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Photos: St. Cloud State at Miami

Images from the series between St. Cloud State and Miami University played at Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio, on Feb. 9-10, 2018. All photos by Cathy Lachmann/BoB.

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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.

Preview: Minn.-Duluth at Miami

WHO: No. 14 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (5-5-2) at Miami RedHawks (4-5-1).

WHEN: Friday, 7:37 p.m.; Saturday–7:07 p.m.

WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio.

TV: None.

MINN-DULUTH RADIO: KDAL-AM (610) and KDAL-FM (103.9), Duluth, Minn.

NOTES: Miami has not fared well against UMD in recent years.

Two and a half years ago in Oxford, these teams played a remarkable series that saw both teams come away with a win.

That was the last victory for the RedHawks vs. the Bulldogs, who are 8-0-2 in these teams’ last 10 meetings.

Minnesota-Duluth has also ended Miami’s season in the first round of the NCHC Tournament each of the past two seasons in straight sets.

Games between these teams have been on the chippy side, including a decent skirmish a couple years ago that featured Chris Joyaux mixing it up after the final whistle.

The Bulldogs have been loaded the past couple of seasons, culminating in an NCAA title game berth this spring, and while they’re clearly rank-worthy again in 2017-18, they lost a couple of major cogs from that Division I runner-up team.

UMD lost eight skaters to graduation, and G Hunter Miska left after a 27-win freshman season.

Only 10 UMD skaters have dressed for all 12 games, and five of the team’s top scorers from last season are gone. The other two are well off their 2016-17 points pace.

Another Hunter – Hunter Shepard – has taken over the majority of minutes between the pipes, and he has a 2.70 goals-against average and .886 save percentage.

Just five forwards have played in every UMD contest, and no one has more than eight points. Dallas Stars first-round draft pick Riley Tufte leads the team with five goals, and he has three assists to tie for the team lead in points with eight.

Peter Kreiger is even with Tufte, tallying three goals and five assists.

Also up front, Nick Swaney has two goals and five assists, Parker Mackay is 2-4-6 and Avery Peterson has scored four goals in seven games.

Standout Karson Kuhlman has two goals and a pair of helpers after a 22-point junior campaign.

Scott Perunovich is 1-7-8 to lead the Bulldogs among defensemen, and third-round pick Mikey Anderson has three goals and four assists.

Also on the back end, Dylan Samberg and Nicky Wolff have been in the lineup for all 12 of UMD’s games.

Have to credit the Bulldogs for this: Seven of their top eight scorers are from Minnesota.

Anderson and Swaney have been battling injuries.

Minnesota-Duluth is tied for 52nd on the penalty kill at 74.5 percent, an area of weakness Miami could exploit. The RedHawks are 14th in Division I at 24.0 percent, although they are 0-for-15 in their last four games.

Both teams have played four conference games, and Miami leads the Bulldogs by one point, 4-3. The RedHawks are in sixth in the NCHC and UMD seventh.

Analysis: Momentum shifted in 2nd period

To see how St. Cloud State was able to finagle a comeback win, highlighted by a three-goal third period, it is necessary to evaluate the second period.

That’s when momentum that was clearly in Miami’s favor was reversed, culminating in the Huskies’ tying goal and ultimately three more in the final frame of SCSU’s 4-2 win over the RedHawks in central Minnesota on Friday.

The first period was evenly played and entertaining. Both teams were solid, but neither was able to find the net.

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

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

Miami dominated to start the second period and drew the game’s first power play. The RedHawks capitalized, as Gordie Green collected his own rebound on his tipped shot and stuffed it home four minutes into that frame.

A hockey axiom is to watch for the pushback by the team that gets scored on first, but Miami continued to push the pace the next eight minutes.

Then Grant Hutton threw puck up the right wing that Alex Alger couldn’t reach, and the RedHawks were whistled for icing.

The puck remained in the Miami zone for 90 seconds until an exhausted MU unit took a penalty, which was on Scott Dornbrock for slashing.

The RedHawks did an exceptional job of killing that penalty, and Green stole the puck for a breakaway, on which SCSU goalie Jeff Smith made an outstanding save to keep it 1-0.

But Louie Belpedio took tripping penalty away from the play, giving the Huskies a brief 5-on-3. After Dornbrock returned to the ice, making it 5-on-4, the Huskies tied it.

