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Analysis: Miami still battling despite odds

Miami has not won in six weeks, but its next loss will be its last of the season.

The RedHawks lost their NCHC Tournament first-round opener in their best-of-3 series, 5-4 in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena on Friday and now face elimination in that series.

Miami’s path from here on out couldn’t be more clear: Win or go home. The RedHawks would need to win on Saturday and Sunday at No. 3 UMD then run the table in the semifinal and final of the league tournament in Minneapolis.

That would earn them a berth into the NCAA Tournament, which, of course, is one and out.

An unlikely scenario made more improbable considering the first half of the opening sentence. Miami is 0-8-1 in its last nine and 1-11-2 since Jan. 14.

To Miami’s credit, it took the third-best team in Division I to overtime in the Bulldogs’ home building on Friday despite missing captain Louie Belpedio and losing stud goalie Ryan Larkin in the second period.

The RedHawks led three times in the game (2-1, 3-2 and 4-3) but were unable to close out the win, a common theme in 2016-17.

Backup goalie Chase Munroe had not logged a minute in exactly three months, and after stopping just three of the first five shots he faced, he turned aside 26 of the final 28. He faced a shooting gallery in the final 20 minutes of regulation and overtime, and didn’t get a lot of help from his skaters defensively.

It would’ve been easy for this team to mail it in, considering the near impossibility of its task of winning this tournament.

But the RedHawks didn’t quit, and in a season that will likely go down as their worst in a quarter century, that’s an encouraging sign.

Crazy things happen in conference tournaments, and it would take a run that makes 2013-14 look tame just for Miami to return the position it was in three years when it came within a goal of advancing to the NCAAs despite a 12-19-3 regular season record.

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

The RedHawks have their backs against the boards but are playing with passion, and in Game 2 we’ll see if that’s enough to extend the season.

Other thoughts…

– No idea what Larkin’s injury is or how severe, but when a goalie leaves a game and doesn’t return he rarely returns the next night. Already Belpedio-less, that makes MU’s chances of advancing in this round even more remote. If there is a bright spot it’s that Munroe earned valuable conference tournament experience, and as we recall, Jay Williams was shaky early before finding his groove, as was Charlie Effinger before him.

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

– Scorers’ list from Friday boom: Ryan Siroky and Zach LaValle, in the bottom six of the forward list on the lineup card all season, both scored in this one. It was just their third and second goals of the season, respectively, although LaValle especially seems to have picked it up a notch recently. This is encouraging because Miami was able to hang without its go-to snipers finding the net, and also the lack of scoring from non-top six forwards has been well documented here.

– Scorers’ list from Friday bust: Josh Melnick hasn’t scored in seven games and Anthony Louis has been stuck on 13 goals for 13 games. Kiefer Sherwood was limited to one shot. Scoring from tertiary forwards is great, but the top players need to be top players in the playoffs for teams to advance.

– Yet another Gordie Green update. Hate to be redundant but Green has been the hottest forward on the team with seven points in four games and 11 in his last 10 – more than anyone else on the team.

– Speaking of points surges, two assists on Friday give Grant Hutton eight points in his last seven games. He picked up three helpers the first 28 games but has five in the last seven. On a team that has struggled mightily the past two months, it says a lot that a pair of underclassmen in Green and Hutton are two of the RedHawks’ top points producers. Green is a freshman and Hutton is a defenseman.

– Shots were close the first two periods: 14-12 UMD. Shots after: 27-10 UMD. Miami has now been outshot in 13 straight regulation periods. The RedHawks have allowed 474 shots while generating just 320 during their current 1-11-2 skid.

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Analysis: Loss follows Miami MO

OXFORD, Ohio – Just a microcosm of the season.

Miami was every bit as good as Minnesota-Duluth in the first period but found itself down two, then four in the middle frame as the Bulldogs eventually went on to win, 5-2 at Cady Arena on Saturday.

An unlucky bounce for Miami – or a lucky one for UMD, depending on your perspective – resulted in the Bulldogs’ first goal.

Poor coverage in the slot ended up in Nos. 2 and 3, and as has been the case so often this season, those were two of the only breakdowns in front of the net for Miami (6-11-3), and the puck ended up in the back of the cage.

A bad play by senior goalie Ryan McKay made it 4-0, and that was essentially the night.

With past teams, a four-goal deficit would be a huge uphill climb but not insurmountable, but this RedHawks team has scored four goals in a game once, and the final tally in that contest was into an empty net.

This loss was crucial because Miami had a chance to pull within two points of UMD (8-7-4), which is in third place in the NCHC. Now the RedHawks are eight behind the Bulldogs.

Miami is now at the halfway point of its league schedule and has just 10 points in conference play, and earning two of six points this weekend made any ascent of the NCHC standings significantly more difficult.

