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Win lifts Miami to third at Ice Breaker

ERIE, Pa. – Miami couldn’t get a single shot past Providence on Friday.

But it took just 29 seconds for Karch Bachman to generate a goal for the RedHawks on Saturday as they beat Mercyhurst, 3-0 in the third-place game of the Ice Breaker Tournament at Erie Insurance Arena.

Miami forward Karch Bachman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“That’s huge,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “You’ve got to score first – that’s one thing that you want to try to do in a game because all in the sudden now you’re playing on your toes and not your heels.”

Bachman accelerated through a pair of Lakers defenders, went in alone and buried a forehand shot on the glove side in the opening minute to open the scoring.

That was all the offense Miami (3-1) needed, as goalie Ryan Larkin turned 21 shots aside to earn his second shutout in three starts this season, which is already a career high. The junior now has four perfect sheets for his career, with one each his freshman and sophomore years.

Ahead by one, Ryan Siroky carried the puck around the back of the Mercyhurst net and stuffed the wraparound into the net to make it 2-0 with 13:51 left in the second period.

In the final minute of the middle stanza, Phil Knies stole the puck from a Mercyhurst (0-2-1) skater at center ice, went in alone and slid a backhander through the five hole of goalie Stefano Cantali.

Miami’s Ryan Siroky (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“I would say maybe a little undisciplined today, so we had to kill some penalties, still trying to understand how to manage the game in certain areas,” Blasi said. “I think that comes with some youth – but I thought for the most part our effort and our structure was pretty good.”

Historically, Bachman and Siroky have not been huge goal scorers but both are off to hot starts.

Bachman, a junior, netted two goals as a freshman and six last season, but his breakaway tally was his team-leading third marker of 2018-19. Siroky is second on the team behind Bachman with two tallies in four games this campaign after the senior found the net just seven times his first three seasons.

Miami goalie Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Despite scoring three times, Miami was credited with just one assist, with Christian Mohs notching his first point of the season on Siroky’s goal. Bachman and Knies both scored unassisted.

Larkin has made 61 saves on 64 shots (.953), an encouraging sign after last season when his save percentage was just .886.

“I thought he struggled with a couple shots (vs. Providence) – or at least one for sure – but he made good saves today,” Blasi said. “Top of his crease was solid, and he played the puck well. It’s there, he just has to make sure he stays focused.”

The RedHawks were 0-for-4 on the power play and finished the weekend without a man-advantage goal despite 11 opportunities. After netting a pair of PPGs in its opener, MU has failed to cash on in 14 chances over the last three games.

Conversely, Miami’s penalty kill was 6-for-6 and has allowed just one power play goal this season. Bachman took a spearing major in the second period and was ejected.

“We had a lot of good chances on the power play, but right now it’s just not going in for us,” Blasi said. “But our PK did a great job and sometimes you’re going to have to play games like that.”

This is the first time the RedHawks have won three of their first four games since 2014-15, and Blasi said he is pleased with the start overall.

“You take four-game segments like that, they start to add up,” Blasi said.

Miami opens a four-game homestand with a two-game series vs. UMass-Lowell next weekend. Colgate comes to Oxford for a pair of contests on Oct. 26-27.

MIAMI U. 1-2-0 – 3
MERCYHURST 0-0-0 – 0

First period: 1. Mia., Bachman 3, uag, 0:29.

Second period: 2. Mia., Siroky 2 (Mohs), 6:09; 3. Mia., Knies 1, shg, 19:11.

Third period: None.

Shots on goal: Miami U. 8-18-5 – 31; Mercyhurst 7-6-8 – 21. Power plays: Miami U. 0-for-4; Mercyhurst 0-for-6. Goalies: Miami U., Larkin (21 of 21 saved); Mercyhurst, Cantali (28 of 31). Referees: Ryan Sweeney, Eugene Binda. Linesmen: Brendan Lewis, Joe Lewis. Time: 2:20. Attendance: 2,387.

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Miami blanks, sweeps UAH

OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Larkin’s 2018-19 debut was worth the one-day wait.

Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The junior stopped all 11 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over Alabama-Huntsville at Cady Arena on Sunday, earning his third career shutout.

Jordan Uhelski, expected to back up Larkin, started and won on Saturday while Larkin did not dress.

The win completes a series sweep for the RedHawks (2-0), who have won their first two games for the first time since 2013-14.

RECAP: The game was scoreless through the first period, but Brian Hawkinson teed up River Rymsha with a pass across the blue line, and Rymsha buried it just inside the post 5:39 into the second frame.

Less than three minutes later, a blast by Alec Mahalak tricked off the glove of goalie Mark Sinclair, and Karch Bachman was there to slam home the rebound.

Early in the third period, Josh Melnick whipped a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle that beat Sinclair. With 6:14 left in regulation, Ryan Siroky was denied on his initial attempt at the side of the net but batted one into the air, off Sinclair’s back and into the net.

STATS: Rymsha and Hawkinson led Miami with two points apiece. Rymsha scored once and set up another and Hawkinson earned a pair of helpers.

Larkin’s last shutout was Oct. 27, 2017 vs. Connecticut. All of his perfect sheets have been in October and at home.

Miami was 37-15 on faceoffs for a .714 win percentage. Casey Gilling was 14-3 on draws and Melnick 13-3 in the circle.

