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Miami lead slips away at Providence

Miami didn’t show any ill effects from its five-week holiday layoff in its first period of regular season hockey since Dec. 1.

The final 40 minutes, however, saw No. 10 Providence dominate the No. 16 RedHawks, as the Friars scored three unanswered goals in a 4-2 win over MU at Schneider Arena on Friday.

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

Providence (12-4-3) erased a one-goal deficit to record its fifth straight win while the RedHawks extended their winless streak to five.

Josh Melnick did record his 99th career point in the Miami loss on a late first period goal.

RECAP: Providence took the lead 4:22 into the first when Tyce Thompson wired home a one-time pass from the faceoff dot short side over the shoulder of RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin off a feed from Brandon Duhaime.

Miami’s Ryan Siroky (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

But Miami (9-7-3) took advantage of its early power play chances, scoring twice in the first-period opportunities.

Ryan Siroky was left alone in the slot and rammed home a one-timer from Phil Knies 100 seconds later, tying the score.

Melnick scored on the man-advantage with 2:50 left in the opening frame, whipping a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle through Friars goalie Hayden Hawkey to give the RedHawks a 2-1 lead.

Scott Conway tied it at the 6:33 mark of the second period, knocking home a backdoor feed from Kasper Bjorkqvist on the power play.

The score remained 2-2 until Matt Koopman redirected a Josh Wilkins wrist shot midway through the final frame.

With 4:04 left, Greg Printz fed Vimal Sukumaran from along the boards to the top of the crease, and Sukumaran was able to bat one by Larkin to seal it.

STATS: Shots aren’t always an accurate gauge of team performance, but it’s pretty telling that Providence finished with a 42-15 edge in that category, including 30-7 the final two periods.

Derek Daschke led RedHawks skaters with two points on a pair of assists.

— Melnick is one point away from becoming the 52nd Miamian to record 100 career points. He also extended his points streak to six games with three goals and four assists in that stretch.

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

Grant Hutton picked up the primary assist on that goal, his first point in nine games.

— Knies also earned a helper in his return from an upper-body injury that held him out of the RedHawks’ last six contests.

— Siroky’s marker was his fourth of the season, giving him a career high.

— Miami’s shot differential of minus-27 was its worst in 364 days. On Jan. 5, 2018, Denver outshot the RedHawks by 28 but MU won that game, 4-3.

THOUGHTS: The thought was that if Miami survived the first period it would be OK, but the last 40 minutes ended being its demise.

To be fair, Providence is one of the best defensive teams in Division I – the Friars blanked the RedHawks in Erie earlier this season – as PC allows fewer than 23 shots per game.

Miami finished with 15: Eight in the first period, three in the second and four in the third. That’s despite having four power plays vs. two for Providence.

And beyond just shots, the Friars seemed to control play almost the entire final 40 minutes. The RedHawks hung in, holding the lead until the 14th minute of the middle stanza and remained tied until midway through the third.

Obviously, this road matchup was going to be a difficult one for Miami, and while it certainly wasn’t a disaster, the RedHawks’ inability to do anything the last two-thirds of the game was disappointing.

— Not to pile on, but Hawkey, the Friars’ all-world goalie, probably should’ve stopped one or both of Miami’s goals.

Hawkey was in position to deny the Siroky shot but it slid under him, and Melnick’s wrister found a hole up high.

Miami’s Christian Mohs (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

LINEUP CHANGES: Larkin and Knies returned from injuries, meaning Jordan Uhelski – who led Miami to a pair of ties vs. St. Cloud State – was relegated to backup while Knies supplanted Carter Johnson, who had dressed in Miami’s previous four games.

Christian Mohs was in the lineup for the third straight contest, as he seems to be slightly ahead of Zach LaValle on the depth chart at this point. LaValle sat for the fourth straight game.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Basically, a good team lost to a very good team in the very good team’s rink.

Both of Miami’s goals were on the power play, so the RedHawks still have not scored at even strength this season against the Friars.

The good to take from this is that Miami came out ready to play in a hostile rink after a long layoff (Providence played on Dec. 7 and twice last weekend) and hopefully moving forward this game will have served as a proverbial character-building opportunity.

