Photos: Nebraska-Omaha at Miami
Miami finally ends winless drought
OXFORD, Ohio – The longest Miami winless streak in over a quarter century is over.
The RedHawks snapped a 15-game, 0-11-4 skid with a 4-2 win over Nebraska-Omaha at Cady Arena, giving MU its first win in nearly three months.
It was the second-longest victory drought in team history, with its worst — just two games longer — coming at the end of the 1990-91 season.
Gordie Green racked up three assists in the Miami win, and Josh Melnick and Scott Corbett finished with a goal and a helper apiece.
RECAP: Miami scored first for the first time in 14 games when Josh Melnick kicked a pass to himself and swept a short pass to Derek Daschke at the faceoff dot for a one-timer that snuck in the short side 7:50 into the first period.
Phil Knies appeared to have scored seconds later, but the initial call of good goal was waved off because it was ruled UNO goalie Evan Weninger’s helmet had been dislodged.
But Knies found the net found the net again at 11:06, and this time it counted. Casey Gilling fired a shot from the high slot that Weninger couldn’t handle, and Knies poked the loose puck in to make it 2-0.
Knies had stolen the puck at the blue line, shielded the defense and dropped a pass to Gilling to set up his goal.
The RedHawks went up three when Green sent a cross-ice pass to Corbett, who trapped it with his skate and beat Weninger short side from the top of the faceoff circle midway through the second period.
The Mavericks cut the lead to one on a 2-on-1 goal by Chayse Primeau and a blue line blast by Jalen Schulz later that frame.
But Miami sealed it with just under four minutes left in regulation, as Green fed Melnick on a 3-on-2 for a rip from the center of the faceoff circle that snuck under the crossbar.
STATS: It was the second career three-assist game for Green, with the other coming earlier this season against Colgate on Oct. 27.
– Corbett recorded his first career multi-point game, and it was the first for Melnick since Miami’s last win, which came on Nov. 17 at Colorado College.
– Andrew Sinard, whose outlet pass to Green resulted in Corbett’s eventual game winner, earned an assist for his first career point.
– Daschke is now tied with Grant Hutton for the team lead in defenseman goals with six, and Knies snapped a 13-game scoring drought.
THOUGHTS: What a relief for Miami.
In terms of standings, this win does little to help the RedHawks except increase the odds they don’t finish last in the NCHC.
But psychologically it had to do wonders.
The third period was the most entertaining frame MU had played in a while, with a high pace of play, plenty of physicality and tons of quality scoring chances for both teams with the score still close.
Miami will need the boost, as the remainder of its schedule is brutal, with all but two of its regular and postseason games almost certainly away from Cady Arena.
Not to take away from this sorely-needed win, but it’s fair to point out that Omaha is seventh in the eight-team league, and it took all Miami had just to split with the Mavericks in Oxford.
The RedHawks will need to play much, much better against much, much better teams, or they will be done by or on St. Patrick’s Day once again.
– Miami did not have a single healthy scratch in this game, as it had just 19 skaters and two goalies available. Bray Crowder, who was hurt on Friday, did not dress for the first time this season, leaving the team with 13 healthy forwards and six defensemen.
Fortunately for the RedHawks, they have a bye next weekend, giving their banged-up players additional time to heal.
– Not sure about the timing of the season ticket renewal offers. There was an announcement and accompanying note on the end zone monitors offering incentives and potential prizes for renewing this weekend.
As in now, as in over a month before this season ends.
One could smell the desperation in the air, and as of game time Saturday, apparently only a handful jumped on the early offer.
FORWARDS: B-. The three goals by this corps were great, but they are still taking too many risks and getting out of position too often. For example, three times in the second period forwards played chicken with UNO skaters that had the puck, trying to strip them while they were on collision course to gain momentum the other way, and none succeeded. Miami wasn’t scored on during any of those occasions but each time the skater was taken out of position. That’s not smart hockey, especially with the lead. Only 15 total shots by 13 forwards against a team that allows 35 per game. Green was outstanding and was named first star but Knies was BoB’s choice, as he was all over the ice all night. Melnick and Corbett were also standouts, and Christian Mohs had good legs and gave the team much-needed energy.
DEFENSEMEN: B-. A pretty average game defensively by this group, and Daschke’s laser of a goal boosts its grade into the ‘B’ range. Grant Hutton was solid on D, but it’s rare he is held without a shot.
GOALTENDING: A-. Larkin turned 31 shots aside, including a 2-on-1 that he sprawled across the crease to kick out and multiple other stops on high-percentage chances. The second UNO goal was a shot from the blue line he probably should’ve stopped, but overall he was excellent.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: Noah Jordan dressed in place of the injured Crowder.
Coach Enrico Blasi has tended to go with seven defensemen this season, but he has no choice with just six healthy.
STANDINGS: With the split, Miami remained two points behind seventh-place Omaha and is three points back of sixth-place Colorado College.
Denver holds that all-important fourth spot and is 10 up on the RedHawks with three games in hand.
After all of Saturday’s games, Miami is No. 38 in the PairWise rankings.
FINAL THOUGHTS: So this series split comes heading into an off-week before a pair of tough road series.
Will the time off be helpful at this point or will that kill any momentum the RedHawks may have gained from this win?
Considering the locker room has been essentially converted to a triage unit the week off will probably benefit Miami more than it hurts.
The pressure that the RedHawks – players as well as coaches – had to be under during their 0-11-4 had to be enormous. This win will hopefully have a cathartic effect.
With Miami almost certainly pigeon holed into one of the lower seeds heading into the NCHC Tournament, it’s still all about getting better heading into that all-important best-of-3 postseason series.
Miami winless streak now at 15
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami outshot Nebraska-Omaha by a margin of nearly 2-to-1, but none of the RedHawks’ 38 shots found the net.