How about a strange one: Grant Hutton was the lone MU defenseman without a shot. The others combined for 15.

THOUGHTS: The first period was slow but once Rymsha’s shot went in, Miami dominated the balance of the game.

When it came to 50/50 pucks, the RedHawks won almost every physical battle and not only were faster but outhustled UAH as well.

By the third period the Chargers (0-2) were a beaten team. The final shot totals reflect that: 45 Miami, 11 UAH.

— Let’s give one of the stars of the game to the facility. This was a 3 p.m. game when the temperature is about its highest, and it was 90 degrees out for opening faceoff.

The ice certainly wasn’t January-Edmonton-in-the-1990s-caliber but it held in the near-record heat.

— Alabama-Huntsville captain Kurt Gosselin, who was booted for his hit on Carter Johnson in the opener, was absent from Sunday’s lineup. It’s unclear if the team or an outside entity made that call.

He should miss multiple games for that hit. It’s everything hockey is trying to take out of its game for the long-term well being of its players.

— Not to bore about a non-sexy subject, but Miami’s faceoff success is an area in which it has struggled for several years.

Gilling has been key in this realm since Day 1 and isn’t afraid to voice concerns to officials when he thinks draws are unfair.

Melnick’s numbers are outstanding early, as are those of Monte Graham, who won a team-best 11 draws on Saturday.

REALITY CHECKPOINT:

— While the 2-0 start is exciting, Miami has been above .500 early each of the four recent seasons in which it has finished below that mark.

The RedHawks started 2013-14 at 6-2-1, were 3-1-1 to open 2015-16, 3-1-2 in their first six of 2016-17 and reached 4-3 last season before their descent.

Miami’s problem in recent unsuccessful campaigns has been earning wins in those cold-weather months.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A. This was a solid effort by all. We saw some suspect passing on Saturday but this corps seemed to tighten that up in that game. Loved Siroky’s combination of persistence and athleticism on his goal. Thought Gruden was much better in this game than in the opener. Thought Bachman was as much as force as in the opener. In the second period he stole the puck and nearly scored despite having a defender draped on his during a shorthanded chance. As mentioned, MU dominated on faceoffs.

DEFENSEMEN: A. This corps actually outshot the opposition, firing 15 shots while the entire UAH team managed just 11. None of those chances were Grade-A. Rymsha went 1-1-2 including the first goal and eventual game winner, Hutton and Mahalak picked up assists. Granted UAH lacks a lot of elite offensive talent but Miami’s D-corps shut the Chargers down in this game.

GOALTENDING: A. Hard to slight Larkin for not facing a difficult shot. He was perfect, albeit on 11 non-high-quality chances. This has to be a confidence boost for Larkin after last season when he posted an .886 save percentage.

LINEUP CHANGES: Two key ones: Larkin started in net after Jordan Uhelski earned the win in the opener, and Carter Johnson was out up front after getting cheap-shotted on Saturday.

Zach LaValle also sat among the forward corps, and Noah Jordan and Christian Mohs took the ice in their place.

Coach Enrico Blasi stuck with his starting six on D for Game 2, which is even more interesting because it was 20 hours between starts instead of the normal 23:30, and often a coach will go with a rested player in such a situation, but Andrew Sinard, Grant Frederic and Chaz Switzer all sat out for the second straight night.

UP NEXT: Miami will play in Pennsylvania for the first time since Robert Morris hosted the RedHawks six years ago at the Penguins’ home rink.

MU faces Providence at 4 p.m. on Friday, and if it wins will face the Notre Dame-Mercyhurst winner in the championship at 7:35 p.m. on Saturday but would play in the consolation vs. the loser of the other game at 4 p.m. Saturday. All games will be played at Erie Insurance Arena, home of the OHL Erie Otters.

In late 2012, MU took second in Pittsburgh, beating Ohio State before losing to the hometown host. Both scores were 1-0.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This weekend will provide a much better indication of where Miami is in early-to-mid October.

A strong showing could earn the RedHawks some much-needed respect into a four-game homestand.

At least against UAH, the forwards, defensemen and goalies were all superior. Much tougher test against this weekend’s foes.

2018-19 Miami preview Part IV: Goalies

OUT (2): Chase Munroe, Evan McCarthy.

IN (1): Jordan Uhelski (graduate student).

RETURNING (2): Jr. – Ryan Larkin; So – Grant Valentine.

NOTES: Miami had four goaltenders on its roster last season but finished with a team save percentage of .874, its worst rate in Coach Enrico Blasi’s tenure.

Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Only four teams in Division I allowed more goals than the RedHawks, who surrendered 128 for a per-game average of 3.46.

It was a down year for Ryan Larkin, who stopped 91 percent of the shots he faced in 2016-17 but posted an .886 save percentage last season.

The junior faced a lot of A-plus shots last season but he also let in a number of soft ones from outside.

Larkin was on the ice for all but 85 of the RedHawks’ minutes, going 12-18-5 with a 3.12 goals-agaisnt average. His GAA was up 0.35 from his freshman season.

Jordan Uhelski completed his degree at Alabama-Huntsville and is joining Miami for his final year of eligibility. He has over 3,000 minutes of college experience and a career .906 save percentage.

Grant Valentine, now a sophomore, saw just nine minutes of action and allowed one goal on three shots. With Uhelski coming in as a senior, Valentine has a chance to prove worthy of more time in net the next couple of seasons.

