St. Cloud State and Miami played two dynamic games in Oxford that saw the RedHawks rally to tie both nights against the top-ranked team in Division I.
That was two months ago, and it feels more like two years. MU is 0-7-1 since and is riding a 12-game winless streak.
The Huskies may have left points on the table when visiting Miami but SCSU has been unbeatable at home. St. Cloud State is 10-0 at the Herb Brooks Center and has outscored its opponents, 43-14 in its home rink.
BoB takes a look at the upcoming series between these teams:
WHO: Miami RedHawks (9-13-4) at No. 1 St. Cloud State Huskies (18-4-2).
WHERE: Herb Brooks Center (5,519), St. Cloud, Minn.
WHEN: Friday – 8:07 p.m.; Saturday – 7:07 p.m.
ST. CLOUD STATE RADIO: KZRV-FM (96.7) and KVSC-FM (88.1), St. Cloud, Minn.
MIAMI RADIO: WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
NOTES: We talked about this two months ago: Few teams in college hockey can match St. Cloud State’s offense.
The Huskies lead the conference in scoring, averaging 3.75 goals per game, and they haven’t fattened up against a few weak opponents. They’ve netted at least four in 15 of their 24 contests.
SCSU’s depth is the envy of the NCAA. Seven skaters are averaging at least three-quarters of a point per game and 12 have points totals in double figures.
Among forwards, Patrick Newell is in a four-way tie atop the NCHC scoring leaderboard with 25 points on 12 goals and 13 assists.
Senior Robbie Jackson has a 10-12-22 line after finishing 15-27-42 last season. He has 103 career points with the Huskies.
Freshman Nolan Walker has been a huge addition for St. Cloud State, netting six goals and adding 15 helpers, and Blake Lizotte has scored eight times while picking up 11 assists.
Ryan Poehling, a first-round pick of Montreal in 2017, has a 3-15-18 line, and Easton Brodzinski and Kevin Fitzgerald have scored 10 goals each.
Jimmy Schuldt and Jack Ahcan share the team lead in defensemen points with 20 each.
Nick Perbix, a Tampa draft pick, is having a stellar rookie season for the Huskies, going 1-10-11 with a plus-15 rating that is tied for tops on the team.
David Hrenak, a Los Angeles Kings selection, has logged 1,031 minutes but has a .902 save percentage, and Jeff Smith has a .918 save percentage, and he relieved Hrenak in SCSU’s most recent 5-1 loss at North Dakota.
St. Cloud State has excelled not only at staying out of the box but not allowing goals when it is shorthanded. The Huskies have surrendered just eight goals on the man advantage on only 77 chances.
It’s unclear who will start in net for Miami. Jordan Uhelski has started three of the last five games and has relieved Ryan Larkin in the other two.
Larkin has been the regular starting goalie most of the season but has allowed 19 goals in his last five outings, including the two in which he was pulled.
The RedHawks are hoping Josh Melnick will return to the lineup for this weekend’s series. The team’s leading scorer with 19 points has missed the last six games with a lower body injury, and Miami is 0-6 with him out.
OXFORD, Ohio – The last series Miami played against Minnesota-Duluth, the RedHawks were shut out on the road, 4-0 in the opener and 3-0 in the finale.
The No. 5 Bulldogs repeated that feat this weekend by identical scores.
After beating MU 4-0 on Friday, UMD reeled off its fourth straight shutout vs. Miami, 3-0 at Cady Arena on Saturday.
The RedHawks have not scored against UMD in 257:08.
Miami (9-11-4) played without both captains – Josh Melnick and Grant Hutton – and starting goalie Ryan Larkin watched the game from the bench.
The RedHawks’ winless streak has reached 10 games, with their last win coming over two months ago.
RECAP: Minnesota-Duluth (14-6-2) opened the scoring when Scott Perunovich tipped home a wrister from the blue line by Nick Swaney on the power play at the 17-minute mark of the first period.
Midway through the second frame, Miami was on a two-man advantage when the RedHawks’ Jonathan Gruden had a shot blocked and UMD’s Justin Richards went in for a breakaway but was hooked from behind by Derek Daschke, resulting in a penalty shot as one skater returned to the ice.
Richards scored, going backhand to the stick side to make it 2-0.
The Bulldogs sealed it 4:13 into the third period when Noah Cates stripped Casey Gilling, and the loose puck ended up on the stick of Swaney, who was all alone at the top of the crease for a slam-dunk goal.
STATS: Overall, Miami’s scoreless drought has reached 141:26. The RedHawks set a school record by being blanked for over 240 minutes in 2017-18, which included its shutout weekend at Duluth.
— The RedHawks finished with the same faceoff percentage both nights (.333). They went 18-36 in the circle in this game after struggled to a 20-40 mark on Friday.
— Miami slipped to 1-8-1 in January games dating back to last season and is 4-16-3 overall in the second half the past two campaigns.
— For over two months, the RedHawks have been in pursuit of win No. 10. They are 1-19-6 since 2016-17 going after that elusive 10th victory.
— MU dropped to 1-13-1 in its last 15 meetings with the Bulldogs.
THOUGHTS: Like Friday, Miami was buzzing in the first period despite its lack of star power, but once again a late first-period goal by Minnesota-Duluth completely deflated the RedHawks.
The two-man advantage-turned-shorthanded-rush-turned-penalty-shot also represented a major momentum swing in the game, since it was an excellent opportunity for Miami to tie the score that went horribly, horribly wrong.
From there, it was obvious that Bulldogs goalie Hunter Shepard wasn’t going to give up a pair of late goals, as he was outstanding in shutting Miami out for the fourth straight time.
— Hutton was given a game misconduct and not a disqualification on Friday, so the decision to sit him was on Miami’s coaching staff.
It was a bad penalty for sure and I have no problem scratching him for a game, especially with the team mired in a deep slump.
