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St. Cloud sinks Miami in playoff opener

Miami has seen enough of the Poehling brothers.

The threesome combined for five points as the RedHawks fell, 5-2 at No. 1 St. Cloud State in Game 1 of a best-of-3 series on Friday, setting up a potential clinching game for the Huskies.

Miami’s River Rymsha (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

After Miami fell behind by two in the first period, the RedHawks twice cut the deficit to one but St. Cloud State pulled away with a pair of unanswered goals in the final frame.

River Rymsha led MU with a goal and an assist.

RECAP: Just 3:43 into the game, Nick Poehling tipped in a blue-line wrister by Jack Ahcan to give the Huskies the early lead.

SCSU (28-4-3) made it 2-0 with 2:25 left in the opening stanza on the power play when a Huskies pass pinballed off skates in the slot and ended up on the stick of Robby Jackson at the side of the net for an easy tap-in.

Miami (11-22-4) finally got on the board with 8:42 left in the second period when Alec Mahalak threw a puck at the net and it hit off Ben Lown at the side of the cage and went in.

St. Cloud regained its two-goal advantage three minutes later when Ryan Poehling shoveled home a pass from Jack Poehling in the slot. It was an all-Poehling goal as Nick Poehling picked up the secondary assist.

A Rymsha blast from just inside the blueline found its mark 34 seconds into the third period, again trimming the RedHawks’ deficit to one.

But the Huskies made it 4-2 less than four minutes later when Ahcan carried the puck behind the net and shielded it as he skated to the faceoff circle, where he wristed it inside the far post.

Easton Brodzinski sealed it by slamming home a one-timer on a 2-on-2 break with under four minutes left in regulation.

STATS: It was the sixth straight game in which Miami has allowed four or more goals and the fourth consecutive contest in which a RedHawks opponent scored at least five times.

Miami’s Ben Lown (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

— MU has allowed at least one goal in 14 periods in a row.

— Lown scored in his second straight game for the first time in his career. He had just two markers the first 35 games.

— It was Rymsha’s second career multi-point game.

THOUGHTS: Miami played well the first few minutes but the St. Cloud State goal killed the RedHawks’ momentum.

And when MU was down two in the second period, the team really wasn’t playing well when Lown scored his goal.

Miami did fight back again by clipping the lead to one, 3-2 in the opening moments of the third period but ultimately talent won out and the Huskies pulled away.

— RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin stopped 32 of 37 shots for a pedestrian .865 save percentage, but tips in front of the net accounted for two SCSU goals and he was hung out to dry the last one.

He probably should’ve stopped the Ahcan goal but made several key saves to keep Miami in the game, and the second one was unlucky, as a loose puck hit a skate in the slot and kicked straight to the SCSU scorer.

Larkin deserved a better fate than a ‘5’ in the GA column.

LINEUP CHANGES: Miami went with seven defensemen, as Rourke Russell returned after sitting out last Saturday for the first time this season.

Forward Christian Mohs also dressed after missing the regular season finale vs. WMU.

Out were Fs Carter Johnson and Zach LaValle.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was more of an example of St. Cloud State being really, really good than Miami being really, really bad.

The Poehlings, Ahcan and Brodzinski are all going to be excellent pros and Miami had little answer for the Huskies’ skilled skaters.

That’s why the 2-16-4 stretch heading into the playoffs was so detrimental for the RedHawks: They have to face the best team in Division I on the road to open the postseason.

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Uhelski and Rymsha: Graduate senior saviors

OXFORD, Ohio – Six years ago when a graduate senior joined Miami, it worked out so well that the RedHawks doubled down on that concept last summer, adding a pair of fifth-year players who had already earned their undergraduate degrees.

Goalie Jordan Uhelski and defenseman River Rymsha both joined the RedHawks for their final seasons of NCAA eligibility, and they have been godsends on a team that has battled depth issues, not only with their skills but their Division I veteran status.

River Rymsha tries to clear out a forward as Jordan Uhelski focuses on the puck (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“With only (four seniors), it was important for us to have a couple of extra guys to help those guys in terms of leading the way with their experience in college hockey,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said.

A player who has already earned his undergraduate degree does not have to sit out a year if he transfers, so Uhelski and Rymsha were courted last off-season when six skaters left Miami early for various reasons.

