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Miami loses in final second

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami played in 11 overtime games in 2016-17.

And while the RedHawks avoided their first extra session of this season on Saturday, it’s only because they allowed the decisive goal with a second remaining.

The Friars’ Kasper Bjorkqvist poked the puck home with 0.9 seconds to play as No. 11 Providence completed the weekend sweep of Miami with a 3-2 win at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Just 26 seconds into the game, RedHawks forward Carson Meyer was assessed a major penalty, and the Friars scored twice on the ensuing five-minute power play.

Providence (2-0) opened the scoring when Tommy Davis’ wrister from the blue line was turned aside by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, Jason O’Neill corralled the loose puck and slid it through the top of the crease to Vimal Sukumarin for the slam-dunk goal 4:31 into the first period.

Only 26 seconds later, Josh Wilkins centered a pass from along the boards to Erik Foley for a one-time wrister that beat Larkin.

But Miami (0-2) came back.

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

A one-time rip by Grant Hutton off a feed by Scott Dornbrock found its way through traffic and in to make it 2-1 with 6:57 left in the second period.

Hutton skated the puck into the zone and behind the net before feeding Casey Gilling at the blue line. In similar fashion to Hutton’s goal, Gilling’s wrister snuck through multiple players and hit a Friars defender before hitting twine, tying the score with 13:31 left in regulation.

It was Gilling’s first career goal.

After all that work, Providence’s Ryan Tait deflected a pass in the slot, and after Larkin made the initial stop, Larkin knocked it under his pads to win it as time wound down.

Miami is 0-11-1 in its last 12 games, its longest winless streak since 1991. That skid 26 years ago was the longest in RedHawks history at 17 games.

In terms of chronology, this is now the program’s longest span without a win since its inception in 1978. Miami has not won since Jan. 28, which was 252 days ago.

The RedHawks head to Plymouth, Mich., for an exhibition vs. the Under-18 Team USA squad at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Miami resumes its NCAA schedule when it visits Maine on Oct. 20-21.

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Miami loses opener to Providence

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’s Austin Alger (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

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.

Series preview: Providence

WHO: No. 11 Providence Friars (22-12-5) at Miami RedHawks (9-20-7)

WHEN: Friday–7:35 p.m.; Saturday–7:05 p.m.

WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio.

TV: None.

NOTES: These teams split in Rhode Island last season, and Providence holds a 7-5-3 all-time edge.

And though it was 2½ years ago, the most memorable meeting between MU and PC came in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, when Providence held on for a 7-5 win, fending off Miami’s late comeback attempt.

Providence qualified for the NCAAs for the fourth straight season in 2016-17, a stretch that includes a national championship.

Six Friars have graduated from last season, and PC has eight freshmen.

Brian Pinho returns for his final season after leading the Friars in points with 40, including 28 assists. Junior Eric Foley, who scored 15 goals and dished for 19 assists, is also back for Providence.

Josh Wilkins is PC’s other returning skater with 30-plus points, as he went 13-18-31 in 2016-17.

Hayden Hawkey – could one pick a better name for a New England goaltender if one tried? – finished with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.

Miami went 0-9-1 to finish last season in its second 10-game winless streak of the campaign.

The RedHawks were held to 42 shots in these teams’ weekend series to open 2016-17.

Providence split a good start for Miami

Miami’s first weekend of the season would have to be considered a success, as the RedHawks split at No. 10 Providence, losing the opener, 4-3 but winning the finale, 2-1.

Granted the Friars lost several key players from their dominant team of the past two seasons, but keep in mind that PC scored seven goals in Oxford last year in the first game when these teams met and Miami salvaged a tie in the Saturday contest.

Miami’s first weekend of the season would have to be considered a success, as the RedHawks split at No. 10 Providence, losing the opener, 4-3 but winning the finale, 2-1.

Granted the Friars lost several key players from their dominant team of the past two seasons, but keep in mind that PC scored seven goals in Oxford last year in the first game when these teams met and Miami salvaged a tie in the Saturday contest.

And not to be repetitive, but the 2015-16 edition of MU did not have 14 freshmen.

Especially with the win coming in the Saturday game, Miami has to have momentum heading into a five-game homestand, with very winnable games on tap.

The occasional disappointment is still expected this season as half of the team becomes acclimated to the physicality and speed of the Division I game, but a split in a hostile environment against a national power is a fine start and sets an outstanding tone heading into the rest of the season.

