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

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.

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

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.

Miami’s Andrew Sinard (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

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.

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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.

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

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.

Forward Jonathan Gruden (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

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.

Miami’s Brian Hawkinson (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

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.

Miami’s Derek Daschke (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

— 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.

GRADES

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.

Rourke Russell (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

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?

Miami associate head coach Peter Mannino (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

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.

Miami’s Derek Daschke (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

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.

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

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.

Peter Mannino (used with permission of Miami athletics)

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.

NEBRASKA-OMAHA MAVERICKS

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:

Colorado College
Denver
Minnesota-Duluth

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.

Other thoughts…

– 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.

Miami blanked by UNO

Despite putting 30 shots on net, Miami suffered its first shutout of the season on Saturday.

Nebraska-Omaha was outshot, 30-22 but blanked the RedHawks, 2-0 in the series finale at Baxter Arena.

It was the first time Miami (8-10-6) had failed to score a goal in 26 games. The last time it was shut out was on March 4, 2016 at Minnesota-Duluth.

The Mavericks (14-8-4) were able to win without scoring at even strength.

With 1:44 left in the first period and in the closing seconds of a power play, Steven Spinner controlled the puck at the top of the crease and backhanded a pass to a wide-open Frederik Olofsson, who tapped it in to open the scoring.

While the RedHawks were on their own man advantage, defenseman Louie Belpedio lost the puck at his own blue line, and Spinner skated in alone and scored on the backhand with 6:46 to play in the second period.

That was all the offense UNO needed, as Evan Weninger stopped 30 shots to earn the shutout.

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

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

Miami remains in seventh place in the NCHC, but it dropped one spots to 22rd in the PairWise rankings.

Anthony Louis saw his season-high eight-game points streak snapped.

After four straight road games in which the RedHawks went 0-3-1, Miami will host Western Michigan in a pair of games next weekend.

Analysis: Plenty of good, bad in tie

It was a positive thing to see Miami come back from a first-period, two-goal deficit, but a downer that the RedHawks were unable to hold a late lead.

So appropriately, Miami and Nebraska-Omaha skated to a 3-3 tie on Friday in the weekend series opener at UNO’s Baxter Arena.

First the bad.

The Mavericks’ first goal was a bit lucky. RedHawks forward Ryan Siroky got in position to block a shot in the slot, and the puck appeared to deflect off his skate and into the net. It happens.

But UNO scored again a minute later when Teemu Pulkkinen was left wide open in front of the net for a rebound.

Same thing with the Mavericks’ tying goal. Jake Randolph was practically in his own time zone at the side of the net, and Austin Ortega – one of the most dangerous players in the league – fed him perfectly for the easy goal.

This game marks the two-thirds mark of the regular season for Miami, and still too many opponents are not paying the price in front of the net.

We saw this last week as well. On one UND goal, four Miami players chased the puck as a player crossed into the offensive zone, and that resulted in an easy tic-tac-toe goal when a pass got through all of the RedHawks defenders to wide-open North Dakota skaters.

Miami has improved in a lot of areas as the season has progressed. This is a big one and at this point things aren’t getting better. And they need to. Quickly.

Oh yeah, and the RedHawks took six straight penalties after going on the power play three times to open the game. Penalty No. 5 by Karch Bachman was the killer, as that’s when UNO tied it in the third period.

Now the good.

Let’s look at the goals.

The first power play unit for Miami is just lethal, and that’s how the RedHawks scored their first goal. Anthony Louis got penetration and dropped a pass to Louie Belpedio for the rip.

Miami forward Willie Knierim (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami forward Willie Knierim (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Then Willie Knierim scored. That’s three goals for the 18-year-old true freshman (he turns 19 on Sunday), with all coming in his last 10 games.

Another 6-feet-3 forward, Sean Kuraly, who was a year older when he came to Oxford, scored three times in his first 36 games. We all know how he turned out.

It’s also encouraging how Knierim is scoring goals. He’s not afraid to go into the slot, where he scored from on Friday on a wicked shot. His size is his biggest asset, and he can give opponents fits if he can establish position in front of the net, both by knocking home rebounds and screening goalies.

Then there’s Carson Meyer, who looks like he’s watching the Miami figure skating team this season, as he managed to take a pass at the top of the crease and knock it home while doing part pirouette, part triple axle.

That’s five goals in 10 games for him, and if wasn’t for goalie Ryan Larkin, Meyer would be skating away with the team’s rookie of the year award.

Miami has shown that it can come back from deficits on the road in the most hostile of environments, having done so both in Grand Forks and Omaha the past two weekends.

These road trips, while taxing, help build bonds between players, especially with younger teams.