That gave St. Cloud State (14-14-1) the momentum heading into the second intermission, and the next two goals both went the Huskies’ way. Miami played pretty well the final 16 minutes but could not recover.

CBS College Sports pointed to Kiefer Sherwood getting out of position as the key reason for that tying goal, but Belpedio can’t take that penalty, especially as a captain, especially away from the play, especially when his team is already shorthanded.

And especially in this critical of a game, and especially with his team up by just one on the road.

It was so far away from the play that there wasn’t a clear camera angle, but that alone tells you plenty. The fuzzy goal cam shows him clearly making unnecessary contact along the boards, and officials in this league give a lot of leeway to teams that are already a man down.

MU also had good looks at the net in that middle frame – one each by Josh Melnick and Anthony Louis stand out – and the team couldn’t finish those chances. Jeff Smith also played exceptionally in net for SCSU.

Miami needs points more than ever and was in an excellent position to earn some from this game, leading by a goal with 23 minutes left.

But the RedHawks got zero, making their potential road to the NCAA’s a whole lot harder.

Especially since St. Cloud State is currently on the Tournament bubble, and Miami’s final six games are all against top-10 teams, including four vs. Nos. 1 and 2 in the PairWise.

Other thoughts…

– That 90-second shift following the above-mentioned icing that led to the penalty that led to another penalty that ate the lead that Miami built was the second time the fourth line was caught on the ice for an extensive shift. Including the time that unit was out there prior to the icing, it logged about two straight minutes during the period of the long change. And keep in mind, the fourth line typically plays shorter shifts anyway and is not accustomed to logging 120 straight seconds against high-caliber NCAA opponents. In the first period this threesome was also caught for an extended shift, as it was unable to clear its defensive zone.

– Belpedio had a tough night, as he was also out of position on the go-ahead goal early in the third period. After a SCSU pass was deflected by Jared Brandt, Belpedio did not pick up the trailer, Mikey Eyssimont, who skated in uncontested and fired his shot over Ryan Larkin’s shoulder. To be fair, it was Belpedio’s shot from the blue line that resulted in Green’s goal, and he did assist on both Miami tallies.

– Done talking about PairWise and NCHC standings for a while. The road to home ice for the NCHC, as well as at-large for the NCAAs, is too narrow right now. Will revisit if this team can string together some consecutive wins, which is a huge “if” with this upcoming schedule. Fans best brace themselves for a best-of-3 road series against a top-10 team just to advance to Minneapolis.

– Third period update. So BoB documented that Miami was outscored, 14-3 in the final frame during its 10-game winless streak. Then the RedHawks ran off 18 goals to their opponents’ two in the last 20 minutes in overtime as they ran off five straight wins. Now MU has allowed six goals while recording just two (with one being a 6-on-4 marker in this game) during this current 1-4-1 slide. Overall, it’s actually been Miami’s best period (27-26 advantage), as it’s the only stanza in which the RedHawks have outscored their opponents, not counting overtime. Here’s one for the stats geeks: Miami has scored 23 times after the second intermission in its nine wins. In its 12 losses, the RedHawks have four markers, including Sherwood’s laser tonight. Opponents have scored 20 third-period goals in Miami losses, six in Miami wins.

Miami's Carson Meyer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Carson Meyer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– Let’s insert some happy positive. Carson Meyer didn’t get a point, but he was dominating the first half of the game. He’s playing some of his best hockey of the season, and would be tied with Gordie Green if there was a most-improved-since-Game-1 award. Green, despite being having barely graduated from his Andy Miele growth chart, scored while camped out at the top of the crease, getting his own rebound. He’d subbed on for Melnick late in the power play and was with the top unit, possibly foreshadowing his 2017-18 role. He played that down-low role in the USHL despite his size. Green has 10 points this season, with six coming in his last 10 games.

Starman

Starman

– Continue to be impressed with Dave Starman on his CBS College Sports broadcasts. Anyone who can recite all six Miami goalies in the three tandems since David Burleigh deserves some credit, and yes, he did manage to mention Pat Cannone’s name. Most viewers will learn plenty about their opponents from any telecast, but people watching his games will almost certainly learn about their own team, which is especially impressive since this isn’t one of the Big Two college sports. His analysis of Ryan Larkin’s stance, and his ability to show a graphic and tie that to assistant coach Nick Petraglia goes beyond what one will see from almost any other college hockey commentator. Color jobs, like all in that field, can be based more on politics and connections than talent, but the guy is a delight to listen to and is incredibly unbiased in an era that sees less and less of this from media members.