A look at how those position battles are shaking out…although unfortunately viewing this game was not in the cards on this end. BoB will get a much better look at everyone with five straight at Cady Arena in the next 15 days.

– Coaches are always going to say there are constantly positional battles for lineup spots, and based on Week 1 it looks like two defense slots are still being decided as well as one forward spot. Coach Enrico Blasi’s typical MO has been to let competitions play out the first half of the season and then solidify his lineup more in January.

Positional battles are healthy within a team, although the obvious downside is that qualified players sometimes sit. But here is a look at those competitions.

Forwards – Alex Alger and Willie Knierim both played one game at PC. Alger played on Friday and went minus-1 with no shots or points. Knierim dressed for Game 2 and did not have a shot or a point and took one minor penalty. Alger is more experienced and smaller while Knierim is a wide-bodied true freshman who is expected to get better as his Miami career progresses.

Returning forwards that played both games (7) were Josh Melnick, Kiefer Sherwood, Anthony Louis, Conor Lemirande, Justin Greenberg, Zach LaValle and Ryan Siroky.

Gordie Green (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Gordie Green (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The four freshmen that were in the lineup for Friday and Saturday were Gordie Green (two assists), Carson Meyer (one goal), Carter Johnson (one assist) and Karch Bachman (Florida Panthers draft pick).

This team has only 14 forwards, so with Christian Mohs injured, Alger and Knierim will likely vie for that final lineup spot, although Colin Sullivan could move up from his traditional defense spot.

Defense – Jared Brandt is the lone freshman to hit the ice in both games last week, and he had a zero rating with one penalty and two SOG. Louie Belpedio, Scott Dornbrock and Grant Hutton, to no one’s surprise, were also dressed for both games.

Assuming Brandt will be a mainstay on the blue line, that leaves four defensemen for two spots. Grant Frederic, Bryce Hatten, Chaz Switzer and Sullivan all played one game opening weekend.

Frederic is one of the favorite to play each night although he went minus-3 with two penalties on Friday. Hatten is still working his way into game shape after an injury-plagued 2015-16 and took a major penalty in his start. Switzer went minus-1 and Sullivan, who is a senior and was solid for Miami last season, had a zero rating and did not go to the box.

Goaltending – We’ve seen Jeff & Eff, Cody & Connor and Jay & McKay, and since Jeff Zatkoff’s ridiculous junior season in 2007-08, the backup goalie has played at least 16 games. But Ryan Larkin logged all 119 minutes in the opening weekend, going 1-1-2.52 with a .906 save percentage.

At some point during this homestand it’s likely that we’ll see backup Chase Munroe, who posted a 2.22 GAA in the NAHL last season.

Preview: Miami at Providence

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WHO: Miami RedHawks (0-0-0) at No. 10 Providence Friars (0-0-0).

WHERE: Schneider Center, Providence, R.I.

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

TV: None.

PROVIDENCE RADIO: None.

MIAMI RADIO: None.

NOTES: Providence has had the better of Miami in recent years, with its NCAA Tournament-opening victory over the RedHawks in Dunkin Donuts Area up the street from this building in 2015 and a 1-0-1 mark in Oxford last season.

The Friars went on to win the NCAA championship two seasons ago and were eliminated by Minnesota-Duluth in double overtime in the first round of the NCAAs this spring.

Miami did salvage a tie in the series finale vs. PC last season after getting pounded by the Friars, 7-3 in the opener.

Overall, the RedHawks are 4-6-3 vs. Providence and 1-2-1 in this building, with their lone win coming in 1998. Their last visit to Schneider Arena was in 2013 and resulted in a loss and a tie.

The Friars’ top three scorers and four of their top five from 2015-16 are gone, and the top returning threats for PC are defenseman Jake Walman and forward Brian Pinho, both of whom finished with 28 points.

Pinho and Erik Foley are the lone 15-plus points producers back, so offense may not be a strength of this Providence team after multiple seasons of scoring dominance.

But the Friars are bringing in a pair of drafted forwards in Kasper Bjorkqvist, a second round pick of Pittsburgh, and Minnesota fourth rounder Brandon Duhaime.