Despite generating just 21 shots, the Mavericks shut out Miami, 3-0 at Cady Arena on Friday, handing MU its ninth straight loss, extending the RedHawks’ winless streak to 15 games and pushing UNO’s unbeaten streak vs. Miami to six.
It’s the second-longest winless streak in RedHawks history, with its worst skid of 17 games coming in 1991.
RECAP: The first period was scoreless, but UNO (9-16-2) opened the scoring six minutes into the second frame when Ryan Galt slid a pass through the slot to Teemu Pulkkinen for a one-timer on the power play.
At the 4:21 mark of the final stanza, John Schuldt wristed one in from along the boards that Miami goalie Ryan Larkin kicked out with his left pad, but the rebound came to Galt for a tap-in.
Mason Morelli sealed it with an empty netter in the closing seconds.
STATS: Miami (9-16-4) has been outscored, 36-10 during its losing streak and 29-5 in its last seven games.
– The RedHawks dropped to 1-24-6 when chasing their 10th win of the season the past three years.
– MU is killing penalties at just a 68.4 percent clip in its last four games and was 2-for-3 in this contest.
THOUGHTS: There was no jump in Miami’s game the first 13 minutes, during which the team posted just one shot on goal.
The RedHawks played better the balance of the first period and was OK the rest of the way.
Mavericks goalie Evan Weninger was very solid in net but Miami also had zero puck luck, hitting the post twice on a third-period power play and had multiple other quality chances that wouldn’t go in.
MU’s lack of recent scoring seemed to affect its skaters, some of whom got off their game trying to find the net.
The RedHawks’ postseason path is sealed: They must win the NCHC Tournament and will have to salvage a best-of-3 road series against one of Division I’s best just to advance to the semifinals in St. Paul.
Miami did nothing to show it is better equipped to tackle that task in this game.
– Scary moment in the third period when defenseman Bray Crowder tried to block a shot and had the puck deflect into his throat area. He went down the tunnel and did not return.
– Karch Bachman finished with a game-high seven shots on goal in the loss. He is generating tons of chances, but he has to score more if he hopes to go from good player to great player in this league and beyond. This was his 12th straight game without a goal.
FORWARDS: D-. Miami dropped to a 0.71 goals-per-game clip in its last seven, and the fault lies largely with this corps. In addition to Bachman’s slump, Casey Gilling has not scored in 11 games, Jonathan Gruden has one in his last 20, and sophomores Phil Knies and Ben Lown have been blanked for 13 and 14 games, respectively. Ryan Siroky – who had five tallies in the first 20 contests – has not scored since. When a team lacks scoring depth it can ill afford to have its top offensive players held off the scoresheet for those spans.
DEFENSEMEN: C+. This group was OK in its own end and did next to nothing offensively. Galt was left wide open at the top of the crease for UNO’s second goal. A pass got through both blueliners on the first one. On the up side, the Mavericks were limited to 21 shots and a number of them were fielded cleanly by Larkin.
GOALTENDING: B. Larkin probably would’ve liked that second goal back, as he kicked it out right to Galt for an easy score. That said, he had no chance on the first one, the third was an ENG and he was solid the rest of the night. This was the best game Larkin has turned in during this nine-game losing streak.
LINEUP CHANGES: Injuries are really piling up for Miami. The only change from last Saturday was Zach LaValle in for Carter Johnson up front.
That’s because Johnson is also banged up. Goalie Jordan Uhelski is as well, as he was scratched and Grant Valentine was listed as the backup.
Also hurt are D Chaz Switzer (lower body), D Grant Frederic (lower body) and F Brian Hawkinson (upper body).
Noah Jordan was the team’s lone healthy scratch.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Add the multitude of injuries to the list of things that have gone wrong for Miami in the second half of the season.
But UNO has had its own issues this season and won relatively easily despite entering play with a 1-10-1 road record.
The RedHawks were able to overcome adversity early in the season. They aren’t now.
Preview: Omaha at Miami
Like Miami, Nebraska-Omaha has been going through the meat grinder that is the NCHC schedule.
The Mavericks are 2-6 in their last eight vs. Nos. 3, 20, 5 and 8 the past month.
These teams split when they played at Baxter Arena in what was Miami’s first true set of road games this season.
BoB takes a look at the upcoming series between these teams:
WHO: Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (8-16-2) at Miami RedHawks (9-15-4).
WHERE: Cady Arena (3,642), Oxford, Ohio.
WHEN: Friday – 6:35 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 21-18-6.
TV: Friday – CBS College Sports (DirecTV Ch. 221).
OMAHA RADIO: Both nights – KZOT-AM (1180), Bellevue, Neb.
MIAMI RADIO: Both nights – WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
NOTES: Not much has changed for the Mavericks since Miami headed to Omaha in early November.
UNO has allowed 99 goals in 26 games – 3.8 per contest – and opponents average 35 shots vs. the Mavericks.
Nebraska-Omaha has not had the offensive firepower to compensate for its lack of defense.
Goalie Evan Weninger has played in 25 games and has a 3.58 goals-against average and a save percentage of .900, which is modern-day hockey’s equivalent of the Mendoza line.
Both backups have struggled in their brief looks between the pipes.
Omaha has four major scoring threats up front, with Fredrik Olofsson and Mason Morelli holding the top two spots in the league.
Olofsson, a senior, has 91 career points and a 10-20-30 line this season, as he also leads all UNO skaters in assists.
Classmate Morelli is tied for third in the NCAA with 17 goals, including seven on the power play. His 12 helpers give him 29 points for the season.
Zach Jordan has added goals on the man-advantage and is 7-16-23, and Taylor Ward is having an outstanding freshman year, scoring seven times and adding 15 assists for 22 points.
But no other Maverick forward has more than 12 points.
On defense, junior Dean Stewart has broken out with four goals and 15 assists after posting just 12 points his first two seasons combined, all on helpers.
Ryan Jones has nine assists, but no other UNO blueliner has more than four points.