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Preview: Miami at Providence

Because these teams met at the Ice Breaker, Miami and Providence will face each other a total of three times this regular season.

The Friars blanked the RedHawks, 4-0 the second week of the season in Erie and have dominated Miami in recent history, going 7-1-2 in the last 10 matchups.

These will be the first regular season contests for the RedHawks in 34 days, and MU has not recorded a win since Nov. 17.

WHO: No. 16 Miami RedHawks (9-6-3) at No. 10 Providence Friars (11-4-3).

WHERE: Schneider Arena (3,030), Providence, R.I.

WHEN: Friday – 7:05 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.

MIAMI RADIO: WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.

PROVIDENCE RADIO: WHJJ-FM (104.7), Providence, R.I.

PROVIDENCE VIDEO STREAM: https://friars.com/watch/?Live=69&type=Live

NOTES: Providence is No. 10 in the NCAA in scoring and fourth in defense.

The Friars have won four straight games and are unbeaten in their last six.

And they’ve already dominated Miami once on neutral ice.

So the RedHawks face the difficult task of opening the second half on the home ice of a team that has lost just one of its last 10 meetings with Miami.

Providence averages 3.61 goals per game and has six forwards and a pair of defensemen with at least 10 points.

Up front, Josh Wilkins has six goals and leads the team with 15 assists and 21 points, and he is 4-10-14 during his current eight-game points streak.

Six-feet, two-inch freshman Jay Dugan is second in scoring with 19 points, including seven goals. Las Vegas drafted him in the fifth round in 2018.

Pittsburgh Penguins second-rounder Kasper Bjorkqvist leads the team in goals with nine, including four on the power play, and he has 18 points overall.

Brandon Duhaime and Scott Conway have been major contributors among the forward corps as well, posting 16 points and seven goals, respectively.

Jacob Bryson leads Providence blueliners in points with 14, including three goals, and Spenser Young has six goals – with a team-best five on the man advantage – from the back end.

Young picked up two of those tallies vs. the RedHawks in October.

Defensemen Vincent Desharnais, Ben Mirageas and Michael Callahan all have identical 1-5-6 lines, and along with Davis Bunz, Friars blueliners have helped hold opponents to just 22.7 shots per game.

Montreal draftee Hayden Hawkey has been in net for 17 of Providence’s first 18 games, logging 1,022 minutes and racking up 11 wins. He has a goals-against average of 1.88 and owns a .916 save percentage.

The Friars have outscored opponents, 65-34 this season and have allowed just five goals in their last five games.

Phil Knies (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Both Phil Knies and Ryan Larkin played in Miami’s exhibition on Sunday and looked 100 percent, so they should be in the lineup this weekend, giving the team a major boost.

Knies had missed six games with an upper-body injury and Larkin was knocked out of the RedHawks’ opener vs. St. Cloud State on Nov. 30 and did not play the following night.

Josh Melnick enters this series riding a five-game points streak, during which he has a pair of markers and four assists. Melnick is two points away from being the 52nd Miamian to record 100 career points.

Casey Gilling has been MU’s best goal threat since mid-November, scoring four times in his last seven contests.

Despite its recent struggles vs. Providence, Miami did win its last game at Schneider Arena, 3-1 on Oct. 8, 2016.

And MU was excellent in the first 10 minutes of its initial meeting with the PC three months ago, but a couple of soft goals for the Friars swung the momentum hard in their favor.

The RedHawks are 2-3-1 all-time on the Friars’ home ice.

Miami wins tune-up vs. Guelph

OXFORD, Ohio – After more than 50 minutes of scoreless hockey, Miami struck for a pair of goals in 18 seconds.

That surge, capped off by an empty netter in the closing seconds, paced the No. 16 RedHawks’ 3-1 win over the University of Guelph in an exhibition game at Cady Arena on Sunday.

Miami’s Ryan Siroky (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Ryan Siroky and Christian Mohs broke through midway through the third period to give Miami the lead, and after a late marker by Guelph, Derek Daschke was awarded a goal as he was hooked on a breakaway while the Gryphons had an extra attacker on the ice.

