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Miami draws again vs. No. 1 St. Cloud

OXFORD, Ohio – It happened again.

Like Friday, every time No. 1 St. Cloud scored, Miami answered, resulting in a 2-2 tie in the series finale at Cady Arena on Saturday.

And this time, the RedHawks (9-6-3) picked up the extra conference point, as Josh Melnick batted home a one-timer in the 3-on-3.

Both teams were assessed a major and game misconduct courtesy of review, and each netted a goal because of the call.

On Friday, the teams tied, 4-4, with SCSU (11-1-2) earning the extra point in the shootout.

Miami, which has completed exactly half of its 36-game schedule, does not play again until a home exhibition vs. Guelph (Ont.) on Dec. 30. The RedHawks head to Providence on Jan. 3-4 for their next regular season action.

RECAP: Just 22 seconds into a major power play, St. Cloud’s Blake Lizotte beat goalie Jordan Uhelski in the slot with 5:10 left in the first period after a pass from teammate Easton Brodzinski caromed to him off a Miami skate.

The RedHawks tied it when a point-blank shot by Ryan Siroky pinballed through the crease to MU’s Casey Gilling, who chopped it across the goal line 5:46 into the middle stanza.

Just 22 seconds into the third period a puck floated loose at the side of the net following a wrister from the blue line, and Easton Brodzniak backhanded it home to put the Huskies ahead, 2-1.

Miami capped the scoring with exactly nine minutes left in regulation, as Scott Corbett tapped home a puck at the side of the net off a shot from the outside of the faceoff circle by Melnick.

After five minutes of overtime, the game was officially ruled a tie, and Melnick wired home a one-timer on the ensuing 3-on-3 to earn the RedHawks the extra point.

STATS: Rourke Russell led Miami with two points on a pair of assists. It was Russell’s second career multi-point game, with the other coming vs. Denver on March 2.

— Gilling and Corbett both scored for the second straight game. Gilling has four markers in his last seven.

— Miami flipped its woeful faceoff numbers from Friday, going 36-25 on draws led by a 17-11 record by Josh Melnick.

— Melnick’s assist was career point No. 99. He is one point away from becoming the 52nd skater in Miami history to record 100 points.

THOUGHTS: Basically copy and paste yesterday’s comments and multiply by two.

Miami has a crushingly long break coming up, so tying the top-ranked team in college hockey twice has to give the team serious momentum heading into Christmas break.

It was another amazing game to watch and another testament to the RedHawks’ resilience.

So for the weekend, St. Cloud scored six times, took six leads, and Miami answered each time.

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

Again, against the No. 1 team in college hockey.

— Ben Lown was absolutely everywhere in this game. He did it all – penalty kill, stick handling, passing, winning boards battles despite his diminutive size.

— So River Rymsha was assessed a cross checking major after a skirmish, and St. Cloud scored. Same happened when Jonathan Gruden was buried and a minor was flipped to a 5-and-10, resulting in Gilling’s goal.

This is the new norm for college hockey, so players need to remain on alert. Everything is reviewable, so don’t do anything your mother would disapprove of.

Don’t agree with giving players the boot for fringe majors but the bar has been set so players best keep their cool.

— Attendance was 2,615. Yep, for the top team in D-1. Come on, we can do better. Get to the rink for these all-important contests or give your tickets to someone close by who can make the games.

— Karch Bachman continued to generate scoring chances as a result of his speed. Several times this weekend Miami launched fly pattern passes to see if he can chase the puck down.

Miami’s Scott Corbett (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

His power play passing was markedly improved in this one, as he occupied one of the points and tried to feed passes into the slot.

— Corbett had a strong weekend, scoring in both games and nearly adding another on a breakaway. His game is more physical, but his offense is welcome as he plays on the top line.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B-. Not quite the offensive results from Friday but the effort was still there. Loved the effort from Lown, and Brian Hawkinson seemed to gravitate toward the puck as he generated three shots and blocked two.

Miami’s Jordan Uhelski (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

DEFENSEMEN: B+. Helped cut the SCSU shots down to 30. Have we mentioned St. Cloud entered the weekend the top-ranked team in Division I?

GOALTENDING: A-. Uhelski was 22-for-23 the final 45 minutes and was a major reason Miami was able to earn a pair of ties this weekend.

LINEUP CHANGES: All 19 skaters from Friday were in the lineup again on Saturday.

Larkin was the lone change for the RedHawks, who started Uhelski in net.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This fall it has been more fun to come to the rink than it has been since 2014-15.

