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Analysis: Miami rallied with short bench

OXFORD, Ohio – Poll your average fan on what he or she thinks Miami’s odds of winning would be if the team was down a goal four minutes in, and two minutes later faced a five-minute penalty kill against the fifth-best team in the NCAA.

And for good measure, was without elite defenseman Grant Hutton for the balance of the game.

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

That was the RedHawks’ predicament early on Friday, and yet they rallied to a 2-1 victory over No. 5 Cornell at Cady Arena.

Like the UMD win sparked by Chaz Switzer’s fighting major, Miami’s emotions were tapped when Hutton was ejected for checking from behind.

The call, which for the record should’ve been a minor and no more, was initially read as a major and a game disqualification, which carries with it a compulsory suspension. It was announced at the first intermission Hutton actually received a game misconduct, which means he was done for the night but would be eligible on Saturday.

And if we take the player in question into account, Hutton had 50 penalty minutes in 86 career games entering this one. Zero major penalties.

Quite impressive considering this is a guy that logs more minutes than anyone on the team except possibly Louie Belpedio and defends opponents’ top forwards every night while playing a physical, punishing game.

Back to the game: Hutton out, five defensemen left. And oh yeah, Big Red were badly outplaying Miami to this point.

But instead of folding, Miami killed the penalty.

Seemingly galvanized by the Hutton incident and gaining momentum from the PK, the RedHawks took advantage of their first power play and tied it.

Then another confrontation: Six-three sophomore Willie Knierim ended up in a scrap with Morgan Barron, with both getting the boot in the closing minutes of the second period.

Miami netted the go-ahead goal with 54 seconds left in that frame.

The third period was excruciating, as the RedHawks went into late survival mode – a documented area of weakness for this team in recent years – and they turned the last 20 minutes into a giant penalty kill.

It was a gutsy win, an improbable win, and with team’s place in the Division I world still a bit of a question mark, Miami helped its resume royally by putting this one into the ‘W’ column.

Other thoughts…

– The chemistry evolution of Josh Melnick and Gordie Green has a delight to watch. These guys could probably complete passes to each other in the dark.

– Couldn’t believe Cornell, which played so well defensively, let Green skate in and score the go-ahead goal. He corralled a pass from Casey Gilling at the top of the faceoff circle and was unchallenged. So he penetrated and no one went to him. So he drove further and wired one home, lifting it over a sprawling defender.

– That was the second and third major penalties for Miami in its past four games, and its third and fourth 10-minute misconduct, three of which have been for the game. In that span the RedHawks have 91 penalty minutes.

– Melnick’s four-game point streak is the third-longest by anyone on the team. Melnick also had a five-game run earlier this season, and Green went five straight with at least one point as well.

– CU starting goalie Matthew Galadja was pulled after 40 minutes. He allowed two goals on 10 shots through two periods, and while the Gilling shot appeared stoppable, Green’s goal was point blank and ticketed for the corner. Backup Hayden Stewart only faced three shots in the final stanza but stopped them all.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C-. Definitely a case in which the results were much better than the process. Gilling and Green scored power play goals, but this corps was practically non-existent the rest of the game. Miami was down to 10 forwards for the final 24 minutes with Knierim booted and Austin Alger – in his first game back from injury – very limited in ice time. Kiefer Sherwood committed several turnovers in the first period, including one that ultimately led to the Cornell goal.

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

DEFENSEMEN: B. The Big Red finished with 30 shots, but not a ton were Grade-A chances. Cornell seemingly possessed the puck 80 percent of the game, especially early in the first period and the entire third, yet this corps playing with five – down a huge minutes eater in Hutton – did not seem to wear down. Scott Dornbrock didn’t dress for this one either, so this was an exceptionally young group post-Grant, with a senior (Louie Belpedio), two sophomores and two freshmen.

GOALTENDING: A-. Lots happened and that’s the only reason it takes this far down to reach the Ryan Larkin love-fest in this game. As mentioned, not a ton of exceptional chances but Larkin stopped all but one of the good ones, and the only Cornell shot that went in was on a wrister from the high slot through traffic. He stopped all 12 he faced in the third period and finished with 29 saves, which believe it or not ties a season high.

LINEUP CHANGES: For the second time in six games, Dornbrock was out. He had not missed a game since October of his sophomore year prior to the past month. Switzer returned to the ice after serving his two-game suspension. Grant Frederic remained in the lineup after taking Switzer’s place last weekend. F Zach LaValle also sat for the third time in five games after missing just three contests in all of 2016-17. Alger came back from an upper-body injury that cost him five starts.