The Mavericks’ lineup has been a revolving door, as just six skaters have dressed for all 26 games and 23 have played in 15 or more.
Nebraska-Omaha has been awful on the road, having lost six straight away games and going 1-10-1 overall off campus.
Miami is 0-10-4 in its last 14, tied for its second-longest winless streak in school history, and the RedHawks have lost eight straight.
Five of their last six losses have been by at least three goals, and they’ve been outscored, 26-5 in that span.
With UNO in seventh place in the NCHC, these are the most winnable games the RedHawks will play the rest of the season. Up after this are teams ranked fifth, seventh and eighth, and four of those six games will be on the road.
Miami is 1-6-1 in its last eight vs. the Mavericks and are winless in their last five. The RedHawks’ last win over UNO at Cady Arena was on Dec. 5, 2014.
Major costly as UNO rallies past Miami
A major penalty was a key reason Miami’s four-game winning streak ended on Saturday.
The No. 20 RedHawks led by two goals early but lost, 6-3 to Nebraska-Omaha in the series finale at Baxter Arena, partly due to three power play goals scored during a Mavericks five-minute man advantage.
Miami went up, 2-0 in the first period but allowed a Mavericks goal with 61 seconds left in the opening frame.
RedHawks captain Josh Melnick was given a major and game misconduct for spearing midway through the second period and UNO scored three times on the ensuing power play to give the team a lead which it would not relinquish.
It was the first win of the season for the Mavericks and the most goals against for the RedHawks in 2018-19.
RECAP: Miami (7-3) took the lead on a 5-on-3 when Melnick slid a lateral pass across the top of the faceoff circles, and Grant Hutton one-timed a rip past goalie Evan Weninger.
With one UNO (1-6-1) skater back, Hutton had a shot blocked, but the puck trickled to Phil Knies in the right faceoff circle, and he whipped one just under the crossbar to make it 2-0 a minute later.
But Taylor Ward batted home a bad-angle shot off a rebound from a point-blank Mason Morelli chance with 61 seconds left in the opening frame.
Melnick’s penalty put Miami down two men, and UNO’s Fredrik Olofsson roofed one from the right faceoff dot to tie it.
Kevin Conley scored from nearly the same spot on a partly-deflected pass 96 seconds later, giving the Mavericks their first lead of the weekend, 3-2.
Another 1:57 passed before Chayse Primeau one-timed a backdoor pass from Conley at the side of the cage, giving UNO a two-goal lead.
Miami cut its deficit to one when Gordie Green knocked home a long rebound from the inside edge of the faceoff circle less than two minutes into the final stanza.
But UNO’s Tristan Keck extended his team’s lead to two late in the third period, and Morelli netted his second of the night when he poked home a centering feed from behind the net.
STATS: Green scored for the fourth straight game and extended his points streak to five games.
He has five goals and five assists during his hot streak.
— Melnick has a four-game points streak (2-6-8), and Hutton and Jonathan Gruden both picked up points for the third straight contest.
— After a slow start on the power play, Miami has scored on the man advantage five straight games, going 6-for-19 in that span.
THOUGHTS: The elephant on the ice in this game is the Melnick penalty. The ensuing power play was obviously critical.
There was no replay on the UNO feed on NCHC.tv, so here’s what I think after going reviewing that segment of the game on the site:
— It appears Melnick rammed his stick between the legs of an UNO skater after the two battled for the puck along the boards for an extended time.
— The case could be made that said skater interfered with Melnick as he attempted to vacate the area.
— The NCAA is tightening up in certain areas, and while I’ve certainly witnessed way worse hits in recent years that have not been called, college hockey is now replaying nefarious incidents and is obviously not afraid to dish out majors.
— All that said, a minor was certainly warranted. Considering what we’ve seen called majors the first four weekends, it’s not out of line that Melnick received a major.
The upgrade was extremely costly to Miami, as the Mavericks scored twice in the final three power play minutes that wouldn’t have happened had the call been a minor. Those three goals flipped a 2-1 Miami lead to a 4-2 UNO advantage.
— The Mavericks had already tilted the ice in their direction heading into their scoring barrage, having trimmed the RedHawks’ lead to one after Miami jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and the penalty provided UNO the fuel to seize control of the game.
LINEUP CHANGES: Forwards Zach LaValle and Carter Johnson did not dress.
Christian Mohs and defenseman Andrew Sinard did, giving Miami seven defensemen.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This is the first disappointing loss of the season, not because UNO was winless but because Miami had the lead and let it get away.
To be fair, Nebraska-Omaha is definitely better than the 0-6-1 record it sported entering this contest, but good teams rarely lose when they take two-goal leads.
The series ends in a split and Miami finishes its first 10 games with a 7-3 record, and not to put words in anyone’s mouth but I’m guessing under the off-season circumstances the coaching staff is happy with a .700 winning percentage through the first weekend in November.
But the schedule gets a lot tougher the rest of the way, and the RedHawks can ill afford to have discipline lapses turn would-be wins into losses.
Miami wins first road game at UNO
Miami’s ninth game of the season was its first true road contest, but the No. 20 RedHawks kept up their MO of winning by wide margins.
Gordie Green found the net twice as MU scored the final three goals in a 4-1 win vs. Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena on Friday, extending its winning streak to four games.
This was also the NCHC opener for the RedHawks (7-2), who played six of their first eight games this season in Oxford and the other two in Erie, Pa., in the Ice Breaker Tournament.
During their recent hot spell, the RedHawks have surrendered just three goals and none in the third period.
Miami goalie Ryan Larkin won his fifth straight game, stopping 19 of 20.
RECAP: Jonathan Gruden scored his first career goal when he skated behind the UNO net and shot it off the back of goalie Evan Weninger on the power play just 79 seconds into the game.
