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.
– 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Western Michigan University is the final stop in our NCHC Snapshot series.
The Broncos finished seventh in the conference in 2015-16. WMU dropped three of four with Miami while finishing 5-18-1 – a .202 winning percentage in NCHC play and 8-25-3 (.229).
NCAA TITLES: None.
COACH: Andy Murray (6th season 81-84-27 – .421 winning percentage).
2015-16 RECORD: 8-25-3 (5-18-1 in NCHC, 7th place in the league).
POSTSEASON RESULT: Swept by SCSU in first round of NCHC tournament.
RINK (capacity): Lawson Ice Arena, Kalamazoo, Michigan (3,667).
LAST SEASON VS. MIAMI: Nov. 6-7, Miami 2-1 and 2-1 in Oxford. Feb. 19-20, Miami 4-1, WMU 4-1 WMU in Kalamazoo.
ALL-TIME SERIES: RedHawks leads, 65-58-11.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: In Kalamazoo Nov. 4-5. In Oxford Jan. 27-28.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: So. F Griffin Molino, Sr. F Sheldon Dries, Sr. G Colin Conrad, Sr. D Chris Dienes.
KEY NEW FACES: F Wade Allison/ Myrtle, Manitoba/ Tri-City Storm, USHL; F Lawton Courtnall/Los Angeles/Sioux Falls, USHL (son of NHL F Russ Courtnall).
NOTES: WMU has finished seventh, seventh and fifth in the eight-team NCHC in three seasons.
The Broncos only managed 80 goals last season, while allowing their opponents to light the lamp 142 times, including being outscored 59-28 in the middle period of games.
Molino is the team’s top returning scorer with 25 points, including 11 goals, and Griffin was the leader on the team in assists (14).
The defense corps is led by senior Chris Dienes, who played in all 36 games a season ago, while tallying one of the team’s two shorthanded goals. Dienes racked up 14 points on three goals and 11 assists from the blue line for the Broncos.
Goalie Colin Conrad had season cut short due to injury after only seven starts while playing nine games (2-5, 4.15 GAA). Conrad, an Ohio State transfer, did make career-high 36 saves in 2-1 loss at Miami on Nov. 6.
The Broncos have added eight freshman, and WMU only has 12 upperclassmen. Western Michigan still only loses one of its top five point getters, missing forward Nolan LaPorte, who was tied for third in power-play goals with three.
WMU is trending in the wrong direction, finishing seventh in back-to-back years in the NCHC. The Broncos are off to a rough start, falling in their pre-season game at home to Toronto. WMU will also need to play much better on the road this year, as nearly anything would be an improvement from its 1-17-2 record as the visitors.
Pulling off a sweep at Western Michigan was going to a tall order, even with the Broncos struggling this season.
Miami fell, 4-1 in the series finale in Kalamazoo on Saturday, but fortunately for the RedHawks, they only fell one spot in PairWise and did not drop in the conference standings, as both teams they are tied with were defeated as well.
Miami remains in a three-way tie with Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth for the all-important fourth and final home ice spot for the first round of the NCHC Tournament.
The problem is: The RedHawks would lose the tiebreaker vs. both teams if they remain even. We’ll explain more thoroughly if it appears this scenario may come to fruition, but for now, trust us, Miami takes sixth if they can’t surge past one of both of these teams.
As we explained yesterday, the RedHawks control their own destiny to a large degree, as they host last-place Colorado College next week and head to UMD to wrap up the season.
(And it could end up Miami and UMD play back-to-back weekends: Imagine the carnage if those teams met four or five times in nine days)
Sweeping hapless Colorado College at home next weekend is now paramount if the RedHawks want home ice, and if that happens it will greatly increase the team’s chance of making the NCAA Tournament.
As for the game itself, Miami outshot WMU, 31-28 including 8-2 the final period. The RedHawks didn’t play that badly but allowing a goal in the final second of a period is devastating.
The Broncos capitalized on the momentum of that second goal by adding a third early in the second period and Miami was essentially done.
The RedHawks’ goal came on a pretty passing play, with Kevin Morris putting it in for his fifth goal in nine games.
– So that’s five shorthanded goals against this season for Miami, and zero for. The RedHawks are one of only five teams in Division I without a shorty and the lone team in the NCHC.
– Realizing that down by two goals midway through the third period a team is going to pinch, but the RedHawks’ defense was flat-out miserable on WMU’s fourth goal. Both defensemen were caught up the ice and Anthony Louis weakly flailed at the outlet stretch pass that ultimately resulted in the final goal.
