey Anderson got the Bulldogs (15-13-3) on the board at the 8:19 mark and exactly two minutes later, Billy Exell extended their lead to two.

Jade Miller and Louie Roehl added markers in the second and third periods to seal it.

STATS: Miami was outshot, 13-4 in the first period and 29-11 through the opening 40 minutes.

— Gordie Green and Carson Meyer fired three shots each. Josh Melnick and Louie Belpedio blocked three shots apiece.

— The RedHawks slipped to 1-13-1 in their last 15 games in February and beyond.

THOUGHTS: It was Jan. 5 when Miami beat Denver to improve to 9-8-2, and at that point an NCAA at-large berth seemed like a legitimate possibility.

The six weeks since have been a dumpster fire, with the RedHawks going 1-8-1 and pretty much eliminating themselves from NCAA Tournament consideration by any means other than an NCHC Tournament win.

The RedHawks were beaten soundly in that finale vs. the Pioneers, which was not surprising considering they’re one of the best teams in Division I.

Miami had winnable road games vs. UNO and Colorado College, but its defense was a no-show for those series. MU went 0-3-1 and allowed 25 goals in those games.

The RedHawks won their first game back on home ice, 4-2 vs. Western Michigan but dropped the next three in Oxford, one to WMU and a pair to St. Cloud State.

Now the offense is AWOL, as Miami was shut out for the final 92:01 of its series vs. the Huskies.

Add 60 to that after failing to score in this contest.

The difference between that SCSU shutout and this one is the RedHawks actually played well for most of their game against the Huskies. They laid an egg on Friday – a goose egg.

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

LINEUP CHANGES: It was the same 18 skaters for Miami, but Ryan Larkin was back in net after sitting the Saturday game vs. St. Cloud State due to an illness.

Chase Munroe was between the pipes for that contest.

FINAL THOUGHTS: With Miami destined for a road series to open the NCHC Tournament, it’s becoming a distinct possibility the RedHawks finish the regular season at Denver and return there the following weekend a la 2015-16 vs. Duluth.

MU’s chances of having a lucrative postseason get longer with every February loss.

Slow start vs. St. Cloud dooms Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – Because it was televised nationally, Miami’s game on Friday started a half hour later than normal.

Unfortunately the RedHawks didn’t begin play until well after that.

MU surrendered three goals in the first 10 minutes in an eventual 5-2 loss to No. 4 St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.

Miami (10-14-3) did battle back with a couple of second-period goals but could not generate the equalizer.

Colorado College won at North Dakota on Friday as well, leapfrogging Nebraska-Omaha and pushing six points ahead of the RedHawks, who are 1-6-1 in their last eight. The Mavericks are in seventh, four points up on last-place Miami.

All eight teams in the NCHC will have played 18 of their 24 league games after Saturday, so regardless of the outcome in the final, MU will head into the final three weekends of the regular season in last place.

RECAP: Fans were still filing in when Robby Jackson and Blake Lizotte threw pucks into the net 70 seconds apart, giving SCSU a 2-0 lead just over three minutes in.

It was Mikey Eyssimont extending the Huskies’ lead to three at the 9:39 mark.

Josh Melnick had a pass intercepted at the blue line, resulting in the first goal, Chaz Switzer was skated around by Lizotte and Kiefer Sherwood blew a tire at the red line when Eyssimont scored.

The RedHawks scored 1:47 apart in the second period to cut the deficit to one.

Miami’s Phil Knies (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Gordie Green banged home a loose puck from the slot after a pass from behind the net by Carter Johnson was partially deflected. Ben Lown put the puck on net by poking it between a SCSU defender’s legs, and the rebound was jammed home by Phil Knies.

Miami had a couple of chances to tie it late in the second period, but the Huskies iced it seven minutes into the third period when Kevin Fitzgerald stripped Willie Knierim at the blue line and beat goalie Ryan Larkin five hole.

The RedHawks pulled Larkin with over six minutes left, and Jackson hit the empty net for the final tally.

Miami forward Gordie Green (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

STATS: Green extended his points streak to four games, a current team high. He leads Miami with 12 goals including the one in this contest.

— Only five blocked shots for the RedHawks.

— Johnson’s assist gives him points in consecutive games for the first time in his career.

— Miami failed to score on the power play, snapping a six-game streak. But the RedHawks did not yield a goal on the man advantage for the first time in eight games.

— All seven goals were scored in the south end of the rink.

THOUGHTS: It’s baffling that the RedHawks wouldn’t be ready for this series, and against a team as good as St. Cloud State, Miami paid dearly.