The Mavericks (0-6-1) tied it with a Taylor Ward goal on a tic-tac-toe passing play as he swept in a pass from the top of the crease with 2:53 remaining in the first period. That tally was also scored on the man advantage
Miami regained the lead 66 seconds later on a blue line blast by Grant Hutton that was deflected in by Brian Hawkinson for his first career goal.
With 5:27 left in the middle stanza, Gordie Green jarred the puck from an UNO defender in the Miami zone, and Scott Corbett seized it and fired a shot off the crossbar. The puck skipped through the top of the crease and Green batted it out of the air as it dribbled into the back of the cage.
Green picked up his second marker of the night with an emphatic rip into the empty net from the outside edge of the faceoff circle with 22 seconds to play after controlling a Josh Melnick two-line outlet pass.
STATS: The Green-Melnick combo on Miami’s top line continues to dominate, as Green extended his multi-point game streak to four and Melnick picked up multiple points for the third consecutive contest.
Green has scored in three straight games and is 4-5-9 during his points streak. Melnick has scored twice and earned five assists in his last three.
— Hawkinson also has points in three straight, including his first career goal in this one.
— Larkin has allowed just three goals during his five-game win streak and has stopped 123 of 126 shots in that span (.976).
— This was the fourth straight game in which Miami did not allow a third-period goal, and the RedHawks have given up just three in nine contests this season.
In 2017-18 they surrendered 46 tallies in 37 games after the second intermission, including a pair in overtime.
THOUGHTS: Miami, once again, played a full 60 minutes against a team they were supposed to beat, and the RedHawks won for the seventh time, with six of those wins coming by three or more goals.
In other words, they’re beating teams they should beat and doing so in decisive fashion.
This was both the first true road game and the inaugural league contest for Miami, which passed both tests with high grades.
And UNO may be winless but it is not a bad team, or at least the Mavericks didn’t play that poorly. Their shot total of 20 is somewhat deceiving because they generated a lot of chances.
A road win in this league, regardless of the opponent’s status, is a major accomplishment, and in this game Miami pulled out the victory on hostile ice and looked good doing so.
— Great job answering the tying UNO goal late in the first period goal by regaining the lead before intermission. That was the Hawkinson deflection on the Hutton blast and eventual game winner.
— Can’t say enough about how well Green is playing. He has nine points in four games and his defense is as good as his offense. He made his first goal happen with his forechecking, as he knocked the puck loose and scored on the rebound from Corbett’s ensuing shot.
— I’d been to all of the first eight games and this was the first one I’d seen on TV, but Derek Daschke looked even better on the tube than live. Twice a last-second desperation play prevented a slam-dunk goal, and he picked up two assists, giving him five points in his last four.
Daschke was probably even more amped to play against the school he was formerly committed to. Mentioned this last weekend but he continues to better every game.
— Prior to this game, only four Miami forwards had played every game but had not scored, and Hawkinson and Gruden both took their names off that list.
Gruden had been snakebitten, as the Ottawa Senators’ fourth rounder was expected to contribute right away.
Yet Hawkinson played three full USHL seasons – 164 games – and only scored 10 times with just 16 assists. Despite his lack of scoring in juniors Hawkinson has a 1-5-6 line in nine games with Miami.
Gruden has tons of raw talent and it should be fun to watch him develop, and Hawkinson has taken complete advantage of his opportunity in Miami’s lineup and has already become a regular on the penalty kill.
— Karch Bachman hit a post early and then a crossbar-and-post later in the game. He had three goals in the first four games this season and continues to get better in other aspects.
He is scoreless in five straight but has been pretty unlucky recently and it feels like he’s going to break out again soon.
— This game was broadcast nationally on one of the regional Fox Sports Channels, and UNO announcers Dave Ahlers and David Brisson did a fabulous job.
Both are very fair in their announcing – regularly complimenting Miami players for their play – and extremely knowledgeable.
Ahlers is a former AHL announcer and Brisson played briefly in the pros after graduating from UNO.
FORWARDS: A-. A well-played game by this entire corps, up and down the lines. Green was the standout with Melnick not far behind. Gruden still makes too many high-risk passes but hopefully this goal will vault his game another level.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. Especially liked Daschke’s play although he did turn one over for a near-goal. Rourke Russell also stood out, and watching from a higher vantagepoint it was easier to appreciate his geometrical smarts in his usage of the boards on defensive-zone passes.
GOALTENDING: A. The goal against was on a magnificent passing play that was basically a 2-on-oh at the top of the crease. Larkin is a key reason for Miami’s hot start and his rebound control is as good as it’s ever been since he came to Oxford.
LINEUP CHANGES: Only one: Up front, Carter Johnson was back in the lineup after sitting last Saturday. He has now played three straight series openers but has sat in consecutive finales.
He replaced Andrew Sinard, who was the seventh defenseman in Game 2 vs. Colgate last weekend.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Winless or not, UNO played pretty well and Miami was better.
The Mavericks hurt themselves with undisciplined penalties early and the RedHawks took advantage with a power play goal.
Omaha is obviously in a down year but this was still a quality win for Miami.
Preview: Miami at Nebraska-Omaha
How appropriate is it that Miami faces Nebraska-Omaha to commence league play?
Six teams begin their in-conference schedules this weekend, and the RedHawks open their NCHC slate against the Mavericks after landing associate head coach Peter Mannino and multiple commits from UNO last off-season.
BoB takes a look at this weekend’s series between Miami and the Mavericks.
WHO: Miami RedHawks (6-2) at Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (0-5-1).
WHERE: Baxter Arena, Omaha, Nebraska (7,898).
WHEN: Friday – 8:07 p.m.; Saturday – 8:07 p.m.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 20-17-6.
LAST SEASON HEAD-TO-HEAD: UNO, 2-0-0. Jan. 12 – UNO, 11-7. Jan. 13 – UNO, 4-3.
UNO RADIO: Both nights – KZOT-AM (1180), Bellevue, Neb.