“I expect to have results from our goaltending,” Blasi said. “Ryan has had a great summer, Jordan as an older guy has come in and, I guess I would say I’m impressed the way he’s pushed Larks yet still been very focused on his game, so he’s ready to go if called upon. The two of them have gotten along really well and Val, our third goalie is right there every day and pushing them as well. I think it’s been a good competition for all of them. When you get to know Jordan, he’s very charismatic and he’s always on – he doesn’t take any days off in terms of his attitude and the way he works.”

With all three goalies being different classes, the Zatkoff Effect officially ends, meaning Miami has broken its cycle of having a freshman duo between the pipes every four years.

That trend started in 2008 when primary starter Jeff Zatkoff left following his junior season the same off-season as Charlie Effinger, forcing the RedHawks to bring in both Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp the following fall.

Four years later it was Jay Williams and Ryan McKay, and four more after that Larkin and Chase Munroe were freshmen, but Munroe did not return to the team this season.

Miami blanked again at UMD

Back to the house of horrors for Miami.

The RedHawks were shut out in their personal torture chamber, Amsoil Arena, 4-0 vs. No. 11 Minnesota-Duluth on Friday night. It was the second straight game in which Miami failed to light the lamp, bringing their scoreless streak to 152:01.

MU was also blanked by St. Cloud State in its series finale vs. St. Cloud State last Saturday.

The loss drops the RedHawks (10-16-3) a season-worst six games under .500, as they are guaranteed their third straight losing regular season.

Miami slipped to 0-9-1 in its last 10 games in Duluth.

RECAP: A pair of quick goals midway through the first period was all Minnesota-Duluth would need.

Mikey Anderson got the Bulldogs (15-13-3) on the board at the 8:19 mark and exactly two minutes later, Billy Exell extended their lead to two.

Jade Miller and Louie Roehl added markers in the second and third periods to seal it.

STATS: Miami was outshot, 13-4 in the first period and 29-11 through the opening 40 minutes.

— Gordie Green and Carson Meyer fired three shots each. Josh Melnick and Louie Belpedio blocked three shots apiece.

— The RedHawks slipped to 1-13-1 in their last 15 games in February and beyond.

THOUGHTS: It was Jan. 5 when Miami beat Denver to improve to 9-8-2, and at that point an NCAA at-large berth seemed like a legitimate possibility.

The six weeks since have been a dumpster fire, with the RedHawks going 1-8-1 and pretty much eliminating themselves from NCAA Tournament consideration by any means other than an NCHC Tournament win.

The RedHawks were beaten soundly in that finale vs. the Pioneers, which was not surprising considering they’re one of the best teams in Division I.

Miami had winnable road games vs. UNO and Colorado College, but its defense was a no-show for those series. MU went 0-3-1 and allowed 25 goals in those games.

The RedHawks won their first game back on home ice, 4-2 vs. Western Michigan but dropped the next three in Oxford, one to WMU and a pair to St. Cloud State.

Now the offense is AWOL, as Miami was shut out for the final 92:01 of its series vs. the Huskies.

Add 60 to that after failing to score in this contest.

The difference between that SCSU shutout and this one is the RedHawks actually played well for most of their game against the Huskies. They laid an egg on Friday – a goose egg.

Miami goalie Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

LINEUP CHANGES: It was the same 18 skaters for Miami, but Ryan Larkin was back in net after sitting the Saturday game vs. St. Cloud State due to an illness.

Chase Munroe was between the pipes for that contest.

FINAL THOUGHTS: With Miami destined for a road series to open the NCHC Tournament, it’s becoming a distinct possibility the RedHawks finish the regular season at Denver and return there the following weekend a la 2015-16 vs. Duluth.

MU’s chances of having a lucrative postseason get longer with every February loss.

Miami shut out, swept by SCSU

OXFORD, Ohio – For the first time this season, Ryan Larkin was not the starting goalie for Miami.

And the RedHawks didn’t give their back-up netminder any offensive support, as No. 4 St. Cloud State completed the weekend sweep with a 4-0 win at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Miami goalie Chase Munroe (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Larkin was in the starting slot on the lineup card and practiced sparingly in warm-ups, but he was battling an illness and did not return to the ice after the pre-game scrape.

Chase Munroe made his first start of 2017-18 and the fourth of his career.

Miami slipped to 1-7-1 in its last nine games and is 1-8-1 in February the past two seasons.

It was the second time this season the RedHawks (10-15-3) have been blanked.

RECAP: It was scoreless through one period, but St. Cloud State (19-7-3) broke though 3:48 into the second period when Nick Poehling beat Munroe low to the glove side.

Miami’s Carson Meyer had a penalty shot early in the third period but was unable to capitalize.

Patrick Newell made it 2-0 when a loose puck found him in the faceoff circle, and he fired it just under the far crossbar.

The final two SCSU goals were both empty netters, with Newell and Judd Peterson finding the net shorthanded.

STATS: Munroe had to be happy for the opportunity to lower his bloated goals-against average, which was 12.36 due to struggles in his lone outing this season. He stopped 17 of 19 shots, dropping it to 4.59 and raising his save percentage from .636 to .800.

— Gordie Green’s team-high four-game points streak was snapped.

— Scott Dornbrock blocked a Miami-best four shots, and RedHawks Rourke Russell added three, giving him a team high of 39.