It was the first contest in 29 days for Miami, which opens the second half of its regular season schedule at Providence this weekend.

RECAP: In real time, there was no scoring in this game for about two and a half hours.

A pane of glass broke behind the Zamboni end goal midway through the first period, and the rink crew was unable to replace it, so the remainder of the period was played with some type of wood plugging the hole.

To give ample time to replace the glass, the first intermission was 30 minutes.

Not surprisingly, there was little flow to this game early.

Siroky finally snapped the tie at 10:22 of the third period when he crashed the net and banged home a rebound off a shot by Karch Bachman that handcuffed Gryphons goalie Andrew Masters.

Miami’s Christian Mohs (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Eighteen seconds later, Ben Lown fed Mohs with a cross-ice pass in the offensive zone, and Mohs zig-zagged to the net and backhanded one home to make it 2-0.

A rip from the high slot by Guelph’s Mark Raycroft snuck inside the near post with 3:21 left in regulation, but Daschke was badly hooked on a breakaway in the neutral zone and was awarded a goal with one second to play.

STATS: Ryan Larkin played the first 32 minutes in net for Miami and stopped all eight shots he faced. Reliever Jordan Uhelski was 8-for-9.

No RedHawk had multiple points.

Bachman led the team with five shots and Scott Corbett ended the night with four.

Miami outshot the Gryphons, 15-6 in the third period after leading in that department by a slim margin – 18-13 – the first 40 minutes.

THOUGHTS: It was a strange night at the rink.

Can’t ever say I’ve seen not-glass replace glass along the boards. Definitely have never seen a double intermission.

And the Guelph goalie storyline was unusual: Masters was a RedHawk for one season but did not see game action, so this was actually his first start at Cady Arena.

He was arguably the best player on the ice for either team, stopping 30 of 32 shots in a game he’ll likely never forget.

— Miami was flat in the first period, had a strong stretch early in the second period and really took it to Guelph in the third.

Overall, the RedHawks looked like a team that had not played in 29 days dealing with major play interruptions. Because they were.

So what to take from this one?

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

Phil Knies returned after missing six games with an upper body injury, and he was solid.

Knies has 12 goals in a season and a half and can kill penalties, so his presence in the lineup gives Miami a major upgrade up front.

— Larkin also missed most of the St. Cloud State weekend after absorbing hard contact in his own crease, but he was sharp in a period and a half.

— Miami dressed 22 of its 24 skaters, and the only two off the lineup sheet were Bray Crowder and Jonathan Gruden. It doesn’t sound like there is cause for concern over either being scratched.

— We documented the RedHawks’ slow start in this one – and having four extra skaters splitting up ice time, new line combinations, etc., also played a role – Miami has not exactly torn it up in the first period recently.

A higher-skilled opponent would’ve buried a couple of its chances in the first period of this one and put the RedHawks in a hole.

LINEUP CHANGES: Chaz Switzer, Grant Frederic and Noah Jordan have seen the least ice time this season among Miami skaters and all dressed.

Neither Crowder nor Gruden have missed a regular season game this season.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Not much to see here other than some weird stuff with the ice and Knies and Larkin back on the ice and looking good.

Miami’s welcome to the second half of the season is a road series at No. 10 Providence, a team that will punish the RedHawks if they haven’t fully shaken off the holiday rust.

Miami mid-season report

Especially considering the state of the Miami hockey program in mid-March, the first half of the 2018-19 season has to be considered a major success.

Following the RedHawks’ third straight first-round exit from the NCHC Tournament and subsequent dismissal of both assistant coaches, Miami received zero consideration as a preseason top 20 and was picked to finish last in its conference.

But the No. 16 RedHawks have stuck it to critics, as they enter the back half of their regular season schedule three games over .500, their best pre-January mark in four years.

The two coldest-weather months have been problematic for Miami in recent seasons, choc with top-10 in-conference matchups and long road trips.

Cold snaps
Miami by month

Season January February March/April 2nd half
2015-16 5-3-1 5-2-0 0-4-0 10-9-1
2016-17 4-3-1 0-5-1 0-4-0 4-12-2
2017-18 1-4-1 2-5-1 1-3-1 4-12-3
Totals 10-10-3 7-12-2 1-11-1 18-33-6

The RedHawks are 8-24-5 after New Year’s the past two seasons – a paltry .284 winning percentage – including 2-15-4 (.190) on the road.

