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Western Michigan hammers Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami hung with No. 12 Western Michigan for the first two periods, but an early Broncos surge in the final frame sealed the RedHawks’ fate.

WMU scored twice in the first three minutes of the third period and three times overall in that stanza en route to a 5-1 win over Miami at Cady Arena on Friday, handing the RedHawks their fourth straight loss.

Colt Conrad finished with a goal and two assists and Trevor Gorsuch stopped 22 shots to pace the Broncos (19-13-1).

RECAP: WMU’s Jade McMullen carried the puck along the boards before sending a one-time pass to Corey Schueneman, who ripped it by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin to open the scoring 9:11 into the game.

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

Conrad extended the Broncos’ lead 3:41 into the second period when he skated across the blue line on a 3-on-2 rush and wired a shot past Larkin on the power play.

Phil Knies cut the RedHawks’ deficit to one on a one-timer from the right wing faceoff circle off a pass by Brian Hawkinson that snuck through Gorsuch with 6:04 left in the middle frame.

But Lawton Courtnall batted home a loose puck in the slot to make it 3-1 WMU at the 1:53 mark of the third period, and 41 seconds later, Cam Lee stole the puck in the offensive puck and centered one to a streaking Dawson DiPietro, who directed the puck into the net.

Wade Allison tapped in an empty netter with 6:29 left to seal it.

STATS: Knies scored his sixth goal of the season and his third in the last six games.

— Hawkinson’s assist extended his points streak to four games, the longest of his career.

Jonathan Gruden also picked up a helper on that goal and has points in three straight contests.

— Miami has struggled mightily in the third period, as the RedHawks have been outscored, 20-4 in the final 20 minutes of their last 12 games.

— MU reached the 20-loss mark for the third straight season.

THOUGHTS: This was not an entertaining game to watch.

Western Michigan really didn’t play that well. Miami (11-20-4) was awful.

There was no flow. Icings and faceoffs halted play continuously in the opening minutes, and there were so many penalties in the second period the referees’ arms needed to be iced down at intermission from all the delayed calls.

It was 2-1 for about eight minutes and Miami did lead in shots through 40 minutes but it never really felt like the RedHawks had a chance.

Too many turnovers, no transition, trouble completing passes, substandard compete level, mediocre goaltending, weak power play isn’t going to win many games in the NCHC.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D. This corps simply didn’t create enough quality scoring chances and finished with 13 shots by 13 skaters. Knies scored but that line went minus-5. Josh Melnick: 2 shots. Gordie Green: 1 shot. Karch Bachman: 0 shots.

DEFENSEMEN: C-. Generated some shots but most were low percentage from the outside. More turnovers than usual, especially along the wall. Derek Daschke did have SOG and Grant Hutton four.

GOALTENDING: D-. Larkin should’ve stopped the first two goals, as they were from outside with no traffic, as both beat him to the glove side. The third was kind of fluky, the fourth was on a net crashing situation and the fifth was an empty netter. He made 19 saves for an .826 save percentage.

LINEUP CHANGES: Scott Corbett returned up front but did not look 100 percent. He missed the last four games with an upper-body injury.

Christian Mohs was also back in the lineup after sitting for the last two.

Out were Carter Johnson – who scored last Saturday – and defenseman Andrew Sinard as the RedHawks went with 13 forwards rather than the usual seven defensemen.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The point of this weekend was to play better hockey and build momentum heading into the postseason.

This game did nothing to move toward that goal.

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UMD’s Cates crushes Miami

Miami saw quite enough of Noah Cates on Friday, as the Minnesota-Duluth freshman finished with more points than the RedHawks had goals.

The No. 3 Bulldogs won the series opener, 4-2 over MU at Amsoil Arena, as the Philadelphia draft pick scored the first two goals of the game and assisted on UMD’s third marker.

After falling behind by two, twice Miami pulled to within a goal but the Bulldogs (20-9-2) were able to reextend the lead each time.

RECAP: Following a scoreless first period, Cates wristed one from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin on the stick side 4:25 into the middle stanza.

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

Less than four minutes later, Cates scored on another wrist shot from the upper edge of the opposite faceoff circle, sneaking one inside the far post.

Miami (11-19-4) answered 81 seconds later, as Jonathan Gruden skated around a defender and backhanded a pass through the slot to Phil Knies for a one-timer.

A streaking Cates took a pass from Peter Krieger and returned the favor, setting him up at the edge of the crease for a tap-in goal to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead 55 seconds into the third period.