Uhelski was the starting goalie for Alabama-Huntsville and Rymsha logged four injury-plagued seasons on the Dartmouth blue line.

Forward Marc Hagel was the first transfer who came to Oxford for his fifth season after graduating. He earned his degree from Princeton before joining the RedHawks in 2012-13 and behind his 19 points, tenacious defense and leadership helped Miami advance to the NCAA regional final.

With more player movement than ever and the ability to avoid a missed season due to the NCAA transfer rules, college hockey could see an uptick in players shifting schools after competing their degrees.

Rymsha (right) celebrates his first career goal vs. UAH (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Rymsha, the son of former NHL right wing Andy Rymsha, from the northern Detroit suburb of Huntington Woods, was a forward growing up.

While playing Bantam for Little Caesar’s, a line brawl broke out and the next game his team only had two defensemen eligible to play.

So Rymsha, who was undersized at the time, moved back to the blue line and has been there since as he ballooned to his current dimensions of 6-feet-3 and 205 pounds.

After one season of prep hockey at St. Mary’s, Rymsha was hoping to join USHL’s Fargo – which drafted him – but he was told he wasn’t going to make the team.

At the last minute, he talked to current Miami assistant coach Peter Mannino’s cousin and hooked on with Wenatchee of the NAHL, where he scored four goals and dished for 12 assists in 45 games.

After just one season of major juniors, Rymsha packed for New Hampshire and headed to Dartmouth, the school he had committed to at age 16 out of Fargo’s camp.

“Education has always been super-important to me, so going Ivy League was something that I’d always wanted to do and Dartmouth gave me that opportunity,” Rymsha said.

He turned 18 just two months before his freshman season, during which he dressed just six times.

Rymsha and a North Dakota player are separated by a linesman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“Freshman year, I went in too early,” Rymsha said. “I needed to develop more, needed to get bigger, needed to get stronger.”

As a sophomore, Rymsha played in 24 games, posting two goals and two assists while playing with a torn labrum.

“After sophomore year I got my left (shoulder) repaired, rehabbed over the summer, came back and then I tore my other shoulder,” Rymsha said. “After having double shoulder injuries, I decided it would probably be a good idea to redshirt, get an extra year.”

He did register an assist in five games as a junior, but through three seasons Rymsha had been in the lineup just 35 times.

Finally healthy heading into his senior season, Rymsha played in 28 games, registering a goal and two helpers.

He initially intended to spend his fifth season at Dartmouth, decelerating his program to remain a full-time student throughout.

But Miami called to see if he would be interested in spending his final year of eligibility with the RedHawks.

“That was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” Rymsha said. “Miami was a school that I loved watching and always wanted to play for growing up.”

So he beefed up his class schedule and took summer classes, graduating from Dartmouth last September.

Rymsha hits a Providence player behind the net in Erie (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“I met a lot of great people – the relationships that I built there are something that I’ll carry with me forever – and hockey-wise, they really developed me there,” Rymsha said.

Rymsha was in the lineup for both games opening weekend vs. Alabama-Huntsville, and after tallying just eight points in four seasons at Dartmouth, he scored and picked up a pair of helpers in that series.

“To go out the first week and have the kind of first weekend that I did individually was a really cool feeling,” Rymsha said.

Rymsha has played in 32 of Miami’s 34 games this season, and not all of his minutes have been spent on defense.

Because of injuries and other game situations, Miami’s coaches have tapped his upbringing as a forward and have used him both on the wing and at center.

The Thursday before the series at Omaha in early November, Miami’s centers were taking draws in practice. Rymsha had completed his drills but wasn’t ready to get off the ice, so he went up to Blasi, who was dropping pucks, and asked to take some faceoffs.

Rymsha won most of the draws.

“(Blasi) was a little bit surprised, and I was like yeah coach, I had a little bit of experience playing forward growing up,” Rymsha said.

That weekend a game misconduct left Miami short a forward, so Rymsha shifted to the front end.

“So it’s always been in the coaching staff’s back pocket that if they need me up front, it’s something that I can do and they can rely on me,” Rymsha said. “This is something that I told the coaching staff at the beginning of the year, that I wanted to help out any way I can.”

Due to injuries this season, Rymsha has done pretty much everything but put on goalie pads. He has logged time on the power play, penalty kill, both defensive positions, wing and center, even taking the opening draw at home.

