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 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.
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.
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.
– 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
– 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.
– 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.
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.
OXFORD, Ohio – In a 1:50 span of the first period, Miami erased a two-goal deficit on two blasts by Kiefer Sherwood.
But over the final 40 minutes, Nebraska-Omaha netted four unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 win over the RedHawks at Cady Arena on Saturday, spoiling MU goalie Chase Munroe’s first collegiate start and extending Miami’s losing streak to five games.
The RedHawks (3-6-2) have allowed 23 goals in their last four games.
Only two of the eight goals were scored at even strength.
UNO (6-3-1) opened the scoring on the power play, as the Mavericks won the draw and a pass found Teemu Pulkkinen in the high slot. Pukkinen backhanded one on net, got his own rebound and slid across to Mason Morelli for a slam-dunk goal 6:15 into the first period.
Nebraska-Omaha extended its lead shorthanded less than seven minutes later when RedHawks defenseman Grant Hutton had a defensive zone pass intercepted, and David Pope and Austin Ortega played give-and-go for a tap-in goal by Ortega.
Miami responded with 4:58 left in the opening period on the power play when a shot by Anthony Louis hit a body in the slot and ricocheted to Sherwood, who fired it into the top corner from the left faceoff circle.
Sherwood scored from nearly the same spot 110 seconds later, again on the man advantage, on a set-up pass from the point by Josh Melnick, tying the score.
But after that the game got away from the RedHawks.
Ian Brady centered a pass to Luc Snuggerud, who skated around Miami goalie Chase Munroe and deposited the puck in the net to give UNO a 3-2 lead 7:20 into the second period.
The Mavericks again took a two-goal lead just over two minutes later on a 5-on-3 slap shot by David Pope from the center of the faceoff circle.
Tristan Keck sprung Ortega loose for a breakaway, and Ortega pulled up and slid the puck under Munroe to make it 5-2 with 15:12 left in regulation.
Snuggerud capped off the scoring when he pitchforked one through Munroe three minutes later.
Sherwood has scored four goals in his last four games, and Melnick, Louis and Brandt all picked up assists for the second straight contest.
Carter Johnson recorded the other helper.
Ortega and Snuggerud both ended the night with two goals and an assist.
In addition to struggling on the ice, Miami’s injuries are also piling up. Goalie Ryan Larkin, who had started the first 10 games, was out with an upper-body injury, and it is unclear when he will return.
Forward Carson Meyer, the RedHawks’ freshman points leader with 10, missed the entire weekend with an illness and could be out multiple weeks. And defenseman and captain Louie Belpedio missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury and had a noticeable limp when he walked around the concourse, but he is expected back next weekend.
Miami is now 0-4 in NCHC play.
The RedHawks’ next four games will be on the road, with their first two coming at Denver on Nov. 18-19.
OXFORD, Ohio – A young Miami team learned a hard lesson on Friday.
Playing 15 of a possible 60 minutes will not earn you many wins against NCHC opponents.
The RedHawks were lackluster in the first period and the final 25 as they squandered a three-goal lead, falling to Nebraska-Omaha, 6-4 at Cady Arena.
More specifically, it was Miami’s defensive play that did it in during its NCHC home opener. In the first period, UNO players were left open via the backdoor cut multiple times, and the goal the Mavericks scored was on a tip-in by an uncovered player at the edge of the crease.
The latter point is one we’ve seen used a lot by opponents recently. Miami goalie Ryan Larkin has pro-level reflexes, and one of the hardest things for any goalie to defend is the redirection.
Three times the RedHawks were scored on by shots from the blue line that were altered down low by players that were not adequately defended.
The other three were the direct result of turnovers, which is a major concern 10 games into the season. Passing has not been this team’s forte but it was believed that area would improve as the season progressed.
After Saturday’s game we’ll be a third of the way through the regular season, and Miami’s turnover total on Friday would make Pillsbury envious.
Captain Louie Belpedio missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury, and it’s become obvious how important he is to this team. The RedHawks are allowing 5.67 goals per game during his absence, which not only is a huge loss because of his two-way play out of his defense spot, but we see how key his leadership is.