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Miami powers past No. 5 Cornell

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami was outshot by more than a 2-to-1 ratio and finished with its lowest shot output of the season.

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

But the RedHawks scored on both of their power play chances and rode 29 saves by goalie Ryan Larkin to a 2-1 win over No. 5 Cornell at Cady Arena on Friday.

It was the first meeting between these teams in Oxford, and Miami was swept in a two-game set in Ithaca last season. The Big Red finished with 30 shots to Miami’s 13.

The night certainly did not start off well for the RedHawks.

A wrister by Alex Rauter hit the top corner of the net, putting Cornell (9-2) ahead 3:59 into the first period.

Just over 2:30 later, Miami defenseman Grant Hutton was ejected for a checking-from-behind major.

In addition to being one of the RedHawks’ top penalty killers, Hutton leads college hockey with six power play goals.

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

But Miami (7-6-2) killed the five-minute man advantage, and on a power play of their own, the RedHawks tied it with 3:25 left in the opening frame. Casey Gilling’s seeing-eye wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle snuck in the far corner of the net.

With 54 seconds left in the second period, Gordie Green took a pass from Gilling, penetrated on the left wing and buried a shot, top shelf to put Miami ahead.

The RedHawks survived a furious Big Red surge in the third period, as they were outshot, 12-3.

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

Miami has been exceptional in both facets of special teams recently, as the team is 5-for-10 in its last three games on the man-advantage and has played four straight contests without allowing a power play goal.

Green and Gilling both finished with a goal and an assist. It was Gilling’s first career multi-point game, and the fifth of the season for Green, who leads the team in assists (11) and points (17).

Josh Melnick and Louie Belpedio also picked up assists for the RedHawks. Melnick extended his points streak to four games, and Belpedio has six points in his last six games.

Miami stretched its unbeaten streak to four and are a game over .500 for the second time this season.

These teams wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

Analysis: That dreaded 6-on-5

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Ahh, 6-on-5 hockey.

Earlier this month it helped Miami tie that Colorado College home game in regulation, which eventually turned into a win.

But over the past eight years it has largely been RedHawk kryptonite, including Saturday’s 2-2 tie at the Slater Family Ice Arena in which Bowling Green scored the equalizer with 37.8 seconds left in the third period.

It was also the second time in 2017-18 Miami surrendered a decision-altering goal against in the final minute. Providence beat the RedHawks by scoring with 0.9 seconds left opening weekend.

An inability to close out wins is a legitimate criticism of Miami teams the past few years, but to the team’s credit it runs 6-on-5 drills all the time in practice.

Is it coaching? Is it heart? Is it just bad luck? Is it a statistical anomaly? Hard to say, but it’s definitely real.

On the flip side, there were 13 goals scored this weekend, and the RedHawks had eight of them in a road series against a team ranked in the top one-fourth of the PairWise.

They went 1-0-1 on Friday and Saturday, their best road series record since sweeping Nebraska-Omaha in late January of 2016. That was 22 months ago.

Overall Miami deserves a grade of ‘B’ for the weekend, but it would be tough to finish one or two spots out of the NCAA Tournament field because the RedHawks saw a win flipped to a tie because of yet another extra-attacker goal.

Other thoughts…

– Here were go with another edition of meaningless-3-on-3-exhibitions-suck. Regular readers have heard this rant before and can move on to the next long dash.

But seriously, can anyone please tell me why, for the love of God, we’re risking injury to some of the best Division I hockey athletes, for a demonstration between two non-conference opponents? It was 2-2 after the requisite five-minute overtime. So the game is officially a tie. Just leave it at that.

For whatever reason the teams played a five-minute 3-on-3 afterward, and while it was announced that the game had been completed, few on or off the ice got the memo. With a game story to complete on this end, following a mad ending to the actual game – which was highly entertaining, by the way – there was zero attention given to the skills competition on the deteriorating ice that was 30 minutes of game play old. Apparently BGSU won that, because the team and fans celebrated like they won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. In reality it meant absolutely nothing.

College hockey wants it both ways in this situation. It detests ties, so it creates “decisions” through artificial means like these. But the “wins” are utterly meaningless, and the process does a disservice to its fans.

We asked about going to a 4-on-4 for overtime like the NHL did, and the NCAA’s position – according to a conversation with NCHC commissioner and NCAA rules committee member Josh Fenton a couple years ago – is that college hockey believes overtime should be played by the same rules as regulation, and that means five players a side.

If conferences choose to alter rules beyond those five minutes, they may do so, but for NCAA purposes a game needs to be 5-on-5 for 65 minutes. After that, the league can hold an arm-wrestling competition at center ice to determine a “winner” from a points perspective if it so chooses.