Hutton is an exceptional talent and a wonderful young man, but as a senior he hasn’t taken that step forward that we’ve seen elite NHLers-to-be often take their final season.
One pro scout said he hasn’t seen an urgency in his game this year. Sometimes even elite players need a wake-up call, and hopefully a night in the stands will rejuvenate Hutton.
No Hutton, no Melnick and no Larkin against the No. 5 team was a tall order for the RedHawks, but sometimes a shake-up is needed when a team is struggling.
— Melnick is battling a lower-body injury and Larkin was pulled after allowing four goals on 22 shots on Friday.
Hopefully Melnick will return next weekend.
— The current review process has to stop. It’s ruining games.
Everyone wants calls to be correct. But there has to be a limit.
A UMD player went down behind the play in this game. After the next whistle, the officials went under the headsets for several minutes to see if a penalty was warranted.
On Friday the officials went to the booth to decide Hutton’s penalty, even know everyone in the building knew he was getting 5-and-10.
Coach Enrico Blasi asked for a review on UMD’s goal, citing the puck might have gone out of play prior to it going in. The original no-call was upheld.
The best is when a goal is scored and there’s a review to see if the play was off-side a minute earlier.
You know, because in baseball when someone hits a home run, they go back to see if that ball one call really should’ve been a strike five pitches prior.
I give credit to college hockey for being open to rules changes to better the game (except shootouts, but that’s for another day), so I have one:
Give teams two timeouts instead of one. Challenge anything you want. If you’re wrong, you lose a timeout, as it is now.
But no other reviews except inside five minutes of the third period and overtime.
You hired a second ref for each game, let the officials do their jobs.
— It’s too bad the weather kept a large number of fans away on Saturday.
The roads were brutal after the game, and many smartly stayed home.
The attendance was listed as 2,018 but I suspect that includes season ticket holders who have paid for their seats. Actual attendance was closer to one thousand.
A large number at the rink were in town for the whole weekend anyway.
I can’t express how much I hate to name drop, especially when it’s someone I’ve never met with a name as prestigious and sensitive as his, but when conditions are poor I’ll always think of that series nine years ago when Brendan Burke was killed.
For those not in the know, Burke and his friend died in a car accident on horrible roads northwest of Oxford the day of a Friday game vs. Lake Superior State.
Burke, the team manager at the time and son of former NHL general manager Brian Burke, was a pioneer when he came out as openly gay months before the wreck, gaining national attention.
That weekend’s weather could’ve claimed any of us who traveled to Oxford for those games.
Burke died on a Friday, and the team didn’t find out until later that night, but its members did The Brotherhood proud by scoring seven goals the first 29 minutes of Saturday’s game against a ranked Lakers team in a 10-4 win.
Not a team on the planet, including the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, could’ve beaten Miami for that period and a half.
— Back to Friday for a second: Blasi was caught yelling at associate coach Peter Mannino on the bench early in the second period.
If there’s a disagreement between coaches, that’s something that needs to be handled in private at intermission, especially when a team is struggling as Miami clearly is.
LINEUP CHANGES: Andrew Sinard stepped in for Hutton, as the RedHawks are down to seven healthy defensemen.
Grant Frederic and Chaz Switzer are both out with lower body injuries.
Uhelski got the start for Larkin after the senior’s strong performance in the second half of Friday’s game and stopped 36 of 39 shots in the loss.
His save percentage is now .922. Larkin is at .923.
Noah Jordan also started up front for the fourth time this season as Carter Johnson was scratched.
FORWARDS: D-. An upgrade from ‘F’ on Friday only because they generated better shots and Shepard was outstanding, but seriously, 13 shots and zero goals?
DEFENSEMEN: C. Too many shots allowed and this corps did zilch offensively. But with Hutton out, Sinard seemed to thrive with more ice time and Alec Mahalak showcased his defensive talents more with the additional TOI available.
GOALTENDING: B+. Uhelski had zero chance on the first and third goals and the other was on a penalty shot.
STANDINGS: Miami has fallen to 29th in the PairWise and is in sixth place in the NCHC with a 3-7-2 record.
The RedHawks trail fifth-place North Dakota by six points and are seven out of fourth, which is the last home-ice spot for the league tournament.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s necessary to take a step back and realize that this was always going to be a rebuilding season.
After three straight sub-.500 seasons and a 7-2 start, this 0-6-4 skid feels like a Lucy-again-pulling-away-the-football moment, but it’s important to realize that success this season was always going to be a tall order.
With six non-seniors and both assistants leaving, the RedHawks pieced this team together in the summer, and still – still – at 9-11-4 have exceeded expectations.
It’s just frustrating to see Miami play so well against No. 1 St. Cloud for 120 minutes and then get manhandled by the fifth-ranked team seven weeks later.
What we’ve seen in four months of the 2018-19 is a major step ahead in the process toward being an NCAA contending team.
But as Minnesota-Duluth showed this weekend, the RedHawks still aren’t there. At least not right now.
Fortunately for Miami, there’s still plenty of season left to turn that around.
No set of euphemisms can shield the obvious: Minnesota-Duluth has owned Miami the past few seasons.
The Bulldogs are 11-1-1 vs. the RedHawks since the start of the 2016 calendar year and 15-4-2 vs. MU overall.
If there’s good news for Miami it’s that the lone win during its current drought vs. UMD came on home ice last season.
And the RedHawks have defended their home rink well this season, going 6-2-2 at Cady Arena.
BoB takes a look at the upcoming series between these teams:
WHO: No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (12-6-2) at Miami RedHawks (9-9-4).
WHERE: Cady Arena (3,642), Oxford, Ohio.
WHEN: Friday – 7:35 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.
UMD RADIO: KDAL-AM (610), Duluth, Minn.
MIAMI RADIO: WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
NOTES: Duluth is one of the best defensive teams in Division I.
The Bulldogs allow very few shots, and the overwhelming majority of those are snagged by goalie Hunter Shepard.
