OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Larkin had one shutout in his freshman season and one more as a sophomore.
Six starts into 2018-19, the Miami junior has already blanked more opponents than in his first two years combined.
On Saturday, he recorded his third clean sheet of 2018-19, a 30-save effort in a 6-0 win over Colgate at Cady Arena that wrapped up a weekend sweep for the RedHawks.
It was the fourth straight win for Miami in the all-time series, as the RedHawks have outscored the Raiders, 18-2 during their winning streak vs. CU and 40-17 overall.
MU wrapped up its four-game homestand with three consecutive victories and is 5-1 on its home ice this season.
RECAP: Just 2:48 into the first period, Josh Melnick backhanded a pass to Gordie Green at the blue line, and Grant Hutton received a drop pass from Green, skated into the high slot and wired one home on the stick side on a 4-on-4.
It remained 1-0 until the 7:49 mark of the middle frame, when Green fed a pass to Melnick from the point to the side of the cage, where Melnick rammed in a bad-angle one-timer on the power play.
With 3:14 left in that period, a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle by Alec Mahalak handcuffed goalie Andrew Farrier, and Scott Corbett was there to knock in the rebound on the opposite side for his first career goal, making it 3-0.
Melnick and Green connected again, as Melnick threaded a pass through two defenders from the inside edge of the faceoff circle to a wide-open Green, who fired it into the vacant half of the net with five seconds left in a second period that saw MU score three times.
Midway through the final stanza, Casey Gilling fed a one-time pass to River Rymsha, who was crossing the blue line, and Rymsha found the top corner of the net as he stepped into a slap shot.
Hutton wrapped up the scoring as he eluded three defenders while carrying the puck from the blue line to the slot before backhanding one in to the stick side with 5:03 left in regulation.
STATS: Larkin leads all of Division I in shutouts with three. His save percentage of .966 is second in the NCAA and he is third in goals-against average (0.83).
His five career clean slates moves Larkin into a tie with Dan Kodatsky for seventh all-time on the Miami leaderboard.
Green finished with a goal and three assists for four points, the second-highest total of his career only to his five-point effort vs. Maine on Oct. 20, 2017.
It was his second three-assist game as a RedHawk.
Hutton ended the night with two goals and a helper, becoming the first skater to score twice or more in a game this season. It was his fifth career multi-goal game and the fourth time he has picked up three points.
Melnick also notched three points – the third time he has done so in a Miami sweater – on a goal and two assists.
Green has seven points in his last three games including six this weekend and Melnick picked up five points this series.
It was the third career multi-point game for Mahalak, who tallied two assists and wrapped up the series with three points.
Miami scored in all six periods this weekend and has goals in seven consecutive frames overall.
THOUGHTS: Miami played with maximum effort from the opening faceoff to the final horn, as the RedHawks were still bombarding the offensive zone in the closing minutes trying to add another score.
Too many times for too many years Miami has had trouble closing out wins, but at least for the first month of this season, the RedHawks have wielded a killer instinct late in games.
Colgate didn’t play poorly on Friday but fell behind early in this one and sort of threw in the proverbial towel the final 20-25 minutes on Saturday, and rather than sit back and play not to lose, Miami absolutely took it to the Raiders in the sixth period of the weekend, punishing them physically and on the scoreboard.
At this point, the RedHawks are better than Colgate. They aren’t 6-0 better though, but both teams got the outcomes they deserved: Miami didn’t let up the entire game and the Raiders did.
And good teams take advantage when that happens. That’s the difference between the first eight games of 2018-19 and their 110 contests the previous three seasons.
And that’s what makes this such a big win heading into NCHC play.
— Corbett returned to the Green-Melnick line and all three ended up finding the net. They combined for eight points (Green 1-3-4, Melnick 1-2-3, Corbett 1-0-1).
We heaped praise on this line for its play on Friday but it was even better in this game at both ends.
— This is as locked in as Larkin has been since coming to Oxford. In his last four starts he is 4-0 with a .981 save percentage, stopping 104 of 106 shots.
He’s second in the NCAA in save percentage at .966 only to a Lake Superior goalie whose last name is Mitens (how do you compete with that)?
And that’s been a big difference in Miami’s start: It’s virtually impossible to have a successful season when your team save percentage is .883 and your starter finishes at .886, which was the case in 2017-18.
Quality goaltending can help a decent team become a great one, and while there’s no way Larkin maintains his current save rate, he has the ability to steal wins for the RedHawks.