The good news on that front is he should return next weekend. That should help stabilize both the blue line and the team in general.
And yeah, we can talk about growing pains, 14 freshmen, etc., but Miami was up three goals in its own building halfway through Friday night’s game. Surely even a freshman-laden team can close out a win up 4-1.
This team has been together for a month and a half, working hard in practice almost every day. Yes, the process still supersedes outcomes to some degree, but there’s no reason why Miami can’t still continue to learn while enjoying success in the win-loss department.
Quality teams do this all the time. It’s reloading vs. rebuilding.
This schedule was set up for Miami to have early league success before facing the truly elite in the NCHC.
Western Michigan is receiving votes but is not ranked and has scored seven goals in three conference games against teams other than Miami. The Broncos lit the lamp 11 times vs. the RedHawks last weekend.
UNO is getting fewer votes in the polls than WMU but was able to chase MU goalie Ryan Larkin, something no other team has done this season.
If Miami is having major struggles against these teams, how will it fare against No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth, No. 2 Denver, No. 6 North Dakota and No. 13 St. Cloud State?
To the Mavericks’ credit, they took every advantage of Miami’s miscues and turned the game around on a shorthanded goal late in the second period. They carried that momentum into the third period and added four more unanswered goals.
Weak third periods have been a recent trend for the RedHawks, who have been outscored, 13-6 in 2016-17 and 9-0 during their current four-game losing streak.
This Miami team that showed so much promise early is in a definite funk, and it needs to get out of it before it gets buried so deeply in the NCHC standings it can’t find its way out.
– Let’s start with a positive. Kiefer Sherwood played some of his best hockey of the year in the second period. Sometimes teams have been able to shut him down, but UNO had no answer for him in that frame, as he was able to control the puck, generate several excellent scoring chances and set up others. He’s becoming a dominant player in this league.
– One reason for the key problems for Miami during its skid is its penalty kill. Tops in the NCAA through six games, the RedHawks have surrendered seven power play goals in the last four games, going just 18-for-25 (72.0 percent).
– Even with a semi-strong student presence, attendance only reached 3,002. Many of those fans headed for the gates during the TV timeout following UNO’s go-ahead goal with eight minutes left. Right or wrong, Miami is starting to lose its fanbase for this season and needs to start winning or it will be playing in a half-full building during its most crucial league games when it most needs to maximize its home-ice advantage.
– Off the subject, but it seems now is a good time to bring up honoring a couple more recent graduates by adding their numbers to the wall. It’s a completely Goggin-central class right now, which is understandable considering the rink is just 10 years old, but Andy Greene and Ryan Jones should have their names in the zamboni end. Both were class acts and captains as well as two of the most dominant players ever to don Miami sweaters. Greene did not play at Cady, having graduated in 2006, and Jones finished in 2008. That’s 10 and eight years, respectively. It’s time to officially honor their accomplishments.
FORWARDS: C+. Some of the offensive success this group is off-set by turnovers that resulted in UNO goals. Josh Melnick uncharacteristically coughed one up for the go-ahead goal in the third, and Anthony Louis’ errant pass in the second led to the critical SHG. But those two also accounted for three goals and two assists. Coach Enrico Blasi is understandably shaking up the lines at this point.
DEFENSEMEN: D. Did we mention we miss Belpedio? Even sure-handed Grant Hutton got beat by shifty Mavericks forwards a couple of times. Confusion among this group resulted in the delay of game penalty that ended up in Miami’s net for UNO’s first goal. Some of the youngsters are improving but will need to continue that process or it could be a long season in conference play.
GOALTENDING: C. Larkin made a couple of strong saves, as he always does, and he had little chance on either redirection goal. The second UNO goal was on a good one-time shot from the slot that beat Larkin. The fourth and final goal scored on Larkin was definitely stoppable though. Munroe had no shot at stopping the slap-pass goal. After looking nervous on his first couple of shots, he settled in and finished 7 of 8 including a point-blank backhand that he corralled cleanly.