Minnesota-Duluth is tops in the conference in goals allowed (41) and seventh in the NCAA defensively at 2.05 goals against per game.
Opponents average just 23.0 shots, and the Bulldogs’ defense corps consists of five sophomores and a junior with another junior between the pipes.
Second-round pick Scott Perunovich leads all defensemen in points (18) and the entire team in assists (16).
Blueliners Nick Wolff, the lone junior in this corps, and Kings draftee Mikey Anderson also have offensive ability, as Wolff is 2-7-9 with 62 penalty minutes, and Anderson has scored three times.
Jets second-round pick Dylan Samberg, Louis Roehl and Matt Anderson round out Minnesota-Duluth’s top six on defense.
Shepard led the Bulldogs to the national championship last season by allowing just five goals in four NCAA Tournament contests. He posted a 1.91 goals-against average in 2017-18 and is at 1.92 this season.
Shepard’s GAA is eighth-best in college hockey and he has a save percentage of .916. He has played all but 16 minutes in net for Minnesota-Duluth this season.
Up front, Justin Richards’ emergence has been a major storyline for the Bulldogs. He leads the team with 12 assists and 19 points, and he has also scored seven times, including a pair of game winners.
The sophomore had zero goals in 44 games last season and finished with nine helpers.
Parker Mackay is team captain and one of the top two-way players in the conference. He has a Bulldogs-best eight goals plus eight assists for 16 points.
Only three other UMD forwards have 10 or more points. Senior Peter Krieger is 2-12-14, Wild draft pick Nick Swaney has six goals and six assists, and Tampa Bay selection Cole Koepke has a pair of markers and eight helpers.
Minnesota-Duluth has two more NHL draft picks among its forwards. Riley Tuftes was Dallas’ first-round choice in 2016, and Noah Cates was taken by Philadelphia in 2017.
They have identical 5-3-8 lines.
The Bulldogs are the top penalty killing team in Division I at 92.0 percent, as they have surrendered just six power play goals.
This weekend series is the front half of a four-game homestand for Miami, which is mired in an eight-game winless streak.
With their record at .500 for the first time this season, the RedHawks need to start winning games if they hope to earn home ice in the NCHC Tournament and eventually qualify for the national championship tournament.
Gordie Green is starting to heat up, which is great news for Miami, as he has scored three goals in three games.
Grant Hutton has four points in four games and Brian Hawkinson recorded points in both contests last weekend.
Co-captain Josh Melnick missed both games last weekend with a lower body injury, and there’s no certainty he will play in this series.
Goalie Ryan Larkin did not play the finale in Kalamazoo last week but is expected to play against UMD.
Once again No. 20 Miami felt short by the slimmest of margins.
The RedHawks lost by one for the second straight night, 3-2 at No. 14 Western Michigan on Saturday after dropping a one-goal decision the night before.
Miami (9-9-4) fell to the .500 mark for the first time since the start of the season and are winless in their last eight, going 0-4-4.
Matthias Samuelsson fired in the game winner from the high slot early in the third period after Western Michigan had taken two previous one-goal leads, only to have Miami answer both times.
The RedHawks were without standout Josh Melnick for the second straight night, and regular starting goalie Ryan Larkin also did not play.
RECAP: Western Michigan (13-6-1) won an offensive zone faceoff and Cole Gallant dropped a pass to Josh Passolt, who whipped it past Miami goalie Jordan Uhelski 2:12 into the game.
The RedHawks tied it with 5:43 left in the opening frame when Ben Lown skated in on the right wing and centered a pass that hit a skate and caromed to Derek Daschke, who was wide open in the slot and slammed it home.
With 6:51 left in the middle stanza, Colt Conrad fed Passolt on a 2-on-1 for a one-timer that put Western Michigan back on top, 2-1.
Miami again pulled even when a 2-on-1 became a 2-on-0 as the Broncos’ lone defender, Cam Lee, blew a tire in his defensive zone. Jonathan Gruden took a pass from Brian Hawkinson and after his initial shot was denied, he poked it past goalie Trevor Gorsuch with 1:26 remaining in the second period.
But Western Michigan regained the lead for good as a well-placed wrister by Samuelsson from between the faceoff circles beat Uhelski with 14:35 left in regulation.
STATS: Passolt scored twice and finished the weekend 3-1-4 as he is almost certainly on his way to a weekly league award.
— Lown ended the night with a team-best two points, both on assists for his first multi-helper game of the season and the second of his career.
— Daschke scored for the fourth time this season, tying him with Grant Hutton for the team lead among defensemen, and Gruden’s goal was his second of the season, as he has four points in his last six games.
— Opponents have scored against the RedHawks in 13 straight periods.
— Both teams had three power plays but only 2:11 of time on the man-advantage. That’s because twice after Miami took penalties, WMU was whistled for a minor of its own within seconds.
So it’s a rough 0-for-3 for both teams.
THOUGHTS: Miami didn’t play badly at all, especially considering it was in a hostile arena against the hottest team in Division I, but once again the win didn’t come.
WMU deserves a lot of credit for the weekend sweep, as the Broncos are flat-out impressive in every aspect, and it’s easy to see why they’re second in the NCHC.
Western Michigan was ranked No. 14 coming into this weekend and was unbeaten in its previous eight. Make that 10 now and watch that ranking go up on Monday.
— Daschke’s line was impressive enough – one goal, six shots, three blocks, only Miami skater with a plus-rating – but he was a defensive menace to WMU all game, poking loose pucks away and getting his stick in the way of passes. Plays well beyond his 22 collegiate games.
— Speaking of defensemen, River Rymsha was a standout in this game by laying out a couple of huge hits and playing great shut-down defense.
Rymsha’s father, Andy Rymsha, was interviewed on CBS College Sports during Friday’s game. Andy Rymsha played for Western Michigan and logged six NHL games with the Quebec Nordiques.