BoB takes a look at five things Miami needs to do to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

1. Better special teams. The RedHawks are in the bottom half of the NCAA in both power play and penalty kills, with a 16.4 percent efficiency rate on the man advantage and a 79.4 percent PK clip. They have just four PPGs in their last eight games and are just 14 of 21 on penalty kills their last five contests (66.7 percent). Miami has tried pretty much every one of its skaters on the man-advantage and still needs to improve its chemistry.

2. Less time in the defensive zone. Teams have set up camp in Miami’s third of the ice at times and obviously it’s counterproductive to have your best players chasing the puck in their own zone for a minute or more.

3. Better road play. The RedHawks are a stellar 6-2-2 at Cady Arena but are 2-3-1 on opponents’ campuses and 1-1 on neutral ice. And with the exception of Providence, those road foes were not among college hockey’s elite – Colorado College, New Hampshire and Omaha plus Mercyhurst in its home city. Miami has scored just 18 goals in eight games away from Oxford. And we documented the RedHawks’ recent road struggles in the second half above.

4. Cut out the major penalties. The NCAA has made its point: The bar for five-and-a-game has dropped significantly, and three guys who are not cheap-shot artists in the least have all been booted from games this season.

5. Avoid major skids. Last season it was a 1-9-1 stretch. In 2016-17 Miami endured both 10- and 11-game winless streaks. An 0-6-1 span doomed 2015-16. Those types of streaks are season killers, so the RedHawks must have a thicker skin than in past seasons when facing adversity.

Now, five reasons to be optimistic about MU’s second half:

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

1. Effort. This team does not quit, and there’s no reason to believe it will during the stretch run of the regular season. That attribute was exemplified during Miami’s last series, a pair of ties vs. No. 1 St. Cloud State during which the RedHawks fell behind by one goal six times and rallied to even the score each time. Karch Bachman has been one of the leaders in this area, as he has parlayed his game-changing speed with a suburb compete level, resulting in him leading the team in goals with seven and generating multiple scoring chances almost every game.

2. Goaltending. Throw out last season’s numbers for Ryan Larkin. He was voted team MVP as a freshman and is even better in 2018-19, boasting a 1.89 goals-against average and .936 save percentage – which is five whole percent better than his sophomore year when he finished at .886. Part of the credit belongs to Jordan Uhelski, who has performed well when called upon and was a game saver in both ends of the St. Cloud State series. Uhelski has a .915 save percentage but as importantly the graduate senior has also helped push Larkin, who did not have a similar foil last season.

3. Freshmen are improving. Derek Daschke is clearly the freshman MVP of the first three months of the season, as he leads that class in points (3-9-12) and has been exceptional in his own end as well. And he continues to improve on seemingly a nightly basis. Scott Corbett is thriving in his grinding role while wielding a quality shot that has netted him three goals, and he stood out vs. SCSU. Same with Brian Hawkinson, who is 1-6-7 and has been a better forward than those stats indicate. Monte Graham is a faceoff stud and is starting to demonstrate skills in other areas. Big D-men Bray Crowder and Andrew Sinard also seem to be adapting to the college game. Jonathan Gruden (1-6-7) is raw but has tons of upside and could take off once the calendar flips.

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

4. A healthy Knies? Phil Knies suffered an upper body injury at Cady Arena on Nov. 10, so Knies should be nearing a return. The sophomore will have missed seven weeks by the time the second half starts with the puck drop in Providence. Knies has been a critical part of Miami’s offense, scoring 11 times as a freshman and posting three goals in 12 games this season.

5. The defense corps is deeper. Daschke’s presence is huge, and River Rymsha has been a pleasant surprise, forcing himself onto the lineup card each night with his impressive two-way play. Crowder has dressed for all 18 games, and Sinard has seen the ice six of the last seven games. With sophomores Rourke Russell and Alec Mahalak earning regular spots, that has severely curtailed the number of starts for Chaz Switzer and Grant Frederic, who were decent five and six defensemen last season. Of course, standout and captain Grant Hutton leads this corps with a skill set that will likely land him in the NHL within two years.