Yeah, the sixth tie of the year wasn’t the outcome Miami had hoped for, but considering the RedHawks were down 2-0 halfway through the first period, the ultimate result isn’t half bad. Or half good.

Other thoughts…

– Let’s go back to the penalties. UNO took three, then Miami took six. It’s so hard to second-guess officiating from a computer monitor, so we’ll have to give the officials the benefit of the doubt. You can’t do that, especially on the road. That isn’t news to anyone, but the parade to the penalty box is something we’re seeing too often in recent weeks. The RedHawks have been shorthanded 23 times the past four games, or 5.8 times per game. By comparison, MU faced just 17 power plays in its previous five contests, an average of 3.4 opportunities. Carson Meyer was whistled twice in this game.

– While Miami’s penchant for free hockey is approaching team record levels, its overtime appearance total is far from historic at the NCAA level. The RedHawks have tied six times, played in nine extra sessions and have three OT wins. The Division I records are 10 ties, 19 overtime games played in and seven wins after regulation. The 10 ties seems to most attainable, and that has been done three times: By Western Michigan in 2010-11 (Miami actually tied the Broncos once that season), Colorado College in 2008-09 and Minnesota State in 2002-03. However, if Miami does chase that record it’s a lot less likely the RedHawks will be in position to make the NCAA Tournament.

– The NCHC points race is crazy right now, as two points separate third place and seventh. Miami is currently in seventh, but a win Saturday would mean the RedHawks would be no worse than sixth heading home for the Western Michigan series, and they could go as high as third. After this weekend, Miami will have 10 games remaining and will play each of the top four teams in the league in terms of points, plus the sixth-best team (St. Cloud State). The RedHawks’ final five opponents are ranked Nos. 7, 14, 3, 2 and 9 in the PairWise. That means plenty of opportunity to move up, will they will have to earn it against some of the best teams in Division I.

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

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

LINEUP CHANGES: Justin Greenberg has missed consecutive games. He had been in the lineup 53 straight contests prior. Alex Alger has dressed in his place in the last two games. For the sixth time in a row, the defensive six and goaltender were the same, as Coach Enrico Blasi seems to be set at those spots for the stretch run.

Miami ties yet again vs. UNO

Another tie moved Miami into a tie for the NCHC record for most ties in a season.

The RedHawks played in their ninth overtime contest of the campaign as they skated to a 3-3 draw at Nebraska-Omaha on Friday.

Several teams have finished with six ties since the NCHC’s inception in 2013-14, but Miami has a great chance of establishing a new league mark since it still has 11 games remaining in its regular season.

The NCAA record is 10 stalemates, held by three teams including current conference foes Colorado College and Western Michigan.

The Mavericks (13-8-4) scored twice in a 59-second span midway through the first period.

Steven Spinner whipped a shot from the high slot that appeared to deflect off the skate of the RedHawks’ Ryan Siroky and into the net 9:32 into the game.

Justin Perizek’s shot from the side of the net was stopped by RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin, but the rebound came to Teemu Pulkkinen, who batted it in with 9:29 left in the opening frame.

With 2:47 left in the first period, Anthony Louis fed Louie Belpedio for a one-time blast on the power play as Miami cut the lead in half.

The RedHawks (8-9-6) tied the score at two with 8:16 left in the opening stanza as Scott Dornbrock fired a shot from the blue line that was knocked down in the slot, and Willie Knierim corralled the rebound, wiring one just under the crossbar.

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

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

Miami took its only lead of the game 21 seconds into the third period, as Louis centered a puck to the top of the crease for an off-balance Carson Meyer, who acrobatically tapped the puck home.

On a power-play rush, the Mavericks evened it at three as Austin Ortega fed Jake Randolph at the side of the cage for a one-timer with 6:16 remaining in regulation.

The RedHawks earned the extra point late in overtime as Gordie Green slid a pass to Dornbrock on the left wing, and Dornbrock played the puck off his skate to his stick before burying it.

Meyer finished with a goal and an assist, and Louis also tallied two points – both on helpers. Meyer has points in nine of 10 games since returning from his illness, going 5-7-12 in that stretch.

Louis extended his points streak to a team-best eight games. He has four goals and eight assists during his streak and four multi-point games in his last five contests, giving him 117 points for his career, 35th on the team’s all-time leaderboard.

Miami started the game with three straight power plays, scoring on one, but UNO had six consecutive chances on the man-advantage to end it, netting the tying goal on its fifth chance.

Six ties for the season is one off MU’s all-time record. The team skated to seven draws in 2009-10, the last time it advanced to the Frozen Four.

The RedHawks remain in seventh place in the NCHC but are just two points out third place in the ultra-tight conference.

