Saturday was one of those games that created conflicting emotions.
Should fans be happy that Miami scored in the final 90 seconds to pull out the tie, or should they be upset that the RedHawks had a 2-0 lead and let it dissolve?
Or maybe some of both following a 3-3 final at North Dakota’s Ralph Engelstad Arena?
Yeah, that last one.
REA is one of the most intimidating rinks in the NCAA for opponents, and jumping out to a two-goal lead there is impressive. So is tying the score in such a hostile environment with time running out.
The three goals allowed in between, a little less remarkable.
Teams like North Dakota (7-2-3) are more than capable of blowing up a two-or-more goal lead – as the Fighting Hawks proved last night – and elite teams are able to fend off such surges most times.
Then again, a lot of teams that bent like Miami did, falling behind a goal with under four minutes left, would have broken rather than battle back for a tie.
Things change quickly during a college hockey season, but at this snapshot – 10 games into 2017-18 with a 4-5-1 record – the RedHawks (4-5-1) are clearly not at elite status in Division I.
But they’re definitely not a bottom feeder either.
– Josh Melnick is building one of the best clutch goal-scoring resumes of anyone to wear a Miami hockey sweater. He scored the tying goal with under two minutes left on Saturday and had the winner vs. Colorado College on Nov. 3.
The RedHawks have won four games in overtime since Melnick joined the team in the fall of 2015. Melnick has three of the game winners in those contests.
– Grant Frederic had logged two games this season and was 0-3-3 with 31 shots in 30 games for his career prior to this series. He fired nine SOG and picked up a pair of assists for the weekend. Meanwhile, fellow blueliners Grant Hutton and Louie Belpedio – who were lighting up the scoreboard – combined for just five shots in the two games.
– Really like the progress we’ve seen from Ryan Siroky this season in every aspect of his game, and he had one great play and one not-so-great one in this game. Siroky backhanded one for his first goal of 2017-18 in what was not an easy play. But he lost his glove in the defensive zone later in the game, and rather than play without it he took a stride forward to reach for it, losing his opponent in the process and ultimately resulting in a goal. He has a goal and an assist in the past three games.
– Coach Enrico Blasi had stood pat with his starting 19 in recent games, but he made substantial changes this weekend. Two moves stood out, and it’s unclear if they were healthy scratches or injured.
On Friday, D Scott Dornbrock did not dress for the first time in over two years and Saturday F Kiefer Sherwood missed just the third game of his two-plus season career.
Frederic dressed on defense both nights, as Dornbrock was not in the lineup on Friday and Rourke Russell sat for the first time this season on Saturday.
With Sherwood and Austin Alger both out up front on Saturday, Willie Knierim saw his first action of 2017-18, and Christan Mohs played for the first time in six games.
There’s no leaving early at Miami games this season.
For the second time in eight days, the RedHawks scored with an extra attacker late in the third period as they salvaged a 3-3 tie vs. No. 2 North Dakota at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday.
And once again it was Josh Melnick rallying Miami. He scored the overtime winner on Nov. 3 vs. Colorado College.
This time he evened it up with 1:24 left, sending the game to the extra session, a 3-on-3 and eventually a shootout, the latter of which Fighting Hawks won and earned an extra conference point.
The RedHawks managed one of a possible six points on the weekend, as they lost on Friday. They dropped to 0-8-3 in their last 11 conference road games.
Miami actually led, 2-0 in this game. Gordie Green put the RedHawks ahead when he took a feed from Josh Melnick, turned and fired it in from the high slot with 3:53 left in the first period.
MU went up by two when a rebound off a blue line blast from Grant Frederic kicked out to Ryan Siroky, who shoveled it in off his backhand from the side of the goal eight minutes into the middle stanza.
But North Dakota (7-2-3) answered 37 seconds later when a rip by Colton Poolman from just inside the zone deflected off a RedHawks defender and in.
The Fighting Hawks evened it up 33 seconds into the third period when Dixon Bowen skated into the zone and fired one past Miami goalie Ryan Larkin from the top of the faceoff circle.
UND went ahead, netting its third straight goal, with just 3:38 remaining. Grant Mismash was left alone for a brief 2-on-0 with Larkin but went behind the net when Larkin closed down his shooting lanes.
At a terrible angle, Mismash was somehow able to lift a pass to the other side of the crease for Shane Gersich, who batted it out of the air and into the net.
Down 3-2 with time running out and in front of nearly 12,000 UND fans, Miami defenseman Louie Belpedio somehow completed a slap pass through heavy traffic to Melnick at the inside edge of the faceoff circle. Like Siroky, Melnick hit twine with the backhand.
Melnick nearly won it in the closing seconds of regulation, but the game went to overtime, during which the Fighting Hawks outshot Miami, 4-2.
With the game officially recorded as a tie, the teams skated to a scoreless five-minute 3-on-3, and finally Christian Wolanin scored in the fourth round of the ensuing shootout to give UND an additional point in the NCHC standings.
It was the first league game this season that had advanced beyond standard 5-on-5 overtime. Miami received one point for the tie and the Fighting Sioux two for the tie plus shootout win.
Melnick was the lone RedHawk with multiple points, accomplishing that feat for the third time this season with a line of 1-1-2.