— Hutton has stepped his level up the past few games at both ends of the ice. He has four assists in his last four games and has played better in his own end as well.
— Uhelski in net was a major surprise. Was this a message to the team that it was too reliant on Larkin to make big saves, or are they pacing Larkin, who has already logged roughly 5,000 minutes as a RedHawk and been banged up several times during his Miami career?
Uhelski made a phenomenal save on a breakaway and was solid overall.
— Melnick remained out with a lower body injury. Hopefully it will not linger into the upcoming four-game homestand.
— Win No. 10 has been a major hurdle for this program the past few seasons. Miami is 1-17-6 in its last 24 games chasing its 10th win.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just Uhelski for Larkin. Uhelski stopped 30 of 33 shots.
Coach Enrico Blasi likes to have his lineups pretty well set around this point of the season, and with the exception of Melnick and Larkin, this looks like the 20 he will head into the stretch run with.
STANDINGS: Miami dropped to sixth in the conference at 3-5-2, leading just Omaha and Colorado College.
The RedHawks slipped to No. 26 in the PairWise, which determines which teams earn at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. Miami would need to climb to 14th or better to warrant consideration.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Despite a lot of the positives surrounding the program, the winless streak is becoming unwieldy.
The RedHawks are at .500 for the first time since opening night, which isn’t going to get them into the NCAA Tournament, regardless of how difficult their league schedule is.
The effort is there, the passion is there, the process is there, and while those are all great things, the wins still need to be there at the end of the season or else this team will once again be done playing by St. Patrick’s Day.
Because these teams met at the Ice Breaker, Miami and Providence will face each other a total of three times this regular season.
The Friars blanked the RedHawks, 4-0 the second week of the season in Erie and have dominated Miami in recent history, going 7-1-2 in the last 10 matchups.
These will be the first regular season contests for the RedHawks in 34 days, and MU has not recorded a win since Nov. 17.
WHO: No. 16 Miami RedHawks (9-6-3) at No. 10 Providence Friars (11-4-3).
WHERE: Schneider Arena (3,030), Providence, R.I.
WHEN: Friday – 7:05 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.
MIAMI RADIO: WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
PROVIDENCE RADIO: WHJJ-FM (104.7), Providence, R.I.
PROVIDENCE VIDEO STREAM: https://friars.com/watch/?Live=69&type=Live
NOTES: Providence is No. 10 in the NCAA in scoring and fourth in defense.
The Friars have won four straight games and are unbeaten in their last six.
And they’ve already dominated Miami once on neutral ice.
So the RedHawks face the difficult task of opening the second half on the home ice of a team that has lost just one of its last 10 meetings with Miami.
Providence averages 3.61 goals per game and has six forwards and a pair of defensemen with at least 10 points.
Up front, Josh Wilkins has six goals and leads the team with 15 assists and 21 points, and he is 4-10-14 during his current eight-game points streak.
Six-feet, two-inch freshman Jay Dugan is second in scoring with 19 points, including seven goals. Las Vegas drafted him in the fifth round in 2018.
Pittsburgh Penguins second-rounder Kasper Bjorkqvist leads the team in goals with nine, including four on the power play, and he has 18 points overall.
Brandon Duhaime and Scott Conway have been major contributors among the forward corps as well, posting 16 points and seven goals, respectively.
Jacob Bryson leads Providence blueliners in points with 14, including three goals, and Spenser Young has six goals – with a team-best five on the man advantage – from the back end.
Young picked up two of those tallies vs. the RedHawks in October.
Defensemen Vincent Desharnais, Ben Mirageas and Michael Callahan all have identical 1-5-6 lines, and along with Davis Bunz, Friars blueliners have helped hold opponents to just 22.7 shots per game.
Montreal draftee Hayden Hawkey has been in net for 17 of Providence’s first 18 games, logging 1,022 minutes and racking up 11 wins. He has a goals-against average of 1.88 and owns a .916 save percentage.
The Friars have outscored opponents, 65-34 this season and have allowed just five goals in their last five games.
Both Phil Knies and Ryan Larkin played in Miami’s exhibition on Sunday and looked 100 percent, so they should be in the lineup this weekend, giving the team a major boost.
Knies had missed six games with an upper-body injury and Larkin was knocked out of the RedHawks’ opener vs. St. Cloud State on Nov. 30 and did not play the following night.
Josh Melnick enters this series riding a five-game points streak, during which he has a pair of markers and four assists. Melnick is two points away from being the 52nd Miamian to record 100 career points.
Casey Gilling has been MU’s best goal threat since mid-November, scoring four times in his last seven contests.
Despite its recent struggles vs. Providence, Miami did win its last game at Schneider Arena, 3-1 on Oct. 8, 2016.
And MU was excellent in the first 10 minutes of its initial meeting with the PC three months ago, but a couple of soft goals for the Friars swung the momentum hard in their favor.
The RedHawks are 2-3-1 all-time on the Friars’ home ice.
OXFORD, Ohio – After more than 50 minutes of scoreless hockey, Miami struck for a pair of goals in 18 seconds.
That surge, capped off by an empty netter in the closing seconds, paced the No. 16 RedHawks’ 3-1 win over the University of Guelph in an exhibition game at Cady Arena on Sunday.
Ryan Siroky and Christian Mohs broke through midway through the third period to give Miami the lead, and after a late marker by Guelph, Derek Daschke was awarded a goal as he was hooked on a breakaway while the Gryphons had an extra attacker on the ice.
It was the first contest in 29 days for Miami, which opens the second half of its regular season schedule at Providence this weekend.
RECAP: In real time, there was no scoring in this game for about two and a half hours.
A pane of glass broke behind the Zamboni end goal midway through the first period, and the rink crew was unable to replace it, so the remainder of the period was played with some type of wood plugging the hole.
To give ample time to replace the glass, the first intermission was 30 minutes.
Not surprisingly, there was little flow to this game early.