MIAMI RADIO: Both nights – WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
NOTES: Though the teams had identical 10-13-1 conference records last season and UNO finished just two games better than Miami, with Mannino behind the RedHawks’ bench his new team is 6-2 and earned the No. 20 spot in this week’s USCHO poll.
Without Mannino and his commits – including defensemen and MU starters Derek Daschke and Bray Crowder – UNO is 0-5-1, losing five straight after an opening-night tie at Union.
The acquisition of those now-Miami blueliners is especially noteworthy because the Mavericks have hemorrhaged in the goals against department this season. UNO has allowed 33 goals, including 11 on the power play and three shorthanded in just six games.
Opponents are averaging 37 shots and scoring on 15 percent of them.
The Mavericks have played all three goalies on their roster, and they have a collective 5.42 goals-against average and .851 save percentage.
Evan Weninger has started five games and has a GAA of 5.01 and team-best save percentage of .872. He stopped 74 shots in last weekends losses at Arizona State but surrendered 12 goals, getting the hook after letting seven in Friday.
Alex Blankenburg and Matej Tomek both have save percentages well below .800 in limited action.
Dean Stewart is the lone Maverick defenseman to find the net this season, as he has scored twice and earned three more assists.
The rest of UNO’s blueline corps has combined for just five points, all on assists, led by Ryan Jones’ two. Stewart, Jones, Lukas Buchta and Jalen Schulz are all returning regulars, having logged at least 30 games for Nebraska-Omaha last season.
Up front, Fredrik Olofsson leads the team in assists (6) and points (7). Zach Jordan – a 16-goal scorer in 2017-18 – and Mason Morelli are tied for the team lead with three goals and are second and third in points, respectively.
Tristan Keck and Teemu Pulkkinen have identical 1-2-3 lines.
Four of the Mavericks’ top five points producers from last season graduated, and freshman and sophomores have a combined three goals and five assists in 2018-19, so UNO needs to hit the recruiting trail hard in the coming months.
By comparison, Miami has generated 21 points from its first-year skater class.
Last season, these teams met for one series, which was played at Omaha, and the RedHawks allowed 15 goals in the two-game sweep.
While Phil Knies did score four times that weekend, Miami would like to see a better defensive effort at Baxter Arena this season.
A couple of online sites list this game as being televised on one of the FOX Sports regional channels, but it’s not showing up on the DirecTV schedule.
If it does pop up we’ll send an update on Twitter.
Q&A with associate head coach Mannino
He was the starting goalie during Denver’s 2005 NCAA championship season and played six NHL games before turning to coaching, and behind the bench he has already won a Clark Cup title in the USHL as an assistant with Chicago.
On March 29, less than three weeks after Miami relieved both of its assistant coaches of duties, Peter Mannino was hired into the associate head coaching role.
Mannino moved to Oxford along with his wife, Alyta, daughter, Sienna, 3, and son, Luca, 1.
BoB: You were named associate head coach this off-season, so what would you want Miami fans to know about you from a coaching philosophy perspective?
Mannino: I’m a very approachable, honest coach. One that really dives into the experience I had when I played. I try to bring that to the table because I never want to forget those days. My brain is at the same level as what they’re going through. That’s just the way I approach things, the way we ask (the players) to every day – be honest, work hard and be approachable, have a two-way communicative relationship. That’s what I really, really want the players to know, is that we care about them. We’re here to push them, on and off the ice, take care of them when we need to, push them when we need to and make them earn everything that they’ve deserved up to this point. Kind of all those little attributes, those words kind of pile up together and that’s the way things go with me and the players.
BoB: You played at Denver and have coached at Nebraska-Omaha, so you seem like a perfect fit at Miami in terms of a coach who understands this conference and these teams’ styles as well as the type of player teams need to recruit to win in this league.
Mannino: Absolutely. It was the same way when I played – I played in the USHL, I played junior hockey, I went through the different steps and levels, and what I’m really excited about is I was able to coach two years in the USHL with the Chicago Steel and work my way up. Because you see those players define their levels of college or next step in life, and I went through that for several years. I had a lot of success my second year and I was able to distinguish that level change for (those players) as they developed and when I went to UNO last year, first hand I was a part of it, from practicing to recruiting to game-like speed. I’m very familiar with the NCHC, which is so identical to the old WCHA when I played.
BoB: Stepping back to your NCAA career, you were in net for every game of Denver’s title run in 2005 culminating in a Frozen Four played at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Can you reflect on that experience, winning a national championship as a freshman?
Mannino: Obviously the cliché: It was special. It was kind of unique too because (Denver) had won it the year before. So when I went in everybody was like, oh, you jumped on the bandwagon. No, no, no, I committed before they won, so actually we had a bullseye on our backs. We had to play honest every night because people wanted to get us. We were the defending champions but really it was kind of awkward because our freshman group wasn’t a part of that, but we were meshed into it. So it was really unique to be a part of a very special time at Denver hockey where they had just won – and it was an iconic Frozen Four – to then step foot into my position, there was a lot of what could’ve been looked like as pressure.
But our group from seniors to freshmen, we meshed right away. We pushed each other, we held each other accountable and it just showed, game by game all the way to that championship, we all relied on each other and we all needed each other, it wasn’t just (Paul) Stastny, it was Matt Laatsch our captain – it was awesome. You have to have a team approach to win in the NCAA because it gets so hard, so tight, and one goal can change your career. It’s an eternal memory that I am obviously am very fortunate to have from when I played and moved on to play professionally, but now as a coach I cherish those memories because I can dive into those and talk to guys about them and hopefully help them.
BoB: Your 2005 run is quite a story, because your dominant final stretch that postseason was preceded by a pair of games in which you allowed five goals each. You then posted three straight shutouts and obviously went 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament. What turned you around so quickly that season?