With three points awarded for each game, 1½ points per game should put a team in the 4-5 seed range. That’s 36 points.

Miami needs to win nine of its final 12 league contests to reach that mark, and the RedHawks would likely need more than that to catch the fourth-seeded team.

All that comes back to the same axiomatic point: Miami needs to win more.

Other thoughts…

– McKay was pulled after the fourth goal, and he was visibly angry while departing. He launched his goalie stick down the tunnel, and it hit the edge of the stands and almost made its way into the seats. He also yelled something while leaving the bench. McKay did not come out with the team for the third period, and he also was not on the ice for practice Monday. That almost certainly means Jay Williams will be in net this Saturday. Freshman Evan McCarthy is the team’s third goalie, so we’ll see on Saturday if he is elevated to backup status on the interim.

– Miami ended its six-game power play drought as sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio scored in the final second of a man advantage in the second period. The RedHawks were 0-for-16 in their previous six games with two shorthanded goals allowed.

– Let’s try to invoke some positives: For all of the problems Miami’s offense has had, senior forward Alex Gacek has one of the team’s best forwards in previous weeks. He is skating as well as he has his entire career and has been great in all three zones, although his points total doesn’t reflect that (it’s tough to pile up points when Miami scores three goals in a weekend).

– And classmate and captain Sean Kuraly looks like he is close to breaking out. Even with his struggles on offense, he has been solid on defense and in the faceoff circle, and he has been more active in the offensive zone in recent games as well.

GRADES

Miami freshman Ryan Siroky scored his first career goal on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami freshman Ryan Siroky scored his first career goal on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

FORWARDS: D. This corps managed just 10 shots on goal, and Miami had only six the final 40 minutes. Freshman Ryan Siroky, who is steadily improving, scored his first career goal on a laser from the outside of the faceoff circle, but that was one of the lone highlights for this group. Minnesota-Duluth did an excellent job of taking the Anthony Louis-Josh Melnick-Jack Roslovic line out of the game.

DEFENSEMEN: C. UMD was held to just 22 shots, more than a dozen fewer than on Friday, and Belpedio found the net. Players were left alone in front of the net on the Bulldogs’ second and third goals, but it’s unclear without replay ability whether that blame lies here or on the forwards.

GOALTENDING: C. McKay’s only real mistake was on the ENG after his bad clear on the fourth goal, and Williams was 6-for-6 in relief. With this team’s lack of offense, if the goalies’ grade isn’t a ‘B’ or better, Miami has little chance of winning.

LINEUP CHANGES: Up front, freshman Kiefer Sherwood was scratched in favor of senior Michael Mooney. It’s unclear why Sherwood sat, since he seemed pretty solid on Friday. On defense, freshman Grant Hutton did not dress for the first time this season, and junior Colin Sullivan returned to the ice. Hutton is having a solid rookie campaign but did struggled on Friday, and Sullivan continued to play well in limited action. He has to be one of the top seventh defensemen in all of college hockey.

UMD scores early, often to beat Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami has played in plenty of one-goal games in previous months, but there was little doubt about Saturday’s outcome after the first period.

Minnesota-Duluth scored four unanswered goals en route to beating the RedHawks, 5-2 in the series finale at Cady Arena as Miami ended the weekend with just two of a possible six critical points.

Miami has now won only one of its last 10 games (1-7-2), remaining in seventh place in the NCHC. But the team in now just one point ahead of last-place Colorado College.

With 6:08 left in the first period, Neal Pionk put the Bulldogs ahead on a shot from the high slot that pinballed off several bodies before ricocheting into the net.

Less than three minutes later, RedHawks senior goalie Ryan McKay made a highlight-reel save on a point-blank shot by Austin Farley, but the rebound came to Tony Cameranesi, who fired the puck over a sprawled-out McKay from the slot, making it 2-0.

UMD (8-7-4) extended its lead the three when Dominic Toninato whipped a shot into the side of the cage off a drop pass from Blake Young seven minutes into the middle stanza.

Just 2:04 after that goal, McKay attempted a stretch pass from the side boards, but it was intercepted by Parker MacKay, who fired it into the empty net, ending McKay’s night.

Miami (6-11-3) did attempt a comeback, started by sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio ripped a low shot that beat Bulldogs goalie Kasimir Koskisuo to make it 4-1 with 3:24 left in the second period.

RedHawks freshman Ryan Siroky spun and fired one top shelf for his first career goal to cut the deficit to two with 9:39 left in regulation.

Ryan Siroky (24) and Louie Belpedio (58) both scored on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Ryan Siroky (24) and Louie Belpedio (58) both scored on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Although Miami senior goalie Jay Williams did not allow a goal in relief, an empty netter from the neutral zone sealed the win for the Bulldogs with 2:50 to play.