— Carter Johnson was 9-3 on faceoffs as he continues to make his case for regular ice time.

— No power play goals were scored on the weekend. The teams each had eight chances in the two-game set. SCSU did score twice shorthanded, but both were empty netters.

THOUGHTS: This is the part where some expect a rant about how bad Miami was yet again.

While inflammatory speech may generate hits, it wouldn’t be fair to rip the team’s play on Saturday. The RedHawks played pretty well in this game.

They just couldn’t get the puck in the net.

The defense, perhaps inspired by their missing regular goalie, tightened up and held SCSU to just 21 shots. And very few good scoring chances.

One St. Cloud goal should’ve been stopped, one was on an exceptional shot and two were empty netters.

Huskies goalie David Hrenak deserves a lot of credit too, as he stopped all 30 Miami shots he faced.

Sometimes teams run into a hot goalie, and you just have to tip your hat.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The problem of course is that the 27 previous games this season have netted just 10 wins, the RedHawks have used up their allotment of acceptable losses, with plenty of unacceptable losses mixed in.

— He obviously didn’t pick up any points, but Kiefer Sherwood played his best hockey of the season this weekend. He seems to have gotten back that extra gear of skating speed, he backchecked relentlessly and dished out a couple of big hits, which has never been a major part of his game.

Sherwood had a slow start to this season and is still down overall in terms of points pace but seems to be over whatever held him back the first few months of 2017-18.

— The forwards took six minors penalties, with five leading to SCSU power plays. Conor Lemirande an Casey Gilling both were whistled for a pair of minors. Gilling leads the team in minors (17) and PIM (50), which isn’t going to cut it if he’s going to be a major part of this team the next three-plus years.

— Came away once again impressed by the A-through-Z Poehling contingent on the Huskies.

— Coach Enrico Blasi has been pulling the goalie radically early when trailing this season, even doing so with 17 minutes left in the third period earlier this calendar year. SCSU scored three empty netters this weekend as a result, but really, if it helps the team’s chance of winning just an iota and only drawback is a more lopsided final score, then go for it.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D. Hot goalie or not, this group’s job is to score goals and they came up empty. And yeah, the penalties.

DEFENSEMEN: B. They seemed to make a conceded effort to tighten up with Munroe in net and were solid overall. This corps also stayed out of the penalty box. They helped hold a potent SCSU team to 21 shots, and very few high-quality chances.

GOALTENDING: C. Munroe definitely should’ve stopped the first goal. The second one was ticketed for the corner of the net. His rebound control was solid, although he didn’t see many difficult shots. He can thank his D-corps for stepping up. Munroe was also put in a difficult spot, as he likely didn’t know he was starting until minutes before the game.

LINEUP CHANGES: After three straight games going with the same 19, Austin Alger and Grant Frederic both dressed. Alger, a forward, replaced Willie Knierim, and blueliner Frederic was in for Chaz Switzer, who had played in 13 straight games.

FINAL THOUGHTS: All eight NCHC teams have six games left, and Miami can finish no better than third.

The RedHawks are last in the conference with 17 points, and UNO is seventh with 21. So it’s an uphill climb just to get out of the basement, especially considering Miami’s remaining schedule.

The ultimate goal of fourth would likely require Miami to run the table and hope the teams the RedHawks are chasing falter down the stretch. The RedHawks are 10 points down on both fourth-place North Dakota and fifth-place Duluth, and they would have to catch one of those teams and pass UNO and Colorado College.

Miami heads to Duluth next week, returns home to play North Dakota and finishes as Denver. Those teams are ninth, 12th and second in PairWise, respectively.

In other words, if you’ve already pre-paid for first-round NCHC playoff tickets at Cady Arena, a refund is extremely likely for the third straight year.

Slow start vs. St. Cloud dooms Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – Because it was televised nationally, Miami’s game on Friday started a half hour later than normal.

Unfortunately the RedHawks didn’t begin play until well after that.

MU surrendered three goals in the first 10 minutes in an eventual 5-2 loss to No. 4 St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.

Miami (10-14-3) did battle back with a couple of second-period goals but could not generate the equalizer.

Colorado College won at North Dakota on Friday as well, leapfrogging Nebraska-Omaha and pushing six points ahead of the RedHawks, who are 1-6-1 in their last eight. The Mavericks are in seventh, four points up on last-place Miami.

All eight teams in the NCHC will have played 18 of their 24 league games after Saturday, so regardless of the outcome in the final, MU will head into the final three weekends of the regular season in last place.

RECAP: Fans were still filing in when Robby Jackson and Blake Lizotte threw pucks into the net 70 seconds apart, giving SCSU a 2-0 lead just over three minutes in.

It was Mikey Eyssimont extending the Huskies’ lead to three at the 9:39 mark.

Josh Melnick had a pass intercepted at the blue line, resulting in the first goal, Chaz Switzer was skated around by Lizotte and Kiefer Sherwood blew a tire at the red line when Eyssimont scored.

The RedHawks scored 1:47 apart in the second period to cut the deficit to one.

Miami’s Phil Knies (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Gordie Green banged home a loose puck from the slot after a pass from behind the net by Carter Johnson was partially deflected. Ben Lown put the puck on net by poking it between a SCSU defender’s legs, and the rebound was jammed home by Phil Knies.