Siroky finally snapped the tie at 10:22 of the third period when he crashed the net and banged home a rebound off a shot by Karch Bachman that handcuffed Gryphons goalie Andrew Masters.
Eighteen seconds later, Ben Lown fed Mohs with a cross-ice pass in the offensive zone, and Mohs zig-zagged to the net and backhanded one home to make it 2-0.
A rip from the high slot by Guelph’s Mark Raycroft snuck inside the near post with 3:21 left in regulation, but Daschke was badly hooked on a breakaway in the neutral zone and was awarded a goal with one second to play.
STATS: Ryan Larkin played the first 32 minutes in net for Miami and stopped all eight shots he faced. Reliever Jordan Uhelski was 8-for-9.
No RedHawk had multiple points.
Bachman led the team with five shots and Scott Corbett ended the night with four.
Miami outshot the Gryphons, 15-6 in the third period after leading in that department by a slim margin – 18-13 – the first 40 minutes.
THOUGHTS: It was a strange night at the rink.
Can’t ever say I’ve seen not-glass replace glass along the boards. Definitely have never seen a double intermission.
And the Guelph goalie storyline was unusual: Masters was a RedHawk for one season but did not see game action, so this was actually his first start at Cady Arena.
He was arguably the best player on the ice for either team, stopping 30 of 32 shots in a game he’ll likely never forget.
— Miami was flat in the first period, had a strong stretch early in the second period and really took it to Guelph in the third.
Overall, the RedHawks looked like a team that had not played in 29 days dealing with major play interruptions. Because they were.
So what to take from this one?
— Phil Knies returned after missing six games with an upper body injury, and he was solid.
Knies has 12 goals in a season and a half and can kill penalties, so his presence in the lineup gives Miami a major upgrade up front.
— Larkin also missed most of the St. Cloud State weekend after absorbing hard contact in his own crease, but he was sharp in a period and a half.
— Miami dressed 22 of its 24 skaters, and the only two off the lineup sheet were Bray Crowder and Jonathan Gruden. It doesn’t sound like there is cause for concern over either being scratched.
— We documented the RedHawks’ slow start in this one – and having four extra skaters splitting up ice time, new line combinations, etc., also played a role – Miami has not exactly torn it up in the first period recently.
A higher-skilled opponent would’ve buried a couple of its chances in the first period of this one and put the RedHawks in a hole.
LINEUP CHANGES: Chaz Switzer, Grant Frederic and Noah Jordan have seen the least ice time this season among Miami skaters and all dressed.
Neither Crowder nor Gruden have missed a regular season game this season.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Not much to see here other than some weird stuff with the ice and Knies and Larkin back on the ice and looking good.
Miami’s welcome to the second half of the season is a road series at No. 10 Providence, a team that will punish the RedHawks if they haven’t fully shaken off the holiday rust.
Especially considering the state of the Miami hockey program in mid-March, the first half of the 2018-19 season has to be considered a major success.
Following the RedHawks’ third straight first-round exit from the NCHC Tournament and subsequent dismissal of both assistant coaches, Miami received zero consideration as a preseason top 20 and was picked to finish last in its conference.
But the No. 16 RedHawks have stuck it to critics, as they enter the back half of their regular season schedule three games over .500, their best pre-January mark in four years.
The two coldest-weather months have been problematic for Miami in recent seasons, choc with top-10 in-conference matchups and long road trips.
Miami by month
The RedHawks are 8-24-5 after New Year’s the past two seasons – a paltry .284 winning percentage – including 2-15-4 (.190) on the road.
BoB takes a look at five things Miami needs to do to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
1. Better special teams. The RedHawks are in the bottom half of the NCAA in both power play and penalty kills, with a 16.4 percent efficiency rate on the man advantage and a 79.4 percent PK clip. They have just four PPGs in their last eight games and are just 14 of 21 on penalty kills their last five contests (66.7 percent). Miami has tried pretty much every one of its skaters on the man-advantage and still needs to improve its chemistry.
2. Less time in the defensive zone. Teams have set up camp in Miami’s third of the ice at times and obviously it’s counterproductive to have your best players chasing the puck in their own zone for a minute or more.
3. Better road play. The RedHawks are a stellar 6-2-2 at Cady Arena but are 2-3-1 on opponents’ campuses and 1-1 on neutral ice. And with the exception of Providence, those road foes were not among college hockey’s elite – Colorado College, New Hampshire and Omaha plus Mercyhurst in its home city. Miami has scored just 18 goals in eight games away from Oxford. And we documented the RedHawks’ recent road struggles in the second half above.
4. Cut out the major penalties. The NCAA has made its point: The bar for five-and-a-game has dropped significantly, and three guys who are not cheap-shot artists in the least have all been booted from games this season.
5. Avoid major skids. Last season it was a 1-9-1 stretch. In 2016-17 Miami endured both 10- and 11-game winless streaks. An 0-6-1 span doomed 2015-16. Those types of streaks are season killers, so the RedHawks must have a thicker skin than in past seasons when facing adversity.
Now, five reasons to be optimistic about MU’s second half:
1. Effort. This team does not quit, and there’s no reason to believe it will during the stretch run of the regular season. That attribute was exemplified during Miami’s last series, a pair of ties vs. No. 1 St. Cloud State during which the RedHawks fell behind by one goal six times and rallied to even the score each time. Karch Bachman has been one of the leaders in this area, as he has parlayed his game-changing speed with a suburb compete level, resulting in him leading the team in goals with seven and generating multiple scoring chances almost every game.
2. Goaltending. Throw out last season’s numbers for Ryan Larkin. He was voted team MVP as a freshman and is even better in 2018-19, boasting a 1.89 goals-against average and .936 save percentage – which is five whole percent better than his sophomore year when he finished at .886. Part of the credit belongs to Jordan Uhelski, who has performed well when called upon and was a game saver in both ends of the St. Cloud State series. Uhelski has a .915 save percentage but as importantly the graduate senior has also helped push Larkin, who did not have a similar foil last season.