OK. Respect that argument. Don’t agree, but respect it.

But the reality of that position is few games are resolved in five minutes of 5×5. It was 22 percent in the last sample studied on this end. In the NHL, which uses 4×4, that percentage jumps to between 40 and 50, depending on the season.

That leaves 78 percent of games that are tied through three periods, and the NCAA feels a compulsory need to generate a non-tie outcome at the expense of legitimacy.

Please, either break all ties by sane means or cut down the chance of ties and leave the occasional one alone.

– Love the weekend series at the in-state rival and hope these two can play four a year, since Ohio State has decided to bail on its annual home-and-home with Miami. The RedHawks and Bowling Green are less than three hours distance driving, and the teams can drive back on Saturday nights to cut out on the expense of a second game-night hotel stay.

– Staff at BGSU was top notch. Lots of Miami fans were in attendance, and the games got chippy, but never saw or heard about any problems.

Miami’s Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– Ryan Larkin’s save percentage is not where he would want it, but he had a solid weekend. He faced a lot of high-percentage shots and stopped most.

– Grant Hutton and Louie Belpedio are giving the RedHawks a dominant defensive tandem it has not had in some time. One wonders if Belpedio was ever truly healthy in 2016-17 and Hutton seemingly gets better each shift.

– Didn’t think the penalty shot should’ve been awarded. It was close though. Kiefer Sherwood did all he could to prevent the goal and did commit a penalty, but it should’ve just been a two-minute power play.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C-. Only two points from this entire corps: Josh Melnick’s goal for his tip-in and Gordie Green’s assist for an outlet pass that hit Belpedio in stride, as he crossed the blue line and blasted one home. Carson Meyer has to stop taking penalties – he had 12 more PIM in this one.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Belpedio fired the shots that resulted in both Miami goals. Hutton picked up an assist. Both were stellar defensively. This group was shaky in the first period but got better as the game progressed.

GOALTENDING: B+. Larkin faced a lot of quality chances as usual, and the only goals he allowed were on a penalty shot and a well-placed wrister from the high slot on a 6-on-5.

LINEUP CHANGES: There was only one: Casey Gilling was back in the lineup, sending Carter Johnson to the bench. It was the first game missed by Gilling all season.

Analysis: Fighting major sparked Miami win

OXFORD, Ohio – In team sports, sometimes an emotional spark is needed.

Miami, which was 0-9-2 vs. Minnesota-Duluth the past two-plus seasons, was losing again on Saturday when its galvanizing moment occurred.

The RedHawks scored the next three goals and eradicated their winless streak vs. the Bulldogs, holding on for a 3-2 win at Cady Arena.

A quick stage set: UMD is an excellent team that has a reputation for playing chippy hockey, playing on the edge, sometimes over the edge.

Remember that one of the first times these teams met in Oxford, Chris Joyaux squared off after the final whistle with three dozen skaters and a handful of goalies on the ice.

Miami defenseman Chaz Switzer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

So on Saturday, Minnesota-Duluth took a late poke at Miami goalie Ryan Larkin after a puck was clearly frozen.

Chaz Switzer took exception and pushed another player behind the net, and the Bulldogs were not called.

Minutes later, UMD took a run at Larkin, and again it was Switzer coming to his goalie’s defense, using offender Avery Peterson as a human punching bag before officials intervened.

Switzer was given five minutes for fighting and a game disqualification penalty, which carries a one-game suspension. He left the ice to a standing ovation by fans that had little to cheer about to that point of the weekend.

And here’s where hockey and the attitudes of many its fans/players/coaches/etc., deviates from the majority of other team sports.

The hate mail may roll in from those in other sports’ camps and the college-hockey-is-pure-and-fighting-is-barbaric-crowd, and that’s OK. So here goes.

Not only is Switzer a stud for what he did, it’s the officials’ fault he’s going to be suspended.

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

Larkin is a RedHawks star. Anyone who knows anything about UMD hockey knows its players are old-school WCHA all the way. That means ultra-physical play, after-the-whistle confrontations and yes, the occasional fisticuffs.

If a dumb fan sitting at a word processor knows this, certainly NCHC officials do, right?

So when Larkin gets hit the first time, you assess a penalty. If you don’t really think it warrants a Miami power play, you penalize the violator and Switzer two minutes each.

That sends the message that we’re watching and goalie running will be punished.

You do that, the second incident and resulting fighting major/suspension almost certainly doesn’t happen.

Even if you blow that, there have been plenty of times when players in Switzer’s situation have just received a game misconduct than the DQ, which carries an automatic suspension.

The officials didn’t have Larkin’s back, so Switzer did.