“I think there were four games in a row where he was bouncing back from forward to D, and people don’t realize how hard that is to do at this level,” senior captain Grant Hutton said. “It’s hard to get into a rhythm.”

Rymsha has three goals and four assists for seven points – all career highs – and he is third on the team only to Rourke Russell and Bray Crowder with 41 blocked shots.

“He comes in every day and he works his hardest, so hard that he sets a tone for everybody else,” Uhelski said. “He’s got the skill, and he’s got the speed…he’s an unbelievable player, a well-rounded player.”

He has also been one of the most physical skaters on the team, dishing out punishing hits all season regardless of his position.

“He’s a swiss army knife,” Uhelski said. “He’s got every tool in the box. What’s been so cool and what I think a lot of guys coming up could learn from him is he’s there for the team. Coach wants you on forward, yeah, I’ve got you. Where do you need me? It’s not, oh man, I’m not playing my position. He’s going with a smile on his face and his hard hat on, ready to work.”

With one weekend series left in the regular season and the postseason looming, Rymsha feels like he’s playing at a higher level than ever.

Rymsha dishes out a hit against St. Cloud State (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“I think especially now, getting into playoffs, you have to be playing your best hockey and I think that’s what four and a half seasons of college hockey have prepared me for,” Rymsha said. “Looking back to my freshman year all the way up to now, every year I’ve gotten better. The hockey that I felt like I was playing my senior year at Dartmouth you could say was my best hockey and obviously that’s what attracted the coaching staff at Miami. I knew when I came in here that there was another level that I felt like I could go to, and they’ve helped me with that.”

Rymsha credits his father for guiding him during his ascent through the hockey ranks. Andy Rymsha was a fourth-round pick of St. Louis and played six games for Quebec and 11 total seasons in the pros.

“Honestly it’s hard to put into words,” Rymsha said. “He’s been there for me my entire life. The advice he gives me on a day-to-day basis has helped me become the player that I am today. He’s taught me what it’s like to be a pro when you’re (in) juniors and into college, the responsibilities and how to handle yourself on and off the ice. I can’t thank my dad enough for everything that he’s taught me along the way.”

Rymsha’s brother, Drake, is a Los Angeles Kings draftee currently playing in the ECHL.

Uhelski grew up in Flint, Mich., and hockey was an easy sell for him since his mother was a professional figure skater.

Jordan Uhelski playing in his first game as a RedHawk vs. his old team, UAH (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

There was never a doubt about what position he was destined for.

“I always joke around that when I was young I was a little chubby so they stuck me in net right away,” Uhelski said. “So I was a goalie from the first time I played and I absolutely loved it.”

After two seasons with Belle Tire, he went to Muskegon of the USHL, where he posted a 2.66 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in 18 appearances, notching a pair of shutouts.

“When I was growing up obviously I dreamed of playing college hockey – but here was the first time where I thought that, oh my gosh, this might actually happen,” Uhelski said.

Uhelski focuses with traffic in front of the net (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

After another year in Muskegon, Uhelski began his college hockey career with Alabama-Huntsville.

But as he would find out, being on a Division I team didn’t necessarily equate to playing time.

UAH had won two games the season before Uhelski joined the team, and he expected to make an immediate impact upon arriving in Huntsville. But Carmine Guerriero had an outstanding season in net and Uhelski did not see the ice for one second that season.

“Halfway through (freshman) year I was getting upset and I hadn’t played, and it can go one of two ways: I could shut down and this is no good, I’m sick of this or whatever, or you can just battle through it, take what you can for experience and try to learn and grow and develop,” Uhelski said. “That’s what I did.”

As a sophomore, it was the other UAH goalie – Matt Larose – that took over the starting job, and again Uhelski sat the entire season without logging a minute in net.

Uhelski makes a save against UMass-Lowell as he is bumped (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Uhelski did receive a red shirt for one of those seasons.

“It was something that I think has given me so much strength as a leader today,” Uhelski said. “Whenever you go a new place, you have all these ideas of, oh man, everything’s going to go exactly the way I want it.”

Finally, junior year arrived and Uhelski played his first game in 2½ years against a more talented Michigan Tech team, and UAH salvaged a tie.

From then on, Uhelski was essentially the No. 1 goalie for the Chargers. He was between the pipes for 23 games that season and 32 as a senior, finishing with a .906 save percentage.

