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.
— 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.
— 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
– 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.
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.
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.
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?
– 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.
OXFORD, Ohio – Providence scored twice in a span of 1:56 – late in the second period and early in the third.
Those were the decisive goals as the Friars beat Miami, 3-1 in the teams’ season opener at Cady Arena on Friday.
Providence (1-0) opened the scoring 7:57 into the first period when Ryan Tait corralled a loose puck in the Miami faceoff circle and slipped it through RedHawks goals Ryan Larkin.
Miami (0-1) tied it when freshman Austin Alger skated laterally into the slot and whipped one just under the crossbar with 2:43 left in the opening period.
Greg Printz slipped behind the RedHawks’ defense and beat Larkin late in the second period to put the Friars ahead for good.
Providence’s Josh Wilkins stole the puck from Phil Knies at the blue line and scored the final goal.
It was Alger’s first career goal, and a pair of fellow freshmen assisted on it for their first collegiate points – Knies and Casey Gilling.
Miami appeared to have cut the lead to one in the third period, but an apparent goal by Kiefer Sherwood was waved off after it was ruled he interfered with the goalie while slipping the puck past him.
The RedHawks’ Gordie Green was also denied a goal after a review when his breakaway shot hit the crossbar.
Larkin stopped 27 shots in the losing effort.
Miami’s winless streak was extended to 11 games, its longest since 1991. The RedHawks are 0-10-1 in that span and have not won since Jan. 28.
The teams will wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
Four forwards and two defenseman join the Miami program this fall.
Plus Christian Mohs enters his redshirt freshman season after injuring himself prior to 2016-17.
All of the incoming freshmen played their juniors hockey in the USHL, the top such league in the U.S., and Mohs thrived in the NAHL.
BoB takes a look at the new faces in Oxford this fall.
F Ben Lown, Omaha (USHL) – A product of the prestigious Shattuck St. Mary’s (Minn.) program, he scored 70 goals in two seasons in their youth development program. He logged the majority of 2015-16 in the NAHL and played his first full season of USHL hockey last year as an 18-year-old with a brutal Omaha team, going 11-12-23 with a minus-25 rating in 51 games. He’s super small at 5-feet-7.
F Christian Mohs, Minot (NAHL) – Mohs blew his knee out prior to last season and was reshirted. He played high school hockey for three years in his native Minnesota, and after a year of NA3HL, he joined Minot for 2015-16. In two seasons there he racked up 101 points in 118 games, including 35 goals. Mohs is already 22, so he has plenty of experience, but the question is how well he will do when he puts his repaired knee to the test. With hockey players, it often takes time to regain confidence.
F Casey Gilling, Muskegon (USHL) – Gilling played his first full season in the USHL in 2016-17, and he racked up 15 goals and 18 assists in 33 games, thriving after playing the previous season in the NAHL. He has good size for college at 6-feet-1, 185 pounds. He’s still just 19 and has over two full seasons of juniors experience under his belt.
F Phil Knies, Sioux City (USHL) – Knies was actually born in Slovakia but grew up in Phoenix. Another small guy at 5-9, 170, Knies thrived in his second USHL season. He scored 21 goals, set up 20 more and was plus-17 and picked up 10 points in 13 playoff games as Sioux City was a Clark Cup finalist.
F Austin Alger, Muskegon (USHL) – The younger brother of teammate Alex Alger, Austin recorded 43 points in 57 games last season with Omaha and Muskegon. It was his second season in the USHL and he nearly doubled his point rate over 2015-16. Alger is almost identical in size to his brother at 5-11, 167. He was named Mr. Hockey in Michigan his senior season of high school prior to his USHL career. He scored 86 goals in four prep seasons.
D Alec Mahalak, Youngstown (USHL) – In his first USHL game, Mahalak recorded three assists. That was the only contest he would play in for Youngstown in 2015-16, but he logged 58 games last season and tallied 23 points, including five goals. Mahalak is definitely small for a defenseman (5-9-171) but has good puck-moving skills and will hopefully be able to quarterback the power play at some point.
D Rourke Russell, Green Bay (USHL) – Last season, Russell made the jump from NAHL to USHL and thrived, dishing for 10 assists and recording a plus-15 rating in 59 games for Green Bay. He’s never scored a lot at any level but has a reputation as a solid shut-down guy. He is still building much-needed muscle for bone-crunching NCHC play. Russell is 6-1-176 and has a great hockey name.