Good for Switzer. If it wasn’t for players like Switzer, the NCAA would have 60 teams like Michigan who take out players’ knees and cross-check players in the head with relatively few repercussions.

Miami dressed seven defensemen for this game, so the team went in able to absorb the loss of a blueliner.

Switzer is a five or six defenseman who struggled at times last season and has stepped up his play significantly this fall. He had 294 penalty minutes in 121 games of juniors, so clearly he’s no stranger to extracurriculars.

Don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but it’s very, very likely Switzer earned ample respect from his teammates. He certainly made a lot of fans in his home rink.

The on-ice results were obvious in the final two periods.

Coach Enrico Blasi wasn’t asked about the incident (seriously, the event that changed the game never made it into the presser forum?), and while he wisely did not address the incident he acknowledged the team struggled in the first period but played much better the final 40 minutes.

Through the years, RedHawks teams rarely cross the line (think that was the first fighting major since Alden Hirschfeld seven years ago?), but they typically are prepared to defend themselves when their opponents do.

UMD took a couple of late shots at Miami’s goalie in an attempt to intimidate its southern Ohio rival, and it backfired.

Other thoughts…

– Now onto far less controversial topics. Despite the split, Miami was the better team this weekend and certainly didn’t seem overmatched by a ranked Bulldogs team.

Friday’s loss aside, it was a good weekend for Miami, which didn’t win its fifth game in 2016-17 until New Year’s Eve.

– Carson Meyer broke out with goals in both ends of the series after scoring just one the first 10 games. Meyer heating up means good things for the Miami offense.

– Same goes for Ryan Siroky, who scored on his only shot of the night for his second marker in three games. He had two more big hits on the weekend and has become a very solid third liner that no one wants to play against.

– Karch Bachman picked up another assist and has already matched his point total of 2016-17 with an identical 2-4-6 line. He was the only forward to finish plus-2 in this game.

– Despite those forwards stepping up, MU is averaging 1.8 goals over its last five games. Up next is Bowling Green, which is 11th in the NCAA in goals allowed per game.

– UMD had 10 skaters take faceoffs. That might be an NCAA record. Only two had winning records, so perhaps the Bulldogs are auditioning their forwards? But still, 10 skaters?

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. With 11 forwards, there were a lot of different line combinations. Despite the odd number, the overall chemistry of this corps was good. Josh Melnick and Gordie Green put on a show with their goal, passing back and forth before Melnick buried a wrister for the eventual game winner. This group was solid defensively all weekend as well.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Believe it or not, 29 shots allowed is the fourth-highest opponent total of the season for Miami. As mentioned above, the forwards chipped in on D, and the D was strong on D, thus the ‘B’. Many of those 29 shots were right at Larkin, who swallowed them up for easy saves. Grant Frederic played just two of the first eight games but has dressed for three of the last four and has been pretty much mistake-free.

GOALTENDING: B. UMD’s first goal was a rapid-fire missile that Larkin had no chance on. Maybe Larkin could’ve gloved the Bulldogs’ second shot, but he stopped 27 shots and as usual allowed few second chances.

LINEUP CHANGES: With Frederic in as the seventh defenseman, F Christian Mohs was scratched. Zach LaValle sat for the second consecutive game, and Willie Knierim played in his third straight. Frederic should play at least the front end of the BGSU series with Switzer suspended.

Preview: Last NCHC road win was at UND

WHO: Miami RedHawks (4-4) at No. 2 North Dakota Fighting Hawks (6-2-2).

WHEN: Friday, 8:37 p.m.; Saturday–8:07 p.m.

WHERE: Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks, N.D.

TV: None.

NORTH DAKOTA RADIO: KQHT-FM (96.1), Grand Forks, N.D.

NOTES: Miami’s The 2016-17 season wasn’t memorable, but one highlight was a 6-3 win in Grand Forks in which Louie Belpedio racked up a goal and two assists.

That was on Friday, Jan. 13. The RedHawks lost, 3-1 to UND the next night and have not won a conference road game since, going 0-7-2.

The USCHO poll has St. Cloud State, North Dakota and Denver in the 1-2-3 slots. Take that, league detractors.

The Fighting Hawks have only lost twice in their first 10 games – once at home vs. then-No. 8 Minnesota, and they split at Colorado College two weeks ago.

North Dakota enters this weekend unbeaten in its last three (2-0-1), having won its finale at Colorado College and gone 1-0-1 at seventh-ranked Wisconsin last weekend.

Goalie Cam Johnson is receiving much of the credit for the Fighting Hawks’ fast start, and his .925 save percentage is definitely solid, the UND defense has made Johnson’s life much easier.