MU tried to battle back and was the better team in the second period, but the damage had been done.

And that’s what’s enough to drive one batty with this team. This team is good enough to hang with the best teams in Division I for stretches but not good enough to win those games.

— Larkin has gotten some leeway because of the quality of shots he’s faced, but he’s getting beaten too often on stoppable shots – especially high to the glove side – and that’s contributing to MU’s second-half slide. His save percentage of .883 would be the worst of any starting goalie since Enrico Blasi’s first season in 1999-2000.

— Johnson is making it harder to keep him out of the lineup. He played 37 games last season and earned just three points and sat the bench almost the entire first half of 2017-18. But he is 1-1-2 his last two games, is providing much-needed energy on the lower lines and is using his size to win battles along the boards.

— St. Cloud State has the best transition game of any team to come to Cady Arena this season. The Huskies are able to go end-to-end in a couple of seconds and create odd-man rushes off of opponents’ misses. They definitely are every bit as good or better than on television.

— Kevin Fitzergerald made arguably the defensive play of the year when he put his stick up and blocked a would-be third-period goal by Casey Gilling at the side of the net. The goalie would have had no chance.

— For the second straight game, Miami had a major power play in the third period with a chance to get back into a game and did bupkis with it. The PP1 has been solid all season but the RedHawks haven’t been able to put together a solid secondary combination of skaters for extended man-advantage opportunities.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C-. Three bad turnovers ended up in Miami’s net, negating the two goals this corps recorded.

DEFENSEMEN: C. Tough call here. Didn’t give up too many great scoring chances except for the second goal, didn’t contribute anything offensively. Grant Hutton was definitely the star of this class.

GOALTENDING: D. Larkin needed to stop at least one of the goals allowed, especially early when the game was in the balance. He has tons of talent but it’s unclear if he’s struggling because of the high number of minutes played or a waning confidence level after facing so many Grade-A chances.

LINEUP CHANGES: None. This was the third straight game Blasi started the same 19.

FINAL THOUGHTS: St. Cloud State (18-6-3) is a force and should contend for the national title. The Huskies played like champions in this game, taking the crowd out of it early, fending off Miami’s rush in the middle portion of the game stepping on the RedHawks’ throats in the end game.

SCSU is fast, handles and moves the puck exceptionally well and still manages to limit opponents’ opportunities despite playing an up-tempo style. And the Huskies were missing a defenseman who is playing for Team USA in the Olympics.

Fortunately this is one of the two NCHC teams the RedHawks only play twice this season.

Miami scores 7, loses by 4

In a game that saw half of Nebraska-Omaha’s skaters find the net, it was only appropriate that the final tally was credited to goalie Evan Weninger.

That capped off the Mavericks’ 11-7 win over Miami at Baxter Arena on Friday, as UNO set a school record for goals and the RedHawks gave up their highest total in over two decades.

Down 4-1 early, Miami battled back to within one and continued to fight – at least offensively – until the final horn. But MU could never generate the equalizer.

This was certainly not the way the RedHawks wanted to start a stretch of four straight road games as they hang on the PairWise bubble.

RECAP: For a game that featured 18 goals, believe it or not none were scored in the first 10 minutes.

Grant Gallo and Jake Rudolph netted consecutive markers to make it 2-0, and after Miami’s Kiefer Sherwood scored on the power play, UNO potted two more in a 41-second window to close out the first period with a three-goal lead, with Tristan Keck and Joel Messner hitting the net.

The RedHawks (9-10-2) cut it to one on a blue-line blast by Louie Belpedio and a freshman-to-freshman connection of Phil Knies to Ben Lown.

But four more shots found their way in the final seven minutes of the middle stanza, with three coming by the Mavericks, sandwiching Knies’ second marker of the night.

Gordie Green scored off a Karch Bachman feed early in the third period, but it was the final gasp for Miami. Back-to-back UNO goals seven seconds apart made it a four-goal game, although Lown and Casey Gilling did record goals for the RedHawks in the final 11 minutes of regulation.

MU goalie Ryan Larkin was lifted after allowing six goals, and backup Chase Munroe was actually credited with the loss for giving up the final four, even though Miami never tied the score.

Miami’s Phil Knies (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

STATS: The RedHawks were actually the Redskins the last time they allowed this many goals in a game. MU lost, 13-0 at Michigan on Dec. 6, 1996, and had never surrendered double-digit goals under current coach Enrico Blasi.