Now, the schedule…

After a Sunday exhibition vs. the University of Guelph (Ont.), Miami heads to No. 10 Providence. The RedHawks were already shut out by the Friars on neutral ice in October. Then it’s off the Kalamazoo to face No. 17 Western Michigan.

Back home for a pair against Colorado College and two vs. No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth.

Miami then heads to No. 1 St. Cloud State, followed by a home series vs. Omaha before its one off week of the second half.

The final three series? At No. 8 Denver, at No. 4 UMD, home vs. No. 17 WMU.

A look at the final 18 regular season games:

Date Opponent Time
Jan. 4 at Providence 7:00
Jan. 5 at Providence 7:00
Jan. 11 at W. Michigan 7:00
Jan. 12 at W. Michigan 7:00
Jan. 18 MINN.-DULUTH 7:35
Jan. 19 MINN.-DULUTH 7:05
Jan. 25 COLO. COLLEGE 7:35
Jan. 26 COLO. COLLEGE 7:05
Feb. 1 at St. Cloud State 8:07
Feb. 2 at St. Cloud State 7:07
Feb. 8 NEBRASKA-OMAHA 6:30
Feb. 9 NEBRASKA-OMAHA 7:05
Feb. 22 at Denver 9:07
Feb. 23 at Denver 9:07
March 1 at Minn.-Duluth 8:07
March 2 at Minn.-Duluth 8:07
March 8 W. MICHIGAN 7:35

The NCHC standings…

All eight teams have played eight out of 24 league games, or one-third of their conference slate, and Miami is currently tied with Denver for that all-important fourth spot.

The four spot is crucial because it’s the final home-ice slot for the NCHC Tournament. Miami has not hosted a league tournament series since 2015 but has a legitimate shot this winter.

Team GP W L T XP Pts.
St. Cloud State 8 6 0 2 1 21
Western Michigan 8 4 3 1 1 14
Minn.-Duluth 8 4 3 1 0 13
MIAMI 8 3 3 2 1 12
Denver 8 4 4 0 0 12
North Dakota 8 3 5 0 0 9
Omaha 8 2 5 1 1 8
Colo. College 8 2 5 1 0 7

Miami played well overall the first half of 2018-19, better than many expected.

The challenge of course is for the RedHawks to sustain that level of success during their annual murderer’s row of opponents in the winter months.

But heading into the pressure cooker three games over .500 and playing with the type of intensity Miami has exuded the first three months, returning to the NCAAs is now a real possibility.

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.

Win lifts Miami to third at Ice Breaker

ERIE, Pa. – Miami couldn’t get a single shot past Providence on Friday.

But it took just 29 seconds for Karch Bachman to generate a goal for the RedHawks on Saturday as they beat Mercyhurst, 3-0 in the third-place game of the Ice Breaker Tournament at Erie Insurance Arena.

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

“That’s huge,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “You’ve got to score first – that’s one thing that you want to try to do in a game because all in the sudden now you’re playing on your toes and not your heels.”

Bachman accelerated through a pair of Lakers defenders, went in alone and buried a forehand shot on the glove side in the opening minute to open the scoring.

That was all the offense Miami (3-1) needed, as goalie Ryan Larkin turned 21 shots aside to earn his second shutout in three starts this season, which is already a career high. The junior now has four perfect sheets for his career, with one each his freshman and sophomore years.

Ahead by one, Ryan Siroky carried the puck around the back of the Mercyhurst net and stuffed the wraparound into the net to make it 2-0 with 13:51 left in the second period.

In the final minute of the middle stanza, Phil Knies stole the puck from a Mercyhurst (0-2-1) skater at center ice, went in alone and slid a backhander through the five hole of goalie Stefano Cantali.

Miami’s Ryan Siroky (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“I would say maybe a little undisciplined today, so we had to kill some penalties, still trying to understand how to manage the game in certain areas,” Blasi said. “I think that comes with some youth – but I thought for the most part our effort and our structure was pretty good.”