North Dakota is allowing just 23.6 shots per game, as the team has a shot differential of plus-7½ shots per game.

The Fighting Hawks’ 95.1 percent penalty killing clip is third in Division I.

The UND blue line is headed by Christian Wolanin, son of 13-year NHL veteran Craig Wolanin. Christian Wolanin leads the team in points (3-6-9) and the fourth-round pick of Ottawa is the highest-drafted defenseman on the team.

Among defensemen, Wolanin, Andrew Peski, Colton Poolman and Hayden Shaw have dressed for all 10 of North Dakota’s games. Gabe Bast, who has logged six games, and Poolman both have a goal and three helpers.

Shaw is 0-3-3 and Peski has one assist.

Freshman Grant Mismash is a second-round pick – the only player taken in the top two rounds on the team – and he has three goals and five assists, leading all forwards with eight points.

Nick Jones (3-4-7), Shane Gersich (3-3-6) and assistant captain Rhett Gardner (2-4-6) are also major components of the UND forward corps.

Collin Adams, a freshman and sixth-rounder, leads the team with four goals.

In net, Johnson is fifth in Division I with a 1.63 goals-against average, and his save percentage is tied for 15th. However, after he started the first eight UND games, he missed last weekend with an undisclosed injury.

Peter Thome was between the pipes for the Wisconsin series, and he went 58-for-62 (.935) in a win and a tie.

The aforementioned Miami win here has been the only one for the RedHawks vs. UND in the teams’ last six meetings regardless of venue. North Dakota swept Miami in Oxford to wrap up last regular season.

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

Gardner leads all Fighting Hawks in career goals vs. MU, as he has scored three times in six games vs. the RedHawks.

Miami lost last Saturday vs. Colorado College, snapping a three-game winning streak. Goalie Ryan Larkin has allowed just five goals in his last four games.

Both teams are 1-1 in the NCHC.

Analysis: End game going Miami’s way

OXFORD, Ohio – If Friday’s conference opener was any indication, this could be a fun NCHC season.

Miami led by one then trailed by one, scored the tying goal with 51 seconds left and the winner in overtime of a 3-2 victory over Colorado College at Cady Arena on Friday.

No one expects this to happen 100 percent of the time when games are close, but this is two games in a row in which the RedHawks faced adversity late and killed it.

Last Saturday, Connecticut had all the momentum heading into the third period and Miami came out with three quick goals to shut the door.

There have been a number of similar games the past few seasons in which the final outcome has gone the other way, and 6-on-5 has been RedHawk kryptonite.

MU entered this four-game homestand 1-3 and has won three much-needed contests in a row to pull a game over .500, and the RedHawks have a chance to sweep the four-game set and its first NCHC series of 2017-18.

The way Miami has played late in the past two games, things are definitely looking good heading into the RedHawks’ home finale.

Other thoughts…

– It was a well-played game by both teams, and as expected, CC is much better than in past seasons. Obviously the ending makes that easy to say, but the quality of play was high even in those first two fairly-uneventful periods, especially considering it’s still early November.

– Colorado College scored both of its goals on the power play. The interference on Rourke Russell was the right call, but Grant Hutton barely contacted a player with the puck and was whistled for tripping. The officiating was pretty inconsistent, and the Tigers received six power plays to Miami’s two.

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

– Ben Lown is currently the third member of the top line with Gordie Green and Josh Melnick, and he proved deserving of that role with the centering feed to Melnick for the overtime winner. Like several of the other freshmen, he seems to be gaining confidence with each game.

– Three RedHawks took at least eight faceoffs, and all had winning records. Melnick was 15-13, Casey Gilling finished 13-7 and Kiefer Sherwood won six of eight. Overall Miami was 39-29 on the night.

– Green and Melnick both have five-game points streaks. Green has all of his team-best 13 points in that span (4-9-13), and Melnick is 2-6-8. Louie Belpedio has three goals in his last two games, and Melnick has goals in consecutive games as well.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C+. Melnick and Gilling both found the net, but this corps combined for just 15 shots and four of its five minor penalties resulted in CC power plays. Ryan Siroky dished out a pair of huge hits, but Miami didn’t get much offensive production from its bottom three lines. Kiefer Sherwood and Carson Meyer combined for just one shot, and Karch Bachman had three – including some high-percentage attempts – as the third member of that line, but he appears somewhat snakebitten.

DEFENSEMEN: B+. Belpedio juked at the blue line and wired one home for one of the goals. Colorado College generated 30 shots but 11 were on the power play. Chaz Switzer stopped a 31st and a would-be goal when he blocked a shot at the top of the crease while goalie Ryan Larkin was scrambling to get back into position.