Miami had a couple of chances to tie it late in the second period, but the Huskies iced it seven minutes into the third period when Kevin Fitzgerald stripped Willie Knierim at the blue line and beat goalie Ryan Larkin five hole.

The RedHawks pulled Larkin with over six minutes left, and Jackson hit the empty net for the final tally.

Miami forward Gordie Green (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

STATS: Green extended his points streak to four games, a current team high. He leads Miami with 12 goals including the one in this contest.

— Only five blocked shots for the RedHawks.

— Johnson’s assist gives him points in consecutive games for the first time in his career.

— Miami failed to score on the power play, snapping a six-game streak. But the RedHawks did not yield a goal on the man advantage for the first time in eight games.

— All seven goals were scored in the south end of the rink.

THOUGHTS: It’s baffling that the RedHawks wouldn’t be ready for this series, and against a team as good as St. Cloud State, Miami paid dearly.

MU tried to battle back and was the better team in the second period, but the damage had been done.

And that’s what’s enough to drive one batty with this team. This team is good enough to hang with the best teams in Division I for stretches but not good enough to win those games.

— Larkin has gotten some leeway because of the quality of shots he’s faced, but he’s getting beaten too often on stoppable shots – especially high to the glove side – and that’s contributing to MU’s second-half slide. His save percentage of .883 would be the worst of any starting goalie since Enrico Blasi’s first season in 1999-2000.

— Johnson is making it harder to keep him out of the lineup. He played 37 games last season and earned just three points and sat the bench almost the entire first half of 2017-18. But he is 1-1-2 his last two games, is providing much-needed energy on the lower lines and is using his size to win battles along the boards.

— St. Cloud State has the best transition game of any team to come to Cady Arena this season. The Huskies are able to go end-to-end in a couple of seconds and create odd-man rushes off of opponents’ misses. They definitely are every bit as good or better than on television.

— Kevin Fitzergerald made arguably the defensive play of the year when he put his stick up and blocked a would-be third-period goal by Casey Gilling at the side of the net. The goalie would have had no chance.

— For the second straight game, Miami had a major power play in the third period with a chance to get back into a game and did bupkis with it. The PP1 has been solid all season but the RedHawks haven’t been able to put together a solid secondary combination of skaters for extended man-advantage opportunities.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C-. Three bad turnovers ended up in Miami’s net, negating the two goals this corps recorded.

DEFENSEMEN: C. Tough call here. Didn’t give up too many great scoring chances except for the second goal, didn’t contribute anything offensively. Grant Hutton was definitely the star of this class.

GOALTENDING: D. Larkin needed to stop at least one of the goals allowed, especially early when the game was in the balance. He has tons of talent but it’s unclear if he’s struggling because of the high number of minutes played or a waning confidence level after facing so many Grade-A chances.

LINEUP CHANGES: None. This was the third straight game Blasi started the same 19.

FINAL THOUGHTS: St. Cloud State (18-6-3) is a force and should contend for the national title. The Huskies played like champions in this game, taking the crowd out of it early, fending off Miami’s rush in the middle portion of the game stepping on the RedHawks’ throats in the end game.

SCSU is fast, handles and moves the puck exceptionally well and still manages to limit opponents’ opportunities despite playing an up-tempo style. And the Huskies were missing a defenseman who is playing for Team USA in the Olympics.

Fortunately this is one of the two NCHC teams the RedHawks only play twice this season.

Blown lead again costs Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – Groundhog Day should’ve been on Saturday instead of Friday.

Miami, seemingly caught in a never-ending loop of evaporating leads, yet again saw a two-goal advantage vanish in a 3-2 loss to Western Michigan at Cady Arena on Saturday.

A sweep of the Broncos that would have seen the RedHawks climb to within a game of .500 instead ended in a mercurial weekend split.

After playing so well on Friday and taking a 2-0 lead on Saturday, holding that advantage would’ve pulled Miami within four points of an injury-plagued WMU team that is without its best offensive weapon.

The Broncos would’ve been in a three-way tie for fourth place, and finishing in the top four in this conference is so important because it means home-ice advantage for the NCHC Tournament.

Instead, Miami is now 10 points behind WMU, and with eight games left, closing that gap will be nearly impossible with the RedHawks’ remaining schedule.

RECAP: The RedHawks caught an early break, as a Western Michigan goal midway through the first period was waved off after a review because it was determined the play was off-side.

Carter Johnson celebrates after scoring his first career goal (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami took advantage, as in the final minute of the opening frame, Casey Gilling whipped a shot just under the crossbar on the near side to put his team ahead.

The RedHawks went up by two when Carter Johnson tipped home a blue-line blast by Louie Belpedio at the 1:46 mark of the second period for his first collegiate goal.

But the Broncos ran off three straight goals in that decisive middle stanza.

Ethen Frank streaked through the slot, took a feed from Austin Rueschhoff and beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on his backhand less than two minutes later to make it 2-1.

Western Michigan tied it with exactly four minutes left in that frame on another Frank goal. Frank was a trailer on a 2-on-2, and he took a pass in the high slot from Dawson DiPietro and buried it.

Just 74 seconds later, the Broncos took their first lead of the weekend when Lawton Courtnall stole the puck from Conor Lemirande, went coast-to-coast and beat Larkin on the glove side from the slot.

Miami outshot WMU, 8-0 in the third period and had 7:36 of power play time but was unable to generate the equalizer.