LINEUP CHANGES: Carson Meyer was out for the first time this season, although it is unclear why (he has two goals and eight assists). Karch Bachman returned after sitting on Saturday at Western Michigan. Along with Belpedio, who likely will not play on Saturday but should be back next week, Bryce Hatten was also a scratch. Munroe replaced Larkin for the final 14 minutes, making it unclear who will be in net for the series finale. Larkin may be losing confidence after seeing so many high-quality shots recently, and he stopped just 16 of 20 in this one.
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami came within 24 minutes of snapping a three-game losing streak.
But the RedHawks, who led by three goals with four minutes remaining in the second period, allowed five consecutive goals down the stretch in a 6-4 loss to Nebraska-Omaha at Cady Arena on Tuesday.
The Mavericks (5-3-1) jumped on top early, as Mason Morelli tipped in a blue line shot by Ian Brady just 7:21 into the first period on the power play.
After that, it was a game of runs, as Miami (3-5-2) scored the next four goals.
The RedHawks tied it with 3:29 left in the frame when Anthony Louis carried the zone, skated along the boards and centered a pass to Josh Melnick, who one-timed the puck home from the high slot.
Miami took the lead on an innocuous wrister by Scott Dornbrock from along the boards that Conor Lemirande redirected home 6:23 into the second period.
Dornbrock picked up another assist when he slid a pass to Louis in the high slot, and Louis buried a shot to the stick side for his 100th career point with 10:09 remaining in the frame.
Just 34 seconds later, the Louis penetrated uncontested and roofed a backhander from the center of the faceoff circle on the short side to make it 4-1.
But UNO cut the lead to two prior to the second intermission, when Steven Spinner stole a Louis pass, skated the length of the ice along the boards and connected with trailing defenseman Joel Messner, who buried a shot to cut the deficit to two.
Jake Randolph made it a one-goal game 83 seconds into the final stanza on a tip-in off a blue line wrist shot by Messner.
The Mavericks tied it when Spinner picked off a Melnick pass in the neutral zone, skated in and went top shelf for a shorthanded goal with 14:13 left in regulation.
That ended the night for Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, the RedHawks only goalie used this season to that point, as he gave way to freshman Chase Munroe, who made his MU debut.
Munroe was greeted rudely, as Luc Snuggerud’s slap pass from the blue line found the blade of David Pope’s stick for a redirection goal that gave UNO a 5-4 lead with 8:05 to play.
The Mavericks sealed it when Morelli scored an empty netter after Austin Ortega intercepted a Louis centering pass from behind the net.
The RedHawks have surrendered 17 goals in their last three games and have been outscored, 9-0 during their current four-game skid.
Louis finished with three points, giving him 101 for his career and a team-high 14 on the season, including a Miami-best nine goals. All of his points have come in the last eight games.
Melnick recorded a goal and an assist for his first multi-point game of the season, and Dornbrock ended the game with a pair of helpers, his first two-assist game since Jan. 29.
Miami drops to 0-3 in the NCHC.
The series finale will be at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
Nebraska-Omaha struggled down the stretch and ended up finishing 8-15-1 (.354 winning percentage) in the NCHC, taking sixth in the conference in 2015-16.
The Mavericks tied Miami in Oxford Nov. 20, but the RedHawks would claim the extra point in the NCHC standings on a Louie Belpedio rebound goal in the series finale the next night.
UNO finished the year 18-17-1 (.514), taking sixth overall and was eliminated from the NCHC Tournament in the first round, as the Mavericks were swept by Denver.
NCAA TITLES: None.
COACH: Dean Blais (8th season, 129-116-25, .524 winning percentage).
2015-16 RECORD: 18-17-1 (8-15-1, sixth in NCHC, .514 winning percentage).
POSTSEASON RESULT: Swept by Denver in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.
RINK (capacity): Baxter Arena, Omaha, Nebraska (7,898).
LAST SEASON VS. MIAMI: 1-2-1 (In Oxford Nov. 20-21, 3-3 tie, 3-2 win/ In Omaha Jan. 22-23, 3-1, 7-3 losses to the RedHawks).
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 18-11-4.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: In Oxford Nov. 11-12; in Omaha Jan. 20-21.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Austin Ortega, F Justin Parizek, D Luc Snuggerud (141st overall pick by CHI in 2014).