Players are holding their own against top-level competition, and this team is bonding better off the ice than in previous seasons.

It’s been an enjoyable first two months, and hopefully the RedHawks’ vigor will continue following an extended break.

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Miami scores late to tie No. 1 St. Cloud

OXFORD, Ohio – Four times Miami fell behind by a goal, and each time the RedHawks generated the equalizer against the top-ranked team in Division I.

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

Casey Gilling netted the tying goal as MU salvaged a 4-4 draw vs. No. 1 St. Cloud State at Cady Arena on Friday despite neither leading nor trailing by more than one.

The Huskies (11-1-1) did earn the extra conference point by winning the single-round shootout.

Making the tie even more impressive is goalie Ryan Larkin was injured midway through the first period and RedHawks (9-6-2) finished with backup Jordan Uhelski in net.

RECAP: It was an eventful first period, with both teams scoring three times including once each in the opening 77 seconds.

Miami’s Scott Corbett (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Robby Jackson put SCSU ahead at the 1:08 mark when he fired a shot from the slot that tricked through Larkin and across the goal line. Originally the call was no call, so play continued, but after the next whistle the play was reviewed a ruled a good goal.

Nine seconds later, Scott Corbett drove to the high slot and appeared to have his shot deflect off a defender’s stick and past goalie Jeff Smith on the glove side.

Josh Melnick won the center-ice draw and Gordie Green sprung Corbett loose by seizing the puck along the boards in traffic.

Jackson put St. Cloud ahead three minutes later when he ripped one from the high slot over the shoulder of Larkin on the power play.

An errant defensive-zone pass by the Huskies from the behind the net slid through the slot to a wide-open Monte Graham, who unloaded for the shorthanded tying goal to make it 2-2 just 80 seconds after St. Cloud State had regained the lead.

The Huskies ahead took a one-goal lead when Patrick Newell fed a pass through both Miami defensemen to Sam Hentges for a one-time rip from the inside edge of the faceoff circle with 6:26 left in the opening frame.

And once again Miami answered, as Gordie Green flipped a two-line pass that was chased by Karch Bachman, who took control of it at the blue line, took two strides and went top shelf just under the far crossbar from the left wing with 2:20 remaining in the first stanza.

The score remained 3-3 until late in the second period when Newell skated in along the left wing boards, cut to center ice – beating two Miami defenders in the process – and backhanding one in to give the Huskies the lead.

Gilling leveled it at four when he intercepted a clearing attempt, passed to himself on the near boards and whipped a bad-angle shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle with 7:06 remaining.

The remainder of regulation, the five-minute 5-on-5 overtime and the five-minute 3-on-3 session did not produce a goal for either side, and the Huskies picked up the third league point on a Jon Lizotte shootout goal after Gilling was denied on this attempt.

STATS: Green led Miami with two points, both on assists, giving him five multi-point games this season, and this was his second time with at least a pair of helpers.

Miami’s Monte Graham (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

— It was the first career goal for Graham, and the third in six games for Gilling after he was held scoreless through the first 11.

— Bachman has four markers in his last six contests as he moved into solo control of first on the team with seven.

— Melnick extended his points streak to a team-high four games, and he is 2-3-5 in that stretch. That gives him 98 for his career, with 34 goals and 64 assists.

— Uhelski finished with a RedHawks career-high 31 saves despite coming on in relief. He had three previous starts for Miami but had never stopped more than 24.

— Miami ended the game 0-for-3 on the power play and killed off just one of three SCSU chances. However, the RedHawks did notch a shorthanded goal.

— Despite not winning, St. Cloud State dominated in a couple of key areas. The Huskies were 48-22 on faceoffs and led on the shot counter, 44-30 including 32-17 in the first 40 minutes.

Miami actually led in SOG the final 25 minutes, 13-12.

Here’s the difference in shots: SCSU blocked 22, the RedHawks just eight. Jimmy Schuldt of the Huskies rejected seven himself.

THOUGHTS: Although Miami fell short of a win, this is a huge boost for the program.

Although the process for a young hockey team is more important than the results, the result was a tie vs. the No. 1 team in college hockey three months after conference media slated the RedHawks the worst team in the league.

And the way Miami did it showed the process is working.

The RedHawks weren’t as talented as St. Cloud State, not as deep, not as fast, not as skilled at puck possession.

Miami was shorthanded three times in the first period and lost its starting goalie to an injury less than 10 minutes in. Yet every time the Huskies found the net, the RedHawks answered.