FORWARDS: A. The passing by this corps was so much crisper than in any other game this season. Yeah, Green and Melnick were studs, but their supporting cast was strong as well. Karch Bachman continues to generate chances with his speed. Gilling keeps winning key draws and impressing with his defense, plus he set up Rymsha’s goal. Sophs Ben Lown and Phil Knies continue to play above their size. Zach LaValle is earning playing time by stepping up. Corbett scored his first career goal and plays a high-energy, physical style. Etc., etc.
DEFENSEMEN: A. Hutton, Mahalak and Rymsha were the standouts among this group. This was Hutton’s best game at both ends, and probably the same could be said for Mahalak, who picked up two assists and earned some power play time. Rymsha’s goal was an absolute blast with pinpoint accuracy.
GOALTENDING: A+. About as perfect of a game as a goalie could play. He turned 30 shots aside and faced some Grade-A chances. He seemed more comfortable going side to side this weekend and gave up almost zero second chances.
LINEUP CHANGES: Corbett replaced Johnson, both on the first line and in the lineup, as Johnson was a scratch.
Defenseman Andrew Sinard dressed for the second time this season as Christian Mohs sat out.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Percentagewise, this equals Miami’s best start through eight games since 2010-11.
The locker room is much more unified than in recent seasons.
Goaltending has been phenomenal. Defense has been solid. The RedHawks are starting to score goals.
Even those in the stands are having a lot more fun, and hopefully more will show up as we enter the cold-weather months and super-skilled league opponents come to town.
Miami has a lot going for it, but the RedHawks also haven’t played a true road game yet, suiting up for six at home and two on neutral ice. They also haven’t started league play.
MU will tackle both of those obstacles next week in its NCHC-opening series at Omaha.
Maybe Miami, picked to finish last in the conference, ends up being the biggest surprise in the NCAA. Maybe the RedHawks do struggle in league play as was predicted.
But if they keep up the kind of effort they put forth this weekend, the dividends will eventually come for this program.
At least by playing the game the right way the foundation is now being laid for future success.
OUT (3): Louie Belpedio (graduated), Scott Dornbrock (graduated), Bryce Hatten.
IN (4): Derek Daschke, Andrew Sinard, Brayden Crowder, River Rymsha (graduate student).
RETURNING (5): Sr. – Grant Hutton; Jrs. – Grant Frederic, Chaz Switzer; Sos. – Alec Mahalak, Rourke Russell.
NOTES: Four of Miami’s starting six defensemen are back from last season, but the two who graduated were key contributors on the blue line.
Louie Belpedio was team captain for two seasons and Scott Dornbrock logged 139 career games, but Miami adds four to its blueline corps and will have nine D-men to battle for six starting slots each night.
“I think we’re a lot deeper, bigger, stronger,” Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said. “I think whe you add some of the size that we did and just sheer bodies, it’s going to be equally hard to come up with six (starters) on a game-to-game basis.”
All-planet senior Grant Hutton will share the captaincy with Melnick after leading college hockey in defenseman goals with 13 and tying for the Division I lead in power play goals by a blueliner (8).
He has also been arguably the team’s best shutdown D-man the past three seasons.
Alec Mahalak dressed for 36 of 37 games as a freshman and seemed to gain confidence in every facet as last season progressed, finishing 1-8-9. His size (5-feet-9, 165 pounds) worked against him defensively at times but he proved he can make smart plays, carry and pass the puck.
Rourke Russell is a shutdown defenseman who was in the lineup 34 times his rookie season. He got tougher to play against later in the season, blocking 51 shots, and Chaz Switzer, who played 32 games, showed improvement in his second campaign with Miami and finished with 47 blocks.
Grant Frederic only saw the ice 15 times but also seemed more confident in his second go-around, using his big body to defend more. If Frederic continues to make the case for a lineup spot as well as the four other returning blueliners, that would leave just one spot for four freshmen.
And Derek Daschke is considered the defensive blue chipper of this incoming class. He has logged 232 USHL games in four seasons and went 8-21-29 in 2017-18. The 6-feet-2 blueliner played under associate head coach Peter Mannino in Chicago en route to a Clark Cup title two seasons ago.
At 6-feet-6, Brayden Crowder will join Michael Findorff and Brian Sipotz among the tallest Miami D-men.
Andrew Sinard will also join that list of trees on the RedHawks’ blue line, as he is also 6-6 and listed at 185 pounds. He did not score a goal in 96 NAHL games but did pick up 21 assists in that span.
Dartmouth graduate River Rymsha joins Miami for his senior season. He is also a big body at 6-3, 205 pounds, and dressed for 28 games and picked up a goal and two helpers at that Ivy League institution last year.
“So we obviously added some size with Sinard and Crowder, and those are two guys that are really difficult to play against, from what we’ve seen out of them in practice, and a guy in Daschke who can really move the puck,” Hutton said. “All of the guys that have come in on defense have made an impact and an impression so far in practice, and obviously we have our returners that we’re going to look to for experience and help show the younger guys the way. We’ve all had the privilege of having guys like that in our freshman years that we’ve looked up to and learned a lot from. I’m excited about the group.”