On defense, in addition to Walman, Buffalo draftee Anthony Florentino and Josh Monk lead the list of returning starters. Monk had two goals and 11 assists and Florentino scored five times and notched seven helpers.

Steven Ruggiero – selected by Anaheim – also returns to the Providence blue line, and sophomore Vincent Desharnais was picked by Edmonton this past season.

In net, last season’s starter, Nick Ellis, turned pro after three seasons with PC, leaving the reins to Montreal draft pick sophomore Brandon Hawkey.

Possessing a fantastic hockey name, Hawkey played just five games in 2015-16 but went 2-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.

Brandon Leahy is back between the pipes after playing one game last season, and Kris Carlson comes in as a freshman out of the NAHL.

With a huge freshman contingent, this will be a very tough road test for Miami, but long road trips can aid in the bonding process, and the team could be better off down the road because of it.

Photos: Providence at Miami

All photos by Cathy Lachmann.

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Analysis: Better effort on D in Game 2

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami’s defense tightened up considerably on Saturday, and the RedHawks allowed five fewer goals. Plus the blueliners scored all of the team’s goals.

That allowed Miami to pull out a 2-2 tie vs. Providence in the second game in two nights at Cady Arena on Saturday.

The Friars had way too many high-percentage looks at the net in the opener and rarely missed on their opportunities. Those chances were limited in this game, as Providence scored on a blue line shot off ofn offensive zone faceoff win and a rebound shot.

It’s fair to admit that the Friars are the better team right now. They’re experienced, their defense is impressive on both ends of the ice, their forwards have pinpoint shooting accuracy and they have solid goaltending. You might have heard this team won the national championship last season.

Miami has a lot of those things, too, but not as consistently at present. Of course, this is Game 2, and that could change in the next few weeks, few months, or at least (hopefully) by tournament time.

A few other thoughts:

– The power play needs work. It never lived up to expectations last season, and now a number of new players are on these units. Miami went 1-for-10 on the man-advantage this weekend and didn’t seem to have much chemistry. Of course, this was opening weekend and there hasn’t been much chance to build that.

– Defenseman Louie Belpedio had an interesting first period, as he took two undisciplined penalties and then made up for it by scoring the first goal of the game. That makes it easy to forgive the minors.

– Senior goalie Ryan McKay looked a little rusty early but got better as the game went along. He stopped a shot when a forward was left alone in front of the net in the second period as was 15 of 16 the final 45 minutes. If McKay can become McKay Version 2013-14 this team could be in for a phenomenal season.

– As appealing as 3-on-3 is, it doesn’t seem worth it if there are no stakes. Josh Melnick capped off an outstanding first weekend with a completely meaningless 3×3 goal, as the teams decided to play after the tie was official as a demonstration to prepare for conference play. Despite an announcement outlining that, the message didn’t get through to the crowd, which seemed to think that goal meant something. Even in conference play it will only be worth an extra point.

The problem is: The NCAA doesn’t want results of its games decided by artificial means, including 4×4. This has been discussed repeatedly. But the conferences are given leeway in determining their own points systems, so long as games are recorded as ties after 65 minutes of 5×5. That’s where the shootout and now 3×3 hockey comes in. Again, the concept is great, and hats off to league commissioner Josh Fenton for implementing it, but the problem is: It’s confusing to fans. Even the scoreboard operator incorrectly changed the final to 3-2 after the Melnick goal. And there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D+. The forwards were shut out. Providence seemed to have sticks in the lanes at all times, and although Miami overall generated 30 shots, many were right into the goalie’s logo. Senior Alex Gacek did pick up two assists – his third and fourth already – and Roslovic got a primary helper on the tying Chris Joyaux goal. Melnick had an outstanding first weekend.

DEFENSEMEN: B+. This was the most improved area of the team from Friday to Saturday, and they scored both goals. Belpedio had the first one off a feed from senior Matthew Caito, and Joyaux banged home the equalizer. Freshman Grant Hutton iced the puck unnecessarily and it ultimately ended up in Miami’s net, but coach Enrico Blasi clearly likes him and with his size, speed and ability, it looks like it will be worth suffering through any early growing pairs to get him some in-game experience. Joyaux had the other goal despite being benched on Friday, and he played very well overall.

GOALTENDING: B+. McKay had little chance on the first goal, and the second was on a rebound. He scared the crowd early when a routine shot hit the top of his glove and popped into the air in front of him, but he got better as he settled in. It’s way too early to go with one goalie at this point, but McKay had the better game and has the edge at this point if/when that decision is made.