THOUGHTS: From its highest-profile games to Saturday, damage control has been a decade-long issue for Miami teams.

Once again, a pair of critical goals against occurred in quick succession.

A glance at the RedHawks’ collapses this season alone:

– Game 2: Kasper Bjorkqvist scored the game winner one second left to lift Providence to a 2-1 win.

– Game 8: Miami led 1-0 after one period, Colorado College tied it in the second and Westin Michaud netted the winner in the final second of the second period.

– Game 11: Miami and Minnesota-Duluth were tied, 1-1 late in the third period, but Jared Thomas and Scott Perunovich found the net 76 seconds apart as the Bulldogs won, 3-1.

– Game 14: Miami was 36 seconds away from a win and sweep at Bowling Green, but Alec Rauhauser found the net with the extra attacker as the Falcons salvaged a 2-2 tie.

– Game 18: Like this weekend, Miami had beaten Western Michigan in the opener in Kalamazoo. But in the finale, the RedHawks blew a 3-1 lead as Wade Allison recorded a natural hat trick, cutting the deficit to one midway through the second period, tying it with 4:02 left in regulation and winning it in overtime.

– Games 21-22: Not blown leads but just pointing out how Miami has let games get away. In Game 21, UNO ran off 11 goals vs. Miami, a quarter-century worst mark for the RedHawks, and the Mavericks scored consecutive goals 41 seconds and seven (!!!) seconds apart. The next night, UNO scored four times in a 10:53 span of the second period, and the RedHawks tried to come back but fell short, 4-3. Three of those goals against were in a 5:13 window.

– Game 24: Another blown two-goal lead. Miami led, 4-2, but Colorado College cut the deficit to one late in the second period and Trevor Gooch tied it midway through the final stanza.

– Game 26: Miami was ahead, 2-0 but allowed the final three goals in the second period, including two 74 seconds apart.

— Weird that WMU was whistled for too many men twice in the first 3:18 minutes of the first period.

— Miami actually held the Broncos without a SOG the entire third period.

LINEUP CHANGES: None.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C. Congratulations to Johnson for his first career goal on a sweet tip-in, and this corps – as well as the entire team – was solid for the first half of the game but seemed to run out of gas down the stretch. Gilling’s goal was a snipe, and it’s pretty obvious he’s going to be a major part of this team for the next three-plus years. Lemirande’s turnover hurt on the third goal, and it’s been a recurring theme that trailers have scored against Miami because no one has picked them up.

DEFENSEMEN: B-. A decent but not great night for the corps. Louie Belpedio picked up assists on both Miami goals. Western Michigan did miss a few Grade-A chances and hit multiple posts. The trailer issue applies to the blueliners as well. Miami has gotten burned far too many times this season when opponents have entered the zone unabated.

GOALTENDING: D+. Larkin only made 13 saves and should’ve made at least one stop on the three WMU goals. He does see a lot of Grade-A chances but Miami needs him to stop more pucks.

FINAL THOUGHTS: A 6-2 finish or better is the only way Miami could re-gain at-large consideration after yet another blown lead costs this team valuable league points and costs the RedHawks in the PairWise.

The RedHawks are now 25th and would need to be over .500 to earn a berth.

Miami isn’t as talented as some of the teams in this conference but as documented above, it should have a better record than 10-13-3.

The window is closing quickly for the RedHawks, who will host a St. Cloud State team that is No. 2 in the PairWise.

Miami ends skid, tops WMU

OXFORD, Ohio – Often a team can actually gain momentum after taking a penalty when it comes up with a critical kill.

That was the case on Friday when Miami turned a potentially disastrous start into a 4-2 win over Western Michigan at Cady Arena.

The RedHawks came out sluggish, getting outshot 4-1 in the opening minutes. Not the start to a four-game homestand they wanted after an 0-3-1 road trip.

Then they were whistled for a pair of penalties, setting up a two-minute two-man advantage for the Broncos.

But Miami killed the majority of the 5-on-3 and a WMU minor wiped out the rest. The RedHawks were a different team the balance of the game and ultimately snapped their five-game winless streak.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

RECAP: The first period was scoreless, but Miami finally broke through when Kiefer Sherwood stole a pass in the offensive zone, threw a shot at the net that hit the end boards and caromed to a wide-open Ben Lown, who tapped it in 1:08 into the middle stanza.

The RedHawks made it 2-0 when Gordie Green batted in a bad-angle rebound off a shot from the blue line by Louie Belpedio at the 4:47 mark of that frame.

Western Michigan’s Corey Schueneman beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin high on the glove side for a 5-on-3 goal with 10:18 left in the second period.

But Miami answered with a two-man advantage of its own when Grant Hutton wired a shot through from the top of the faceoff circle off a feed by Alec Mahalak with less than four minutes remaining in the middle frame, making it 3-1.

The RedHawks sealed it with 3:26 left in regulation on a Belpedio wrister from the center of the faceoff circle.

Ethan Frank capped the scoring with a blast that beat Miami’s Ryan Larkin directly off a faceoff in the closing seconds.

STATS: Belpedio finished with a goal and an assist, and Sherwood and Josh Melnick recorded two assists each.

It was the second straight multi-point game for Belpedio and the third in a row for Sherwood, who extended his team-best points streak to eight games.

