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Close again but Miami falls to WMU

Once again No. 20 Miami felt short by the slimmest of margins.

The RedHawks lost by one for the second straight night, 3-2 at No. 14 Western Michigan on Saturday after dropping a one-goal decision the night before.

Miami (9-9-4) fell to the .500 mark for the first time since the start of the season and are winless in their last eight, going 0-4-4.

Matthias Samuelsson fired in the game winner from the high slot early in the third period after Western Michigan had taken two previous one-goal leads, only to have Miami answer both times.

The RedHawks were without standout Josh Melnick for the second straight night, and regular starting goalie Ryan Larkin also did not play.

Miami’s Derek Daschke (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

RECAP: Western Michigan (13-6-1) won an offensive zone faceoff and Cole Gallant dropped a pass to Josh Passolt, who whipped it past Miami goalie Jordan Uhelski 2:12 into the game.

The RedHawks tied it with 5:43 left in the opening frame when Ben Lown skated in on the right wing and centered a pass that hit a skate and caromed to Derek Daschke, who was wide open in the slot and slammed it home.

Miami’s Jonathan Gruden (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

With 6:51 left in the middle stanza, Colt Conrad fed Passolt on a 2-on-1 for a one-timer that put Western Michigan back on top, 2-1.

Miami again pulled even when a 2-on-1 became a 2-on-0 as the Broncos’ lone defender, Cam Lee, blew a tire in his defensive zone. Jonathan Gruden took a pass from Brian Hawkinson and after his initial shot was denied, he poked it past goalie Trevor Gorsuch with 1:26 remaining in the second period.

But Western Michigan regained the lead for good as a well-placed wrister by Samuelsson from between the faceoff circles beat Uhelski with 14:35 left in regulation.

STATS: Passolt scored twice and finished the weekend 3-1-4 as he is almost certainly on his way to a weekly league award.

— Lown ended the night with a team-best two points, both on assists for his first multi-helper game of the season and the second of his career.

— Daschke scored for the fourth time this season, tying him with Grant Hutton for the team lead among defensemen, and Gruden’s goal was his second of the season, as he has four points in his last six games.

— Opponents have scored against the RedHawks in 13 straight periods.

— Both teams had three power plays but only 2:11 of time on the man-advantage. That’s because twice after Miami took penalties, WMU was whistled for a minor of its own within seconds.

So it’s a rough 0-for-3 for both teams.

THOUGHTS: Miami didn’t play badly at all, especially considering it was in a hostile arena against the hottest team in Division I, but once again the win didn’t come.

WMU deserves a lot of credit for the weekend sweep, as the Broncos are flat-out impressive in every aspect, and it’s easy to see why they’re second in the NCHC.

Western Michigan was ranked No. 14 coming into this weekend and was unbeaten in its previous eight. Make that 10 now and watch that ranking go up on Monday.

— Daschke’s line was impressive enough – one goal, six shots, three blocks, only Miami skater with a plus-rating – but he was a defensive menace to WMU all game, poking loose pucks away and getting his stick in the way of passes. Plays well beyond his 22 collegiate games.

Miami’s River Rymsha (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

— Speaking of defensemen, River Rymsha was a standout in this game by laying out a couple of huge hits and playing great shut-down defense.

Rymsha’s father, Andy Rymsha, was interviewed on CBS College Sports during Friday’s game. Andy Rymsha played for Western Michigan and logged six NHL games with the Quebec Nordiques.

— Hutton has stepped his level up the past few games at both ends of the ice. He has four assists in his last four games and has played better in his own end as well.

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

— Uhelski in net was a major surprise. Was this a message to the team that it was too reliant on Larkin to make big saves, or are they pacing Larkin, who has already logged roughly 5,000 minutes as a RedHawk and been banged up several times during his Miami career?

Uhelski made a phenomenal save on a breakaway and was solid overall.

— Melnick remained out with a lower body injury. Hopefully it will not linger into the upcoming four-game homestand.

— Win No. 10 has been a major hurdle for this program the past few seasons. Miami is 1-17-6 in its last 24 games chasing its 10th win.

LINEUP CHANGES: Just Uhelski for Larkin. Uhelski stopped 30 of 33 shots.

Coach Enrico Blasi likes to have his lineups pretty well set around this point of the season, and with the exception of Melnick and Larkin, this looks like the 20 he will head into the stretch run with.