Historically, Bachman and Siroky have not been huge goal scorers but both are off to hot starts.

Bachman, a junior, netted two goals as a freshman and six last season, but his breakaway tally was his team-leading third marker of 2018-19. Siroky is second on the team behind Bachman with two tallies in four games this campaign after the senior found the net just seven times his first three seasons.

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

Despite scoring three times, Miami was credited with just one assist, with Christian Mohs notching his first point of the season on Siroky’s goal. Bachman and Knies both scored unassisted.

Larkin has made 61 saves on 64 shots (.953), an encouraging sign after last season when his save percentage was just .886.

“I thought he struggled with a couple shots (vs. Providence) – or at least one for sure – but he made good saves today,” Blasi said. “Top of his crease was solid, and he played the puck well. It’s there, he just has to make sure he stays focused.”

The RedHawks were 0-for-4 on the power play and finished the weekend without a man-advantage goal despite 11 opportunities. After netting a pair of PPGs in its opener, MU has failed to cash on in 14 chances over the last three games.

Conversely, Miami’s penalty kill was 6-for-6 and has allowed just one power play goal this season. Bachman took a spearing major in the second period and was ejected.

“We had a lot of good chances on the power play, but right now it’s just not going in for us,” Blasi said. “But our PK did a great job and sometimes you’re going to have to play games like that.”

This is the first time the RedHawks have won three of their first four games since 2014-15, and Blasi said he is pleased with the start overall.

“You take four-game segments like that, they start to add up,” Blasi said.

Miami opens a four-game homestand with a two-game series vs. UMass-Lowell next weekend. Colgate comes to Oxford for a pair of contests on Oct. 26-27.

MIAMI U. 1-2-0 – 3
MERCYHURST 0-0-0 – 0

First period: 1. Mia., Bachman 3, uag, 0:29.

Second period: 2. Mia., Siroky 2 (Mohs), 6:09; 3. Mia., Knies 1, shg, 19:11.

Third period: None.

Shots on goal: Miami U. 8-18-5 – 31; Mercyhurst 7-6-8 – 21. Power plays: Miami U. 0-for-4; Mercyhurst 0-for-6. Goalies: Miami U., Larkin (21 of 21 saved); Mercyhurst, Cantali (28 of 31). Referees: Ryan Sweeney, Eugene Binda. Linesmen: Brendan Lewis, Joe Lewis. Time: 2:20. Attendance: 2,387.

Miami goes down 3, wins in OT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRADES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miami can’t hold lead, ties CC

The 10th win has been incredibly elusive for Miami.

The RedHawks’ victory total never did reach double digits in 2016-17, as they went 0-9-1 in February in March to end the campaign with nine wins.

Miami is stuck on nine again this season, as it extended its winless streak to five games on Saturday by tying Colorado College, 4-4 on Saturday.

That means the RedHawks are 0-13-2 in pursuit of win No. 10 dating back to last season.

Miami’s at-large window is closing quickly, and it’s becoming more apparent that MU will have to run the table in the NCHC Tournament to avoid missing the NCAAs for the third straight season.

RECAP: It was a crazy game, with the Tigers scoring twice in the first three minutes to take a 2-0 lead.

Miami answered with four consecutive goals, including two by Carson Meyer.

But Colorado College cut its deficit to one in the closing minutes of the second period and tied it with 11:04 left in regulation.

Neither team scored in overtime, but the Tigers earned the second point with a 3-on-3 goal.

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

STATS: Lost in Miami’s struggles is Phil Knies’ scoring streak. He found the net for the fourth straight game and has netted six goals in that span. He had three in his first 20 games.

— Meyer was scratched in the finale at Nebraska-Omaha but scored twice for the first time this season. He also added a helper for his second career three-point game.

— Kiefer Sherwood notched two assists as he extended his points streak to seven games (3-8-11). It’s great to see both Sherwood and Meyer thriving after slow first halves.

— Louie Belpedio finished with a goal and a helper as he recorded his seventh multi-point game of the season.

THOUGHTS: To its credit, Miami fell behind by two early but rallied to take a 4-2 lead.