– A pair of freshmen – Lown and Knies – set career bests with three points each. Knies scored twice and Lown went 1-2-3. Grant Hutton picked up three assists, also his high total as a RedHawk.

– Gilling and Sherwood both extended their points streaks to four games, tied for the longest on the team.

– Miami scored three times on the power play, reaching that mark for the fourth time this season.

– The flip side? The RedHawks had not given up more than two PPGs in any game in 2017-18. They allowed four on six chances in this game.

– Seven Miami players finished with multiple points. Ten picked up at least one point. Four Mavericks ended the night with at least four points.

– The three goalies’ combined save percentages were .707. Their goals-against averages were 8.76.

THOUGHTS: Where to start…

Oh I know, how about Miami’s complete lack of defense? Bill Clinton was in his first term as president the last time the RedHawks gave up this many goals in a game.

There’s plenty of blame to go around in this area. They won 46 percent of their faceoffs, losing some key ones in the offensive zone that led to goals. A common theme, too few UNO players paid any kind of price for setting up at the top of Miami’s crease.

One Nebraska-Omaha goal – forgive me for not being to recall which one of the 18 it was – saw a player carry the puck from behind the Miami net to the side of the cage and take a shot and a follow-up backhand that went in with no red jersey in sight.

Too many blown assignments, with UNO players not picked up in Miami’s offensive zone.

And there’s 22 of 32 shots saved by the netminders. Ryan Larkin had an off-night for sure, going just 15-for-21, but Chase Munroe looked rusty as well, stopping only 7 out of 11. It was Munroe’s first appearance of the regular season, although he did play in the exhibition vs. Team USA in mid-October.

Miami has built a reputation of defensive excellence under Blasi, but D definitely took the night off.

Want some positives?

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

– Freshmen combined for nine points, with Knies and Lown tallying three each, Gilling picking up two and Alec Mahalak notching an assist. All seem to be getting better as the season progresses.

– Sherwood’s four-game point streak is inspiring, as he seems to have shifted into a higher gear recently. He had picked up points in just three of Miami’s first 17 games and had seven overall after that span. Sherwood went 14-24-38 last season, tied for the team lead in goals and second in both assists and points.

LINEUP CHANGES: Two up front and one on defense.

Ryan Siroky sat for the first time since early October, as did Austin Alger, who had dressed for the last four. Willie Knierim was back on the ice after being scratched last Saturday, and Christian Mohs occupied the last forward spot, logging just his seventh game of 2017-18.

Rourke Russell was benched for just the third time this season. Grant Frederic, who had been out of the lineup three straight contests, took his place.

FINAL ANALYSIS: It would be tough to imagine the coaching staff being anything but irate after this effort.

Granted Miami did continue to fight after falling behind three early, but falling behind three early ultimately led to the RedHawks’ demise.

Grant Valentine didn’t exude confidence based on his relief appearance in net earlier this season, and Munroe, ditto.

That’s a problem, because if Larkin gets hurt or struggles in a game, Miami’s choices are limited.

Of course, we’d expect Valentine and/or Munroe to play better if either was called upon on more of a regular basis, but it’s pretty obvious that barring injury the odds are Larkin will start every regular season game.

Miami is now under .500 for the first time since late November, and its path to the NCAA Tournament will become smaller with each loss down the stretch.

Analysis: Fighting major sparked Miami win

OXFORD, Ohio – In team sports, sometimes an emotional spark is needed.

Miami, which was 0-9-2 vs. Minnesota-Duluth the past two-plus seasons, was losing again on Saturday when its galvanizing moment occurred.

The RedHawks scored the next three goals and eradicated their winless streak vs. the Bulldogs, holding on for a 3-2 win at Cady Arena.

A quick stage set: UMD is an excellent team that has a reputation for playing chippy hockey, playing on the edge, sometimes over the edge.

Remember that one of the first times these teams met in Oxford, Chris Joyaux squared off after the final whistle with three dozen skaters and a handful of goalies on the ice.

Miami defenseman Chaz Switzer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

So on Saturday, Minnesota-Duluth took a late poke at Miami goalie Ryan Larkin after a puck was clearly frozen.

Chaz Switzer took exception and pushed another player behind the net, and the Bulldogs were not called.

Minutes later, UMD took a run at Larkin, and again it was Switzer coming to his goalie’s defense, using offender Avery Peterson as a human punching bag before officials intervened.

Switzer was given five minutes for fighting and a game disqualification penalty, which carries a one-game suspension. He left the ice to a standing ovation by fans that had little to cheer about to that point of the weekend.