These teams wrap up their weekend series at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday.

Analysis: Woeful defense led to sweep

OXFORD, Ohio – A weekend that started off with so much promise turned into a pair of mistake-laden losses that have a Miami team that showed so much promise in the opening weeks skating backwards.

The RedHawks led 4-1 on Friday before allowing the final five goals in a 6-4 loss and were beaten soundly, 6-2 at Cady Arena on Saturday after rallying from two down to tie the score.

MU (3-6-2) netted four of the first five goals this weekend but surrendered 11 of the final 13.

The RedHawks have allowed 23 goals in their four NCHC games – or 5.75 per contest – as they have dropped to 44th in the NCAA in overall team defense.

Most disturbing is special teams, as Miami was tops in college hockey on the PK a couple of weeks ago but has given up nine power play goals and two more shorthanded in the last four games, killing penalties at an anemic 65.3 percent clip.

The most important stat is wins and losses, and Miami has dropped its last five, getting outscored 11-0 in the third period during its current skid.

The absence of Louie Belpedio has hurt this team on several fronts, as the RedHawks were 3-2-2 with him in the lineup and 0-4 since. Without their captain, they seem less focused, the compete level has been inconsistent, and paramount is the loss of 20-plus minutes of play from their best all-around defenseman.

And the latter has a trickle-down effect, as everyone gets bumped up a spot in the D pecking order, and as a result the entire group has had its struggles.

Of course it doesn’t help when starting goalie Ryan Larkin goes down with an injury, or that stud freshman Carson Meyer may miss several weeks.

No one will feel sorry for Miami, especially not No. 1 Denver, the team the RedHawks play next weekend at altitude after getting drubbed in five straight third periods.

We’re already one-third of the way through the regular season, and Miami needs to turn this thing around fast or we could be in for a very long winter.

Other thoughts…

– Like Friday, the RedHawks again allowed too many players to skate into the slot uncontested. Snuggerud was left alone for the third UNO (6-3-1) goal. He scored again by beating Scott Dornbrock to the net for a backhander. The physical game got away from Miami entirely this weekend, especially around the net. The RedHawks might as well have placed a welcome mat in orange and black at the top of their crease both nights.

– Let’s insert some positive: Despite everything that’s happened in six weeks, Kiefer Sherwood continues to get better every game. He dominates play for portions of games, not just with his shot but with puck possession and high-level passing. He’s a certifiable nightmare on the power play, as defenders have to come out to protect against his shot, opening up other avenues for Miami.

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

– Speaking of the power play, Coach Enrico Blasi went with five forwards numerous times with Josh Melnick at the point. He obviously trusts the defense of Melnick, who effectively ran the point, but without Belpedio it may be his way of saying none of the other D-men have earned that high-profile playing time. Miami did allow two SHGs this weekend, although neither were the result of his five-forward units. And using that many forwards on the first unit leaves even fewer offensive-minded bodies up front for the second line, which has been mostly ineffective this season.

– If UNO is in the bottom half of this league, the NCHC is absolutely loaded. This is a very good team, and not surprisingly is well coached by Dean Blais.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D+. Sherwood has two rips for goals and these guys showed some signs of life but did little on a five-minute power play in the third period and combined for just 21 shots despite 13 minutes of power play time. On a positive note, Melnick and Justin Greenberg were much better on faceoffs, an area in which Miami has struggled seemingly since Pat Cannone and Carter Camper graduated.

DEFENSEMEN: D-. Without Belpedio this group is contributing almost nothing offensively and are committing too many egregious turnovers. Normally-reliable Grant Hutton had a miserable weekend, including a giveaway that directly led to UNO’s second goal. Dornbrock got beaten badly on Goal No. 6. The Mavericks finished with just 26 shots, but too many were high-percentage chances. This group needs to get a lot better, especially in front of its own net, and that needs to happen quickly.

GOALTENDING: D+. Six goals against, it’s easy to blame goaltending, but Chase Munroe faced a ton of A-plus chances in his starting debut. Three of his goals against were on the power play, including a 5-on-3 tally. The first was on a PP scramble in front of the net, the second was basically a 2-on-0 on a power play, No. 3 was scored after yet another player was left open in the slot, the fourth was a 5-on-3 but was probably the one Munroe would’ve most likely wanted back, No. 5 was a breakaway and the sixth was on a player crashing the net, and Munroe was unable to hold the post. Certainly not a memorable debut but he was not the reason Miami lost.

LINEUP CHANGES: Munroe for Larkin was the most notable. The only other switch was Bryce Hatten in basically the sixth defense spot in favor of Chaz Switzer.