The RedHawks managed just six total shots in the final 40 minutes, with two of them finding net.

Miami plays a single non-conference game against Bowling Green next weekend, with the puck drop scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Cady Arena.

Q&A with Miami’s Nick Petraglia, Part I

Nick Petraglia is entering his sixth season as an assistant coach at Miami, but he has been around the program since he was 18.

PetragliaHe was a goalie for the RedHawks in 2000-01 and 2001-02 under current head coach Enrico Blasi, and was a volunteer assistant coach for three seasons before becoming the director of hockey operations at Miami.

Two of his main current responsibilities for the RedHawks are working with the goalies and serving as a recruiting co-coordinator.

Because he watches the incoming players extensively before they come to Oxford, the Blog of Brotherhood talked to him about how the newest crops of RedHawks and the state of the roster, as well as other off-season topics.

BoB: So what is the coaching staff doing at this point to prepare for this fall?

PETRAGLIA: Preparation started probably a couple of weeks after the Frozen Four last year. Really, just recapping last season, seeing what the makeup of our team was going to look like, establishing a new identity, leadership, addressing areas that we needed to improve. That all occurred at the end of last season, and then when the guys were around for summer session, they put in a lot of hard work, just getting off on the right foot in terms of training and their summer preparation. Right now, we’re just kind of recapping those topics that we covered in the spring, and then the next two weeks we’ll spend a lot of time meeting and planning our preseason in terms of what our practice is going to look like, what our schedule is going to look like, making sure we’re making the most of our time because we have to be pretty efficient with the NCAA restrictions that are in place in the preseason in terms of hours. So really at this point it’s just putting the plan in place and making sure we’re ready to go and we’re prepared to we can execute that plan when the guys are here.

BoB: Miami lost a lot of really good forwards from last season (Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman, Riley Barber, Cody Murphy, Alex Wideman). Is the biggest concern heading into 2015-16 this team’s ability to put the puck in the net?

PETRAGLIA: I wouldn’t call it a concern, just part of our job in recruiting is to know what we’re losing and to replace it. So while obviously a few players that have those abilities have left, we feel like we’ve replaced it with guys who can fill those roles. Obviously with freshmen, there’s going to be a natural learning curve, but we’re really excited about what we have coming in with some of the new guys to carry to load. And then on top of that, as guys get older and new opportunities are available, you always look for some returning players to step up and take up their role and fill some of that void left by graduating seniors or in this case even Riley Barber, who left a year early. I think we have a lot of firepower, we have good balance – skill and speed – and hopefully that will translate to production. I wouldn’t say we’re concerned but it’s definitely something we’re going to have to find the right chemistry and work at, make sure we’re living up to the standards that we’ve set.

BoB: Is off-season at Miami easier for you and the other hockey coaches because you’ve been together so long? Coach Enrico Blasi is entering his 17th season, Coach Brekke has been there for almost a decade and you’ve been with the program since you were a teenager and are in your sixth season in your current role as an assistant.

PETRAGLIA: I think as a the years go on we become more and more cohesive as a staff, and I would also say that as a program, that includes our relationships between the staff and the players as well. Just having everybody on the same page, knowing what our standards are and buying in and working toward the same goal. So our summer discussions as a staff and the planning that’s in place: I think there’s a lot of chemistry in that area. We definitely have discussions where we’re trying to figure things out and think of new ways to do things, and we’re always trying to get better, but I would say that the quality of our relationships and where we’re all at personally really helps with that because we really are one big family, and it’s fun to show up every day and work with people that you care about and that you love and that you can really get along with and not only have a great relationship but a productive one where you can talk things out even when things are tough, and talk things out and come to an agreement as one.

BoB: In looking at your roster, last year at this time you had 28 players. Right now there are 25 listed, which is the smallest roster I can remember this team having. A couple of guys aren’t coming back that you probably expected to see here this fall, but how do you feel about having list 25 players on the roster right now?

PETRAGLIA: We feel OK with it. We were a little surprised about Jimmy Mullin moving on. Obviously he graduated, but (he) has an opportunity at Minnesota State…so that would’ve been 26. But 25, we feel good about. We feel really good about our senior class. Outstanding group of people that have been through a bunch of good times but some tough times as well, so they’ve seen both sides of it, and the leadership starting with Sean Kuraly, who’s going to be a tremendous captain for every reason you can list. Not only that but his support group is really, really good. The character that’s in that senior class is really going to lead the way for our team and sets the bar high for us. So we really couldn’t be more excited about that senior class taking charge of this team.