And here’s where hockey and the attitudes of many its fans/players/coaches/etc., deviates from the majority of other team sports.

The hate mail may roll in from those in other sports’ camps and the college-hockey-is-pure-and-fighting-is-barbaric-crowd, and that’s OK. So here goes.

Not only is Switzer a stud for what he did, it’s the officials’ fault he’s going to be suspended.

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

Larkin is a RedHawks star. Anyone who knows anything about UMD hockey knows its players are old-school WCHA all the way. That means ultra-physical play, after-the-whistle confrontations and yes, the occasional fisticuffs.

If a dumb fan sitting at a word processor knows this, certainly NCHC officials do, right?

So when Larkin gets hit the first time, you assess a penalty. If you don’t really think it warrants a Miami power play, you penalize the violator and Switzer two minutes each.

That sends the message that we’re watching and goalie running will be punished.

You do that, the second incident and resulting fighting major/suspension almost certainly doesn’t happen.

Even if you blow that, there have been plenty of times when players in Switzer’s situation have just received a game misconduct than the DQ, which carries an automatic suspension.

The officials didn’t have Larkin’s back, so Switzer did.

Good for Switzer. If it wasn’t for players like Switzer, the NCAA would have 60 teams like Michigan who take out players’ knees and cross-check players in the head with relatively few repercussions.

Miami dressed seven defensemen for this game, so the team went in able to absorb the loss of a blueliner.

Switzer is a five or six defenseman who struggled at times last season and has stepped up his play significantly this fall. He had 294 penalty minutes in 121 games of juniors, so clearly he’s no stranger to extracurriculars.

Don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but it’s very, very likely Switzer earned ample respect from his teammates. He certainly made a lot of fans in his home rink.

The on-ice results were obvious in the final two periods.

Coach Enrico Blasi wasn’t asked about the incident (seriously, the event that changed the game never made it into the presser forum?), and while he wisely did not address the incident he acknowledged the team struggled in the first period but played much better the final 40 minutes.

Through the years, RedHawks teams rarely cross the line (think that was the first fighting major since Alden Hirschfeld seven years ago?), but they typically are prepared to defend themselves when their opponents do.

UMD took a couple of late shots at Miami’s goalie in an attempt to intimidate its southern Ohio rival, and it backfired.

Other thoughts…

– Now onto far less controversial topics. Despite the split, Miami was the better team this weekend and certainly didn’t seem overmatched by a ranked Bulldogs team.

Friday’s loss aside, it was a good weekend for Miami, which didn’t win its fifth game in 2016-17 until New Year’s Eve.

– Carson Meyer broke out with goals in both ends of the series after scoring just one the first 10 games. Meyer heating up means good things for the Miami offense.

– Same goes for Ryan Siroky, who scored on his only shot of the night for his second marker in three games. He had two more big hits on the weekend and has become a very solid third liner that no one wants to play against.

– Karch Bachman picked up another assist and has already matched his point total of 2016-17 with an identical 2-4-6 line. He was the only forward to finish plus-2 in this game.

– Despite those forwards stepping up, MU is averaging 1.8 goals over its last five games. Up next is Bowling Green, which is 11th in the NCAA in goals allowed per game.

– UMD had 10 skaters take faceoffs. That might be an NCAA record. Only two had winning records, so perhaps the Bulldogs are auditioning their forwards? But still, 10 skaters?

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. With 11 forwards, there were a lot of different line combinations. Despite the odd number, the overall chemistry of this corps was good. Josh Melnick and Gordie Green put on a show with their goal, passing back and forth before Melnick buried a wrister for the eventual game winner. This group was solid defensively all weekend as well.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Believe it or not, 29 shots allowed is the fourth-highest opponent total of the season for Miami. As mentioned above, the forwards chipped in on D, and the D was strong on D, thus the ‘B’. Many of those 29 shots were right at Larkin, who swallowed them up for easy saves. Grant Frederic played just two of the first eight games but has dressed for three of the last four and has been pretty much mistake-free.

GOALTENDING: B. UMD’s first goal was a rapid-fire missile that Larkin had no chance on. Maybe Larkin could’ve gloved the Bulldogs’ second shot, but he stopped 27 shots and as usual allowed few second chances.

LINEUP CHANGES: With Frederic in as the seventh defenseman, F Christian Mohs was scratched. Zach LaValle sat for the second consecutive game, and Willie Knierim played in his third straight. Frederic should play at least the front end of the BGSU series with Switzer suspended.