“It was definitely an up-and-down, emotional experience but it’s one that I can look back on and draw a lot of confidence and know that I’ve really been through a lot and come out on the other side,” Uhelski said.

After four seasons with Alabama-Huntsville, many of Uhelski’s teammates were leaving and he was looking for a change.

Uhelski in warm-ups before Miami plays Minnesota-Duluth (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“I knew wherever I went I wanted to be a part of something special,” Uhelski said. “I was really upfront with my coach (Mike Corbett) at Huntsville, and he said if you want to transfer, I’ll do whatever I can do to help you. We decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

So when Blasi talked to him about coming in for his fifth season, Uhelski couldn’t say yes quickly enough.

“I always joke around with him that it was the easiest commit that he’d ever even gotten,” Uhelski said. “He hadn’t even finished the sentence and I was ‘yeah, I’m coming, when do you need me there?’ Before graduation I was ready to pack up for Miami if I could. I was so excited to come here and be a part of this program and be a part of the rich history. It was an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

There was one problem for Uhelski: Miami already had a starting goalie in Ryan Larkin.

“I’ve been through a lot in my college experience, and I know that it’s just as important to be someone the team needs when you’re in the lineup as when you’re not in the lineup,” Uhelski said. “That was really my expectation: Just to come in and be a great team guy and try to leave a positive mark on the program.”

Uhelski didn’t have to wait long. Blasi tapped him to start the first game of the season.

The opponent? Alabama-Huntsville.

Ryan Larkin (31) and Uhelski talk during a break (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“When Coach (Blasi) said, yeah, you’re going the first game, I was so excited,” Uhelski said. “To be able to go against some of the old boys that I’d played with, it was awesome.”

The first shot he faced in his RedHawks career was an innocuous wrister from the blue line.

Somehow it snuck through and found the net.

“I was wondering what Coach Blasi was thinking, like who is this kid that I just picked up?” Uhelski said.

Uhelski had already had a cryptic conversation about the very subject prior to the game.

“One of my old roommates from Huntsville was texting me, he was like, if you let a shot in, I’m going to make fun of you the rest of your life,” Uhelski said. “(UAH) scored the first goal, and I was like, oh man. There’s no way that that just happened.”

But Uhelski settled down and stopped the next 18 shots he faced in a 5-1 win.

In his first 10 games his save percentage was .918. That has slipped to .902 after a pair of off-nights, but thanks to Uhelski’s pushing, Larkin is at .916 after posting an .886 save percentage last season.

“His personality and his character helps Ryan in terms of, he’s much more outgoing and very vocal,” Blasi said.

Uhelski braces for a shot vs. St. Cloud State (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

One of Uhelski’s season highlights was the St. Cloud series in Oxford. Larkin was banged up in the series opener, and Uhelski stopped 59 of 63 shots on the weekend to earn a pair of ties.

The Huskies were ranked No. 1 in the NCAA at the time.

“Jordan’s a great player,” Rymsha said. “Coming from Huntsville, he probably didn’t have a lot of help and if you look at his numbers, he’s put up some good numbers and that’s translated here. The work ethic, the energy that he brings to the rink, day in and day out, on and off the ice, it’s made a big impact on the team, and it’s made a big impact on me.”

Although both Rymsha and Uhelski have only spent one season here, they have loved every minute of the little time they’ve had in Oxford.

“It’s exceeded my expectations – it’s a great program,” Rymsha said. “Not to take anything away from the ECAC – it’s obviously a great conference – but the league that we play in is on another level. The coaching staff can tell you every day how hard it’s going to be every day, but not until you get into the thick of it can you really see how hard it actually is.”

Said Uhelski: “I wish I had four more. The year hasn’t gone how you write it up, but every storybook ending has a little adversity. My experience has been so amazing. I love every guy that’s on our team, and it’s been an honor to get to play for a program that has so much history and such support from the community and the fans. When you’re a little kid and you’re thinking about playing college hockey, this is what you dream about. I really wish I had four more years here because every person that I’ve met at Miami has been so loving and so real and amazing and heartfelt to me. I cannot say enough about my time here at Miami. I have people back home joke with me that every time I go out I’ve got something Miami on, it’s just because every day I get up to go the rink I’m so proud to wear that ‘M’ and be a part of something like this program and this school. It’s been truly amazing.”