STANDINGS: Miami dropped to sixth in the conference at 3-5-2, leading just Omaha and Colorado College.

The RedHawks slipped to No. 26 in the PairWise, which determines which teams earn at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. Miami would need to climb to 14th or better to warrant consideration.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Despite a lot of the positives surrounding the program, the winless streak is becoming unwieldy.

The RedHawks are at .500 for the first time since opening night, which isn’t going to get them into the NCAA Tournament, regardless of how difficult their league schedule is.

The effort is there, the passion is there, the process is there, and while those are all great things, the wins still need to be there at the end of the season or else this team will once again be done playing by St. Patrick’s Day.

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Special teams doom Miami at WMU

Miami’s special teams were not very special on Friday.

No. 14 Western Michigan scored twice on the power play. No. 20 Miami had zero goals on the man-advantage despite a five-minute 5-on-4 at the beginning of the third period.

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

Those tallies were the difference as the Broncos edged the RedHawks, 4-3 at Lawson Arena in a weekend series opener.

Miami extended its winless streak to seven games (0-3-4) while WMU is now unbeaten in its last nine.

Josh Melnick missed just the second game of his RedHawks career. He was out with an apparent lower body injury.

RECAP: The Broncos’ Colt Conrad penetrated from the point and wristed one from the slot into the far corner of the net on the power play to open the scoring 10:27 into the first period.

Miami (9-8-4) tied it 91 seconds later when Gordie Green and Karch Bachman played give-and-go entering the offensive zone, and Bachman threaded a pass to Green at the side of the net for a tap-in.

WMU (12-6-1) jumped ahead again when Ethen Frank fielded a pass through the slot on his backhand, pivoted and threw it in at 1:36 of the second period.

Frank set up Hugh McGing off a break with 4:12 remaining in the middle stanza.

Miami deficit to one when Bachman slid a pass from along the end boards to Green, who shoveled it home, making it 3-2 with 12:15 left in regulation.

Passolt put WMU back up by two with his second goal of the night on a 4-on-3 with 8:17 remaining.

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

Just 82 seconds later, the RedHawks’ Scott Corbett stole the puck in the corner and centered to Brian Hawkinson, who capped off the scoring.

STATS: Green scored twice and has three goals in two games. He went through a nine-game stretch without finding the net prior to that, so his rejuvenated scoring is welcome for Miami.

Bachman also finished with two points, both on assists. It was his first career multi-assist game.

Grant Hutton had gone eight consecutive games without a point but he picked up a helper and has at least one in three straight, going 0-4-4.

— Miami was on the power play for 7:39 but generated just three shots.

— MU won just 21 of 69 faceoffs (30.4 percent).

— The RedHawks have allowed 12 power play goals in their last eight games and are just 63.6 percent on the penalty kill in that span.

— Opponents have scored against MU in 10 straight periods.

— Melnick missed his only other game on Oct. 29, 2016.

THOUGHTS: It’s always a learning experience when Miami plays on national TV and Dave Starman does color.

Miami’s Alec Mahalak (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The CBS College Sports analyst said that Miami defenseman Alec Mahalak will win conference player of the year one day.

Mahalak did play one of his better games of the season on Friday.

— Starman was very complementary of a number of RedHawks players, including Bray Crowder, Carter Johnson and Derek Daschke.

— Starman also spoke highly of these programs’ futures, saying “the best days were ahead” for both Miami and Western Michigan.

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

— Bachman’s speed once again resulted in a goal, as he won the race to his self-pass along the boards and eventually spooned one to Green for the marker.

— What a play by Corbett to set up Hawkinson’s goal. He stole the puck in seemingly in one motion thrust the puck to the edge of the crease where Hawkinson buried it.

— Yes, Melnick is one of Miami’s better faceoff men, but 21-48 in the circle? Really? Overall the RedHawks have been much better on draws than in recent seasons.

— The penalty kill has been brutal. On Thanksgiving, MU was 84.5 percent on the PK for the season. That number has plummeted to 76.5 since. Miami has allowed 10 power play goals in six games while scoring just four PPGs in that stretch.

LINEUP CHANGES: Melnick was the only player not in the lineup from Saturday’s game against Providence, and Johnson dressed in his place after sitting the last two.

He played on the line with Bachman and Green.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Another one that falls into the “near miss” category, Miami hurt itself with three offensive zone penalties (good catch, Starman) and finished 4-for-6 overall shorthanded.