Miami again trimmed its deficit to one when Ryan Siroky tipped home a Derek Daschke wrister on the power play with 15:27 left in regulation.

But Cole Koepke snuck a wrister through the five hole with 11:56 left to seal it.

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

STATS: Siroky’s 2018-19 goal total has eclipsed that of his first three campaigns combined.

His eighth goal of this season also gives him three in his last three games. Siroky had netted seven goals in 2015-18.

— It was the second goal in four games for Knies, which is a positive sign.

The sophomore, who found the net 11 times in 2017-18, scored for just the fifth time this season. Knies did miss six games with an upper-body injury earlier this season.

— Miami extended its winless streak at Amsoil Arena to 12 games (0-10-2), dating back to Halloween of 2014.

Overall the Bulldogs have won five straight games vs. MU.

— The RedHawks did not have to kill a single penalty, the first time that has occurred for Miami in the NCHC era.

THOUGHTS: Miami was manhandled early and although the RedHawks pulled to within one on two occasions you never really felt like they were going to earn points.

MU could barely clear its defensive zone in the first period, generating just two shots.

Larkin was a save-ior in the first 20 minutes, turning aside 11 shots including multiple stops on A-plus chances.

Then things evened out in the second period, as shots Larkin probably would’ve liked back found twine.

Miami showed better life in the final frame, where was that intensity the first 40 minutes?

Inconsistency has been a major issue for the RedHawks this season.

But their record against Duluth in recent years has been very consistent.

— So Miami came back from 2-0 down and made it 2-1, which was the score heading into the third period.

Then the guy who had scored both UMD goals is allowed to skate into the zone uncontested, receive a pass and return it for an easy tap-in.

Grant Hutton, the right defenseman, was caught out of position and forwards Gordie Green and Knies also were caught flat-footed on that crucial Krieger pass.

Miami’s Jonathan Gruden (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The Bulldogs’ fourth goal also was the result of players skating into the zone on the left wing unchallenged.

— Gruden’s move and backhand pass to Knies for Miami’s first goal was one of the highlights of the year.

LINEUP CHANGES: River Rymsha was suspended by the NCHC for his hit at the end of last Saturday’s game vs. Denver. The league is wrong on that, by the way.

Christian Mohs also sat after dressing for 16 straight games, and Scott Corbett missed his third straight game with an upper body injury.

Carter Johnson was in the lineup after sitting for three of the last four contests, and Noah Jordan played for just the sixth time this season.

It was the sixth consecutive start for Larkin.

FINAL THOUGHTS: With Miami’s fate as a road team to open the NCHC Tournament sealed, the goal is getting better heading into the tournament.

We saw no evidence of this on Friday.

The RedHawks should’ve been down by at least two in the first period but Larkin bailed them out, then he gave up two he maybe shouldn’t have, and Miami answered with a goal twice but surrendered a third and a fourth on shaky defense.

Doesn’t exactly sound like a team that could make a run at an NCHC Tournament title.

Miami is currently in league tournament prep mode, which is a larger body of work than just one game, so it’s unfair to summarily judge based on a single night.

But the point is that this is the caliber of team Miami will face to open up the league tournament in two weeks, and the RedHawks did nothing to show they have a chance to steal a road series and advance to the Twin Cities for the first time in four years.

Miami finally ends winless drought

OXFORD, Ohio – The longest Miami winless streak in over a quarter century is over.

The RedHawks snapped a 15-game, 0-11-4 skid with a 4-2 win over Nebraska-Omaha at Cady Arena, giving MU its first win in nearly three months.

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

It was the second-longest victory drought in team history, with its worst — just two games longer — coming at the end of the 1990-91 season.

Gordie Green racked up three assists in the Miami win, and Josh Melnick and Scott Corbett finished with a goal and a helper apiece.

RECAP: Miami scored first for the first time in 14 games when Josh Melnick kicked a pass to himself and swept a short pass to Derek Daschke at the faceoff dot for a one-timer that snuck in the short side 7:50 into the first period.

Phil Knies appeared to have scored seconds later, but the initial call of good goal was waved off because it was ruled UNO goalie Evan Weninger’s helmet had been dislodged.

But Knies found the net found the net again at 11:06, and this time it counted. Casey Gilling fired a shot from the high slot that Weninger couldn’t handle, and Knies poked the loose puck in to make it 2-0.

Miami’s Scott Corbett (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Knies had stolen the puck at the blue line, shielded the defense and dropped a pass to Gilling to set up his goal.