Green is now tied with Grant Hutton for the team goal-scoring lead with five, and Melnick has three – all in the past five games. Siroky’s marker was his first of the season.
It was the third time in 2017-18 a Miami game was decided in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime. In addition to Melnick’s two late tallies, Providence scored a game winner against the RedHawks in the final second of the third period.
Miami is currently in sixth place in the NCHC with four conference points in four games. The RedHawks return home to host Minnesota-Duluth next weekend.
After a scoreless first period that saw Miami outshoot North Dakota, 9-4, the Fighting Hawks clicked off three straight crucial goals in the middle stanza.
That was more than enough offense for UND, which beat the RedHawks, 4-1 at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday.
One of those early Fighting Hawks shots was a 5-on-3 slam-dunk one-timer that Miami goalie Ryan Larkin was somehow able to keep out of the net.
But North Dakota (7-2-2) broke through seconds after a later RedHawks power play ended. Nick Jones, who had just been released from the penalty box, took an outlet pass and went in for a breakaway, skating around a sprawling Larkin for a tap-in goal four minutes into the second period.
Rhett Gardner made it 2-0 when he skated behind the Miami net and tucked the puck inside the post on a wraparound with 3:43 left in that frame.
Less than two minutes later, UND extended the lead to three when Jones located a loose puck at the top of the crease and banged it home.
Karch Bachman got the RedHawks (4-5) on the board off a rebound when he poked a loose puck in the crease around a defender and into the net with 13:34 left in regulation.
But the Fighting Hawks regained their three-goal lead with 8:34 left. Grant Mismash poked at a loose puck that was under Larkin, and it crossed the goal line to make it 4-1.
Bachman’s goal was his second of the season, and both defensemen Grant Frederic and Alec Mahalak picked up their first assists of 2017-18. It was the first point of Mahalak’s career.
Despite the final three-goal disparity, Miami outshot North Dakota, 28-26, thanks largely to a 9-4 advantage in the first period.
The RedHawks have now logged 10 conference road games without a win, going 0-8-2 in that stretch. MU’s last away victory was at North Dakota in January.
These teams will wrap up the weekend series at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday.
WHO: Miami RedHawks (4-4) at No. 2 North Dakota Fighting Hawks (6-2-2).
WHEN: Friday, 8:37 p.m.; Saturday–8:07 p.m.
WHERE: Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks, N.D.
NORTH DAKOTA RADIO: KQHT-FM (96.1), Grand Forks, N.D.
NOTES: Miami’s The 2016-17 season wasn’t memorable, but one highlight was a 6-3 win in Grand Forks in which Louie Belpedio racked up a goal and two assists.
That was on Friday, Jan. 13. The RedHawks lost, 3-1 to UND the next night and have not won a conference road game since, going 0-7-2.
The USCHO poll has St. Cloud State, North Dakota and Denver in the 1-2-3 slots. Take that, league detractors.
The Fighting Hawks have only lost twice in their first 10 games – once at home vs. then-No. 8 Minnesota, and they split at Colorado College two weeks ago.
North Dakota enters this weekend unbeaten in its last three (2-0-1), having won its finale at Colorado College and gone 1-0-1 at seventh-ranked Wisconsin last weekend.
Goalie Cam Johnson is receiving much of the credit for the Fighting Hawks’ fast start, and his .925 save percentage is definitely solid, the UND defense has made Johnson’s life much easier.
North Dakota is allowing just 23.6 shots per game, as the team has a shot differential of plus-7½ shots per game.
The Fighting Hawks’ 95.1 percent penalty killing clip is third in Division I.
The UND blue line is headed by Christian Wolanin, son of 13-year NHL veteran Craig Wolanin. Christian Wolanin leads the team in points (3-6-9) and the fourth-round pick of Ottawa is the highest-drafted defenseman on the team.
Among defensemen, Wolanin, Andrew Peski, Colton Poolman and Hayden Shaw have dressed for all 10 of North Dakota’s games. Gabe Bast, who has logged six games, and Poolman both have a goal and three helpers.
Shaw is 0-3-3 and Peski has one assist.
Freshman Grant Mismash is a second-round pick – the only player taken in the top two rounds on the team – and he has three goals and five assists, leading all forwards with eight points.
Nick Jones (3-4-7), Shane Gersich (3-3-6) and assistant captain Rhett Gardner (2-4-6) are also major components of the UND forward corps.
Collin Adams, a freshman and sixth-rounder, leads the team with four goals.
In net, Johnson is fifth in Division I with a 1.63 goals-against average, and his save percentage is tied for 15th. However, after he started the first eight UND games, he missed last weekend with an undisclosed injury.
Peter Thome was between the pipes for the Wisconsin series, and he went 58-for-62 (.935) in a win and a tie.
The aforementioned Miami win here has been the only one for the RedHawks vs. UND in the teams’ last six meetings regardless of venue. North Dakota swept Miami in Oxford to wrap up last regular season.
Gardner leads all Fighting Hawks in career goals vs. MU, as he has scored three times in six games vs. the RedHawks.
Miami lost last Saturday vs. Colorado College, snapping a three-game winning streak. Goalie Ryan Larkin has allowed just five goals in his last four games.
Both teams are 1-1 in the NCHC.