It’s really tough to win on the road when you give a team six power plays including a 4-on-3.

Taking the second period off didn’t help. The RedHawks were outshot, 16-4 in that frame and allowed a pair of unanswered goals that put WMU ahead for good.

And yes, Melnick’s unexpected absence hurt Miami in multiple areas, but the Broncos were without one of their best as well in Wade Allison.

As has often been the case recently, the RedHawks were right there all night and didn’t give up.

But they didn’t quite do enough to win.

Preview: Miami at Western Michigan

The two hottest teams in college hockey are Providence and Western Michigan.

Miami played PC last week, and this weekend the RedHawks face the Broncos.

WMU, riding an eight-game unbeaten streak that includes a 3-0-1 record vs. North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth, has vaulted into second place in the NCHC. However, the Broncos are only two points ahead of Miami, which is tied for fourth.

These teams meet again in Oxford to wrap up the regular season on March 8-9, so WMU will have a major hand in determining where the RedHawks finish in the conference standings.

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

WHO: No. 20 Miami RedHawks (9-7-4) at No. 14 Western Michigan Broncos (11-6-1).

WHERE: Lawson Arena (3,667), Kalamazoo, Mich.

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

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

WESTERN MICHIGAN RADIO: WZOX-FM (96.5), Kalamazoo, Mich.

TV: Friday – CBS College Sports.

NOTES: Over the past three seasons, Western Michigan has taken major strides offensively, an area in which the Broncos had previously struggled since the formation of the NCHC.

WMU has scored 67 times in 18 games for a 3.72-goal clip, the sixth-best rate in Division I.

Josh Passolt has been a breakout sophomore season for the Broncos, leading the team in goals (11) and plus-minus (plus-15) and is tied for the WMU points lead with 19. Four of his markers have been game winners.

Colton Conrad is tied with Passolt atop the team points leaderboard, as Conrad is pacing Western Michigan in assists with 13. He is also exceptional in the faceoff circle, having won 57.0 percent of his draws this season.

Like Passolt, Hugh McGing has also enjoying a statistical blow-up with 10 goals, including five on the power play. He has 18 points and 35 penalty minutes.

Ethen Frank has already eclipsed his rookie season goal mark, posting eight this season after notching seven freshman year, and Austin Rueschoff is another significant offensive threat with six goals and eight helpers.

Philadelphia Flyers second-round pick Wade Allison, one of the NCAA’s scoring leaders last season before he tore his ACL, is back on the ice for Western Michigan and could bolster its offense even more.

Allison has played eight games and is 2-2-4 after posting a 15-15-30 line in just 22 games in 2017-18.

Other regulars up front for WMU are Dawson DiPietro, Cole Gallant, Drew Worrad, Paul Washe, Jaden McMullen and Lawton Courtnall – son of former NHLer Russ Courtnall.

Cam Lee leads Broncos blueliners in goals (5), assists (10) and points (15) while notching a plus-10 rating.

Defenseman Corey Schueneman has recorded eight assists and nine points, and Buffalo Sabres second-rounder and Team USA product Matthias Samuelsson, who just returned from winning silver in the World Juniors, has scored three times and picked up five helpers.

Luke Bafia, Kale Bennett and Jared Kucharek are the other key cogs of WMU’s back end, and Michael Joyaux – younger brother of former RedHawks Chris and Matt Joyaux – has dressed for 10 games.

During their current eight-game unbeaten streak, the Broncos have allowed just 12 goals, and they have held their last three opponents to one goal apiece.

Goaltender Trevor Gorsuch is having a stellar senior season, going 9-2-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. He had six career wins and was sub-.900 entering this year.

Ben Blacker, who was dominant his freshman season, took a step back in 2017-18 and has made just two starts this year, posting just an .870 save percentage. He’s actually third on the team in goaltender minutes played behind Austin Cain.

Miami has started games slowly at times this season, and if that happens this weekend Western Michigan will make the RedHawks pay. The Broncos are tops in the NCHC in first-period goals with 27 – that’s 1.50 per game.

WMU has been best at even strength, as just 14 of its goals have come on the power play and another pair shorthanded.

The RedHawks are winless in their last six – they actually haven’t won since Nov. 17 – but they have four ties in that span, including one at now-No. 7 Providence and two at home against No. 1 St. Cloud State.

Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Josh Melnick is riding a seven-game point streak, with three goals and five assists in that span, and Ryan Siroky has four points in his last three contests.

The RedHawks are 16th in college hockey in defense, giving up 2.30 goals per game. Goalie Ryan Larkin is seventh in D-I save percentage at .931 and is tied for sixth in shutouts with three.

With 142 meetings, Miami has played Western Michigan more than any other foe except Ohio State and is 68-63-11 vs. the Broncos, but WMU holds a 35-25-7 edge in Kalamazoo.

The RedHawks have played OSU 151 times, and with that series currently dormant, Western Michigan will soon move into first place on MU’s most-played opponents list.

The Broncos have always played well at home and are 6-2-1 at Lawson Arena this season.

NCHC preview: Western Michigan

In 2016-17, Western Michigan finally reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the NCHC era.

Last season the Broncos regressed to four games under .500, posting their second-lowest winning percentage under coach Andy Murray.

But WMU could surprise, as the team returns its top eight points-producers and a talented eight-man freshman class that includes the Broncos’ second-highest NHL draft pick ever.

WESTERN MICHIGAN

NCAA titles: 0.

COACH: Andy Murray (9th season, 118-116-34, .504).

2017-18 RECORDS: 15-19-2 (10-13-1 NCHC, 7th place).

POSTSEASON: Swept at Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

RINK (capacity): Lawson Arena (3,667).

MIAMI VS. WESTERN MICHIGAN LAST SEASON: 2-2.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 68-63-11.

SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Jan. 11-12 – at Western Michigan; March 8-9 – at Miami.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Dawson DiPietro, F Wade Allison, F Hugh McGing, D Cam Lee, D Corey Schueneman, G Ben Blacker.

KEY NEW FACES: D Matthias Samuelsson, F Paul Cotter, D Jared Kucharek.

KEY LOSSES: D Paul Stoykewych, D Neal Goff.

NOTES: All three of Western Michigan’s 30-point skaters were sophomores last season, and with its top eight points leaders back again this fall, the Broncos’ offense looks formidable.

Dawson DiPietro dressed just once his freshman year but led WMU in assists (22) and points (35) in 2017-18. Wade Allison led the team in goals with 15 and notched 30 points.

Hugh McGing racked up 21 helpers and 30 points overall.

Colt Conrad was another key contributor up front, finishing 9-18-27, and Austin Rueschhoff notched 10 goals as a freshman.

Paul Cotter enters his freshman season after being selected by Las Vegas in the fourth round of this summer’s NHL draft. He was named to the USHL’s all-rookie team in 2017-18 following a 39-point campaign.

Three of the Broncos’ returning defenseman tallied at least 15 points last season, led by Corey Scheuneman’s 26. He scored five times – all on the power play.

Cam Lee picked up six goals and 18 assists, and Luke Bafia racked up 15 assists in addition to his lone goal, which was a game winner.

Mathias Samuelsson, son of former Pittsburgh Penguin Kjell Samuelsson, is expected to make an immediate impact on the blue line. He was drafted by Buffalo with the opening pick of the second round this June, the second earliest any Bronco has ever been selected.

He has played 105 games for the U.S. National Team.

Another newcomer for Western Michigan is Mike Joyaux, the youngest of the three Joyaux brothers. Both Chris and Matt played for Miami.

Following a stellar freshman season, goalie Blacker struggled in 2017-18, going 12-13-2 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .893 save percentage. Neither backup impressed in limited action.

Like many NCHC teams, Western Michigan scored plenty but also gave up its share of markers. The Broncos were No. 11 in the NCAA in goals per game but fourth last in average goals allowed.

NOTE: BoB previewed each opposing NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the seventh and final installment.

Here are the links for the remaining snapshots:

Colorado College
Denver
Minnesota-Duluth
Nebraska-Omaha
St. Cloud State
Western Michigan

Blown lead again costs Miami

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A glance at the RedHawks’ collapses this season alone:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINEUP CHANGES: None.

GRADES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miami ends skid, tops WMU

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

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

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

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

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

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Larkin stopped 20 shots to earn the win.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both teams scored once on the two-man advantage.

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

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

GRADES

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

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

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

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

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

His return sent Grant Frederic back to the scratch list.