A minute in SCSU scored. Nine seconds later, tie game. Then a minute after the second goal, same. A third time later in the period, all while seemingly nothing was going the RedHawks’ way.

The process has put the team at the threshold of being a really good team just nine months after Miami Marchmageddon.

It’s not just that the RedHawks tied the No. 1 team in the NCAA, playing for the ninth straight weekend, it’s that they are playing the game the right way. Playing physical, battling for pucks along the boards, taking smart angles defensively, getting solid efforts from goaltenders every night.

Miami’s Jordan Uhelski (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Playing to the final whistle regardless of the score.

Miami is very close to becoming a power player in this league again.

— Uhelski. Had to come off the bench cold after Larkin’s injury, and all he did was turn 31 of 33 shots aside including back-to-back point-blank chances at the top of the crease and a handful of others on high-percentage shots.

He also shut down a third-period breakaway.

Even when he’s not playing, he’s contributing by pushing Larkin, who didn’t have tons of competition for the starting job in 2017-18.

Larkin’s save percentage last season was just .886. It’s now .935. Uhelski’s is .910.

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

— Bachman. It’s one of greatest pleasures of following a college hockey team for a number of years: Watching players improve.

Karch Bachman’s stock seems to rise by astounding intervals every night. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a player visibly progress on a night-to-night basis at Bachman’s current rate.

On one shift, he gained the offensive zone with his speed, then when the puck ended up in his corner, he drove an opponent off of it by burying him along the boards, resulting in a sustained attack by the RedHawks.

He’s never been overly physical but it has seemed natural to him recently.

We’re watching the Florida Panthers draft pick develop into a serious force in the NCHC.

— This was one of Jonathan Gruden’s best games. Against the very best in D-I, he got the play started on the Bachman goal. His passing, which has resulted in a number of turnovers early, was extremely accurate and his stick handling was impressive.

— So how about Coach Enrico Blasi holding court with both referees at the beginning of the second period? It actually delayed the start, but the power plays were 3-0 SCSU, with St. Cloud scoring twice on the power play, and a couple of clear penalties against the Huskies were not whistled?

Fantastic move. The result: Zero power plays for St. Cloud the final 45 minutes, three for Miami.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A-. The top three lines all scored, and Graham added an SHG. And Graham was solid beyond his 4-on-5 goal. Liked the way the lower lines battled in this game. Negatives? Gilling had a chance to clear a puck that ultimately resulted in a St. Cloud goal. Faceoff rate of under .333 is unacceptable.

DEFENSEMEN: C+. The Huskies moved the puck extremely well and it seemed like this corps was slow to react at times. A pass on the third goal got through both Rourke Russell and Grant Hutton, and Bray Crowder was beaten at the blue line, helping the Huskies notch their final tally.

GOALTENDING: B+. Larkin should’ve stopped one of the first two St. Cloud goals but faced 11 shots in under 10 minutes, including a handful of high-quality chances. Uhelski had little chance on his two goals against and he was brilliant otherwise. As mentioned above, he denied a point-blank chance and the ensuing rebound plus shut down a late breakaway.

Miami’s Andrew Sinard (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

LINEUP CHANGES: D Andrew Sinard was back in for Chaz Switzer, and up front Christian Mohs took the place of Zach LaValle.

Mohs’ play has improved and he is making a case for regular playing time. He has dressed eight times in 17 games this season.

Sinard was the extra skater and has been in the lineup four of Miami’s last five games. Blasi has kept his ice time down.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a fun game to watch, hopefully one of many we’ll see at Cady Arena the balance of the season.

Seeing St. Cloud State live for the first time, it’s easy to understand why it’s No. 1 in the NCAA. But Miami deserved the tie as much as the Huskies did.

The RedHawks wouldn’t quit, which is becoming a theme with this team.

Win or lose, Miami plays hard for 60 minutes, or in this case 65. Or 70 counting the 3-on-3.

Regardless of the game length, the RedHawks Version 2018-19 certainly battle from start to finish.

That’s a major reason Miami is carrying an above-.500 record into December for the first time in four years, which was same season the RedHawks carried a No. 1 seed into the NCAA Tournament.

Preview: St. Cloud State at Miami

The last time Miami faced St. Cloud State was the first round of the NCHC Tournament, and despite being outmanned and playing on the road, the RedHawks not only took the Huskies to Game 3 but forced overtime.

MU finished 1-4 vs. SCSU last season and the Huskies enter this weekend riding a six-game winning streak and No. 1 ranking.

