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Analysis: Win critical for Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – A limited few have put the puck in the net regularly for Miami this season.

But on Saturday. when the RedHawks broke the three-goal threshold for the first time in 2015-16, none of their markers came from their normal sources.

Miami beat RPI, 4-2 at Cady Arena on Sunday to salvage a series split, with scoring from Andrew Schmit, Justin Greenberg, Alex Gacek and Chris Joyaux.

That foursome had combined for five prior goals this season and despite all four being seniors and regulars on the RedHawks’ lineup card the past four years – except for Schmit, who is a transfer – this group had a total of 22 career goals entering this game.

Good for them, and better for the team.

Anyone who has watched a game or followed the team this season knows Jack Roslovic can score, as he leads the team with nine tallies.

Josh Melnick has no problem finding the net, nor does Anthony Louis, and Sean Kuraly certainly should score more than two goals the rest of this season.

That’s five players who have a track record of netting goals regularly, and one is more of a projection.

All season this team has struggled with scoring depth, and it got it when it needed it most.

Winning was important, as Miami had gone 0-6-1 in its previous seven, and reaching the four-goal mark was important, even though it was on an empty-netter.

If ever a team needed a spark, it was the RedHawks, who had not won in two months, and league play resumes for Miami next weekend.

Other thoughts…

– Good offensive zone time in this game. Miami had several shifts in which it controlled the puck in its offensive zone for a minute-plus. The RedHawks absolutely dominated in the first few minutes and for the majority of the third period.

– Jay Williams won his first game of the year in net. The senior may be the most enthusiastic player on the team, and that can only help the team this point. He didn’t dominate but at least deserves more playing time.

– The officials were pretty inconsistent over the weekend and totally missed Roslovic getting hammered as he tried to return to the Miami bench in the third period. It was clear Roslovic was being run, and this would’ve been a great opportunity to assess one of those new interference major penalties.

– The third line of Zach LaValle, Justin Greenberg and Kiefer Sherwood was the team’s best, especially in the third period when it generated tons of scoring chances, including Greenberg’s goal.

– One negative: This power play is awful right now. Too many players stand still. Miami has not scored a PPG in six games, going 0-for-13 since. And oh yeah, RPI picked up shorthanded goals both nights, sending the RedHawks’ net goal differential on the power play to minus-2 in its last five.

– Not a fan of the Saturday-Sunday thing. Most importantly, it gives less time for someone who writes about the team in his or her leisure to put up stories and photos. And the Sunday attendance was listed as barely 1,500.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A-. This was one of the best games this corps has played all season. Anthony Louis was outstanding all weekend, and Sean Kuraly had several good looks at the net. But it was Greenberg and Gacek coming up with the crucial third-period goals, both from the side of the net. As mentioned above, the Greenberg-Sherwood-LaValle line was this team’s best on this night, and all three figured in Greenberg’s clutch goal.

DEFENSEMEN: A. RPI managed just 19 shots and two good scoring chances. Unfortunately for Miami, the Engineers buried both attempts. Scott Dornbrock had an above-average game, and Joyaux knocked home the clinching tally from three-quarters ice. A rare turnover by Matthew Caito led to RPI’s first goal, as he had a rare off game overall.

GOALTENDING: B. Williams was only called on for 19 shots. He made a couple of solid saves, but the two top scoring chances he faced both went in the net. No one could say that he was outplayed by teammate Ryan McKay, so he may have earned another start next weekend.

LINEUP CHANGES: Forwards Michael Mooney and Conor Lemirande were out from Saturday’s lineup and Devin Loe and Ryan Siroky were in. Defenseman Louie Belpedio remained out, as he is playing for Team USA in the World Juniors in Finland. Williams replaced McKay, who had started the previous nine games.

Miami ends winless streak at 7

OXFORD, Ohio – Thanks to a three-goal, third-period outburst, Miami’s seven-game winless streak is over.

The RedHawks beat RPI, 4-2 at Cady Arena in the series finale on Sunday, giving the team its highest offense output of the season and its first win since Nov. 7.

Like Saturday, Miami took an early lead but managed to fall behind.

RedHawks senior forward Andrew Schmit banged home a loose puck at the top of the crease for his second goal of the season at the 2:01 mark.

A turnover by senior defenseman Matthew Caito led to a breakaway by RPI’s Jesper Ohrvall, who buried a shot on the glove side of Miami senior goalie Jay Williams, tying the score with 9:20 left in the opening stanza.