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

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

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

 

 

Analysis: WMU was the better team

OXFORD, Ohio – Despite being outshot by more than a 2-to-1 margin in the series finale, Miami salvaged a win and split the weekend series.

The RedHawks lost on Friday but edged Western Michigan, 4-3 at Cady Arena on Saturday.

And at the risk of sounding blasphemous, the Broncos were the better team this weekend. To go one step further, WMU is the better team at this point of the season.

The Broncos piled up 79 shots in two games while holding Miami to 40. They were in the offensive zone more, made better passes, got sticks in the lane more often on defense and were superior at keeping would-be goal scorers from getting good looks.

There’s a reason Western Michigan is No. 10 in college hockey.

To Miami’s credit, it had success getting behind the WMU defense, scoring shorthanded on a 3-on-2 and again on a penalty shot resulting from a shorthanded break by Josh Melnick (which is not technically a SHG – not sure hockey’s scoring rules make sense there).

Anthony Louis beat the D as well, passing to Willie Knierim for a goal.

The RedHawks were extremely opportunistic on the power play, going 2-for-3 on Saturday, with Grant Hutton burying one from the blue line and Melnick somehow tipping home a laser pass from Kiefer Sherwood at the top of the crease.

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

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

And, of course, there was Ryan Larkin. The freshman goalie was 30 of 31 through two periods in Game 2 before two tipped pucks beat him in the third. But without Larkin in net, Miami likely would not have earned a point this weekend.

This is the challenge that awaits the RedHawks in each of their final eight regular season contests. They will need to find a way to win more close games than they lose against some of the top teams in Division I, teams that are frankly better than Miami right now.

They will need to play their best hockey of the season every period, and can’t afford starts like the on they had on Friday or their finish on Saturday to earn much-needed wins.

Fortunately for Miami, a hot goalie can neutralize a better team, and the RedHawks have a netminder capable of stealing games like he did in this one.

Other thoughts…

Standings: All eight teams in the NCHC have played 16 leagues games, or two-thirds of their 24-game conference schedule. Miami trailed Western Michigan by five points heading into the weekend, and with both teams earning three points, WMU returned to Kalamazoo leading by the same margin. The RedHawks did pass St. Cloud State, moving into sixth before heading north to face the Huskies. Miami is up to 22nd in the PairWise and needs to go three games over .500 the rest of the way to be eligible for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

– Miami has just one even-strength goal in its last three games. It scored five times this weekend after being shut out in its finale at Nebraska-Omaha, and the RedHawks netted two power play goals, one shorthanded and another on a penalty shot this weekend. Knierim has recorded the only even-strength goal for Miami in that stretch, and it was also his first career game winner.

– Hutton’s PPG was just the fifth this season by a Miami player not on the first unit (Melnick-Sherwood-Louis-Carson Meyer-Louie Belpedio). Hutton has two goals on the man advantage, Scott Dornbrock has one and just two have been scored by non-defensemen not among those four on the first unit (Justin Greenberg and Gordie Green, one each).

– Miami’s weekend high for shots in a period was 10. Western Michigan eclipsed that in five of the six.

– There was little flow in this game, which took 2:34 to play and featured 79 faceoffs.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B-. It’s hard to argue with results, and this corps did score three times, including two goals by Melnick. When this team hits, it tends to play better, and we saw plenty of contact dished out by Ryan Siroky, Conor Lemirande and others. Still, just 15 shots for 12 forwards, and they did little to prevent WMU from racking up 47 shots. And then there’s their 28-51 record on faceoffs. If it wasn’t for their shot efficiency their grade would be significantly lower.

DEFENSEMEN: C. Hutton scored on a sweet wrister, and Colin Sullivan picked up an assist on his Hail Mary pass. But then there’s the 47 shots allowed, which this group bears a substantial amount of responsibility for. Louie Belpedio was better than on Friday but still isn’t quite in top form. Chaz Switzer was back in the lineup and was once again improved over the first half of the season.

GOALTENDING: A-. Could be the first A-range for a goalie surrendering three goals on this site. Even though he allowed three goals, Larkin won this game for Miami. He turned 44 shots aside, including a spectacular save on a late chance by the Broncos. Larkin controlled almost every rebound, an impressive feat since a lot of the shots he faced had mustard on them.