LINEUP CHANGES: Joyaux was scratched on Friday but game back with an excellent game on Saturday. Sophomore Scott Dornbrock sat in his place. Up front, it was freshman Kiefer Sherwood who was scratched in favor of senior Andrew Schmit, who knocked a player out of the game with a crushing hit along the boards. And of course, McKay started over classmate Jay Williams, which everyone expected after Friday’s game.

Miami rallies for a tie vs. Providence

OXFORD, Ohio – It was just the second goal in the 116-game career of stay-at-home defenseman Chris Joyaux, but it could not have come at a better time.

Joyaux slammed home a one-time, cross-crease pass from reshman forward Jack Roslovic with 6:45 left in regulation as No. 10 Miami salvaged a 2-2 tie vs. No. 7 Providence in the series finale at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Roslovic’s assist was the first of his career. The goal by Joyaux was his first since March 14, 2014 in the St. Cloud State NCHC first-round playoff series.

Like Friday, the RedHawks (0-1-1) took the lead first, as sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio’s wrister from just inside the blue line beat goalie Nick Ellis with 6:39 left in the first period.

But just 3:31 later, the Friars’ Jake Walman tied it on a one-time blast.

Providence (1-0-1) took the lead when John Gilmour banged home a rebound shot three minutes into the second period after Miami had failed to score on a 5-on-3.

After the five-minute overtime, the game ended in a tie, but the teams played 3-on-3 to simulate conference play, and RedHawks freshman Josh Melnick scored in that.

Senior forward Alex Gacek picked up secondary assists on both goals, giving him four points on the weekend. He had 14 points all of last season.

Miami senior goalie Ryan McKay stopped 24 shots to earn the tie.

The RedHawks return to action this weekend with a home-and-series vs. Ohio State. The teams play in Columbus at 7 p.m. on Friday and in Oxford at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

Analysis: Yeah, it was bad, but it was 1 game

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami has built a reputation for being one of the toughest teams to score on in college hockey.

Providence appears to be the RedHawks’ defensive kryponite.

The Friars beat Miami, 7-3 at Cady Arena on Friday, giving them 14 goals in two games vs. Miami, which likely can’t wait to play anyone else after losing to PC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to end its 2014-15 season.

With the lopsided score, it’s easy to say the defense and goaltending let the RedHawks down, and oh by the way, that’s supposed to be the team’s strength heading into this season, and while that isn’t completely untrue, as much credit belongs to Providence in this game.

The Friars were seemingly able to pick the corner of the net at will, and when they had opportunities, they did not miss.

Maybe it’s just because of the optimism of opening night, but this game seemed more like a team that is better right now played a nearly perfect game than Miami laid an egg on home ice to start 2015-16.

The first and third goals the Friars scored were perfect shots in the corner of the net. The second was on a penalty shot that was awarded even though it didn’t look like PC’s skater had a clear step breakaway.

The RedHawks got back to within one, but Providence put up four more in a row, as Miami sometimes has a tendency of not being able to stop the bleeding in games like this.

Overall this still looks like a good MU team. One loss doesn’t change that, even though it was lopsided, and of course it’s magnified because it was the season opener.

A few other thoughts on the game, trying to stay in line with the insert optimism theme:

– OK, one negative that needs to make it into prose is that Captain Kuraly didn’t play particularly well in this game. Sean looked like he may have been banged up or fighting an illness, as he appeared out of breath at times and hunched over. Defenses will pay much more attention to him this season with Czarnik-Barber-Coleman gone, and the 19-goal scorer from 2014-15 will need to step up if he hopes to match that goal total this season.

– Obviously Jack Roslovic, a first-round draft pick, was studly. He scored the first goal of the season, whipping it jai alai style into the net off a power play centering feed. Clearly Roslovic is going to be an offensive beast this season.

Miami's Jack Roslovic.

Miami’s Jack Roslovic.

– There’s a ton to like about Josh Melnick, who may have been better than Roslovic in this game. Melnick set up the Roslovic goal, scored one of his own and made a couple of great plays on the penalty kill. It speaks volumes about how much confidence Coach Enrico Blasi has in him that he’s on the first power play and first PK unit. From a purely Miami hockey fan perspective, Melnick not being drafted means he will likely spend four years in Oxford, and that will be fun.