This corps helped Miami hold opponents to 27.2 shots per game in 2017-18, but too many were high quality. They also need to help tighten up a penalty kill unit that killed just 78.0 percent of its chances, ranking 46th in the NCAA.
Miami entered 2017-18 with just three seniors, but its 2018-19 roster features 10 first-year RedHawks.
One is an NHL draftee – Johnny Gruden was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round last month.
Of the 10, five are forwards, four are defensemen plus one goalie. That brings Miami’s full roster to 15 wings and centers, nine blueliners and three netminders.
Two key names were missing from the RedHawks’ roster: Fs Matej Pekar and Ryan Savage.
Pekar was committed to UNO but switched to Miami this spring, following assistant coach Peter Mannino. He was drafted one spot ahead of Gruden, No. 94, by the Buffalo Sabres.
Since this is a sensitive subject that could negatively affect Pekar, BoB will not report any speculation about if or when he will join the team.
Savage, son of former NHL forward and RedHawks standout Brian Savage, signed an NLI prior to 2017-18 but will play another season in juniors after going 8-7-15 in 48 USHL games. He will join the RedHawks in 2019-20.
A glance at the newest official members of the Miami hockey community:
71 JONATHAN GRUDEN
From: Farmington Hills, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: USNDT, 61 GP, 28-32-60.
Notes: Gruden has the best credentials of any incoming player. He was drafted by Ottawa 95th overall in June and kept a point-a-game place for the USNDT and posted 15 goals and 19 assists in 25 games vs. USHL opponents.
His father, John Gruden, is a former NHL defenseman who logged 92 games over parts of six seasons with Boston, Ottawa and Washington. He is now the coach of OHL Hamilton, which makes Jonathan Gruden choosing the college path interesting.
In addition to his points production, he has impressed with his two-way play, and he also can play multiple forward positions. Coach Enrico Blasi really likes versatility.
Where he fits in this season: There’s rarely a sure thing in college hockey, but barring injury Gruden will almost certainly skate on one of the top two pairings this season and should excel.
The RedHawks will need his offensive talents, as six forwards from 2017-18 have moved on.
18 MONTE GRAHAM
From: Hanover, Mass.
2017-18 stats/team: Muskegon (USHL), 57 GP, 10-15-25.
Notes: The former Boston College commit (actually still on the Eagles’ 2018-19 roster!) is the cousin of former NHLer Tony Amonte and current Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle.
Graham has already played three full seasons in the USHL, logging 173 games and notching 21 goals and 36 assists. He is known for his skating, and he racked up 95 PIMs last season.
While he went from eight points to 24 in his first two USHL seasons, he climbed just one point to 25 in 2017-18.
Where he fits in this season: Not a big offensive guy in juniors, but Graham reached the 10-goal mark for the first time last season, so he may slide into a starting role.
Miami only has nine returning forwards, so opportunities for ice time should be ample for rookies up front.
14 NOAH JORDAN
From: Toronto, Ont.
2017-18 stats/team: North York (OJHL), 47 GP, 18-20-38.
Notes: Jordan played four seasons for St. Michael’s of the Ontario Junior Hockey League then was back in that league for his overage season in 2017-18. He netted 18 goals and dished for 20 assists in 47 games with North York and also tied for the team lead in playoff points with 12 in 11 games.
Jordan is 21, and only 20 Division I players are taller, according to College Hockey News. Originally a Quinnipiac commit, Jordan switched to Miami in April.
Where he fits in this season: The OJHL is considered a slight step above the NAHL, so we’ll see how that offensive success translates in the NCAA.
With Conor Lemirande graduating, a player exhibiting a similar style could be welcome for the RedHawks.
19 BRIAN HAWKINSON
From: Aurora, Colo.
2017-18 stats/team: Tri-City (USHL), 58 GP, 6-10-16.
Notes: Hawkinson has played the past three seasons with USHL Tri-City, where he was team captain last season. He was also teammates with Graham the duo’s first two juniors campaigns.
Known as a do-anything-to-win type, he enters 2018-19 with 164 games of regular-season experience in the USHL. He notched just 10 points in his first two seasons combined in that league, but he stepped up with a 6-10-16 line last year.
Tri-City lists him at 5-10, 175 while other sites have him at 5-9-146.
Where he fits in this season: Hard to say because smaller forwards are usually known for their offense and Hawkinson is more of a grit guy.
A ton of USHL experience should make for a smooth transition to the college game.
25 SCOTT CORBETT
From: Carmel, Ind.