The Engineers went ahead when Jake Wood ripped a shot past Williams on a shorthanded chance after a stretch pass by Jimmy DeVito with 6:52 left in the second frame.

But after failing to score in their previous five third periods, the RedHawks dominated the final stanza.

Alex Gacek taps home the tying goal on Sunday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Alex Gacek taps home the tying goal on Sunday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

A shot by senior center Sean Kuraly was deflected to the side of the net, where senior forward Alex Gacek banged it home to tie the score at two.

Junior center Justin Greenberg puts Miami ahead for good with this one-timer (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Junior center Justin Greenberg puts Miami ahead for good with this one-timer (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Just 1:43 later, freshman forward Zach LaValle sent a pass through the top of the crease to junior center Justin Greenberg, who buried the tip-in for his first goal of the season.

Senior defenseman Chris Joyaux fired a shot into the empty net from his own faceoff circle with 25 seconds left to cap off the scoring.

With the win, Miami moved up three places in the PairWise rankings to 28th. Fourteen of the RedHawks’ final 16 regular seasons games will be against NCHC opponents, including next weekend’s home series vs. Minnesota-Duluth.

Analysis: Turnaround needed soon

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami improved to 3-1-1 after a 1-0 win at St. Lawrence on Oct. 23.

The RedHawks have recorded two victories since, posting a 2-9-1 mark in the past 71 days, including a 3-2 loss to RPI at Cady Arena on Saturday that extended the team’s winless streak to seven games.

Although this weekend’s games are non-conference, Miami’s situation gets more dire with each loss. Now 5-10-2, the RedHawks’ PairWise ranking is 31st, a long way away from any kind of consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

On Saturday, Miami actually played pretty well. The team dominated the first few shifts, culminating in an early goal. The RedHawks were very good for large stretches of the second period as well.

They hit at least four posts.

It was the type of loss that, if Miami had played well overall the first three months, could be written off. Even the best college hockey teams don’t win every night.

But teams that are four games below .500 don’t have that luxury. Because of the deep hole the RedHawks have dug themselves, every game from here through March is paramount.

The tough schedule will give Miami leeway, but the team still has to win often against that tough schedule. The RedHawks play 14 conference games plus Sunday’s game against RPI (tied for 15th in the PairWise) and a home-and-home vs. Bowling Green (ranked 18th).

And losing repeatedly in dramatic fashion can’t help this team’s psyche.

Miami needs to finally score more than three goals, something it has yet to accomplish this season. Or win a game in the last minute.

Or get in a galvanizing skirmish. Nothing that would warrant mass suspensions, mind you, just something, ANYTHING, to help boost confidence and get this team on track.

The RedHawks lack offensive fire power this season, no doubt, but they don’t lack talent, and there’s no reason for them to have wins in fewer than one-third of their games thus far.

Other thoughts…

– Miami’s 6-on-5 in the closing minutes was disappointing. Once the players got set up in the offensive zone they stood there and passed the puck among themselves repeatedly. No movement anywhere. And then they wondered why there were no open shooting lanes.

– It’s frustrating to see RPI come in boasting one 10-goal scorer and have him net for the Engineers’ first two goals. It’s no secret Riley Bourbonnais is the team’s best offensive weapon, and Miami was unable to slow him down. One could say the same about RPI vs. Jack Roslovic, who scored once and set up the other Miami goal.

– Bourbonnais’ first goal came shorthanded and was a momentum killer for the RedHawks. Miami was up, 1-0 late in the first period with a chance to extend its lead via the power play, but Bourbonnais’ breakaway goal tied it and the RedHawks never led again.

Miami's Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

– On a positive note, this was one of the best games Anthony Louis has played all season. His pass to Jack Roslovic for Miami’s slam-dunk second goal was a thing of beauty. Louis was better in the second half of both his freshman and sophomore seasons, and Miami needs his offense now more than ever.

– The listed attendance was 1,809 with the students out for the J-term, and that seems pretty generous. Unfortunately Miami has a lot of home games this month and won’t have a student section behind it. That figure could drop substantially on Sunday, going against the final week of the NFL’s regular season.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B-. Louis and Roslovic were Miami’s best forwards and freshman Josh Melnick wasn’t far behind. This unit was very good at times and ineffective others. Same problem this team has faced all season: Miami has been unable to generate offense from its deeper lines.