Melnick has 10 points in his last nine games, and he was 12-6 on faceoffs.

Larkin stopped 20 shots to earn the win.

THOUGHTS: This win was obviously much needed and much appreciated, and Miami played well and deserved it.

That said, it also comes with a little frustration because the RedHawks showed how well they’re capable of playing, and if they did that more they wouldn’t be in such a dire spot.

Full disclosure on this win: WMU is seriously banged up, most notably missing stud Wade Allison who was 15-15-30 in 22 games. He’s likely lost for the season.

That definitely hurt the Broncos’ offensive attack, and they generated just two shots on five power plays that included multiple minutes of 5-on-3 action.

Still, this was the best overall home game Miami has played since beating Duluth on Nov. 18.

The RedHawks are capable of playing with these NCAA Tournament-bound teams, they just haven’t done it nearly enough, especially as of late.

— NCHC contests typically don’t feature a lot of 5-on-3s, but there were three in this game and would’ve been a fourth had Miami not possessed the puck through a delayed penalty until the power play expired.

Both teams scored once on the two-man advantage.

— The power play has been particularly explosive for Miami as of late, racking up 10 goals on the man-advantage the past five games. MU is converting at a 35.7 percent rate during that clip.

Unfortunately, that positive work during this stretch has been negated by a 54.5 PK percentage, as they are just 12-for-22 since the start of their road series at UNO.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C+. As a group, RedHawks forwards only had 16 shots and nearly half came on the power play. They accounted for two of the goals (Green and Lown). Sherwood struggled in the first half but has regained that 2016-17 form, and he stepping up on defense as well. His steal led to the first Miami goal.

DEFENSEMEN: B+. Hutton and Belpedio both scored, and after the whole team struggled out of the game, the blueliners did a good job of limiting Western Michigan’s scoring chances. Hutton was exceptional in his own end and deserved first star, not third, as he won loose puck battles and muscled people off the puck all night. It was a physical game and this corps was up to the challenge.

GOALTENDING: B-. Like many starts this season, Larkin was solid, controlled his rebounds and stopped the routine shots but didn’t come up with either of his toughest chances.

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

LINEUP CHANGES: Thank heavens Grant Hutton missed last Saturday’s game due to illness and not something worse. He was back in the lineup after missing just the second game of his career last weekend.

His return sent Grant Frederic back to the scratch list.

Up front, Willie Knierim was back on the lineup card as Zach LaValle did not dress. Carter Johnson suited up for the third straight contest.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This win gets Miami to within three points of seventh place, and while home ice is still a longshot, the bottom half of the league is clumped together and the RedHawks still have a game in hand over most.

If the RedHawks play like they did on Friday, they could make a run at an NCAA berth. But consistency has not been MU’s MO in 2017-18.

 

 

Miami scores 7, loses by 4

In a game that saw half of Nebraska-Omaha’s skaters find the net, it was only appropriate that the final tally was credited to goalie Evan Weninger.

That capped off the Mavericks’ 11-7 win over Miami at Baxter Arena on Friday, as UNO set a school record for goals and the RedHawks gave up their highest total in over two decades.

Down 4-1 early, Miami battled back to within one and continued to fight – at least offensively – until the final horn. But MU could never generate the equalizer.

This was certainly not the way the RedHawks wanted to start a stretch of four straight road games as they hang on the PairWise bubble.

RECAP: For a game that featured 18 goals, believe it or not none were scored in the first 10 minutes.

Grant Gallo and Jake Rudolph netted consecutive markers to make it 2-0, and after Miami’s Kiefer Sherwood scored on the power play, UNO potted two more in a 41-second window to close out the first period with a three-goal lead, with Tristan Keck and Joel Messner hitting the net.

The RedHawks (9-10-2) cut it to one on a blue-line blast by Louie Belpedio and a freshman-to-freshman connection of Phil Knies to Ben Lown.

But four more shots found their way in the final seven minutes of the middle stanza, with three coming by the Mavericks, sandwiching Knies’ second marker of the night.

Gordie Green scored off a Karch Bachman feed early in the third period, but it was the final gasp for Miami. Back-to-back UNO goals seven seconds apart made it a four-goal game, although Lown and Casey Gilling did record goals for the RedHawks in the final 11 minutes of regulation.

MU goalie Ryan Larkin was lifted after allowing six goals, and backup Chase Munroe was actually credited with the loss for giving up the final four, even though Miami never tied the score.

Miami’s Phil Knies (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

STATS: The RedHawks were actually the Redskins the last time they allowed this many goals in a game. MU lost, 13-0 at Michigan on Dec. 6, 1996, and had never surrendered double-digit goals under current coach Enrico Blasi.

– A pair of freshmen – Lown and Knies – set career bests with three points each. Knies scored twice and Lown went 1-2-3. Grant Hutton picked up three assists, also his high total as a RedHawk.

– Gilling and Sherwood both extended their points streaks to four games, tied for the longest on the team.

– Miami scored three times on the power play, reaching that mark for the fourth time this season.

– The flip side? The RedHawks had not given up more than two PPGs in any game in 2017-18. They allowed four on six chances in this game.

– Seven Miami players finished with multiple points. Ten picked up at least one point. Four Mavericks ended the night with at least four points.

– The three goalies’ combined save percentages were .707. Their goals-against averages were 8.76.