– Senior night is next weekend. How will the team handle the Ryan McKay situation? Tune in next week.
For the third straight game, the final score of Miami’s game was 4-1.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, after consecutive wins, they fell at Western Michigan on Saturday, snapping a three-game winning streak and a string of four straight wins on the road.
Griffen Molino recorded a hat trick to lead the Broncos, who salvaged a series split vs. Miami.
WMU (8-19-3) opened the scoring with 1:23 left in the first period when Jade McMullen tipped home a shot from in front of the net.
In the final second of that frame, Nolan LaPorte won a faceoff back to Molino, who wired a shot into the far corner of the cage to make it 2-0 heading into the first intermission.
The Broncos extended their lead to three when Molino ripped one past RedHawks senior goalie Jay Williams off a stretch pass shorthanded 1:30 into the second period.
That’s three goals in a span of 2:53.
Miami (13-14-3) finally got on the board less than 2½ minutes later, as senior forward Kevin Morris banged home a pass by sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio in front of the net.
But Western Michigan regained its three-goal lead when Molino skated in off a stretch pass from Chris Dienes and wired it into the net with 8:52 left in regulation.
Morris scored for the fifth time in nine games, and Belpedio and freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood – who collected assists on Morris’ goal – earned assists to extend their points streaks to four games apiece.
Miami remained tied for fourth in the NCHC, as both Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth lost on Saturday. All have four conference games remaining.
The RedHawks are currently tied for 16th in the all-important PairWise rankings.
Miami plays its final two regular season home games next weekend vs. Colorado College before wrapping up its slate with a pair of games at UMD.
Is it too early to schedule watch?
Especially since we’re in the online world, the answer is a definite ‘no’.
Besides, there are only five games left in the regular season and all of them will be important for Miami, which beat Western Michigan, 4-1 at Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo on Friday.
Thanks to that win, the RedHawks are currently in a three-way tie for fourth with Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth — both of whom lost on Friday — and that No. 4 spot is paramount if Miami wants to qualify for its 10th NCAA Tournament in 11 years.
As opposed to missing it for the second time in three seasons.
Here’s why this race is so important…
North Dakota and St. Cloud have run away with the top two spots. The RedHawks can’t even mathematically catch either team.
And Denver is a win away from securing a top-three spot, so the 1-3 seeds are off the table for Miami, unless it wins out and the Pioneers lose out. Which is not realistic.
That leaves the fourth spot as the last remaining one for home-ice advantage in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.
To round out the field, Western Michigan – especially after the RedHawks’ win on Friday – and Colorado College are virtually locked into the bottom two spots.
Meaning Miami will battle UMD and UNO for the four, five and six seeds.
Six plays the third-place finisher between UND, St. Cloud and Denver on the road. No thanks.
Five travels to the winner of this three-team cluster. In other words, it plays the hottest team of these three on the road. Again, nah.
In the scenario in which the RedHawks finish fifth or sixth, they will likely not have the wins necessary to keep an at-large possibility alive, which is why the next 15 days are so important.
The good news is that Miami is playing its best hockey of the season. More good news is that the other two teams the RedHawks are battling for that coveted home-ice spot face tougher remaining slates.
UMD is at North Dakota again on Saturday after losing to UND in overtime on Friday, then it travels to second-place St. Cloud State for a pair of games next week before capping its regular season by hosting Miami.
UNO hosts St. Cloud on Saturday after falling to SCSU, 4-1 on Friday. The Mavericks wrap up their regular season with two against North Dakota at home and a pair at Denver.
Miami is at seventh-place WMU for one more on Saturday, hosts last-place Colorado College next week and finishes with a series at Minnesota-Duluth. Those opponents are a combined 24-54-9.
And if the RedHawks can’t put up a good showing in this stretch run, they don’t deserve NCAA consideration anyway.
Winning three of its final five would be just OK for Miami and would probably hurt its PairWise. Taking four would be preferable, and running the table would be ideal.
A losing record in this span would be devastating and would likely result in a road trip for a best-of-3 and then having to at minimum advance to Minneapolis for a shot at an NCAA berth.
– Anthony Louis scored his eighth and ninth goals of the season on Friday. We’ve mentioned his second-half surges before but haven’t thoroughly evaluated.
This is Louis’ third season with Miami, and he has 10 goals in 52 games in October, November and December and 20 in 55 contests in January and beyond.
In terms of points, Louis has recorded 32 of his points before New Year’s and 50 after, or an average of 0.62 vs. 0.95.