GOALTENDING: B. Twice Larkin sprawled across the goal mouth to stop A-plus chances, and he was 28 of 30 overall (.933). One of the shots slipped through in heavy traffic, and both were on the power play. Larkin had allowed 16 goals the first four games but has surrendered just three in his last three starts.

LINEUP CHANGES: None again. It’s the third straight game the same 18 skaters have dressed, and Larkin has been between the pipes for the start of all seven of Miami’s contests.

Analysis: Schedule tougher from here

OXFORD, Ohio – Connecticut is far from an elite opponent.

But when a team has struggled to earn wins in recent seasons as Miami has, a dominating sweep can do wonders for a program.

The RedHawks blew out the Huskies, 7-1 at Cady Arena on Saturday to complete a series sweep. Miami outscored UConn, 10-1 for the weekend.

Connecticut (2-5-1) is 51st in the way-too-early-to-take-seriously PairWise, and Maine – MU’s opponent last weekend – is 54th.

So Miami went 3-1 vs. teams in the lower tier of Division I. The RedHawks were 0-2 against a Providence team that’s ranked seventh.

MU is presently 49th itself, which is in the bottom 20 percent.

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

Some really good things happened this weekend. Ryan Larkin returned to form. The power play continued to excel. The RedHawks played much better defensively, holding UConn under 20 shots both nights.

As mentioned previously, the RedHawks (3-3) needed to get back to .500 heading into their NCHC slate, which they did. But the level of difficulty will amp up substantially from here.

Up next for Miami is a rejuvenated Colorado College team in the RedHawks’ league openers, with both games in Oxford.

Then comes the North Dakota trip.

The RedHawks have shown can light the lamp against mediocre teams, but we’ll find out a lot more about this team’s make-up in the coming weeks.

Other thoughts…

– The key timeframe in this game was late in the second period when Connecticut scored to cut its deficit to one and Miami’s response early in the third period. Miami had dominated to that point but led 2-1 entering the third period up with the Huskies holding the momentum.

– I give Coach Enrico Blasi his staff a lot of credit for their coaching in the third period. Holding leads has been an issue in the past, and the RedHawks came out with five goals to put it away. Blasi also distributed ice time very well in those final 20 minutes, allowing almost every skater to log power play time. Beyond that, a frustrated UConn team took some dumb penalties out of frustration and tried to drag Miami into confrontations, but the RedHawks answered with goals instead of fisticuffs. There are times to engage opponents in that manner, but up a handful of goals against an inferior opponent is not one of them. Just in case, Blasi sent tough guys Conor Lemirande and Ryan Siroky out late.

– Along those lines, surprised the Huskies mailed it in after Miami made it 4-1. UConn led the RedHawks impose their will on them the remainder of the game.

– There have been very few players in recent years who have started their Miami careers slowly in terms of points and just suddenly blown up. Gordie Green is one of them. He tallied four points his first 17 games but has 28 points in 25 games since. Not in any way comparing these players, but Ryan Jones and Andy Miele are two of the only players in the Cady Arena who have taken off in similar manners their sophomore seasons after pedestrian rookie campaigns.

– Where was everyone? The announced attendance was 1,863 but even that seemed high. It was 1,894 on Friday. There was almost no student section either night. Word is there were several Halloween parties, but Miami has drawn just fine the final weekend in October in the past and everyone knows parties in Oxford start well after the final whistle at 9:32 p.m.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A. The power play was especially brilliant, and it was inspiring to watch some of the passing and stickwork. Eight of the 12 forwards recorded at least one point. Freshman Casey Gilling was 13 of 18 on faceoffs.

DEFENSEMEN: A+. All six were solid all night. UConn managed just 18 shots, and not many were high quality. And what an offensive outburst. Louie Belpedio scored twice and assisted on another. Grant Hutton, Scott Dornbrock and Chaz Switzer picked up a helper each. Switzer had looked tentative at times in previous games, but this was a solid performance for the lone sophomore in this corps.

GOALTENDING: A-. The shorthanded goal was a quality shot that would’ve required an above-average save by Larkin. He faced a few more Grade-A chances but stopped them all. Like Friday, the rebound control was excellent and he played with confidence.

LINEUP CHANGES: There were none. All 19 skaters-plus-Larkin from Friday were back on the ice Saturday. Blasi has typically let competition play out on the ice early in the season and solidified his go-to lineup card in January, but he seems pretty well settled in most spots already.

Analysis: Good job preserving lead

OXFORD, Ohio – The last 50 minutes might not have been the most exciting in Miami history, but with the RedHawks allowing 17 goals the first four games, the shut-down hockey over the final two and a half periods was welcomed.