Denver salvages split with Miami

It’s official: Miami will open the NCHC Tournament on the road for the fourth straight season.

Denver beat the RedHawks, 5-2 at Magness Arena on Saturday, which dropped MU 13 points behind the fourth-place Pioneers with four games remaining.

The top four seeds host best-of-3 series in the first round of the conference tournament.

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

RECAP: Denver’s Jarid Lukosevicius buried a one-timer from just inside the faceoff circle, set up by an Emilio Pettersen feed from the wall at the 3:31 mark of the first period.

The score remained 1-0 for over a period and a half until Miami’s Josh Melnick tied it shorthanded, whipping a shot just under the crossbar on a 2-on-1 after he and Brian Hawkinson played give-and-go with 5:17 left in the second period.

Miami’s Zach LaValle (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

But the Pioneers would break it open in a 17-second span of the third period on a pair of goals Jack Doremus. He redirected a wrist shot by Griffin Mendel into the net at 5:17 and fired a slapper that beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin moments later.

The RedHawks cut the deficit to one, 3-2 when Zach LaValle lunged into the crease to poke home a rebound after Filip Larsson couldn’t control a wrist shot by Monte Graham with 11:47 left in regulation.

Denver regained its two-goal lead on the power play, with Lukosevicius shoveling home a centering feed in the slot with 7:46 remaining.

Colin Staub sealed it with an empty netter, as he chased down a clearing pass and tapped it in.

STATS: The four goals allowed in the third period is the most surrendered in a frame this season for Miami.

— Melnick extended his points streak to three games, as he has two goals and two assists in that span.

With 105 points, the senior is now 47th on the RedHawks’ all-time scoring list.

— LaValle’s marker was his first since Oct. 27.

— Denver led on the shot counter, 43-17. For the weekend, the Pioneers outshot Miami, 90-38.

— The RedHawks did not score on the power play for the fourth straight game, and they are 13-for-20 on the penalty kill in their last six (65.0 percent).

THOUGHTS: Miami played pretty evenly with Denver following the first goal and set itself up to steal some road points with the score tied at one after 40 minutes.

But defending the slot area was a major issue for the RedHawks, who allowed two deflection goals and a one-timer by a loosely-covered Lukosevicius, arguably the best scorer on the team.

Even the empty netter was scored from that area.

Miami battled hard in this game, tying the score at one and cutting a two-goal deficit to one, but the sixth period of the weekend at altitude ultimately spelled the RedHawks’ demise.

— Normally a 1-1 weekend at the seventh-ranked team in Division I would be considered a victory, and it is to a large degree, but because Miami has dug itself such a deep hole in the standings, it needed more than three points for any chance at home ice for the playoffs.

With that decided, at least the RedHawks know for sure they will be packing their bags for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the only question remaining is where they will be heading.

Miami’s River Rymsha (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

River Rymsha dished out a solid hit in the closing seconds and was chased down by Slava Demin as the horn sounded, but little came from it.

After review, Rymsha was assessed a major and game misconduct for a supposed hit to the head that even the homer Denver broadcasters didn’t see.

According to the broadcasters on Altitude Network, Miami coach Enrico Blasi was initially confrontational with DU coach David Carle before his handshake, though that was not shown.

On replay, it appeared the skater’s head dropped down as he wound up for a hard dump-in. Going full speed, there’s no way Rymsha could’ve known that or reacted to it in time.

Someone ask Rymsha how he feels about replay, since this is the second time he gotten 5-and-10 for a hit none of the four officials saw live and he’s now one misconduct away from a one-game suspension.

Typically don’t like to call out college broadcasting, but DU’s on-air team on Altitude was defending Demin for running Rymsha because the hit was late in the game. So a player is supposed to get a free pass because of how much time is left?

Why not just call the game when the margin reaches three goals?

— While we’re on the subject, Altitude did refer to Bray Crowder, who is 6-feet-6, as the second-tallest skater on Miami. That is correct.

The tallest? That would be Alec Mahalak at 6-9.

That’s even more hilarious considering the box score from Denver had Andrew Sinard – the RedHawks’ actual tallest player at 6-7 – listed as on the ice for two goals against when Mahalak was actually out there.

Altitude also kept referring to Miami’s recent winless streak as being 11 games, which is very polite but inaccurate. The RedHawks lost 11 games during an 0-11-4 stretch.