DEFENSEMEN: A. RPI manged just 17 shots. Colin Sullivan has been the odd man out a lot this season, but he was very solid on D. Bad year overall for Miami or not, senior Matthew Caito has saved his best season for last, although he ended up in the penalty box twice. And this unit was without sophomore standout Louie Belpedio, who is at the World Juniors in Finland.

GOALTENDING: C-. Senior Ryan McKay just didn’t look like he seeing the puck that well all night. He made one spectacular save, stacking the pads on a point-blank shot, but he stopped just 14 of 17 overall. The first goal was a good shot on a shorthanded breakaway, but he still got beat. The second goal was pretty soft, hitting his glove and popping in, and the third he had no chance on.

LINEUP CHANGES: Freshman Zach LaValle was back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 13 with his upper-body injury. Freshman Ryan Siroky and junior Devin Loe were scratched, and Belpedio was obviously the missing D-man. Belpedio will miss Sunday’s game, and the smart money is on him being available next weekend.

Miami loses by 1 goal again

OXFORD, Ohio – Having gone winless in its final six games of 2015, Miami had to welcome the new calendar year.

Unfortunately for the RedHawks, 2016 started the way last year ended.

RPI edged Miami, 3-2 at Cady Arena on Saturday, handing the RedHawks their fourth straight loss, with all of them coming by one goal. Miami’s last five losses overall have been by that margin.

The start was promising enough for the RedHawks (5-10-2), as freshman forward Josh Melnick buried a shot from the slot off a feed from freshman Jack Roslovic at the 1:20 mark of the first period.

But the Engineers’ Riley Bourbonnais went in alone on a shorthanded breakaway and buried a shot top shelf to tie it with 1:24 left in the opening period.

Bourbonnais scored again with 14:47 left in the middle frame when a shot from the left side of the net deflected off the glove of Miami senior goalie Ryan McKay and into the net, giving RPI a 2-1 lead.

Miami tied it later in the stanza as junior forward Anthony Louis slid a pass across the slot to Roslovic, who ripped it home with 7:07 left.

RPI took the lead for good when Kenny Gillespie banged home a loose puck from the side of the net just 2:19 later.

Bourbonnais is the Engineers’ top goal scorer, as his two markers in this game gave him 12 for the season.

Miami's Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Roslovic finished with a goal and an assist, as he leads the RedHawks in tallies with nine and is tied with Louis in assists with a Miami-best nine for 18 points.

The RedHawks are 56th out of 60 teams in the NCAA in scoring, averaging 2.06 goals per game. They have yet to net more than three goals in any game.

With Miami’s current 0-5-2 skid, the team has not won since Nov. 7.

The teams wrap up the weekend series at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Miami opens 2016 with pair vs. RPI

WHO: RPI Engineers (10-6-3) at Miami RedHawks (5-9-2).

WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio.

WHEN: Saturday–7:05 p.m. Sunday–5:05 p.m.

RPI RADIO: WRPI (FM) 93.1, Troy, N.Y.

MIAMI RADIO: WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.; WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio.

NOTES: After a 27-day layoff, Miami opens the second half of its season today as it hopes to snap a 56-day winless streak.

The RedHawks are burdened with a six-game winless streak entering 2016, and they will host Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in an unusual Saturday-Sunday weekend series at Cady Arena.

RPI is also coming off an extended layoff of three weeks after sweeping Arizona State to improve to 10-6-3.

Like Miami, the Engineers have had one primary scorer and a secondary sniper, and the rest of the team has struggled to find the net. Riley Bourbonnais has 10 goals and seven assists for a team-best 17 points.

Jake Wood is second in goals (6) and points (11), and Mark Miller and Milos Bubela have netted four goals each.

After taking over in net, senior and Buffalo Sabres draftee Jason Kasdorf is 4-4-1, 2.04 with a .939 save percentage, and barring a blow up should be between the pipes both nights this weekend.

Miami won both games in 2014-15 in a series played at RPI.

The RedHawks are in seventh place in the NCHC, and while these games won’t help Miami get back into its league race, they can do wonders for the team’s PairWise status.

After a pair of losses at then second-last ranked Colorado College, the RedHawks’ ranking plummeted and is currently 27th.

Wins in these games certainly won’t correct Miami’s dismal start in NCHC play but they can certainly boost the RedHawks’ status both internally and in the PairWise.

The RedHawks will be without sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio, who is playing in the World Juniors in Finland. That leaves Miami with just seven defensemen on its roster, including F/D Michael Mooney.