Mannino: It’s that freshman year, right? You go into it, it’s a new team, new feel, new level, and my game was adjusting. I had ups and downs – I remember my first game getting pelted by Boston College then turning around and playing Wisconsin and having a really good win on the road. That’s what I tell the guys – you’ve got to use those (struggles) and get through them, and it’s the big picture. Just like you said: No one looks at those back-to-back five-goal games, but that was my journey. I needed to embrace that and get better and over it, and then in the end you look at the big picture and (the title) was the end result. You were just asking me about that year and the first thing I think of is the ups and downs. We had a tough start, we played some games in which we struggled as a team but those struggles are so important rather than just the back-to-back (titles). We needed to struggle to get to that point, to stay the course at the national tournament, so yeah, that was part of the journey.
BoB: For those like myself who grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL but lacked the necessary talent, you made it to the NHL and played six games. What do you take from that chapter of your life in which you were able to play hockey at the highest level, albeit for a brief time?
Mannino: A dream come true. Everything you do from when I was went to that first NHL game I wanted to be in that arena, be part of that crowd, and I remember telling my third- or fourth-grade teacher that I want to play in the NHL. That was my goal. The thing you learn is just how hard it is to get there. You said I played six games, but I was up for 50 games. No one ever knows that, but it’s so hard to get there, and then to play a game – guys get called up and sit around and they never get that shot. It is so hard but that’s what it’s so special, because of that, and it’s the group and the teams – everything around you from your parents to coaches to opportunities people give you. I could spend hours telling you: This guy believes in me, this guy believes in me, this guy called me and let me play here, this guy allowed me to get seen here. It’s all about finding people that you trust and taking advantage of opportunities. I did that for the most part and that’s what got me six games, but I’m fortunate for everything – I’m thankful to my parents, I’m thankful to every coach, every teammate, every team that I was a part of, because everybody played a part of it.
BoB: You were a coach at Omaha, and the Mavericks have been slightly better than Miami in recent years, so what was the hook that brought you to Oxford?
Mannino: You and I know and we have this conversation with so many people that last year, from where we were at Omaha, (we could’ve finished) anywhere, 4-through-8, the last few four weekends, and it was very stressful. In Omaha we were able to piece together a nice little finish there with some splits and some wins. The boys dug deep, we had a nice senior class, everybody played a big part of that, and we were able to stay in that mid-pack, and unfortunately Miami kind of flipped, right? That just shows you how special our conference is. In any given year – three years ago Miami won the NCHC. There’s so many differences in the year-by-year.
For me it’s not about that, it was more opportunity, relationship-based: Rico Blasi the head coach and one of the founders here, George Gwozdecky, was my coach at Denver. So when I played in college, which is a special part of anybody’s career, when you’re there for four years, it establishes a culture, a mindset and just a belief in coaching and the whole philosophy. I’ve gotten to know Rico over the years, I know Jeff Blashill, I know the whole group that sort of mingles with George Gwozdecky, Rico and myself. There’s a trust – there’s a circle that you really know.
So when things kind of finished up and I received a call from Rico, it was not like talking to a person for the first time, it was listening to a person who was offering up an opportunity that was incredible. The history here – 20 years that Rico has been at Miami, he’s been to the top. What he’s built here, the Brotherhood, everything about it is so special. I’ve played with Andy Miele, players like that, that are part of the Brotherhood, I’ve seen it firsthand from an alum in the pro levels. Played in the game here, you know that game Denver vs. Miami (in the Ice Breaker to open Cady Arena in 2006), that was me, I was in that game. So I wanted to work under and with somebody that’s had such a special coaching career and players can attest to that, the success of the program. I wanted to be a part of that, and that was a special thing to get offered that and to be a part of (this program) here today with Miami.
And obviously that goes along with the school, everything from our AD to the president. This is such a beautiful campus, this whole setup, to live here with my family in Oxford – I’m from Michigan, my wife is from Illinois – you have that kind of hockey side of it and you have the personal side of it, and it just lined up, it made sense. I had to go through the process myself which was very tough because Omaha was a special place, great people – same thing, from ADs all the way down. But it was the right choice, 100 percent, this is where I needed to take that step and I’m very happy and very fortunate for this opportunity.
BoB: You mentioned you were the goalie for Denver in the first game at Cady Arena. As I recall, Miami won that game.
Mannino: Yeah, Rico sticks that to me every time. 5-2, I didn’t play very well, I probably overhyped the game because of all of the fans and the crowd and the students in the front of the building – I saw them while I was stretching. I hear it every day and every recruit hears it here too. But like it or not I’m kind of a part of the history here, and that kind of holds a special place because I didn’t play here but I did get a chance to play here, against them and feel the environment first-hand, and I think that’s an important piece to have when I talk to the players, to recruits coming in, is that I actually did play here, I know what this is like.
BoB: You were hired in late March, and coaches and players were leaving left and right, then Miami was still piecing together its roster this summer, so how tumultuous has this off-season been as you transition here?
Mannino: It was similar with Omaha, I think we had 10 or 11 players coming in – it’s the way it goes any time there’s change. When there’s change, you bring change because it’s time to kind of hit reset. There’s tough decisions, there’s players that move on. But in any of those situations or any losses that happen, a (Kiefer) Sherwood leaving early, losing a four-year player like (Louie Belpedio) and just other players moving on, it’s part of it. That’s the way things are today in college hockey. It’s a very, very quick-changing game with freshmen leaving, sophomores, people leaving just because they want to move. It’s a very loose field today, and it’s okay – that’s what we’re here for as coaches is to understand, players that sign early, move onto other places or can’t afford it, whatever might be.
This is a life here, it’s not just that you’re going to play hockey. There’s money invested, not everybody’s on a full scholarship, there’s so much stuff that happens. I understand that, Rico understands that, (assistant) Joel (Beal) understands that – that’s part of it, it’s forever changing. We’re thrilled obviously – like you said, there were a lot of changes that needed to be made and gaps that we had to fill – and we’re really excited about that, bringing in a lot of experience, a lot of great character personalities and success levels before they got here. That’s what we do, we’re piecing it together. I was in the same boat last year and everybody does it because you lose a lot of players because (college) is a level where players are moving on.