BoB: Two defensemen that were on the roster last year at this time, Matt Joyaux and Trevor Hamilton,  decided mid-season to pursue opportunities with other teams. Nothing against them, they did what they had to do to further their hockey careers, but a player like Garrett Kennedy a few years ago was willing to not dress for two years before getting his shot on the ice and ended up being a solid contributor his final two seasons. With college hockey becoming more competitive and more of a business than ever, do you envision this current scenario is going to become more of a reality or do you feel last season was an aberration?

PETRAGLIA: I really hope that’s not the reality – that’s a really tough question to answer because everything is a case-by-case basis. In those situations, it was a tough situation for both players, they found themselves out of the lineup more than they would like and felt that they would have better opportunities to play more elsewhere, and that was the reason for leaving. I think they both really did love Miami and enjoyed the overall experience, but it came down to playing opportunity. It’s disappointing to see that happen because there are other examples where players find themselves in that situation and they work hard and they work themselves out of it and find themselves in the lineup every single game, and that’s what you would like to see because unfortunately someone’s got to sit out each night, not everybody can play. So I hope that’s not the reality, but it is the nature of the business when you’re trying to put yourself in a position to succeed and play as much as possible. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason and people move on. That was tough, in the middle of the season, for that to happen, but both kids handled it well, left on good terms in terms of not having any animosity, it was handled rather professionally, and we all got through it.

BoB: Overall, looking at the dynamic of the team, you lost a 5-feet-6 and a 5-feet-7 guy and are only bringing in one smaller player. The lone incoming defenseman is 6-feet-3. So it looks like you’re going to have a little more size this season.

PETRAGLIA: I know going back a year ago, after 2013-14, we felt like we needed to get bigger. We added Lemirande, Dornbrook, Sullivan. We felt like we needed that size and strength. And at this point we feel like we’ve got a pretty balanced lineup where I don’t think size is an issue. Naturally, we’re going to have some smaller players that bring certain skill sets to the table. The size of this year’s class is probably average to normal.

BoB: The incoming player who has commanded the most hype is forward Jack Roslovic. He was picked in the first round, 25th overall by the Winnipeg Jets this summer. In 25 games for the U.S. National Development Team, he had 11 goals and 27 assists, plus he went 6-5-11 in seven games for the U.S. Under-18 Team in its gold medal effort. He played in an exhibition at Cady Arena last season, and BoB saw him again in Ann Arbor last winter and his talent level looks off the charts. Especially with all of the key forward losses, the RedHawks are going to need someone who can jump in and contribute right away. Can you talk about him and what he brings to Miami?

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PETRAGLIA: Jack is a special player. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of expectation and a lot of pressure just because of where he was drafted, where he’s coming from. He’s very highly touted. But the one thing I will say about Jack is he’s very, very grounded. For all that’s been through and what he experienced this summer, he’s got a really good head on his shoulders. He can do everything. He’s got decent size, he’s strong on his skates, his playmaking and offensive instincts are incredible. Very, very good hockey sense. He can do it all, and he’s one of those guys that we’re going to expect to be ready right away. Obviously there will be a little bit of a transition, but he’s already played in some college games (in exhibitions), he’s played in big-time environments, and we’re going to lean on him pretty heavily to produce right away, and we don’t see him having any big issues other than normal growing pains.

Check back on Wednesday for Part II and the conclusion of our conversation, as Petraglia dissects the rest of the incoming recruits and talks about the players he expects to take major steps forward this fall.

John Lachmann writes for WCPO.com, the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Tristatefootball.com and GetSportsInfo.com. You can follow him at @rednblackhawks.

 

Ryan Siroky a RedHawk

According to his personal Twitter account (@rsiroky24), ’95 birthday and California native, Ryan Siroky (5’11”, 180), has verbally committed to play his college hockey at Miami. Siroky spent 2010-11 with the LA Junior Kings (LA Selects) where he posted 14-20-34 in 35 games and part of last year with the NTDP. Siroky has spent this year with the LA Selects Midget AAA 16U team and played three games with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL as they drafted him over the summer. Presumably, he’ll move up to the Gamblers next year as a “full fledged” 17-year old.

In August, Siroky led all U.S. Junior Select players at the 2011 U-17 Five Nations Tournament in Ann Arbor with three goals three assists as the Americans swept their four games to win the tournament going away.

Since he just turned 17 in February, Miami fans shouldn’t expect to see him on campus until at least the 2013-14 season and perhaps even the following year depending on his development and Miami’s needs.

Congratulations, Ryan! And, welcome to The Brotherhood!

Here’s a rundown on Ryan and the rest of the U-17 team from the United States of Hockey.

Siroky got better in every single game he played and ended up tying Oglevie for the team lead with six points (3-3). He plays hard every shift and had good finish when he was near the net. He was blocking shots, playing physical and never missing a beat offensively. He became more and more of a factor in each game. He’s a fun player to watch. Draft eligible in 2013