BoB takes a look at the upcoming series between these teams:

WHO: No. 1 St. Cloud State Huskies (11-1) at Miami RedHawks (9-6-1).

WHERE: Cady Arena (3,642), Oxford, Ohio.

WHEN: Friday – 7:35 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 17-16-2.

LAST SEASON: St. Cloud went 4-1. SCSU swept its two-game series in Oxford and won 2 of 3 in a home opening-round NCHC series.

MIAMI RADIO: Both nights – WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.

ST. CLOUD STATE RADIO: Both nights – KZRV-FM (96.7).

NOTES: St. Cloud State enters this weekend as the lone unbeaten team in conference play (4-0) as well as the NCHC leader in goals, goals allowed and winning percentage.

The Huskies average 4.25 goals, second-best in the NCAA, and they are tied for second in goals against average at 1.83.

Senior Patrick Newell leads the team in goals (8) and points (15) as he hones in on triple digits for his career.

Three Huskies are tied for second in points with 13, including Montreal draftee Ryan Poehling (3-10-13). Ryan Jackson has an identical line, and Robby Jackson is 5-8-13.

A pair of standout defensemen, Jack Ahcan and Jimmy Schuldt, have 12 points each, and Blake Lizotte has 11.

In net, Los Angeles draft pick Dave Hrenak has played eight games, going 7-0 with a 2.13 goals-against average despite a pedestrian .907 save percentage.

Jeff Smith has excelled in relief, posting a 1.26 GAA and .948 save percentage.

Miami’s Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami has been limited to 12 goals in its last six games, with Josh Melnick and Karch Bachman accounting for three each.

Ryan Larkin is the favorite to start both games between the pipes for the RedHawks.

NCHC preview: St. Cloud State

March was an exhausting month for the St. Cloud State hockey program.

The Huskies won the NCHC regular season title and earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Within a week and a half of the bracket layout, SCSU had been bounced by four seed Air Force and lost head coach Bob Motzko to in-state foe Minnesota.

Despite the turnover behind the bench, the Huskies return nine of their top 10 scorers from 2017-18, with their lone loss from that corps being early pro signee Mikey Eyssimont.

ST. CLOUD STATE HUSKIES

NCAA titles: 0.

COACH: Brett Larson (first season).

2017-18 RECORDS: 25-9-6 (16-4-4 NCHC).

POSTSEASON: Lost to Air Force, 4-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

RINK (capacity): Herb Brooks National Hockey Center (5,159).

MIAMI VS. ST. CLOUD STATE LAST SEASON: 1-4.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 17-16-2.

SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 30-Dec. 1 – at Miami; Feb. 1-2 – at St. Cloud State.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Robby Jackson, F Ryan Poehling, F Blake Lizotte, F Easton Brodzinki, D Jimmy Schuldt, D Jack Ahcan, G David Hrenak.

KEY NEW FACES: F Sam Huntges, D Nick Perbix, D Spencer Meier, D Brendan Bushy.

KEY LOSSES: F Mikey Eyssimont, F Judd Peterson, D Will Borgen.

NOTES: Larson has been an assistant at St. Cloud State for six of the past 10 seasons, and his only high-level head coaching experience was two years at Sioux City of the USHL.

But where the Huskies lack in head coaching experience they account for on the ice, as they return all but three players from that top-seeded 2017-18 squad.

Robby Jackson is back after leading the team in points with 42, and the two-way forward also netted three shorthanded goals.

Montréal draftee Ryan Poehling also returns up front following a 30-point campaign.

Three other returning St. Cloud State forwards eclipsed 20 points – Blake Lizotte posted eight goals and 19 assists for 27, Patrick Newell also finished with 27 points, including 21 assists and Easton Brodzinski scored 14 goals en route to a 24-point season.

The Huskies hope newcomer Sam Huntges can help the forward corps as well, as the Minneapolis native was selected by his hometown Wild in June.

Talk about an experienced D-corps: Four returning blueliners played in at least 36 games for SCSU last season.

Team captains Jimmy Schuldt and Jon Lizotte are both seniors and dressed for all 40 contests in 2017-18.

Schuldt led the team in assists with 28 and scored 10 times for 38 points, the second-best total on the team. He led the Huskies with eight power play goals.

Lizotte’s five goals, 12 assists, 17 points and plus-20 rating were all career highs.

Undersized junior Jack Ahcan also skated in all 40 contests last season and rolled up 22 points, including 19 helpers.