Then the RedHawks blew said lead as they salvaged just one of a possible three points.

Once again a late advantage was squandered and Miami left valuable league points on the table.

The funny thing is that through 24 games, the RedHawks have actually allowed the same number of goals in each period: 27. It’s the timing of those goals against that is killing this team.

This 0-3-1 road set against the sixth and seventh place teams in the NCHC has left Miami buried in last, six points behind Colorado College.

The RedHawks do have two games in hand against the entire league save St. Cloud State, but Miami’s remaining schedule consists of two games against each of the top five teams in the conference.

It’s baffling that this MU team that was 8-8-2 at the break and won its first game of 2018 against league power Denver looks so lost now.

And it isn’t like Miami was a horrible road team: The RedHawks were 3-3-2 away from Cady Arena entering the UNO series two weeks ago.

— MU is allowing 5.8 goals per game during its five-game skid. That’s embarrassing. Granted UNO has the best offense in the NCHC but Colorado College is second last in scoring.

Only Miami scores less frequently, with 75 goals in 24 games vs. CC’s 79 markers.

— A number of otherwise intelligent people are toying with the notion that a change of conference might be the best thing for Miami.

This has to be the worst idea since the glowing puck or the NHL expanding to Atlanta a second time.

So the problem is that Miami has struggled to compete against the big boys the past few years. The solution is to admit defeat, say thanks for the invite but we’re not worthy of the NCHC and join a much weaker conference?

Of course it’s frustrating to watch a team you love struggle for multiple seasons, but here’s why leaving the conference would be asinine:

1) What’s the alternative? The Big Seven doesn’t want Miami. The WCHA is much weaker. Those are the only two leagues with teams remotely close to southwest Ohio.

There is no longer a CCHA. When it dissolved, Miami had a chance to play in the best league in Division I and made the correct decision to join.

Yeah, the schedule is brutal but the RedHawks only need to post a .530 or so winning percentage to get in. All of the other seven teams in the league are .500 or better.

2) Recruiting. A major issue being brought up is MU’s inability to land the same quantity of players as it did several years ago, right? Do you think a 16-year-old is more likely to sign with a team that plays teams like Denver, North Dakota and Duluth each weekend or UAF, Ferris State and Northern Michigan?

No offense to those former CCHA foes but they’re not household names in the college hockey world and they’re not consistently in the top echelon of Division I.

It’s EASIER to recruit when you play in this conference. Leaving it will not mean the Austin Czarniks and Reilly Smiths of the world will start again flocking to Oxford. Quite possibly the opposite.

3) Travel. You think Omaha then Colorado College is bad, think about the logistics issues of playing in a league with the three UP teams and both Alaska squads.

Then throw in two more in Minnesota. No thanks.

Hockey East was a disaster for Notre Dame largely for the same reason. The other leagues aren’t realistic either, and again, the Big Seven isn’t extending invitations.

It’s an honor to play in the best league in college hockey, and no team in its right mind is going to step down because it has a few bad years.

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

LINEUP CHANGES: The big one was the absence of standout Grant Hutton on defense. It’s unclear why he was not dressed, snapping a streak of 75 consecutive games played for the junior.

It was just the second time in his career he was not on the lineup card, with the other being Jan. 9, 2016.

If Hutton misses any amount of time it will make winning hockey games a whole lot harder for the struggling RedHawks.

The other Grant – Grant Frederic – took his place on the ice.

Up front, Ryan Siroky and Zach LaValle dressed after sitting on Friday. Austin Alger and Willie Knierim sat in their place.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami plays its next four and six of its final 10 in Oxford, but now it faces an incredibly difficult path to get back into contention for home ice in the first round of the tournament.

The only good thing about the remaining schedule is that the RedHawks play the teams multiple teams that they need to pass in the standings, so they control their own destiny somewhat.

Miami falls behind early, loses again

We’re seeing a recurring theme in January: Miami falls behind big then falls short in its comeback attempt.

The RedHawks have trailed by at least three goals in three straight games – all losses – including a 4-3 defeat at Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday in which they trailed by four but scored three times in the third period to cut the final deficit to one.

All have involved unorthodox goalie-pulling that has led to extended extra-attacker situations for Miami.