KEY NEW FACES: F Colin Grannary (Delta, British Columbia/Merritt-BCHL), D Ryan Jones (Crown Point, Ind./Lincoln USHL), G Kris Oldham (TBL 153rd pick in 2015).
NOTES: Nebraska-Omaha has finished third, third and sixth in the eight-team NCHC in three seasons.
The Mavericks scored 103 goals last season, the top scorer, Jake Guentzel, who has graduated, notched 19 goals in 35 games, while dishing out 27 assist.
Austin Ortega is the team’s top returning scorer with 36 points, including a team-best 21 goals, and Ortega was first on the team in power-play goals (seven).
The Mavericks blue line stays well intact as the team returns all but one defenseman. Nebraska-Omaha’ top D-man, Luc Snuggerud, lead his defensive corps in points with 18, lighting the lamp four times.
Goalie Even Weninger returns between the pipes for the Mavericks, having gone 13-8-0 in a team-high 21 games a season ago. Weninger will have freshman netminder Kris Oldham looking to split time in the crease for the Mavs.
Nebraska-Omaha have added seven freshman to join the already young program. The Mavericks will only have three seniors for the 2016-17 campaign, while piling up 17 underclassman.
The Mavs jumped out to a great 6-0 start last year before dropping their final eight games, including being swept by Denver in the NCHC tournament. Nebraska-Omaha would like to play better in the third period of games, as they were outscored 39-26 in the final frame.
Miami broke out with seven goals on Saturday, and its scorers had a combined nine markers this season entering that game.
While it’s obviously insane to expect that kind of offense from second-, third- and fourth-line forwards on a regular basis, the RedHawks – at least for one night in a 7-3 win vs. Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena – appeared to be over the forcefield-across-the-threshold-of-the-net blues that plagued them for many of their first 22 contests.
The reaction from 800 miles to east, behind a computer screen in a cozy back room, was 50 percent what-in-the-world-is-going-on-but-this-is-awesome and 50 percent it’s-about-time-some-of-those-shots-that-had-been-whistling-just-wide-or-off-posts-the-past-four-months-finally-found-twine.
The obvious question no one has the answer to is: Is the drought finally over or was this a three-hour reprieve?
Miami entered this weekend 53rd out of 60 in Division I in offense. The RedHawks aren’t that bad.
Miami scored seven times on Saturday, and only one of those was by a usual sniping suspect: Anthony Louis.
The RedHawks aren’t that good. No team is.
The word of the night, and the series, and the past nine days for that matter dating back to the Bowling Green win, is encouraging.
Two more words could determine how the rest of this season goes for MU: Secondary scoring.
Team leader Jack Roslovic, who had nine tallies this season, has one goal in his last 10 games. Josh Melnick is second overall with six but has one marker in 11 tilts.
Miami has still won three straight.
This team has seven excellent defensemen and two fantastic goalies. It doesn’t need to lead the NCAA in goals.
The RedHawks are now at 2.38 per game, up to 49th, and an average of 3.17 during their current 4-1-1 run. If they can come close to that clip, the back end should take care of the rest, and this could be a fun couple of months.
Only once in the past 11 games has Miami allowed more than three goals, so three should be enough most nights.
Back to the secondary scoring.
Could Kevin Morris could find the net a few more times during the stretch run like he did in both ends of this series?
Or is it a reach to suggest that Zach LaValle, who seems to get better every game, could start pumping in the occasional goal?
How about an occasion tally – not three a night, obviously – from wide-bodied Conor Lemirande, who showed an ability to use his hands to find the net and was able to tip in a shot while in the goalie’s face (with help from linemate and cousin Andrew Schmit, who picked up primary assists on two of his goals)?
The biggest question of this set is Sean Kuraly, since he has the potential to generate the most offense of this group.
Can he continue to play at the level he has the last three games, during which he has six points?
These don’t seem like outrageous questions to anyone who has seen this team frequently, and if the answer is “yes” to most, that goals-per-game average should continue to improve along with the team’s win total.
It was just one game, of course, but that’s on top of two other wins vs. highly-ranked teams, which has to have a confidence carryover for the entire team heading into a crucial four-game homestand and the second half of the NCHC slate.