Miami scored three times in the first 10 minutes and coasted to a 3-0 win over Connecticut on Friday.

The RedHawks held the Huskies to 11 shots over the final two periods – in other words they did an excellent job of preserving the lead.

This weekend’s games are so important because the NCHC season begins next weekend for Miami, which doesn’t want to enter league play under .500.

Posting a winning record in this conference is hard enough, the RedHawks don’t need the additional burden of chasing victories against top 10 teams.

Whatever position in which Miami finds itself during NCHC play, this game had to help the RedHawks gain confidence in their ability to hold a late lead.

As exciting of a sport as hockey is to watch, sometimes an unsexy period or two are good for a team.

For Miami, the final 40 minutes of defensive, grind-it-out hockey were exactly what it needed.

Other thoughts…

– It must’ve been in Miami’s scouting report to throw the puck at the net from the left side of the blue line. Scott Dornbrock did this twice early in the first period: Once Carson Meyer tipped home a goal and the other time Dornbrock’s shot got all the way through.

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

– Boy did Ryan Larkin need a solid performance. The sophomore entered the weekend with an .840 save percentage and a goals-against average well north of 4.00. He also wasn’t bombarded with A-plus scoring chances. Hopefully with this win Larkin’s confidence sores. So does the confidence of his teammates in Miami’s goaltending, because when the skaters don’t have faith in the guy between the pipes, it can takes players out of their game.

– The only downer is that as many NHL draftees as Connecticut has, it wasn’t a very impressive squad. At least it wasn’t very impressive in this game. The Huskies didn’t have much of an offensive punch, and they lacked a high level of team speed. One doesn’t get the feeling UConn is going to compete for a Hockey East title.

– Realized recently that only one or two file photos are loaded for some of Miami’s newsmakers, so BoB (read here: I) promise to add some very soon.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B-. Not a bad effort. There was nothing doing after the top two lines, really, as forwards not named Gordie Green or Kiefer Sherwood combined for just nine shots. Coach Enrico Blasi has never had any fear of throwing freshmen into the penalty kill, and Casey Gilling et al are doing a solid job. Both goals were sweet to watch: Meyer re-directed one from the slot and Green one-timed a thread-the-needle pass from Josh Melnick for the other marker by this corps.

DEFENSEMEN: A. This group not only held its own defensively, helping hold Connecticut to 19 shots and very few of high quality, it is also chipping in on offense regularly. Grant Hutton’s five goals are well documented, and he and Louie Belpedio racked up 10 shots on goal between them. Dornbrock scored on a beautifully-placed wrister. The freshmen are playing somewhat conservatively but aren’t making mistakes. Four shots allowed in the third period with a three-goal lead is pretty much optimal.

GOALTENDING: A. There were only a few good scoring chances for UConn, but Larkin looked his old self, playing technically sound but with lightning reflexes and top-notch instincts. Most of the Huskies’ good chances came early, and Larkin made the necessary stops late to preserve the shutout. His rebound control was outstanding as well.

LINEUP CHANGES: On defense, Mahalak was back in the lineup after being scratched for the finale in Maine. Up front, Zach Lavalle and Ben Lown returned the ice, as Alex Alger and Christian Mohs did not dress.

Analysis: Blowouts in college common

It’s always tough to watch a team you root for get blown out.

In certain sports with significant parity, it does happen to even the best teams.

So in the ultra-competitive world of NCAA Division I hockey, there’s no reason to panic after Miami fell behind five goals in the first period in a 6-3 loss to Maine on Saturday.

Not at all dismissing this pounding, but it’s still very early in the season and the RedHawks did earn a split on the road, which is rarely a bad thing.

There were a number of positive things to take from this game for the Miami fan.

Such as…

– Miami did fight back after falling behind by five early. Sometimes in hockey we see blowouts snowball, and at least the RedHawks battled down the stretch, cutting the final deficit to three.

– The power play is unreal. With Grant Hutton taking an active role on the man-advantage and Gordie Green joining the first unit full-time, Miami was 7-for-10 (70 percent) this weekend. And 3 of 5 in the finale, showing that even after the RedHawks lit the lamp four times on the man-advantage on Friday, Maine was unable to adjust.

– And I know it’s not always popular to say, but the chippy-ness we saw in this game can generate momentum and galvanize a team. There were two skirmishes on Saturday, and in the first Green was targeted along the boards after a stoppage. He not only stood up for himself, Rourke Russell came to his defense and was engaged with opponents the entire time, and Carson Meyer got involved as well. The my-teammate-has-my-back mentality is a bigger factor in hockey than almost any other sport, and such an incident can only help a young team.