St. Cloud scores 3 late to top Miami

Miami has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the third period this season.

The final stanza was the RedHawks’ demise on Friday, as they allowed three crucial goals in the last 20 minutes and fell, 4-2 at St. Cloud State.

It was the fourth time this season Miami had surrendered three or more goals in the final period and the second straight contest in which an opponent tallied multiple markers after the second intermission.

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

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

After a scoreless first period, the RedHawks (9-12-6) took the lead on the game’s first penalty, as a shot by Louie Belpedio was tipped on net by Gordie Green, who seized the rebound and beat Jeff Smith for a power play goal 4:04 into the middle frame.

The Huskies (14-14-1) tied it with 2:59 left in that stanza when a wrister by Dennis Cholowski was redirected home by Ryan Poehling on the man advantage.

Mikey Eyssimont put St. Cloud State ahead 2:35 into the third period. A lateral offensive-zone pass by Patrick Newell was partially deflected to Eyssimont, who fired it just under the crossbar.

Just 71 seconds later, the Huskies went ahead by two on another tipped shot, as Jon Lizotte deflected a blue-line rip by Robby Jackson into the bottom corner of the net.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

In the final minute, Miami did cut the deficit to one on a 6-on-4, as Anthony Louis slid a pass from the high slot to Kiefer Sherwood for a one-time blast that found the top of the cage.

But with 13 seconds remaining, SCSU sealed it for good on an empty netter by Jimmy Schuldt from his defensive zone.

The RedHawks have won just one of their last six (1-4-1) and are winless in their last four on the road.

Sherwood finished with a goal and an assist, extending his points streak to three games, and he snapped a six-game stretch without a goal.

Belpedio ended up with two helpers and also has a three-game point streak.

After scoring just once in his first 17 games, Green’s marker was his fourth in his last 10.

Miami entered this game in prime position to move up in the NCHC standings, as it was just one point back of the Huskies, who were in sixth place, but now MU is ensured of remaining in seventh after this weekend, as it is four points back of St. Cloud State.

The RedHawks slipped to 24th in the PairWise rankings, and would need to move up about 10 spots in the final weeks to warrant NCAA Tournament at-large consideration.

These teams wrap up their weekend series at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday. That game will be telecast on FSN North.

Photos: St. Cloud State at Miami

Images from the series between St. Cloud State and Miami played at Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio, on Jan. 7-8, 2017. All photos by Cathy Lachmann/BoB.

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Analysis: Why the sudden turnaround?

OXFORD, Ohio – One of the more captivating things about hockey is how teams that appear dead on the frozen water at one point of a season can quickly reverse that negative trend.

The Miami everyone wanted to play in November and early December has made a significant move in the conference and PairWise the past month, as it won its fourth straight game on Saturday, 4-1 over St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.

The RedHawks (7-8-5) were in last place in the NCHC after their 10th straight non-win on Dec. 9 and dipped as low as 42nd out of 60 teams in the all-important PairWise Rankings, which determine at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament and seeding.

Thirty days later, Miami has shifted into a tie for fifth in the conference and is a point away from fourth. In theory the RedHawks could move as high as third with a pair of wins next week.

MU is up to 28th in PairWise and has much work to do to warrant at-large consideration, but the team is still up 14 spots in a month with plenty of hockey remaining against high-quality opponents.

So what’s the difference? A quick summary…

Health. A young Miami team already lacking a ton of depth couldn’t catch a break in this department the first 16 games. Carson Meyer, Louie Belpedio, Ryan Larkin, Jared Brandt and Josh Melnick – all major contributors on RedHawks Version 2016-17 – missed a combined 15 games with various injuries and illnesses. All are currently healthy now and playing at a high level.

Third-period turnaround. As documented previously, Miami was outscored, 14-3 during its 0-7-3 run in the third period. During their winning streak, the RedHawks have netted 11 goals in the last frame. Opponents: 2. They’re finishing stronger and appear in better shape than earlier in the campaign. Miami found ways to lose games it led the first couple of months and now is pulling them out late.