And he has been clutch in the postseason, recording 13 points in 11 games in the NCHC and NCAA Tournaments, including six goals.
– This was the 29th game of Miami’s season and the first time the RedHawks have scored multiple goals in the first period. They had just 12 markers in the first 28 opening frames this season.
– Jay Williams stopped 27 of 28 shots to earn the win in this game and has been a rock since taking over following GoalieGate. Williams is 7-2 with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in the nine-plus games since, and that’s with two five-goal games, with both featuring multiple tallies he had zero chance on.
– Jack Roslovic and Josh Melnick combined for just one assist on Friday but were still integral to the team’s scoring. Roslovic would’ve gotten third assists for two of the goals, and Melnick’s helper was the direct result of him stealing a puck at center ice and lifting it ahead to Louis, who did his thing to make it 1-0. Roslovic also just missed a goal at the end of the second period, so he’s still making offensive contributions, even if they aren’t showing up on the scoresheet.
Anthony Louis scored the first goal of the game and his team’s last one – which came in highlight-reel fashion – and that plenty of offense for Miami.
The junior forward recorded a pair of goals, giving him three in two games and six in his last nine, as the RedHawks beat Western Michigan, 4-1 at Lawson Ice Arena on Friday.
It was the fourth straight road win for Miami (13-13-3), which surged to the .500 mark for the first time since Oct. 30.
The RedHawks took the early lead when freshman forward Josh Melnick stole a puck in the neutral zone and lifted it ahead to Louis, who skated in and whipped a shot by goalie Lukas Hafner just 4:26 into the game.
With 2:42 left in the opening stanza, senior forward Kevin Morris banged home a loose puck off of a shot by sophomore defenseman Scott Dornbrock on the power play to make it 2-0.
Miami extended its lead to three when sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio, who had his intitial pass attempt blocked, fed one to freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood, who roofed it from the side of the net 3:01 into the middle frame.
Louis came in from the right wing, was held as he approached the net and still was able to lift a shot over Hafner for the RedHawks’ fourth goal 1:06 into the third period.
The marker was highlighted by ESPN anchor John Buccigross on Twitter. It was just the second multiple-goal game for a Miami player this season.
Sophomore forward Conor Lemirande recorded a hat trick for the RedHawks on Jan. 23 at Nebraska-Omaha.
Just 33 seconds away from a shutout, Western Michigan (7-19-3) scored on a shot from Aaron Hadley that trickled past Miami senior goalie Jay Williams.
Williams stopped 27 shots to record the win. He did not have a victory this season in calendar year 2015 but has eight already in 2016 and 44 for his career, two away from tying Connor Knapp for fourth place on the team’s all-time leaderboard.
Sherwood has scored in three straight games, and Melnick has picked up a point in nine of 10. Senior forward Sean Kuraly picked up an assist to give him 13 points in nine games.
Parlayed with losses by Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth, the RedHawks’ third straight win moved them into a tie for fourth place with both of those teams in the NCHC standings with 25 points apiece.
There was more good news for Miami, which surged to 15th in the PairWise rankings. It will probably take a final ranking of 13 or 14 to ensure a trip to the NCAA Tournament via an at-large bid, coupled with a winning percentage of .500 or better, but the RedHawks were as low as the high 30s earlier this season.
The teams wrap up the weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday. Miami returns home to host last-place Colorado College next weekend in Cady Arena’s final games this regular season.
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami’s first NCHC series of the season did not go well, and the results reflected that – two losses at St. Cloud with one goal for, six against.
The RedHawks’ follow-up series, its first conference games at Cady Arena, were a marked improvement, with both ending in 2-1 wins over Western Michigan, including a victory in the second game on Saturday.
From a statistical perspective, Miami went from tied for last in the league to basically the middle of the pack. Even through MU is in a six-way tie for first, Denver, North Dakota and St. Cloud State have only played two league games and are 2-0.
Most importantly, from a getting-ready-for-bigger-challenges-ahead vantage point, even more good came from these games.
Defensively, Miami gave Western Michigan (4-4-1) almost nothing to shoot at all weekend, and the few times it did, Ryan McKay stopped almost everything he saw.
Offensively, the RedHawks were able to possess the puck in the offensive zone for long periods of time and get numerous looks at the net, even against a team that is outstanding at preventing teams from finding shooting lanes.
And the Broncos are a physical, play-over-the-line at times group, and with one early exception, Miami was able to avoid dumb retaliatory penalties.
Lots of positive.