– Miami did get a little sloppy with the big lead and could’ve finished better. Amazingly, the RedHawks were actually outshot overall, 30-27 after netting six goals on 12 shots in the second period.
– It was comical that when UNO scored late, the scoreboard operator initially gave the score to Miami, as the top of the screen read 8-2. Force of habit from the previous period, perhaps.
– Coach Enrico Blasi’s starting 19 were the same on Saturday as Friday. Evan McCarthy was still listed as the backup goalie.
– Speaking of Blasi, let’s give some credit to the coaching staff as well for this mid-season turnaround. Two weeks ago Miami was 6-11-3 and one point away from the NCHC cellar. Somehow they got this team to turn it around and win a couple of close games, followed by this not-to-close game.
– Segueing again, if Louis doesn’t score with two seconds left to beat Bowling Green last weekend, does Miami go into Omaha Friday and Saturday and pound the seventh-ranked team in Division I back-to-back nights on its own rink? Probably not?
Miami took out a half season of offensive frustrations on Nebraska-Omaha.
The RedHawks, who had not scored more than four goals in any game this season, struck for six in the second period alone in a 7-3 win over the No. 7 Mavericks at Baxter Arena on Saturday, completing a series sweep.
That extended MU’s winning streak to three games. Miami beat UNO, 3-1 on Friday following a 2-1 victory vs. Bowling Green last weekend. The RedHawks have lost just one of their last six games (4-1-1).
Sophomore forward Conor Lemirande, who had netted one career goal entering this contest, recorded the first Miami hat trick of the season.
Miami opened the scoring when senior forward Andrew Schmit passed a puck off the boards behind the net, and the carom came to Lemirande, who buried it from the side of the net with 4:02 left in the first period.
The net seemed to double in size once the middle stanza began.
Senior center Sean Kuraly centered a puck from along the boards to classmate and forward Kevin Morris, who one-timed one home from the slot 42 seconds into that frame.
Kuraly made it 3-0 just over two minutes later when he slammed home a one-touch pass from Morris at the inside edge of the faceoff circle.
The Mavericks cut the lead to two when Ryan Galt played a puck on net, and when RedHawks senior goalie Jay Williams did not handle it cleanly, Mason Morelli jammed it home with 11:54 left in the period.
Lemirande answered, taking a pass from senior forward Alex Gacek from the corner and beating UNO goalie Kirk Thompson on the stick side midway through the period.
Lemirande completed his hat trick with 6:58 to play in the frame, tipping home a Schmit shot from the blue line to give Miami a 5-1 lead.
The RedHawks would add two more tallies in the next three minutes. Junior forward Anthony Louis ripped a cross-crease pass from Kuraly past Thompson, and Kuraly set up a goal by forward Zach LaValle.
Kuraly slid a pass from behind the net to the wide-open freshman in the shot, and LaValle wired it past Thompson on the blocker side to cap off Miami’s scoring.
Nebraska-Omaha did add a pair of scores on slap shots from the blue line to cut the final deficit to four.
It was the first six-goal period for Miami since Feb. 26, 2010 vs. Ohio State.
Kuraly finished with a career-best four points (1-3-4), and his three assists tied a career high.
Lemirande became the only active RedHawk with a hat trick in his career. This season, no one on the team had scored more than one goal in any game.
In its last six games, Miami has scored 18 second-period goals vs. UNO, including 12 in its last four. The last time the RedHawks netted at least seven goals in a game was Dec. 5, 2014 vs. Nebraska-Omaha in Oxford.
Lemirande now has six career points, with four coming against the Mavericks.
LaValle finished with a goal and two assists, Morris notched a marker and an assist and Schmit ended the night with a pair of helpers.
LaValle had never recorded more than one point in a game, and it was the second career two-point tilt for Schmit.
With the three points on Saturday and six for the weekend, MU vaulted Western Michigan and moved into a tie for fifth with UNO at 16 points in the NCHC standings. The RedHawks also improved to 20th in the PairWise rankings.
Miami opens a four-game homestand with a two-game series vs. Denver on Jan. 29-30.