That’s 15 games. Eleven was also in the game notes, which is likely where they got that info.

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LINEUP CHANGES: Only one from Friday: Crowder was back from his upper-body injury. He missed two games.

As a result, Carter Johnson did not dress as Miami went with seven defensemen.

STANDINGS: At 5-13-2 in league play, Miami is in seventh place in the NCHC, one point ahead of Omaha and three behind sixth-place Colorado College.

St. Cloud State clinched the league regular season title this weekend, so the No. 8 seed will head there.

UMD and Western Michigan will likely finish in the two and three spots, so there’s a good chance the RedHawks travel to one of those two campuses for the conference tournament.

MU is tied for No. 35 in the PairWise rankings.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Four games remain in the regular season – two away, two at home – and at this point it’s all about getting ready for the postseason.

The road win on Friday was definitely nice but Miami needs to play better for 60 minutes if it hopes to advance to St. Paul next month.

Speaking of Minnesota, the RedHawks are off to their favorite home away from home next week: UMD.

But what a statement MU could make if it could pull off a win or two in its final road series of the regular season against the No. 3 team in Division I, where Miami is winless in its last 11.

UMD 3-goal burst sinks Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – For the first 18 minutes, Miami played evenly against No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth and nearly matched the Bulldogs in shots.

But a UMD goal late in the opening period and three more in an 89-span of the second spelled a 4-0 loss for the RedHawks at Cady Arena on Friday.

Hunter Shepard stopped all 23 Miami shots he faced for Minnesota-Duluth, which doubled up the RedHawks in that category the final 40 minutes.

The loss extended Miami’s winless streak to nine games, its longest stretch since going 0-9-1 to close out 2016-17.

RECAP: The RedHawks (9-10-4) appeared to win an offensive-zone faceoff on the power play, but the puck shot back to neutral ice, where Nick Swaney beat the defense to it, skated in, was partially tripped by Miami’s Derek Daschke and recovered to roof one glove side with 1:24 left in the opening stanza.

The Bulldogs (13-6-2) made it 2-0 when Jackson Cates redirected a slap pass in from Dylan Samberg after the RedHawks’ Jonathan Gruden turned the puck over along the boards 3:45 in the middle frame.

Noah Cates one-timed one past Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on the power play 55 seconds later off a feed from Scott Perunovich to make it 3-0, sneaking his slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle inside the far post.

Just 34 seconds passed before UMD’s final goal, which was scored after Larkin lost his stick while being bumped out of position, and Parker Mackay deposited a behind-the-net pass from Justin Richards into the vacated net.

That ended Larkin’s night, as he was relieved by Jordan Uhelski.

Miami’s Jordan Uhelski (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The game got chippy late, as RedHawks captain Grant Hutton was later given a major and game misconduct for checking from behind and MU’s Karch Bachman and UMD’s Riley Tufte were assessed roughing penalties after their lines paired off following an interference call against the Bulldogs.

STATS: Coming off the bench, Uhelski stopped all 15 shots he faced.

— Miami was 20-40 (.333) in the faceoff circle.

— The RedHawks shut out Minnesota-Duluth in the third period, snapping a string of 15 straight frames allowing a goal.

— Eleven of Miami’s 23 shots came on its five power plays, as the RedHawks spent 8:06 on the man-advantage.

— This was the third time this season MU has been blanked.

THOUGHTS: It’s become a recent MO for Miami: The RedHawks came out strong again but were once again deflated when allowing that first goal.

With 90 seconds left in the first period, Miami went on the power play so it appeared the worst-case scenario would be a 0-0 score heading into the second with a brief 5-on-4 to start the next frame.

Instead, Swaney’s shorthanded goal in the final minute-plus gave UMD a huge momentum boost heading into intermission.

Arena staff made its best effort to fire up fans by cranking ABBA, but three Bulldogs goals early in the second frame later essentially sealed the game. That makes eight middle-stanza goals against in five games for the RedHawks.

To be fair, once again MU battled hard in the third period but the outcome had been decided by that point.

Duluth was the better team in practically every aspect: The Bulldogs scored twice at even strength, once on the power play, once on a Miami power play, they dominated on faceoffs, seizing loose pucks, were way better passing, miles better defensively and got better goaltending.