And Western Michigan is well coached by Andy Murray, who spent 10 years as a head coach in the NHL, and this team is much better than in 2014-15. But the RedHawks were still able to escape with a couple of close wins and were able to close out games both nights, which has been an issue at times in recent years.
Now Miami faces an even tougher test than St. Cloud State – a pair of games vs. North Dakota in Grand Forks. At least the RedHawks have momentum heading into next weekend.
A couple of other thoughts:
– Getting goals from Alex Gacek and Anthony Louis could be a huge boost for an offense that is struggling to get scoring from anyone. Gacek is playing the best hockey of his career, and Louis tends to start slowly and pile up the points when he gets going. It was Gacek’s second goals of the season, and the first (!!) for Louis.
– In the final minute, there was a faceoff at center ice, and right before the puck dropped Sean Kuraly skated back and formed an impromptu huddle with Miami’s other four skaters. It was immediately broken up by the officials but may have been a first in hockey. Hey, we are well into football season.
– Freshmen Ryan Siroky and Kiefer Sherwood haven’t been flashy, but the linemates seem to be getting better every game. Twice Siroky won offensive zone faceoffs straight back to Sherwood for a shot just inside the blue line. They both work incredibly hard on the ice, and it’s going to be fun watching them develop the next 3½ years.
– McKay moved into solo control of eighth place all-time on Miami’s wins list with 35. He is one away from creating a three-way tie with Mark Michaud and teammate Jay Williams.
– With a 2-for-2 night on the penalty kill, the RedHawks are now 34 of 35 for the season (97.1 percent) in that area. They have not allowed a power play goal in eight games.
FORWARDS: C+. They controlled the action for a good portion of the game, but this corps still isn’t scoring as much as it should. While the defensemen and McKay get the majority of credit for keeping the puck out of Miami’s net, this group helps in that area as well. Gacek, Kevin Morris, Justin Greenberg, Josh Melnick have done a great job of shutting down opposing offenses and are also a key reason for the PK percentage north of 97 percent. Other than Jack Roslovic and Melnick, that scoring thing is still an issue overall for this team, though.
DEFENSEMEN: A. WMU finished with 20 shots on goal, and not too many were quality. Scott Dornbrock tried to clear a puck that hit a Broncos skate, and Western Michigan went in to score its only goal. WMU had an outstanding tip that McKay had to stop as well, and those were two of the only great scoring chances the team had. No one has been really flashy among this group but as a unit they are really tough to play against.
GOALTENDING: A. The only goal was on a very good shot. McKay made an outstanding save on the aforementioned redirect and was generally really solid overall. He stopped 19 of 20 shots and is having an excellent start to his senior season.
LINEUP CHANGES: None. Coach Enrico Blasi went with the same 19 as Friday. Normally he changes personnel pretty regularly at this point of the season and settles into a regular lineup in January or February, but he seems to feel comfortable with this group. Miami only has three extra skaters, and it was the second straight game as a scratch for defenseman Colin Sullivan, the third in a row for Devin Loe and No. 6 for No. 6, Michael Mooney.
OXFORD, Ohio – It took Miami until the eight-minute mark of the third period to earn its first power play on Saturday.
But when the RedHawks finally went on the man advantage, they needed just seven seconds to score the game-winning goal.
A blast from junior forward Anthony Louis found the net with 8:32 remaining in regulation to lift Miami to a 2-1 win over Western Michigan in the weekend series finale at Cady Arena.
The RedHawks (5-4-1) won by the same score on Friday.
Alex Gacek gave Miami the lead with 7:53 left in the first period off a wrister from the high slot.
But Sheldon Dries tied the score for the Broncos (4-4-1) just 3:10 later after knocking down an attempted clearing pass by sophomore defenseman Scott Dornbrock, entering the offensive zone and beating RedHawks senior goalie Ryan McKay just inside the far post.
That set the stage for Louis’ game winner, which came off a short lateral pass by senior center Sean Kuraly and appeared to partially deflect off a Western Michigan player in front of the net before finding twine.
It was the first goal of the season for Louis and the second for Gacek on a team that is in desperate need of offense from sources other than its freshmen phenoms and defensemen.
Kuraly picked up two assists, and McKay stopped 19 shots to earn the win, the 34th of his career that ties him for eighth on the team’s all-time leaderboard with Trevor Prior.
Miami improved to 2-2 in the NCHC, moving into a six-way tie for first place in the conference with six points.
After losing on opening night on campus, the RedHawks have won three straight games at Cady Arena and are unbeaten in their last four (3-0-1).
Miami will head north for a series at North Dakota next weekend.