3. Freshmen are improving. Derek Daschke is clearly the freshman MVP of the first three months of the season, as he leads that class in points (3-9-12) and has been exceptional in his own end as well. And he continues to improve on seemingly a nightly basis. Scott Corbett is thriving in his grinding role while wielding a quality shot that has netted him three goals, and he stood out vs. SCSU. Same with Brian Hawkinson, who is 1-6-7 and has been a better forward than those stats indicate. Monte Graham is a faceoff stud and is starting to demonstrate skills in other areas. Big D-men Bray Crowder and Andrew Sinard also seem to be adapting to the college game. Jonathan Gruden (1-6-7) is raw but has tons of upside and could take off once the calendar flips.
4. A healthy Knies? Phil Knies suffered an upper body injury at Cady Arena on Nov. 10, so Knies should be nearing a return. The sophomore will have missed seven weeks by the time the second half starts with the puck drop in Providence. Knies has been a critical part of Miami’s offense, scoring 11 times as a freshman and posting three goals in 12 games this season.
5. The defense corps is deeper. Daschke’s presence is huge, and River Rymsha has been a pleasant surprise, forcing himself onto the lineup card each night with his impressive two-way play. Crowder has dressed for all 18 games, and Sinard has seen the ice six of the last seven games. With sophomores Rourke Russell and Alec Mahalak earning regular spots, that has severely curtailed the number of starts for Chaz Switzer and Grant Frederic, who were decent five and six defensemen last season. Of course, standout and captain Grant Hutton leads this corps with a skill set that will likely land him in the NHL within two years.
Now, the schedule…
After a Sunday exhibition vs. the University of Guelph (Ont.), Miami heads to No. 10 Providence. The RedHawks were already shut out by the Friars on neutral ice in October. Then it’s off the Kalamazoo to face No. 17 Western Michigan.
Back home for a pair against Colorado College and two vs. No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth.
Miami then heads to No. 1 St. Cloud State, followed by a home series vs. Omaha before its one off week of the second half.
The final three series? At No. 8 Denver, at No. 4 UMD, home vs. No. 17 WMU.
A look at the final 18 regular season games:
|Jan. 4||at Providence||7:00|
|Jan. 5||at Providence||7:00|
|Jan. 11||at W. Michigan||7:00|
|Jan. 12||at W. Michigan||7:00|
|Jan. 25||COLO. COLLEGE||7:35|
|Jan. 26||COLO. COLLEGE||7:05|
|Feb. 1||at St. Cloud State||8:07|
|Feb. 2||at St. Cloud State||7:07|
|Feb. 22||at Denver||9:07|
|Feb. 23||at Denver||9:07|
|March 1||at Minn.-Duluth||8:07|
|March 2||at Minn.-Duluth||8:07|
|March 8||W. MICHIGAN||7:35|
The NCHC standings…
All eight teams have played eight out of 24 league games, or one-third of their conference slate, and Miami is currently tied with Denver for that all-important fourth spot.
The four spot is crucial because it’s the final home-ice slot for the NCHC Tournament. Miami has not hosted a league tournament series since 2015 but has a legitimate shot this winter.
|St. Cloud State||8||6||0||2||1||21|
Miami played well overall the first half of 2018-19, better than many expected.
The challenge of course is for the RedHawks to sustain that level of success during their annual murderer’s row of opponents in the winter months.
But heading into the pressure cooker three games over .500 and playing with the type of intensity Miami has exuded the first three months, returning to the NCAAs is now a real possibility.
OXFORD, Ohio – Four times Miami fell behind by a goal, and each time the RedHawks generated the equalizer against the top-ranked team in Division I.
Casey Gilling netted the tying goal as MU salvaged a 4-4 draw vs. No. 1 St. Cloud State at Cady Arena on Friday despite neither leading nor trailing by more than one.
The Huskies (11-1-1) did earn the extra conference point by winning the single-round shootout.
Making the tie even more impressive is goalie Ryan Larkin was injured midway through the first period and RedHawks (9-6-2) finished with backup Jordan Uhelski in net.
RECAP: It was an eventful first period, with both teams scoring three times including once each in the opening 77 seconds.
Robby Jackson put SCSU ahead at the 1:08 mark when he fired a shot from the slot that tricked through Larkin and across the goal line. Originally the call was no call, so play continued, but after the next whistle the play was reviewed a ruled a good goal.
Nine seconds later, Scott Corbett drove to the high slot and appeared to have his shot deflect off a defender’s stick and past goalie Jeff Smith on the glove side.
Josh Melnick won the center-ice draw and Gordie Green sprung Corbett loose by seizing the puck along the boards in traffic.
Jackson put St. Cloud ahead three minutes later when he ripped one from the high slot over the shoulder of Larkin on the power play.
An errant defensive-zone pass by the Huskies from the behind the net slid through the slot to a wide-open Monte Graham, who unloaded for the shorthanded tying goal to make it 2-2 just 80 seconds after St. Cloud State had regained the lead.
The Huskies ahead took a one-goal lead when Patrick Newell fed a pass through both Miami defensemen to Sam Hentges for a one-time rip from the inside edge of the faceoff circle with 6:26 left in the opening frame.
And once again Miami answered, as Gordie Green flipped a two-line pass that was chased by Karch Bachman, who took control of it at the blue line, took two strides and went top shelf just under the far crossbar from the left wing with 2:20 remaining in the first stanza.
The score remained 3-3 until late in the second period when Newell skated in along the left wing boards, cut to center ice – beating two Miami defenders in the process – and backhanding one in to give the Huskies the lead.
Gilling leveled it at four when he intercepted a clearing attempt, passed to himself on the near boards and whipped a bad-angle shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle with 7:06 remaining.