The RedHawks went up three when Green sent a cross-ice pass to Corbett, who trapped it with his skate and beat Weninger short side from the top of the faceoff circle midway through the second period.

The Mavericks cut the lead to one on a 2-on-1 goal by Chayse Primeau and a blue line blast by Jalen Schulz later that frame.

But Miami sealed it with just under four minutes left in regulation, as Green fed Melnick on a 3-on-2 for a rip from the center of the faceoff circle that snuck under the crossbar.

STATS: It was the second career three-assist game for Green, with the other coming earlier this season against Colgate on Oct. 27.

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

– Corbett recorded his first career multi-point game, and it was the first for Melnick since Miami’s last win, which came on Nov. 17 at Colorado College.

Andrew Sinard, whose outlet pass to Green resulted in Corbett’s eventual game winner, earned an assist for his first career point.

– Daschke is now tied with Grant Hutton for the team lead in defenseman goals with six, and Knies snapped a 13-game scoring drought.

THOUGHTS: What a relief for Miami.

In terms of standings, this win does little to help the RedHawks except increase the odds they don’t finish last in the NCHC.

But psychologically it had to do wonders.

The third period was the most entertaining frame MU had played in a while, with a high pace of play, plenty of physicality and tons of quality scoring chances for both teams with the score still close.

Miami will need the boost, as the remainder of its schedule is brutal, with all but two of its regular and postseason games almost certainly away from Cady Arena.

Not to take away from this sorely-needed win, but it’s fair to point out that Omaha is seventh in the eight-team league, and it took all Miami had just to split with the Mavericks in Oxford.

The RedHawks will need to play much, much better against much, much better teams, or they will be done by or on St. Patrick’s Day once again.

– Miami did not have a single healthy scratch in this game, as it had just 19 skaters and two goalies available. Bray Crowder, who was hurt on Friday, did not dress for the first time this season, leaving the team with 13 healthy forwards and six defensemen.

Fortunately for the RedHawks, they have a bye next weekend, giving their banged-up players additional time to heal.

– Not sure about the timing of the season ticket renewal offers. There was an announcement and accompanying note on the end zone monitors offering incentives and potential prizes for renewing this weekend.

As in now, as in over a month before this season ends.

One could smell the desperation in the air, and as of game time Saturday, apparently only a handful jumped on the early offer.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B-. The three goals by this corps were great, but they are still taking too many risks and getting out of position too often. For example, three times in the second period forwards played chicken with UNO skaters that had the puck, trying to strip them while they were on collision course to gain momentum the other way, and none succeeded. Miami wasn’t scored on during any of those occasions but each time the skater was taken out of position. That’s not smart hockey, especially with the lead. Only 15 total shots by 13 forwards against a team that allows 35 per game. Green was outstanding and was named first star but Knies was BoB’s choice, as he was all over the ice all night. Melnick and Corbett were also standouts, and Christian Mohs had good legs and gave the team much-needed energy.

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

DEFENSEMEN: B-. A pretty average game defensively by this group, and Daschke’s laser of a goal boosts its grade into the ‘B’ range. Grant Hutton was solid on D, but it’s rare he is held without a shot.

GOALTENDING: A-. Larkin turned 31 shots aside, including a 2-on-1 that he sprawled across the crease to kick out and multiple other stops on high-percentage chances. The second UNO goal was a shot from the blue line he probably should’ve stopped, but overall he was excellent.

LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: Noah Jordan dressed in place of the injured Crowder.

Coach Enrico Blasi has tended to go with seven defensemen this season, but he has no choice with just six healthy.

STANDINGS: With the split, Miami remained two points behind seventh-place Omaha and is three points back of sixth-place Colorado College.

Denver holds that all-important fourth spot and is 10 up on the RedHawks with three games in hand.

After all of Saturday’s games, Miami is No. 38 in the PairWise rankings.

FINAL THOUGHTS: So this series split comes heading into an off-week before a pair of tough road series.

Will the time off be helpful at this point or will that kill any momentum the RedHawks may have gained from this win?

Considering the locker room has been essentially converted to a triage unit the week off will probably benefit Miami more than it hurts.

The pressure that the RedHawks – players as well as coaches – had to be under during their 0-11-4 had to be enormous. This win will hopefully have a cathartic effect.

With Miami almost certainly pigeon holed into one of the lower seeds heading into the NCHC Tournament, it’s still all about getting better heading into that all-important best-of-3 postseason series.

Miami 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.

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.