LINEUP CHANGES: The only change for Miami was Alex Alger returning to the fourth line, while Bryce Hatten was scratched. Justin Greenberg was out for the fifth straight game, and was seen in the concourse wearing a boot on his foot, which he did not put any pressure on. He will obviously miss at least a couple more weeks, and his faceoff prowess and defensive and PK skills have been sorely missed by the RedHawks. Grant Frederic also did not dress for the second consecutive contest.

Miami holds off late WMU surge

OXFORD, Ohio – In its final regular-season meeting against No. 10 Western Michigan, Miami finally earned its first win of 2016-17 vs. the Broncos – barely.

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Thanks to Josh Melnick’s two-goal performance, the RedHawks took a three-goal lead into the third period and held on for a 4-3 victory at Cady Arena on Friday, as they wrap up their pre-playoff slate 1-3 against WMU.

Miami (9-11-6) took the lead just 1:38 into the game on the power play when Grant Hutton and Gordie Green traded passes at the blue line, and Hutton whipped a hard wrist shot that found the net.

But just 21 seconds later, the Broncos (14-7-3) tied it when a Colt Conrad corralled a missed WMU shot at the side of the net, wrapped around the cage and shoved it across the goal line.

With 17 seconds remaining in the opening period, Miami went ahead for good as Kiefer Sherwood fired a slap pass to Josh Melnick, who tipped it in from the top of the crease on the man advantage.

Melnick extended the lead to two just 1:19 into the middle stanza when he was hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway and converted the ensuing penalty shot, beating goalie Ben Blacker on the forehand after slowing down as he approached the net.

The RedHawks made it 4-1 less than four minutes later. Colin Sullivan fired a pass the length of the ice, which was chased down by Anthony Louis, and Louis dropped a pass to trailer Willie Knierim, who was at the side of the net. Knierim poked at the puck once, and the rebound sat in the crease momentarily before Knierim buried the rebound.

Les than two minutes into the third period, Western Michigan’s Sheldon Dries tipped a blueline pass from Cory Schueneman through the legs of Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, cutting the RedHawks’ lead to two.

Five minutes later, the Broncos’ Neal Goff netted his first goal of the season as his slap shot from the blue line deflected off a Miami skate and into the corner of the net to make it 4-3.

Larkin stopped 44 shots, including one on a blast from the edge of the faceoff circle late in the third period to preserve the lead, for his second-highest save total this season as Miami snapped a four-game winless streak.

It was the second multi-goal game of Melnick’s career. His other one also came this season and at home in a 3-2 win over St. Cloud State on Jan. 6.

Knierim netted his fourth goal of the season, with all coming in his last 13 games. Hutton recorded his sixth marker of the campaign.

The RedHawks moved into sixth place in the NCHC, passing SCSU, which lost on Saturday. Miami moved up two shots to 22nd in the PairWise rankings.

MU is off next week and heads back to the road for a weekend set at St. Cloud State on Feb. 10-11.

Analysis: Miami’s late start costly

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami’s Friday home games normally start at 7:35 p.m.

This week’s series opener was moved up 30 minutes for national TV, but the team apparently didn’t get the memo, as the RedHawks were dominated in the first period of a 2-1 loss to Western Michigan at Cady Arena.

The Broncos were better in every facet of the opening stanza, jumping out to a well-deserved early lead and almost a 2-0 edge, but a goal in the closing seconds of that frame was ultimately declared off-side.

The final 40 minutes were pretty even, but the damage had been done. Both teams scored once in the final two periods, as that slow start and resulting first-period score ended up being the difference.

The shots were 11-2 in favor of WMU midway through that first frame, which included one impotent Miami power play. A second man-advantage late in the period helped the RedHawks generate shots Nos. 3 and 4.

How to view the remainder of the game depends on one’s perspective: Was it a valiant effort to battle back – taking control of parts of the third period – and hang with the No. 10 team in college hockey, or should Miami not have gotten itself into that first-period deficit to begin with?

Unfortunately, after Miami’s three-win start, these final 10 games are too important to merely accept the former. The RedHawks had several paths to the NCAA Tournament – still do, by the way – but after a poor start this team can ill afford hard-fought losses like this one.