The remainder of regulation, the five-minute 5-on-5 overtime and the five-minute 3-on-3 session did not produce a goal for either side, and the Huskies picked up the third league point on a Jon Lizotte shootout goal after Gilling was denied on this attempt.
STATS: Green led Miami with two points, both on assists, giving him five multi-point games this season, and this was his second time with at least a pair of helpers.
— It was the first career goal for Graham, and the third in six games for Gilling after he was held scoreless through the first 11.
— Bachman has four markers in his last six contests as he moved into solo control of first on the team with seven.
— Melnick extended his points streak to a team-high four games, and he is 2-3-5 in that stretch. That gives him 98 for his career, with 34 goals and 64 assists.
— Uhelski finished with a RedHawks career-high 31 saves despite coming on in relief. He had three previous starts for Miami but had never stopped more than 24.
— Miami ended the game 0-for-3 on the power play and killed off just one of three SCSU chances. However, the RedHawks did notch a shorthanded goal.
— Despite not winning, St. Cloud State dominated in a couple of key areas. The Huskies were 48-22 on faceoffs and led on the shot counter, 44-30 including 32-17 in the first 40 minutes.
Miami actually led in SOG the final 25 minutes, 13-12.
Here’s the difference in shots: SCSU blocked 22, the RedHawks just eight. Jimmy Schuldt of the Huskies rejected seven himself.
THOUGHTS: Although Miami fell short of a win, this is a huge boost for the program.
Although the process for a young hockey team is more important than the results, the result was a tie vs. the No. 1 team in college hockey three months after conference media slated the RedHawks the worst team in the league.
And the way Miami did it showed the process is working.
The RedHawks weren’t as talented as St. Cloud State, not as deep, not as fast, not as skilled at puck possession.
Miami was shorthanded three times in the first period and lost its starting goalie to an injury less than 10 minutes in. Yet every time the Huskies found the net, the RedHawks answered.
A minute in SCSU scored. Nine seconds later, tie game. Then a minute after the second goal, same. A third time later in the period, all while seemingly nothing was going the RedHawks’ way.
The process has put the team at the threshold of being a really good team just nine months after Miami Marchmageddon.
It’s not just that the RedHawks tied the No. 1 team in the NCAA, playing for the ninth straight weekend, it’s that they are playing the game the right way. Playing physical, battling for pucks along the boards, taking smart angles defensively, getting solid efforts from goaltenders every night.
Playing to the final whistle regardless of the score.
Miami is very close to becoming a power player in this league again.
— Uhelski. Had to come off the bench cold after Larkin’s injury, and all he did was turn 31 of 33 shots aside including back-to-back point-blank chances at the top of the crease and a handful of others on high-percentage shots.
He also shut down a third-period breakaway.
Even when he’s not playing, he’s contributing by pushing Larkin, who didn’t have tons of competition for the starting job in 2017-18.
Larkin’s save percentage last season was just .886. It’s now .935. Uhelski’s is .910.
— Bachman. It’s one of greatest pleasures of following a college hockey team for a number of years: Watching players improve.
Karch Bachman’s stock seems to rise by astounding intervals every night. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a player visibly progress on a night-to-night basis at Bachman’s current rate.
On one shift, he gained the offensive zone with his speed, then when the puck ended up in his corner, he drove an opponent off of it by burying him along the boards, resulting in a sustained attack by the RedHawks.
He’s never been overly physical but it has seemed natural to him recently.
We’re watching the Florida Panthers draft pick develop into a serious force in the NCHC.
— This was one of Jonathan Gruden’s best games. Against the very best in D-I, he got the play started on the Bachman goal. His passing, which has resulted in a number of turnovers early, was extremely accurate and his stick handling was impressive.
— So how about Coach Enrico Blasi holding court with both referees at the beginning of the second period? It actually delayed the start, but the power plays were 3-0 SCSU, with St. Cloud scoring twice on the power play, and a couple of clear penalties against the Huskies were not whistled?
Fantastic move. The result: Zero power plays for St. Cloud the final 45 minutes, three for Miami.
FORWARDS: A-. The top three lines all scored, and Graham added an SHG. And Graham was solid beyond his 4-on-5 goal. Liked the way the lower lines battled in this game. Negatives? Gilling had a chance to clear a puck that ultimately resulted in a St. Cloud goal. Faceoff rate of under .333 is unacceptable.
DEFENSEMEN: C+. The Huskies moved the puck extremely well and it seemed like this corps was slow to react at times. A pass on the third goal got through both Rourke Russell and Grant Hutton, and Bray Crowder was beaten at the blue line, helping the Huskies notch their final tally.
GOALTENDING: B+. Larkin should’ve stopped one of the first two St. Cloud goals but faced 11 shots in under 10 minutes, including a handful of high-quality chances. Uhelski had little chance on his two goals against and he was brilliant otherwise. As mentioned above, he denied a point-blank chance and the ensuing rebound plus shut down a late breakaway.
LINEUP CHANGES: D Andrew Sinard was back in for Chaz Switzer, and up front Christian Mohs took the place of Zach LaValle.
Mohs’ play has improved and he is making a case for regular playing time. He has dressed eight times in 17 games this season.
Sinard was the extra skater and has been in the lineup four of Miami’s last five games. Blasi has kept his ice time down.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a fun game to watch, hopefully one of many we’ll see at Cady Arena the balance of the season.
Seeing St. Cloud State live for the first time, it’s easy to understand why it’s No. 1 in the NCAA. But Miami deserved the tie as much as the Huskies did.
The RedHawks wouldn’t quit, which is becoming a theme with this team.
Win or lose, Miami plays hard for 60 minutes, or in this case 65. Or 70 counting the 3-on-3.
Regardless of the game length, the RedHawks Version 2018-19 certainly battle from start to finish.
That’s a major reason Miami is carrying an above-.500 record into December for the first time in four years, which was same season the RedHawks carried a No. 1 seed into the NCAA Tournament.