– None of the other freshmen forwards stood out, bad or good. That’s OK. It was their first game. The chemistry will come. None looked lost on the ice. Roslovic and Melnick will obviously make up some of the void left by the departing forwards, and in theory the veteran defense and goaltending should make these players’ transitions easier, as the coaches can concentrate on helping develop them, and the team shouldn’t need to score as much to win. Friday didn’t exactly advance that theory, though.

It a tough way to start the season, but it was only one game. Time to move on. Some good things happened Friday, and it will get better.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. It was a pretty good night for this group. Melnick was awesome, Roslovic is going to be excellent, and senior Alex Gacek and junior Devin Loe also played really well. The latter two are what Miami needs: Veteran players who weren’t studs to step up. Gacek played his best hockey the second half of last year, and Loe has looked very good at times when given the opportunity, and with a short stash of reserves, he should have a chance to earn plenty of ice time this season.

DEFENSE: C-. As usual, this is the hardest area to grade, and with the lamp getting lit seven times, it makes it tougher to grade higher. Freshman Grant Hutton did some really good things and looks like he has a lot of potential, but he also let a player cut in for the breakaway on which he was called for the penalty shot that resulted in the second PC goal. He allowed another player to cut in for an odd-man chance later in the game. But he looks big, strong, smart and agile for his size, and he should turn into a solid defenseman. Colin Sullivan’s goal was a thing of beauty, which gets the grade above the ‘D’ range.

GOALTENDING: D. Like we said, Goals 1 and 3 for PC were just wired. The second goal was a penalty shot, and except for a big rebounds, Providence had very good looks on the rest and did not miss. Not a fan of ever allowed a goalie to give up seven, whether it’s his fault or not, so it would’ve been nice to see him lifted earlier to his confidence doesn’t take a bigger hit. Ryan McKay stopped one shot in relief and will almost certainly start the series finale.

LINEUP: The odd men out for this game were forwards Andrew Schmit and Justin Greenberg, and defenseman Chris Joyaux. Greenberg is banged up, and we’ll see how the defense is handled moving forward. Joyaux played well at the end of 2014-15, so we’ll see how much patience Blasi is going to have with Hutton. Knowing Blasi, he’ll probably rotate which blueliner sits, with Louie Belpedio, Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart likely being the three with job security at this point.

Providence scores 7 again to beat Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – In a press conference earlier this week, Miami coach Enrico Blasi was asked about his team’s strategy against Providence this weekend, and he joked that his team needed to not allow seven goals like it did in the NCAA Tournament in March.

The Friars scored seven times against the RedHawks again on Friday. Not surprisingly, the outcome was not good for Miami again, a 7-3 loss in the teams’ season opener at Cady Arena.

It was the first career goal for all three RedHawks scorers.

Miami took the lead just over five minutes into the game when freshman Jack Roslovic whipped home a centering feed from classmate Josh Melnick on the power play.

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

But that lead was short-lived, as Robbie Hennessey picked the top corner of the net seven-plus minutes later.

Trevor Mingoia put Providence ahead for good when he cut through the RedHawks’ defense and drew a penalty shot, which he converted by slipping the puck through the legs of Miami senior goalie Jay Williams.

Anthony Florentino found the top corner of the net to make it 3-1 with 4:40 left in the opening frame.

The RedHawks cut the lead to one early in the second period when junior defenseman Colin Sullivan skated through the high slot, juked around a defender and fired a shot into the corner of the net.

The Friars sealed it with four unanswered goals, giving them a 7-2 lead before Melnick tipped home a shot by senior defenseman Taylor Richart with 7:42 left in regulation.

It was the third time in six games Miami allowed seven goals. Providence beat the RedHawks, 7-5 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in March, and Western Michigan won by the same score in the best-of-3 series on the NCHC Tournament earlier that month.

The last time Miami has allowed more than seven goals was Feb. 15, 2014 at North Dakota, which beat the RedHawks, 9-2.

Mingoia finished with two goals and two assists to lead the Friars.

Melnick tallied a goal and an assists, and senior forward Alex Gacek recorded a pair of helpers in Miami’s losing effort.

Williams’ seven goals against were a career high. He stopped 18 shots.

The series wraps up at Cady Arena at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday in Oxford.