Other thoughts…

– The game time of this one was 2:47, the longest for a 60-minute game in recent history. The main reason is the 14-minute delay at the end of the first period, as Miami coach Enrico Blasi challenged a Western Michigan goal that was ultimately deemed off-side. The officiating crew huddled in the penalty box area for several minutes, then possibly due to a monitor issue, shifted to another screen. We should want calls to be correct, and fans should understand the once-in-a-season glitch – if it was indeed that – that caused this huge delay. The question, which was initially raised by someone much smarter, was why they didn’t merely go to intermission and tack the additional 12 seconds onto the second period? If, for example, a pane of glass shatters with a minute left in a period this does happen on occasion in the NHL. Perhaps college hockey doesn’t allow that? We get that the NCHC isn’t going to have the number of HD angles the NHL does, but still, barring issues, five minutes should be the threshold for overturning a call. Or at least send players to the dressing room rather than have them come back on the ice to warm up again.

– Miami has gone two straight games without an even strength or power play goal. It was shut out in its series finale in Omaha last Saturday, and its lone goal in this contest was shorthanded.

– With this loss, the RedHawks are now three games under .500 and need a 7-2 finish if they hope to garner support for an NCAA at-large berth. A 6-3 record with success in the NCHCs could also vault Miami to the Tournament. MU’s strength of schedule is one of the best in college hockey but it still needs to climb into the top 13 or 14 in the PairWise and finish with a winning record.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D. Kiefer Sherwood get into that I’m-taking-over-the-game mode in the third period, and he battled for a loose puck to set up Miami’s lone goal. Other than Karch Bachman creating some late havoc there’s not much positive to be said about this group. Anthony Louis didn’t get back to cover players on multiple occasions.

DEFENSEMEN: C. Belpedio struggled defensively but compensated with his goal. His physical presence is solid, but he is committing way too many turnovers for a captain and No. 1 blueliner. Chaz Switzer, playing for the first time in six weeks, seemed a lot more confident and made a lot of good decisions with the puck in his own zone.

GOALTENDING: B. The first WMU goal was a wrister from the blue line that found its way through, and the second was on a poke from the side of the net. Maybe Larkin could’ve stopped one or both, but he shut down a number of good chances, including a breakaway and a scramble in front of the net during which he was knocked down and still made two shots on high-percentage shots. We say again: Any shortcomings in net have not been because of poor goaltending.

Miami forward Justin Greenberg (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami forward Justin Greenberg (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

LINEUP CHANGES: Justin Greenberg missed his fourth straight game, and he was seen in the concourse on crutches with a boot on his foot. He barely put pressure on his injured leg. Greenberg has been a solid penalty killer the past couple of seasons, and his absence has forced Miami to use top offensive forwards in that role. That either cuts down their ice time in scoring roles or risks them being overused. Colin Sullivan was listed as a forward, but he was really the seventh defenseman. That was so both Bryce Hatten and Chaz Switzer could be reinserted in the lineup, giving the team seven blueliners. Hatten was played sparingly, and Switzer definitely stepped up his game.

W. Michigan tops Miami again

OXFORD, Ohio – Western Michigan continued its in-season dominance of Miami on Friday.

The No. 10 Broncos held off the RedHawks, 2-1 at Cady Arena in the first game of a two-game weekend set, extending Miami’s winless streak to four games. MU is now 0-3 against Western Michigan this season, and has been outscored, 13-6 by the Broncos.

After WMU controlled play early, Cam Lee’s wrister found the corner of the net 6:01 into the first period to open the scoring.

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

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

The Broncos (14-6-3) had a would-be marker in the final seconds of the opening frame waved off after a 14-minute review, as WMU was ultimately declared off-side. Western Michigan outshot Miami, 16-4 in the first 20 minutes.

The RedHawks (8-11-6) tied it on just their second shorthanded goal of the season, as Kiefer Sherwood held the puck along the boards before finding Grant Hutton on the left wing, and Hutton slid a pass across the slot the Louie Belpedio, who buried it 8:15 into the second period.

But the Broncos answered less than four minutes later when Wade Allison’s pass from behind the Miami net found the stick of Hugh McGing, who tapped it into the side of the cage to give WMU the lead for good.

The RedHawks remain in seventh place in the NCHC, one point behind St. Cloud State and 10 ahead of cellar dweller Colorado College with nine league games remaining.

Miami also slipped another spot in the PairWise rankings to 24th. The RedHawks would need to improve to at least No. 14 to warrant NCAA Tournament consideration.

Belpedio’s goal was his third in five games and sixth of the season. Sherwood, second on the team in points with 26, had been held off the scoresheet three straight games.

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