Miami’s Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– The other altercation: Captain Louie Belpedio ended up in a scrum midway through the third period and was tossed from the game. Sometimes captains have to get involved in these things. Again, this shows the team youngsters that the captain has everyone’s back.

– And good for the officials, Jack Millea and Kevin Keenan, about whom I know nothing other than they handled the after-the-whistle antics very well. No reason to suspend anyone, instead choosing the 10-minute misconduct option to address the possibility of repeat offenders.

Other thoughts…

– So Ryan Larkin. Again, blowouts happen. At one point, Patrick Roy let nine in for the Canadiens. Admittedly, he’s not exactly dominating, but let’s remember that this was a player who was named team MVP as a freshman at the team’s awards banquet. That’s a rarity. He had a .910 save percentage in 2016-17 despite getting pelted with Grade-A chances. The smart money is on him rebounding, and soon.

– Follow up to that point: Larkin did have a .792 winning percentage for the weekend, and it’s interesting that Grant Valentine backed him up on Saturday. Valentine logged nine-plus minutes and stopped 2 of 3 shots, giving up a low between-the-pads goal. Chase Munroe played the entire exhibition game in Plymouth, Mich., last weekend, and he allowed five goals. He was the backup down the stretch in 2016-17, so it looks like coach Enrico Blasi prefers Valentine as a backup at this point. But as long as he is healthy, it’s obvious the net currently belongs to Larkin, and if that’s the case through 2019-20, Miami will likely thrive.

– The RedHawks pulled the goalie down by four late, which typically indicates a coach thinks his team has played well enough that it deserves a chance to play on what’s essentially a power play. Hutton scored on the 6-on-5 to make it a three-goal game. Really, if you’re going to lose, who cares if it’s 3-2 or 13-2? Coach Blasi doesn’t, and I’m in agreement.

– It wasn’t a great night for Chaz Switzer. He was beaten, 1-on-1, resulting in Maine’s first goal, and his penalty on that play ultimately resulted in a 5-on-3 for another Black Bears goal. He was also on the ice for Maine’s third goal.

– Some perspective about Hutton’s scoring rate: He has 14 goals in 40 games since the start of 2016-17, and 10th place on BoB’s unofficial all-time career defenseman goal leaderboard is Josh Harrold with 15. With five goals in five games already this season, Miami could be looking at one of its top-scoring blueliners of all-time.

– Veli-Antti Tiuraniemi, a Black Bears defenseman, was committed to Miami last season and appeared to be headed to Oxford this fall. Instead he had a goal and an assist vs. the RedHawks.

– Thanks to the University of Maine for its free high-quality online stream. The game experience in Orono is supposed to be fantastic, and BoB wishes the Black Bears nothing but success in the future, especially since subsequent wins by Maine will affect the PairWise!

LINEUP CHANGES: F Zach LaValle was scratched after dressing for the first three games. Alex Alger played for the first time this season in his place. F Ryan Siroky replaced Ben Lown for both games this weekend. On defense, Alec Mahalak sat for the first time in 2017-18, as Grant Frederic logged his second game of the season. Fs Willie Knierim and Carter Johnson, plus D Bryce Hatten are the only Miami players not to log ice time this season, although Knierim played in Plymouth.

Miami loses opener to Providence

OXFORD, Ohio – Providence scored twice in a span of 1:56 – late in the second period and early in the third.

Those were the decisive goals as the Friars beat Miami, 3-1 in the teams’ season opener at Cady Arena on Friday.

Providence (1-0) opened the scoring 7:57 into the first period when Ryan Tait corralled a loose puck in the Miami faceoff circle and slipped it through RedHawks goals Ryan Larkin.

Miami’s Austin Alger (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami (0-1) tied it when freshman Austin Alger skated laterally into the slot and whipped one just under the crossbar with 2:43 left in the opening period.

Greg Printz slipped behind the RedHawks’ defense and beat Larkin late in the second period to put the Friars ahead for good.

Providence’s Josh Wilkins stole the puck from Phil Knies at the blue line and scored the final goal.

It was Alger’s first career goal, and a pair of fellow freshmen assisted on it for their first collegiate points – Knies and Casey Gilling.

Miami appeared to have cut the lead to one in the third period, but an apparent goal by Kiefer Sherwood was waved off after it was ruled he interfered with the goalie while slipping the puck past him.

The RedHawks’ Gordie Green was also denied a goal after a review when his breakaway shot hit the crossbar.

Larkin stopped 27 shots in the losing effort.

Miami’s winless streak was extended to 11 games, its longest since 1991. The RedHawks are 0-10-1 in that span and have not won since Jan. 28.

The teams will wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.