— The major on Hutton was the right call. He had multiple seconds to decide if he was going to bury Cole Koepke, who had his back to the play along the boards, and the ultra-strong Hutton followed through and hammered him face-first into the glass.

Especially as a captain, Hutton can’t make that play.

— Uhelski prevented this game from being 7-0 or 8-0, stopping a breakaway and a 3-on-1. Following the latter, a Miami fan yelled “where’s the rest of your team?” There was no answer.

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

— Miami had taken a major step forward on draws this season, especially with the addition of Monte Graham, but the team has been miserable in the circle recently. The RedHawks are 40.9 percent on faceoffs their last six games and have won a third or fewer draws in three of those contests.

Part of the reason for that is…segue…

— Miami’s leading scorer, Josh Melnick, was scratched for the third straight game with a lower body injury. He is considered week-to-week.

His absence is huge because in addition to his 19 points, he is solid on draws and one of the team’s best defensive forwards in addition to being a team captain.

Miami’s River Rymsha (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

GRADES

FORWARDS: F. Thirteen forwards scored zero goals and generated 14 shots, many of which were of the low-percentage variety. Despite the decent shot total on the power play, there was no flow on the man-advantage from this corps. Gruden had an easy clear opportunity on the second UMD goal but overskated it. He was also the forward at the point when Swaney blew past all five Miami skaters to score on his breakaway. This Melnick-less group’s passing wasn’t particularly impressive either. Scott Corbett dished out a couple of good hits, but that was one of very few forward highlights.

DEFENSEMEN: D+. Friday’s game footage will not be used by Hutton for his personal highlight reel. He was late reacting when Jackson Cates scored that second goal and as mentioned above, he deserved his major. Daschke was a little flat-footed on that shorthanded breakaway. UMD managed 37 shots, equaling the fourth-highest total allowed by Miami this season. River Rymsha was first star out of this group.

GOALTENDING: B-. The first goal was on a breakaway, the second Larkin had no chance on, the third he should’ve stopped and the fourth he lost his stick and positioning when he was bumped at the side of the crease. Larkin wasn’t that bad but he wasn’t great either. Uhelski was great and had to be or this one would’ve gotten out of hand. Individually Larkin was a C-, Uhelski an A.

Miami’s Zach LaValle (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

LINEUP CHANGES: Melnick missing his third straight game was the biggest news in terms of the lineup. It was hoped he would return for this series but he will shoot for Colorado College next weekend.

Defenseman Andrew Sinard sat after playing six straight games, as the RedHawks elected to use 13 forwards. Zach LaValle dressed in that extra spot after being scratched for the last six.

Uhelski was the starter last Saturday and ended up logged 35 relief minutes in this one.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It was the first regular season home game for Miami in seven weeks and proved quite anticlimactic.

It feels like the game could’ve been completely different had Swaney not scored late in the first period but that seemed to shift the Bulldogs’ play to a higher gear and Miami could not match UMD in any facet for the balance of the game.

Minnesota-Duluth looks like a team poised to repeat as national champions, and in this game, the RedHawks were nowhere near that level.

Miami shuts out, sweeps Colgate

OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Larkin had one shutout in his freshman season and one more as a sophomore.

Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

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.

GRADES

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.

2018-19 Miami preview Part III: Defensemen

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.

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

“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.

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

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.

Ten newbies on Miami’s roster

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:

FORWARDS


71 JONATHAN GRUDEN

DOB: 5/4/2000.

Height: 6-0.

Weight: 170.

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

DOB: 5/4/1998.

Height: 5-11.

Weight: 174.

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

Position: F.

DOB: 3/8/1997.

Height: 6-5.

Weight: 216.

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

DOB: 1/10/1998.

Height: 5-9.

Weight: 146.

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

Position: F.

DOB: 4/14/1998.

Height: 6-1.

Weight: 187.

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.

DEFENSEMEN


13 DEREK DASCHKE

DOB: 1/6/1998.

Height: 6-2.

Weight: 190.

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

DOB: 5/22/1997.

Height: 6-6.

Weight: 185.

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

DOB: 11/17/1998.

Height: 6-6.

Weight: 201.

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

DOB: 8/11/1996.

Height: 6-3.

Weight: 205.

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.

GOALTENDERS


32 JORDAN UHELSKI

DOB: 8/4/1993.

Height: 6-1.

Weight: 194.

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.