Power play. With plenty of minutes under its belt as a unit, the Belpedio-Melnick-Anthony Louis-Kiefer Sherwood-Meyer group has impressed with its puck movement, and after going six straight games without a goal on the man-advantage (0-for-19), Miami is 4 of 13 (30.8 percent) in the three contests since.

Melnick on fire. The sophomore scored one time in the first 16 games but has found the net in four straight, netting five goals and setting up another in that span. That includes two overtime winners and the tying goal on Friday. He wins the hardest-to-figure-out-how-he-scored award, as after watching his Saturday goal live and several more times on replay it was still unclear how the redirected the puck in. Both OT goals were highlight-reel quality but also required slow-mo.

Confidence in other forwards. Forgive if anyone is left out, but among freshmen, Gordie Green is getting better every game, so is Willie Knierim. Alex Alger is a solid fourth-line pest, and Karch Bachman has a great shot and better speed, and he has huge upside.

Defense is a little more stable. Miami isn’t quite where it was last season, but that’s because Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart were about as steady as it gets in the NCAA in terms of shut-down D-men. With their departure the returning blueliners are higher in the depth chart consistently facing better forwards, and it’s a tough adjustment. But Grant Hutton, who was so strong as a freshman, is becoming more consistent, and Grant Frederic continues to improve and has been better about staying out of the box. The RedHawks allowed 90 shots in a weekend series in Denver – remarkably tying both games – but has surrendered an average of just 24.0 in the eight games since and had outshot opponents in seven straight before Saturday’s game.

Sherwood is taking over portions of games. There are times now when no one can take the puck away from Sherwood, and he’s exponentially tougher to defend with his passing game evolving. His double-clutch before sliding a pass through to Green for Miami’s second goal on Saturday is a prime example: Teams can no longer play for that lethal shot from the left faceoff circle. The NCHC clearly has the scouting report on Sherwood’s happy zone, but he is moving around on power plays and inflicting damage elsewhere, having adjusted to the conference’s adjustment. And he scored the RedHawks’ first shorthanded goal of the year to open the scoring.

And of course, a little puck luck. As everything seemed to be going wrong for Miami, that intangible made things worse at times, as the RedHawks hit posts and were victimized by bad bounces. The Hockey Gods appear to be balancing things out recently, as opponents are drawing iron and not getting breaks they were the first couple of months.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. This corps scored a goal shorthanded, at even strength and on the power play. The forwards really didn’t generate a ton of chances, but they cashed in on the Grade-A opportunities. And St. Cloud State always seemed to have sticks and bodies in the shooting lanes. If we had to nit-pick, the bottom two lines didn’t do a whole lot and haven’t scored much all season. We could also mention that 12 forwards managed just 17 shots and a few were weak one at an idle goalie.

DEFENSEMEN: B. It’s been a gradual process, but the blueliners are getting beaten less often than in weeks past. The Huskies entered this weekend averaging nearly 3½ goals per game but had limited chances and just one marker in this game, thanks largely to this group. This was one of Hutton’s better games, and he added the cherry on top with the ENG in the final minute after intercepting the puck at center ice. Scott Dornbrock blocked five shots.

Ryan Larkin makes one of his 28 saves on Saturday (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Ryan Larkin makes one of his 28 saves on Saturday (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

GOALTENDING: A. Notice how goaltending wasn’t mentioned before. The reason is that Larkin has been steady throughout, and without him Miami would not have seven wins. That said, he was even better than usual in this game, stopping 28 shots, with his lone blemish being a heat-seeking laser off a drop pass. Larkin faced some difficult shots but as is his MO allowed a very limited number of rebounds.

LINEUP CHANGES: Same six on D, same goalie, just one change up front. Carter Johnson was scratched for the first time this season in favor of Alger. With four straight wins and the team playing its best hockey of the season, the lineup card probably won’t change a whole lot.

Big third keys Miami win over St. Cloud

OXFORD, Ohio – The third period that was the bane of Miami the first half of the season has become the team’s best friend.

From right to left, Kiefer Sherwood, Louie Belpedio and Anthony Louis celebrate during Saturday's win (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

From right to left, Kiefer Sherwood, Louie Belpedio and Anthony Louis celebrate during Saturday’s win (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The RedHawks scored three times in the final stanza to secure a 4-1 win over No. 20 St. Cloud State at Cady Arena on Saturday as Miami recorded its first weekend series sweep since last February.