RECAP: After these teams combined for 18 goals on Friday, this game was scoreless after the first period.

However, Nebraska-Omaha scored four times in a 10:53 window to essentially win it.

Zach Jordan, Jake Randolph, Grant Gallo and Tyler Vesel all recorded goals, and Miami was down four heading into the final 20 minutes.

The RedHawks cut the lead to three just 101 seconds into the final stanza, as Phil Knies slammed home a loose puck at the side of the net off a Kiefer Sherwood shot.

Josh Melnick made it a two-goal game five minutes later when he batted a puck out of the air and into the net from the slot.

With the extra attacker, Phil Knies deflected in a shot by Chaz Switzer, and Miami was within one.

But the RedHawks had just one more quality scoring chance with time running out before dropping its third straight.

STATS: Like in the Denver finale, Miami was dominated in shots the first two periods before reversing course in the last 20 minutes. It was 23-15 in favor of UNO heading into the final stanza, but the RedHawks led, 16-4 in that frame. Last Saturday MU trailed, 28-5 against the Pioneers after 40 minutes but fired off 20 SOG to DU’s five in the last period.

– It was the third straight game in which Miami has scored an extra-attacker goal. The RedHawks pulled the goalie with 15 minutes left in the Denver finale, and Kiefer Sherwood scored, Casey Gilling picked up a 6-on-5 goal late on Friday and Phil Knies cut MU’s deficit to one on Saturday.

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

– Sherwood extended his points streak to five games, a current team best and a season long for the junior forward. He is 2-4-6 during his recent hot stretch.

– Phil Knies scored four goals and set up another this weekend. He had just three goals in the first 20 games of the season. Fellow freshman Ben Lown had six points entering this weekend but added four vs. UNO.

– Grant Hutton equaled his season output in assists prior to this weekend vs. UNO. He had four both before and during this series.

– G Ryan Larkin has allowed at least three goals in five straight outings.

– We’ve heard talk that officiating has gone against Miami too often. Through this game, Miami has had 99 power play chances. Its opponents: 100. The RedHawks have 28 special teams goals vs. their foes’ 21.

THOUGHTS: The obvious one is that Miami needs to show up for the first 40 minutes.

We get that this season’s team does not boast top-10 talent, but the RedHawks should not be hemorrhaging early goals at their recent rate in league games.

Enrico Blasi’s in-game coaching has definitely taken a step up this season, but even after multiple high-profile losses due to late goals against over the years, he has never been a fan of calling time-outs as a means of damage control.

UNO scored at the eight-minute mark of the second period to take a 1-0 lead, and the Mavericks added three more over a span of 5:14 that decided the game.

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

LINEUP CHANGES: The big one was Carson Meyer, who was scratched for the first time this season. Hopefully this sends a message to the talented Blue Jackets draftee, who has just seven points, is last on the team with a minus-10 rating and leads the team in penalty minutes.

Sometimes sitting a key player is an effective tool, and with Meyer recording just one point in his last nine games, his benching will hopefully serve as a wake-up call.

Christian Mohs also did not dress after playing on Friday. Ryan Siroky and Austin Alger returned to the lineup in their place.

On defense, Scott Dornbrock was scratched for the first time in five games. Rourke Russell, who sat Friday, skated in his place. These two and Grant Frederic have seemingly alternated in the five and six spots.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami can ill-afford a three-game losing streak, and now at 9-11-2 will have a tough road to the NCAAs.

The RedHawks are currently tied with Bowling Green for 17th in the PairWise (someone please explain how these two teams can be tied, since MU went 1-0-1 at BGSU earlier this season).

All of the eight NCHC teams have played in 12 of their 24 league games, and after Miami came away with zero of a possible six points, the RedHawks are in seventh place in the league, one point ahead of last-place Colorado College.

Barring a conference tournament win, the RedHawks now need to go at least four games over .500 down the stretch if it hopes to earn an at-large bid, and that means an 8-4 record to close out the regular season.

Miami scores 7, loses by 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHTS: Where to start…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want some positives?

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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

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

LINEUP CHANGES: Two up front and one on defense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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