2017-18 stats/team: Dubuque (USHL), 59 GP, 6-18-24.
Notes: Another older player with ample USHL experience, Corbett started his Major Juniors career in the NAHL but has been in the U the past season and a half.
The dual citizen committed to Miami last week, becoming the third player from the northern Indianapolis suburb to join the RedHawks in the past dozen years, with Cameron Schilling and Grant Hutton being the others.
Corbett was solid in his first full season in the USHL, going 6-18-24 in 59 games with Dubuque. He has good size for a forward competing in the ultra-physical NCHC.
Where he fits in this season: He hasn’t been a big points producer in juniors but Miami hasn’t gotten much production from its third and fourth lines in recent seasons so he may have the opportunity to thrive.
Again, with nine returning forwards, starting slots will be there for the taking so Corbett and the four other newbies up front should get long looks this fall.
13 DEREK DASCHKE
From: Troy, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: Chicago (USHL), 56 GP, 8-21-29.
Notes: Peter Mannino was Daschke’s coach for Clark Cup-winning Chicago of the USHL this spring.
Daschke was committed to Nebraska-Omaha, where Mannino was an assistant, but when Mannino was hired by Miami this off-season, the blueliner switched his commitment to the RedHawks.
His commitment is definitely in the top five news items from this program this off-season. Daschke has played in the USHL since 2014 and he was the captain of that championship Steel team last season.
He has a laser of a shot and found the net eight times last season, adding 21 assists.
Where he fits in this season: It’s hard to imagine, barring injury, Daschke not contributing right away.
He’s big, he’s experienced, he can shoot the puck and he’s joining a team that has just five returning D-men.
4 ANDREW SINARD
From: Brentwood, Tenn.
2017-18 stats/team: Aberdeen (NAHL), 58 GP, 0-19-19.
Notes: Sinard is a shut-down defenseman with a huge reach, and he also picked up 19 assists last season with NAHL Aberdeen.
He started his Major Juniors career with USHL Cedar Rapids but has been with the Wings since. Sinard does not have a goal in 96 juniors games, but he has impressed with his shut-down prowess.
Where he fits in this season: The only two similar players in recent Miami history are Brian Sipotz and Michael Findorff, and neither were full-time starters, although Sipotz played six seasons with Chicago of the AHL.
We’ll see if Sinard can buck that trend.
3 BRAYDEN CROWDER
From: Sudbury, Ont.
2017-18 stats/team: Muskegon (USHL), 55 GP, 5-14-19.
Notes: Like Daschke, Crowder was also committed to Nebraska-Omaha but switched to Miami after Mannino was brought in as an assistant.
Crowder left Canada two seasons ago, and after staying in the NAHL in 2016-17, he jumped to the USHL and went 5-14-19 with Muskegon, finishing plus-11.
Miami will be his 10th team in six seasons, so the blueliner should welcome the stability. His father, Troy, was a tough guy who logged 150 NHL games over seven seasons, amassing 433 PIMs to go along with his nine goals and seven assists.
Where he fits in this season: A 6-6 defenseman who scores five goals in the USHL is very intriguing, especially since he was 18 when last season started, and big guys typically develop later.
81 RIVER RYMSHA
From: Huntington Woods, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: Dartmouth (NCAA), 28 GP, 1-2-3.
Notes: Like former Miamian Marc Hagel, Rymsha completed his degree with a year of eligibility remaining due to an injury that cost him the majority of a season, so he will work on his graduate studies at Miami.
Rymsha, who will not turn 22 until next month, played just 63 games at Dartmouth and scored three goals accompanied by five assists.
He is known as a physical D-man with a high hockey IQ. Rymsha also boasts a strong hockey pedigree, as his father, Andy, played six games with Quebec of the NHL and his brother is a Los Angeles Kings prospect.
Where he fits in this season: He has not played more than 28 games in an NCAA season and has just eight points, so it’s unlikely he goes Grant Hutton this season.
But another steady blueliner with plenty of college experience can’t hurt on a team that will start the season with five D-men who are freshmen or sophomores.
32 JORDAN UHELSKI
From: Burton, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: Alabama-Huntsville (NCAA), 32 GP, 12-18-2, 3.05, .907.
Notes: Another fifth-year senior situation, as Uhelski was a major contributor in net for Alabama-Huntsville the past two seasons.
He played 55 games with the Chargers the past two seasons, posting a .907 save percentage and recording 18 wins.
Where he fits in this season: Chase Munroe and Grant Valentine were expected to vie for the backup job this season, but Munroe is not listed on Miami’s roster and Uhelski is.
Boasting a quality resume, Uhelski could move into the No. 2 spot and push Larkin for starts.