MU also extended its winning streak to four games and is now unbeaten in its last five. The RedHawks had gone 0-7-3 prior to their winning streak.

Miami (7-8-5) tallied its first shorthanded goal of the season midway through the first period when Kiefer Sherwood stole the puck at center ice, skated in and buried a shot on the far side just under the crossbar.

The score remained 1-0 until the crucial third period. Sherwood double clutched before threading a pass through two defenders and onto the tape of Gordie Green, who scored from the side of the net with 18:58 left in regulation.

The Huskies (9-10-1) cut the MU lead in half with 6:02 to play when Jimmy Schuldt left a drop pass for Jake Wahlin, who wired one past RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin.

But Miami regained its two-goal lead 72 seconds later when a power-play blast from the blue line by Louie Belpedio was tipped home by Josh Melnick, making it 3-1.

Grant Hutton intercepted the puck, skated in uncontested and tapped home the RedHawks’ final goal with 43 seconds left.

Miami had scored nine third-period goals in its first 16 games but has netted 11 in its past four contests and at least two in each game during its winning streak.

Melnick extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with five in that span. Sherwood has four markers in his last four contests.

Sherwood finished with a goal and an assist, giving him points in five straight and eight during his streak. Anthony Louis picked up a season-high two helpers and also had a five-game point streak (2-5-7).

That gives Louis 112 points for his career, tying him for 39th on the team’s all-time career leaderboard with Pete Shipman and Rob Vanderydt.

Larkin stopped 28 shots to earn his third consecutive victory.

The win moved Miami into a tie for fifth with the Huskies in the NCHC standings with 13 points, and the RedHawks are just one behind fourth-place Western Michigan.

MU jumped one spot to 28th in the PairWise Rankings.

The RedHawks’ next four games will be on the road. They will travel to North Dakota next weekend for two games and head to Nebraska-Omaha the following weekend for a pair.

Analysis: Miami thriving in overtime

OXFORD, Ohio – After playing enough free hockey, Miami has gotten quite good at it.

Having gone to the extra session eight times in 19 games, the RedHawks won their third overtime game of the season on Friday, 3-2 over St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.

The paragraph would’ve generated ample laughter if written six weeks ago, but Miami has been clutch late in games.

The biggest statistical difference between the RedHawks’ 0-7-3 stretch and their current 3-0 run? They were outscored, 14-3 in the third period and beyond during the former and have notched 10 goals to their opponents’ one in the three since, all wins.

Miami celebrates after Josh Melnick's overtime game winner (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami celebrates after Josh Melnick’s overtime game winner (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Instead of giving games away late, Miami is pulling off wins thanks to third-period rallies.

Two of those three wins have been decided in overtime, with Josh Melnick netting the game-winning markers in both. He also scored late in the first period at Ohio State with five seconds left in the first period to cut Miami’s deficit to one, 2-1, completely changing the course of that eventual 6-3 MU win.

Yes, St. Cloud State has dropped to No. 20 and was without a top player and coach Bob Motzko, holdovers from the World Juniors who were unable to reach Oxford by game time, but the Huskies are still an excellent, well-coached team that is outstanding at shutting down shooting lanes.

The RedHawks definitely had to earn this win, and despite all of their first-half issues are just two games under .500 with a chance to climb into a tie for fifth in the NCHC with another win on Saturday parlayed with a Nebraska-Omaha loss (the Mavericks fell to North Dakota, 9-1 on Friday).

Sure, Miami had some bad luck with key injuries and illnesses early, but the team just didn’t look confident in these clutch situations the first two months of the season. The RedHawks found ways to lose, but now they’re finding ways to win these tight contests against quality opponents.

Even if it isn’t showing up on the score sheet, you can see certain players evolving, which from a fan perspective is one of the most fun things about college hockey.

Carson Meyer and Ryan Larkin have been the co-valedictorians of this Miami freshman hockey class to this point, no doubt, but Gordie Green is playing with so much more confidence, and so is Willie Knierim, who has a ton of upside largely – pun somewhat intended – because of his size. a great example. So is Karch Bachman, who has blazing speed and a wicked wrister but doesn’t seem to get put into situations that could garner success.