THOUGHTS: Where to start…

Oh I know, how about Miami’s complete lack of defense? Bill Clinton was in his first term as president the last time the RedHawks gave up this many goals in a game.

There’s plenty of blame to go around in this area. They won 46 percent of their faceoffs, losing some key ones in the offensive zone that led to goals. A common theme, too few UNO players paid any kind of price for setting up at the top of Miami’s crease.

One Nebraska-Omaha goal – forgive me for not being to recall which one of the 18 it was – saw a player carry the puck from behind the Miami net to the side of the cage and take a shot and a follow-up backhand that went in with no red jersey in sight.

Too many blown assignments, with UNO players not picked up in Miami’s offensive zone.

And there’s 22 of 32 shots saved by the netminders. Ryan Larkin had an off-night for sure, going just 15-for-21, but Chase Munroe looked rusty as well, stopping only 7 out of 11. It was Munroe’s first appearance of the regular season, although he did play in the exhibition vs. Team USA in mid-October.

Miami has built a reputation of defensive excellence under Blasi, but D definitely took the night off.

Want some positives?

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

– Freshmen combined for nine points, with Knies and Lown tallying three each, Gilling picking up two and Alec Mahalak notching an assist. All seem to be getting better as the season progresses.

– Sherwood’s four-game point streak is inspiring, as he seems to have shifted into a higher gear recently. He had picked up points in just three of Miami’s first 17 games and had seven overall after that span. Sherwood went 14-24-38 last season, tied for the team lead in goals and second in both assists and points.

LINEUP CHANGES: Two up front and one on defense.

Ryan Siroky sat for the first time since early October, as did Austin Alger, who had dressed for the last four. Willie Knierim was back on the ice after being scratched last Saturday, and Christian Mohs occupied the last forward spot, logging just his seventh game of 2017-18.

Rourke Russell was benched for just the third time this season. Grant Frederic, who had been out of the lineup three straight contests, took his place.

FINAL ANALYSIS: It would be tough to imagine the coaching staff being anything but irate after this effort.

Granted Miami did continue to fight after falling behind three early, but falling behind three early ultimately led to the RedHawks’ demise.

Grant Valentine didn’t exude confidence based on his relief appearance in net earlier this season, and Munroe, ditto.

That’s a problem, because if Larkin gets hurt or struggles in a game, Miami’s choices are limited.

Of course, we’d expect Valentine and/or Munroe to play better if either was called upon on more of a regular basis, but it’s pretty obvious that barring injury the odds are Larkin will start every regular season game.

Miami is now under .500 for the first time since late November, and its path to the NCAA Tournament will become smaller with each loss down the stretch.

MU kept interest in loss

OXFORD, Ohio – For a three-goal loss that was completely one-sided in the first two periods, Miami found a way to make the final 20 minutes interesting.

No. 5 Denver scored the first three goals in a 4-1 win over the RedHawks at Cady Arena on Saturday, as the teams split their weekend series.

The Pioneers (12-6-4) were a huge favorite, so winning one was a bit of a victory for the RedHawks. But since MU was .500 after the first half of the season, it needs to make up games somewhere, and this weekend wasn’t it.

This series was actually more of a reinforcement that, while the RedHawks (9-9-2) are improved over 2016-17, Miami’s overall talent does not match up with the NCAA’s elite.

RECAP: Denver scored twice in the first period and once more in the first minute of the final stanza to take a 3-0 lead.

The shots were 28-5 in favor of the Pioneers after 40 minutes.

But then it got interesting.

Miami pulled the goalie five minutes into the third period.

The RedHawks, who were anemic on the power play all night, thrived with the extra attacker.

Kiefer Sherwood broke after an extended 6-on-5 to make it 3-1.

And Miami drew a penalty on the goal, setting up a power play.

The crowd, comatose after the early domination, was suddenly into the game.

But the man-advantage fizzled and Denver eventually scored an empty netter to seal it.

Miami did outshoot Denver, 20-5 in the last 20 minutes.

Miami’s Casey Gilling (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

STATS: Sherwood and Casey Gilling both extended points streaks to three games. Gilling is 2-3-5 in that stretch.

– Rare to see the starting/lone goalie of team log just 51:38.

– In the you’ll-see-something-new-every-time-you-go-to-the-rink department, Miami iced the puck twice while on a 6-on-5. The NCAA rule is that when a team ices the puck, no one on said team is allowed to leave, but apparently an exception is made for goalies. Both times the RedHawks did this they were able to pull one skater.

THOUGHTS: Not much to add from Friday’s game. Denver is more talented and came out aiming to prove that. Cudos to Miami for battling back in the third after an anemic first 40 minutes. And they were anemic.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D. One goal only after the outcome had been decided. Gordie Green and Josh Melnick were both held without a shot.

DEFENSEMEN: D+. Too many high-percentage scoring chances for DU at this corps’ hands.

GOALTENDING: B. It was a shooting gallery for Ryan Larkin the first two periods. He made a couple of excellent saves and is certainly not accountable for the loss.

LINEUP CHANGES: Only one: Zach LaValle was in at forward, replacing Willie Knierim. Knierim had dressed in the last nine games, and LaValle had sat for three in a row.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Splits against top-10 teams are nice, but when you’re .500 heading into the break, at some point you have to sweep someone.

Denver is an exceptional team, and Miami will have to gain ground against someone else.