BoB: You were hired on March 29, and at that point most potential recruits’ seasons were winding down. So what has your primary focus been in the months since you accepted this position?
Mannino: Initially, (Miami’s) season was obviously over, so I got to fly in and sit in on all the end-of-the-year, start-of-the-spring-season meetings. So I got to listen in on a lot of guys talking about where they were, where they wanted to go. We broke it down as a staff. That was very crucial.
I know a really good amount of (Miami’s players), either coaching against them, USHL…I have a pretty good feel for most of the guys. Obviously I watched tape to get a good feel and then was just able to catch up in different sessions.
You already know them, you pre-scouted against them last year and obviously coached against a lot of them when I was in the USHL so I have a good feel there. As a coach, as a recruiter you have to understand what you’re getting into, and I knew right away what I was getting, what you inherit as a group.
That was a big thing because now it shifts to when I was hired, it was recruiting, getting to know the committed players, verbally and signed players. I got to know them right away. Get out there and see them if I haven’t – which is probably 90 percent of them anyway – and start the work for Miami right away. What are our holes, what are our needs? And we did that: We brought in defense, we brought in forwards to add depth in every area. With (goalie) Jordan (Uhelski), bringing a nice little competitiveness in the back end, that was the idea is making sure we’re hitting on all of our needs.
So that was kind of it off the hop: Identifying the current, identifying the future players and then going after them from a recruiting standpoint. Rico and I hit the road a good amount and then when Joel came aboard all three of us were running. And then it was sit down, strategy, plan out and kind of prepare from there.
Now we’re in practices, myself and Joel are working the penalty kill, working the goalies, working the systems. It’s a constant group effort, which is a big reason I wanted to come to Miami from the coaching side.
BoB: How difficult of a situation is this to come into, with Miami having not gone to the NCAA Tournament three straight years after a long run of success?
Mannino: Yeah, I think that’s it. We will see a different approach, a real good team approach, a hard-working, really good-skating, better mindset of defending. We’re going to see a really good goalie performance, whoever that is – I know Larks (Ryan Larkin) has carried the load here, and Jordan’s going to come in here and push which is all good competition. And we can say that throughout the lineup because we have depth. We’ve added pieces all around. We’ve added three Clark Cup (USHL) champions, you’ve added guys from the U.S. National Team or USHL, and those are pieces that are very, very important because that creates that culture and that championship mindset that we all want.
Knowing (defenseman) Derek (Daschke), we won with him (in Chicago), and that’s the mindset of all of our players is you know that they can come in and contribute right away in all areas, up and down the lineup. And that’s all you can ask for is experience like that and maturity.
So I think we’re going to have a very good year. It’s a stepping stone, every year, you wish you had one more here, one more there, but once again, that’s the way it is in college. Every team is looking at their board and they’re not complete. That’s just a fact.
BoB: You mentioned Derek Daschke. He is a highly-touted defenseman who was committed to UNO after playing for you in Chicago but switched to Miami this off-season after your hiring. He has a solid reputation and a two-way blueliner who can score, move the puck, run a power play and defend well. Can you talk about him since he’s a player you’re so familiar with?
Mannino: I know a lot of the guys, like Karch Bachman I coached in Chicago, recruited Bray Crowder, recruited Scott Corbett, recruited Monte Graham. I coached against (Phil) Knies when we were in the Clark Cup championship. It goes on and on and on. So I’m very familiar – this isn’t just one player. I know Larkin when he was in the USHL, I watched him in all of those festivals. I’ve seen all these guys, give or take a handful. (Derek) would be that mature, junior-experienced player that has had success and has gone through the gauntlet and prepares for it. His mindset is just like our other freshmen and sophomores moving forward, we feel like across the board we have a group that wants to be a group.
BoB: It’s been fun watching Karch Bachman get better and better, as he started finishing those chances toward the end of last season.
Mannino: You can say that about all of them, right? Everybody that’s still here is here to develop and continue to work toward that next level, and if not they’ve moved on to other levels or they’ve graduated. Kind of the fun part about college: It’s a very developmental stage. These guys have holes in their game that they want to work on every day and they have those strong attributes, like Karch can skate, he can shoot the puck, so what do you do with it? He’s been great – he understands it, identifies it and attacks it. Go after it, get better.
BoB: The former assistants had specific in-game roles, like Coach Brekke handled the defensemen. Being a former goalie, will you handle the netminders, and do you and Coach Beal know what your duties will be once the puck drops?
Mannino: Defense, PK, Joel and I will be working hand in hand in those areas, because if one of us is on the road we want to be up to par there. Obviously the goalies are a special nook – that’s one thing I’m going to be working with every day.
What I will say is going into it with Rico is he’s been awesome and receptive, asking Joel and myself whatever it is. We’re open on all cylinders here, drills, practice flow, plans for scheduling – that’s the fun part is learning under Rico and all contributing in all different ways, because that’s what we ask our guys to do. I think it’s a productive environment behind the scenes that we can all be on the same page too.
NCHC preview: Nebraska-Omaha
Last season, Mike Gabinet inherited a team that had gone .500 the previous season and a game over that mark in 2015-16.
Despite the coaching change, Nebraska-Omaha proved itself the master of consistent mediocrity, finishing 17-17-2 in 2017-18.
It’s been a tough follow-up to the Mavericks’ first-ever NCAA semifinal round berth in 2015, as none of their subsequent seasons have produced return trips onto college hockey’s highest stage.
The loss of assistant coach Peter Mannino to in-conference rival Miami, as well as the resulting departure of multiple recruits to the RedHawks this off-season will not make it any easier for UNO to qualify for the NCAAs in 2018-19.
NCAA titles: 0.
COACH: Mike Gabinet (17-17-2 in 1 season).