The last time Miami faced St. Cloud State was the first round of the NCHC Tournament, and despite being outmanned and playing on the road, the RedHawks not only took the Huskies to Game 3 but forced overtime.
MU finished 1-4 vs. SCSU last season and the Huskies enter this weekend riding a six-game winning streak and No. 1 ranking.
BoB takes a look at the upcoming series between these teams:
WHO: No. 1 St. Cloud State Huskies (11-1) at Miami RedHawks (9-6-1).
WHERE: Cady Arena (3,642), Oxford, Ohio.
WHEN: Friday – 7:35 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 17-16-2.
LAST SEASON: St. Cloud went 4-1. SCSU swept its two-game series in Oxford and won 2 of 3 in a home opening-round NCHC series.
MIAMI RADIO: Both nights – WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
ST. CLOUD STATE RADIO: Both nights – KZRV-FM (96.7).
NOTES: St. Cloud State enters this weekend as the lone unbeaten team in conference play (4-0) as well as the NCHC leader in goals, goals allowed and winning percentage.
The Huskies average 4.25 goals, second-best in the NCAA, and they are tied for second in goals against average at 1.83.
Senior Patrick Newell leads the team in goals (8) and points (15) as he hones in on triple digits for his career.
Three Huskies are tied for second in points with 13, including Montreal draftee Ryan Poehling (3-10-13). Ryan Jackson has an identical line, and Robby Jackson is 5-8-13.
A pair of standout defensemen, Jack Ahcan and Jimmy Schuldt, have 12 points each, and Blake Lizotte has 11.
In net, Los Angeles draft pick Dave Hrenak has played eight games, going 7-0 with a 2.13 goals-against average despite a pedestrian .907 save percentage.
Jeff Smith has excelled in relief, posting a 1.26 GAA and .948 save percentage.
Miami has been limited to 12 goals in its last six games, with Josh Melnick and Karch Bachman accounting for three each.
Ryan Larkin is the favorite to start both games between the pipes for the RedHawks.
New Hampshire lived up to its MO, and Miami seems to be adopting it as well.
The Wildcats played in their sixth overtime game of the season and the No. 19 RedHawks – who had seen all of their first 13 games decided in regulation – went to an extra session for the second consecutive contest in a 3-3 tie at Whittemore Center on Friday.
Earning a tie for the fifth time in 11 games this season, New Hampshire (1-5-5) salvaged the draw thanks to a 6-on-5 backhander by Liam Blackburn off a feed by Eric Esposito with 33 seconds left in regulation.
Nine different players recorded points for Miami. The series finale is at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
RECAP: The first three goals of the game were scored in a 4:23 window.
New Hampshire took the lead at the eight-minute mark when Matt Dawson tipped in a bad-angle shot.
Just 71 seconds later, the RedHawks (9-5-1) tied it on a goal by Josh Melnick, who belted home a rebound which caromed off the end boards off a blast by River Rymsha.
The Wildcats regained the lead on the power play with 7:37 left to play in the opening stanza as Angus Crookshank cashed in on a rebound chance off a shot by Patrick Grasso.
Miami had a would-be tying goal waved off as it was ruled that Karch Bachman interfered with the goalie as Casey Gilling connected.
But Bachman tied it at two when he wired one from the inside of the faceoff circle over the shoulder of UNH goalie Ty Taylor 2:34 into the third period.
Ninety-four seconds later, Ben Lown deposited home a loose puck in the slot off a shot by Brian Hawkinson that was blocked as Miami took its first and only lead of the night.
But Blackburn’s pitch-fork backhander evened the score, and despite three shots by each team in overtime, the game ended in a tie.
STATS: Nine players picked up points for Miami, the maximum possible with a three-goal output.
Bachman has scored three goals in four games and leads the team with six overall. Melnick has picked up 12 points in his last nine contests.
— The RedHawks were outshot for the sixth straight game and have seen opponents pile up 62 more SOG in that span or nearly nine per game.
THOUGHTS: It’s always tough to see a win slip away in the final minute and that has happened to Miami far too often in recent years.
It makes it worse considering the RedHawks had rallied from one down to take the lead earlier in the third period.
In MU’s defense, this is the first time this season the team has seen a win slip away due to a late opponent’s goal, and the RedHawks won in overtime last weekend and pulled out a 2-1 win over UMass-Lowell late after trailing 1-0 heading into the final 20 minutes.
— Overall, UNH had the better chances and finished with a 37-28 edge in shots on goal. This is the RedHawks’ eighth straight weekend of games, including four road trips and a flight to Colorado Springs last week.
One starts to wonder if Miami needs a weekend off. It gets several after St. Cloud visits Oxford next Friday and Saturday.
— Carter Johnson seems to be working his way back to his late 2017-18 form. The RedHawks can use all of the offensive weapons they can get.
— Amazing how much better Melnick is on the power play this season. He was 14-6 (.700) in the circle in this game.
Had never watched a game on YouTube before, but the picture was surprisingly clear. There was only one announcer who is clearly still learning his craft, and the replays were limited but another medium for college hockey games should be welcomed.
LINEUP CHANGES: Miami seems to like using seven defensemen, as Andrew Sinard dressed for the fourth straight game as the extra skater.
With Larkin a staple in net, the only changes the RedHawks have been making have been up front. Johnson was back after missing three games, and Zach LaValle was also back on the ice.
Noah Jordan and Christian Mohs, both of whom dressed last Saturday, were scratched.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Considering that scoring depth is not Miami’s strong suit this season, the RedHawks have not been afraid to play up-tempo, which has made for exciting games.
These teams both had a lot of high-quality chances and Ryan Larkin is better than most at keeping those out of the net.
The tie was not the desired outcome considering Miami had battled back to take the lead in the third period, but a Saturday win would give the RedHawks a 1-0-1 weekend and 10-5-1 mark heading into their final first-half series.
MU would have to consider five games over .500 a successful first two months.