Mike Ilvonen also returns for his fifth year as a graduate student.

St. Cloud State also added three freshman on the back end, all massive, in-state products. Tampa Bay draftee Nick Perbix and Spencer Meier are both 6-feet-4 and Brendan Bushy weighs 225 pounds

Both pieces of the Huskies’ goaltending tandem from last season also return.

Sophomore David Hrenak was selected by Los Angeles this summer after posting a 2.11 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and three shutouts in 25 games for SCSU.

Senior Jeff Smith went 11-2-4 in 19 games and has played over 2,500 career minutes.

SCSU’s 3.60 goals per game last season was fourth in Division I. The Huskies were second in the NCHC and 10th in college hockey in drawing penalties, going to the power play 174 times, and they scored 39 times on the man advantage.

St. Cloud State’s also tied for second in college hockey with seven shorthanded goals.

Since 2006, this program has been stuck in a holding pattern. The Huskies have qualifying for the NCAAs eight of the past 12 years including four of the last five but despite all their regular season success have only advanced to the Frozen Four once and was bounced in the regional semifinal that year.

The next step for St. Cloud State is an extended NCAA Tournament run, as this program has never been to a championship game.

This season’s team has the weapons to make that happen but enters 2018-19 with a rookie head coach.

Miami loses series opener at St. Cloud

Miami’s next loss will be its last of 2017-18.

The RedHawks fell, 5-2 to No. 1 St. Cloud State in the opener of their best-of-3, first-round NCHC Tournament series at the Herb Brooks Center on Friday.

Miami needs to win out in the conference tournament to advance to the NCAAs.

The loss extended the RedHawks’ winless streak to four games, and they are 1-7-2 in their last 10 and 2-11-3 since Jan. 6. It was Miami’s seventh straight defeat in this building.

Game 2 is at 8:05 p.m. on Saturday, and if necessary, Game 3 would be played at 8:05 p.m. on Sunday.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

RECAP: St. Cloud’s Jake Ahcan fired a slap shot past Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on the glove side after taking a feed from Blake Winiecki on a rush just 6:02 into the game.

The RedHawks tied it with 4:32 left in the first period, as Grant Hutton sent a pass all the way across the ice through traffic to the tape of Kiefer Sherwood, who buried a wrister.

Jimmy Schuldt put St. Cloud State back ahead, 2-1 on a stick side slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle on the power play 6:11 into the second period.

Blake Lizotte gave the Huskies a two-goal lead with 4:56 remaining in the middle stanza when he intercepted a clearing pass along the board, skated in and beat Larkin 1-on-1.

Sherwood beat two defenders down the right side to create a 2-on-1 and centered one to Gordie Green, who made a move and slid it in, cutting the deficit to one with 15:34 to play.

But Robby Jackson dropped a pass to Easton Brodzinski, who whipped it past Larkin on the glove side with 8:21 remaining and Mikey Eyssimont sealed it with an empty netter.

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

STATS: Sherwood led Miami with two points on a goal and a helper. He has points in a team-best five straight games, with three goals and four assists in that span.

Green scored in his second consecutive contest and leads the RedHawks with 15 goals and 32 points.

Louie Belpedio picked up an assist and tied Matthew Caito for eighth on the team’s all-time defenseman points leaderboard.

The RedHawks’ last win in this building was in the 2013-14 NCHC Tournament when they swept the Huskies. Miami was also a No. 8 seed that season, and St. Cloud State was the top seed.

Special teams have been anything but for the RedHawks. They allowed a power play goal for the fifth straight game and are just 14-for-20 on the PK their last five games (70.0 percent).

On the man advantage, Miami has just one goal its past 10 games, converting on 1 of 27 chances (3.7 percent).

THOUGHTS: We saw a lot of repeating themes in the St. Cloud goals.

Miami losing 50-50 battles, trailers jumping in on the rush uncontested and stoppable shots to the glove side getting by Larkin.

A tough road to the NCAA Tournament just got a lot tougher for the RedHawks, who need to win the final two here and run the table in the conference semifinal and title game.

Sherwood played some of his best hockey in this one, highlighted by his Jimmy Mullin-like acceleration past two defenders along the right wing boards for a 2-on-1 and goal by Green.

LINEUP CHANGES: Miami went with the same 19 it dressed in the final game of the regular season.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The RedHawks must win tomorrow to extend their season.

One positive stat: Miami is still 2-1 in St. Cloud in the NCHC Tournament.

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.

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.