Defenseman Grant Frederic also quietly seems to get better every game, and Jared Brandt has been that steady defensive D-man Miami always seems to bring in to shore up that corps.

This team is so much better now that in was during the 0-7-3 skid, and a key win like this is a major validation of that statement.

Other thoughts…

– Not sure I’ve seen a game in which dumb penalties have resulted in all of the final three critical goals. Miami’s Colin Sullivan, a fifth-year senior who we’ve praised here repeatedly and at times questioned why he hasn’t played more, drove a player into the boards late in the third period of a 1-1 game despite seeing the number on the back of his jersey from the Indiana border. And St. Cloud went ahead on a power play goal it scored as a result, but fortunately for Miami the Huskies took an even dumber penalty a half minute later, and the RedHawks’ Melnick scored both the tying and go-ahead goals on the resulting major.

– (continued) With his team leading, 2-1, Jacob Benson targeted the head of Meyer on an open-ice hit and rightly drew a five-minute major and was booted from the game. Fortunately Meyer wasn’t hurt, but Melnick scored both of his goals on that penalty, which were the tying and game-winning goals. Guessing Benson isn’t a really popular player on SCSU right now.

– Is it really that hard for linesmen to drop pucks for faceoffs? Does anyone really want to see multiple re-drops?

– The power play. Miami had its struggles early on the man-advantage but scored both of its late goals on Melnick PPGs, giving the RedHawks three tallies in their last 10 chances over the past two games. They were 0-for-19 in their previous six contests. Still looking for that first shorty though – MU is one of only nine D-I teams without one this season.

– On a personal note, a win like this, and the OSU one, and the Colorado College one, make it a lot more fun to come to the rink. I can’t wait for Saturday’s game. At 3-8-5, it was harder to get psyched for the 65-minute drive to Cady Arena.

– Understand the J-term concept but still hate seeing the rink mostly void of students and fans overall. The attendance was 1,717. Not much expected for Game 2 either.

– On another personal note, I apologize for not doing more in terms of pro and FutureHawks updates the first half of the season. Lots going on, but hope to rectify that during this critical final months of the season, and we promise to write some player features down the stretch. Thanks for everyone’s patience and understanding.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B+. This was a tough gig for this group, as Miami’s forwards faced a quality group of shut-down defensemen and goalie, but they managed three goals, all in the final 10 minutes of regulation and OT. Finishing with 34 shots is good, but a few too many were weak looks with no traffic that had zero chance to hitting the net. In addition to the obvious (Melnick-Louis), really liked Meyer’s all-around game, and Kiefer Sherwood and Justin Greenberg have really improved on their faceoffs, although I admit I’ve never seen anyone win draws consistently like Sherwood does, dropping to one knee each time.

DEFENSEMEN: B-. In 11 years of watching every minute of every game at Cady Arena, I’ve never seen a group that is so hard to grade. Grant Hutton got beaten badly on a drive to the net that was stopped by Larkin but was solid otherwise. Scott Dornbrock didn’t have a particularly strong game. Louie Belpedio was excellent overall and picked up two helpers. Miami seriously missed him as a the power play quarterback when he was injured.

GOALTENDING: B+. Larkin had no chance on the first SCSU goal, as he made the initial save on a point-blank rip but no one picked up the goal scorer. The second one was on the power play and hit a post before dropping at the top of the crease for a tap-in. He was 29 of 31 for a .935 save percentage. He did seem a hair shaky early but was outstanding the final 40-plus minutes.

LINEUP CHANGES: Chaz Switzer and Bryce Hatten both sat on defense for the second straight game, and this is about the time the starting 18 solidifies, so they may be the odd men out down the stretch. Hatten was injured almost all of 2015-16 and Switzer logged 121 USHL games before turning 19 and heading to Oxford, so both have bright futures, but their games are still evolving. Karch Bachman was out with an illness last week but returned, sending Alex Alger to the stands. Alger has been a pest and has played well as a fourth-liner, and one wonders if his playing time would be more substantial had he not been absolutely robbed on a blast from the slot earlier this season and rang one off the post on another. Will Ryan Larkin be in net for the remainder of Miami’s games? There’s a good chance, although Chase Munroe’s win vs. Colorado College had to help the team overall, as he proved himself a solid backup.