2017-18 RECORDS: 17-17-2 overall, 10-13-1 in the NCHC (6th place).
POSTSEASON: Lost to North Dakota in NCHC semifinal round.
RINK (capacity): Baxter Arena (7,898).
MIAMI VS. UNO LAST SEASON: 0-2.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 20-17-6.
2018-19 SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 2-3 – at UNO; Feb. 8-9 – at Miami.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: G Evan Weninger, F Zach Jordan, F Tristan Keck, F Steven Spinner, F Fredrik Olofsson, D Ryan Jones.
KEY LOSSES: F David Pope, F Tyler Vesel, F Jake Randolph, D Joel Messner.
KEY NEW FACES: F Tyler Weiss, F Chayse Primeau, F Taylor Ward, D John Schuldt.
NOTES: In addition to losing Mannino and two top-tier recruits, Nebraska-Omaha graduated four of its top five points producers from 2017-18.
Forward Zach Jordan is the team’s top returning points producer, as he posted 28 points including 16 goals last season.
Also up front, Tristan Keck, Fredrik Olofsson and Steven Spinner reached the 20-point mark in 2017-18.
Teemu Pulkinen netted eight goals and Mason Morelli dished for 10 assists.
The Mavericks expect 150-pounder Tyler Weiss to contribute immediately, as he is a USNDT product and Colorado Avalanche draftee. Same goes for 6-feet-3 Chayse Primeau, whose father Keith played in the NHL.
No returning UNO defenseman tallied more than two goals last season, and Ryan Jones is the Mavericks’ top returning points-getting among blueliners with 13.
D-man Lukas Buchta, Jalen Schulz and Dean Stewart are also back after turning in solid seasons for UNO in 2017-18.
Freshmen John Schuldt and Jason Smallidge look to make an immediate impact on the Mavericks’ blueline, but key defense commit Derek Dashcke bolted for Miami.
Goalie Evan Weninger is back after logging over 80 percent of UNO’s minutes between the pipes. His numbers weren’t great – his save percentage was .899 and goals-against 3.35 – and Philadelphia Flyers draftee and North Dakota transfer Matej Tomek could eat into Weninger’s ice time.
UNO needs serious improvement on the back end – the team was dead last in Division I in goals against per game and 49th on the penalty kill in 2017-18.
Conversely, the Mavericks finished seventh in goal average and were seventh on the power play.
Nebraska-Omaha’s tendency toward high-scoring affairs was exemplified by its series sweep vs. the RedHawks in Omaha that saw 25 goals including an 11-7 weekend opener.
That set extended UNO’s unbeaten streak vs. Miami to six games, as the Mavericks are 5-0-1 against the RedHawks the past two seasons.
NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the fourth of seven installments.
Here are the links for the other snapshots:
Analysis: Last 10 regular season games huge
A season of extremes continues for Miami.
Since up a four-game road stretch with a 6-3 comeback win at North Dakota, courtesy of five straight third-period goals on Jan. 14, the RedHawks went 0-2-1 to wrap up the away set.
That was capped off by a 2-0 loss at Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday, representing the first time Miami has been shut out by an opponent this season.
A quick season recap: The RedHawks lost their season opener and were unbeaten in their next five (3-0-2). Then came Miami’s longest winless streak in a quarter century, a 10-game skid in which the team was 0-7-3. But wait, the RedHawks won their next five.
And now Miami is winless in its last three, having scored just three goals in that span.
Normally in this league good teams can absorb this types of hiccups, but because of the RedHawks’ 3-8-5, they can’t afford them.
Yes, Miami is a good team, with the potential to be a very good team, but the Coach Enrico Blasi and the RedHawks truly have their backs up against the boards.
They have one of, if not the, toughest remaining schedule of any team in college hockey. We went through the final five opponents yesterday.
And without advancing to Minneapolis and the Frozen Faceoff, Miami would need to finish 7-3 and take its first-round NCHC opponent to three games just to warrant NCAA consideration.
A 6-4 finish and the RedHawks would need to qualify for Minny and win a game there at the bare minimum.
Of course there’s another way: Paraphrasing Major League for the tiny tots that may be reading, win the whole thing. That is, the NCHC Tournament.
So there are multiple paths to Cincinnati and the NCAA regionals, but they are as smooth as the late third-period ice at Value City Arena.
With the importance of the Miami’s remaining 10 games, in a way, the RedHawks’ playoff season has already begun.
– So in terms of standings, this loss hurts because UNO is now four points ahead of Miami, which is a difference of multiple wins. Even if the RedHawks had tied and lost the sideshow events, they would’ve gained a point and remained within two points of the Mavericks. It’ll be a lot harder to catch them now. Getting into the top four is so important because it means home-ice advantage for the first round of the NCHC Tournament after teams have flown across the midwest for five months in addition to carrying full class loads. A 7-3 finish should do that, considering Miami plays most of the teams it is competing with for seeding down the stretch. Hey, at least six of the final 10 are in Oxford.
– The RedHawks deserved a better fate than being blanked in this one, but Evan Weninger stopped 30 shots to post the zero. It happens from time to time, especially on the road.
– On the first goal, Steven Spinner – which is tough to type for a Miami fan/writer because the tendency is to type Steven Spinell – made an incredible backhand pass across the top of the crease. Anthony Louis was way late covering the goal scorer, Frederik Olofsson.
– On the second goal, Louie Belpedio just turned it over at the blue line and Spinner went in for a sweet breakaway goal. This is the third time the captain has coughed one up that has directly resulted in a goal against.
– The same 19 from Friday’s lineup card dressed on Saturday. That meant a third straight game without Justin Greenberg.
– So Saturday’s game was supposed to be televised on Fox College Sports, but it was unavailable to much of the country, including those (like myself) who have DirecTV and the premium sports tier. But five of the next seven Miami games will be televised nationally, including Friday’s games, which will be carried on CBS College Sports.