OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Siroky was asked about his Miami experience, and 10 minutes later and after he had left the room, the same question was posed to Zach LaValle.
The first five words out of both of their mouths were identical: Best years of my life.
The senior forwards didn’t know each other at all before joining the RedHawks in the fall of 2015, which is not surprising considering Siroky was born and raised near the beaches of Los Angeles and LaValle grew up in the much more traditional hockey hotbed of the Twin Cities.
But since the start of their freshman year, they have been almost inseparable, and they have played on the same line much of this season.
“I think both of them are the types of guys that guys follow and respect because of the type of people that they are,” RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi said. “In terms of the type of impact that they’ve had, they’ve been good leaders for those young guys and good models and good representatives of our culture and Brotherhood.”
On the ice, they have been mainstays on the grind lines for four years.
Both have played over 100 maximum-effort games over their four-year careers, and while their impact may not always appear in statistical columns, they have been invaluable to the RedHawks in numerous ways.
“I think they have been huge leaders for our class in particular and for the guys coming in,” captain Josh Melnick said. “They have both matured in our time here. I think their leadership qualities at times goes unnoticed, but they do a great job of bringing guys together both on and off the ice.”
Their chemistry on the ice carries over away from the rink and vice versa. Their GPAs are even exactly the same: 3.35.
And they share at least one personality trait: Their gregariousness.
“Zach’s the easiest person to talk to: He never shuts up,” Siroky said. “We became really close friends right off the bat and still are. He’s one of my best friends on the team. We clicked right away.”
Said LaValle: “(Ryan’s) a hilarious guy. He’s always got jokes, he’s always smiling. I give him a hard time now because I’m actually older than him but he acts like he’s way older than me – he’s a grumpy old man nowadays. But he’s got a great smile, he’s got funny one-liners that get people fired up.”
Siroky, from the coastal Los Angeles suburb of Manhattan Beach, saw hockey on television at age 4 and wanted to try it and despite having parents who were raised in the west and not traditional hockey markets.
He did come from athletic pedigree, as his father, Charles, was a star swimmer in college and his mother, Tammi, had a volleyball background.
Siroky won back-to-back championships with his L.A. Selects team (losing a third title on an overtime goal) and was drafted by Green Bay of the USHL in the second round, where he began his junior career at the end of 2011-12.
At age 13, he broke his femur in two places during a game in Texas and was unable to touch his skates for 10 months. He considered quitting the game, as he enduring stints in a full cast and wheelchair.
But his difficult rehab paid off, as he thrived when hitting the ice for the Gamblers, spending two full seasons there. He scored 25 goals and picked up 11 assists in 118 games, and he even attended a couple of Packers game during his stay.
“It was a cool experience,” Siroky said. “It was kind of a culture shock coming from L.A. to a smaller town in Green Bay, but it was really good, I really enjoyed my two years there a lot.”
In his overage year of juniors, Siroky started with Bloomington – where he was named captain – and was later traded to join a Muskegon team that advanced to the Clark Cup finals.
“(In Muskegon) I got to play with a lot of really good players, got a lot of playing time and it really helped with my confidence before coming in here,” Siroky said.
After a visit set up by former Miami coach Brent Brekke, Siroky committed to Miami while still in Green Bay, but prior to that he had his doubts about coming here.
“I told my grandma I’d never come here because of the name: It would be too hard to explain to everybody,” Siroky said.
But the campus quickly sold him.
“It’s funny,” Siroky said. “Me and my dad flew out here, we flew into Columbus right at the end of January, and it was an ice storm. It was a two-hour drove, and there’s not a lot between Columbus and Oxford, and I kind of looked at him and I was like, ‘what the hell are we getting into?’ But then you enter onto campus and it’s all of the red brick and the trees and it’s a beautiful campus.
(During the season), we get to go to a lot of different schools, and obviously we see their campuses, see their facilities, and I still think nothing compares to Miami. The people here, the culture of The Brotherhood, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Siroky dressed right away for the RedHawks, playing in their first 16 games of 2015-16 and 31 contests overall that season.
His defensive prowess was immediately evident, as he either shut down or physically punished most opposing forwards that entered the Miami zone during his shift.
“When he’s playing his game, he’s obviously physical and effective in doing that,” Blasi said. “When he’s moving his feet he’s hard to play against and he blocks shots. He’s done a little bit of everything for us, he’s played center and wing, so he always find himself in the mix every week.”
As a grinder, Siroky logged 99 games his first three years with exactly four points in each campaign.
“I’m not the most offensive-gifted player so in order to stay in the lineup and stay effective for the team I had to focus on something, and obviously defense is one of the most important parts of the game,” Siroky said. “It’s really important to know your structure, be able to play defense to be able to play on offense, blocking shots, getting pucks out of the zone. It’s just always been a goal of mine to be as defensive-minded as I can to succeed.”
Of his seven goals in that span, two were in NCHC Tournament series, both at Minnesota-Duluth.
Siroky has seven goals this season alone and nine points, including his first-ever two goal game in Denver on Friday. He also netted the game winner in that contest.
And he has punished more opponents with his hitting than ever and played a better-shut down game.
“I’ve always liked to hit people, I’ve always liked to play physical,” Siroky said. “You’re allowed to – you can’t really in real life – but ever since I was a little kid I’ve liked to throw the body around, and it’s kind of translated into my role as a player.
“It’s always nice scoring goals, especially in my last year. I’ve been getting rewarded, I think I’ve been playing pretty well this year so it’s always good to get rewarded on the scoresheet as well.”
It took LaValle just four games to find the net for Miami.
He banged home a rebound off a power play shot by Kiefer Sherwood against Ohio State at a sold-out Cady Arena.
“It was such a cool feeling, scoring there and the crowd erupts,” LaValle said.
Later that freshman season, LaValle netted a goal and picked up two assists in a win at Nebraska-Omaha that saw Conor Lemirande record his lone career hat trick.
LaValle was raised in the St. Paul area and played high school hockey at Hill-Murray School, captaining that team his final two seasons. He scored 73 goals and dished for 95 assists for 168 points in 99 games.
He also played baseball and quarterbacked the football team.
LaValle struggled his first season of juniors. He played for Chicago of the USHL in 2013-14 but managed just four points in 40 games.
“It was hard first year away from home – I think it’s like that for a lot of people,” LaValle said. “I didn’t have the best hockey year, kind of wasn’t playing a role that I had normally played and it wasn’t a great fit.”
The following season he did not make the USHL, so he skated for NAHL Janesville with current teammate Grant Hutton.
There he regained his offensive touch, piling up 20 goals and 41 assists for 61 points and a plus-24 rating in 56 games.
He added three tallies and six helpers in nine playoff games.
“We had an awesome team, and everybody was close and we were having fun, and I think there’s a direct correlation between having fun in hockey and success in hockey,” LaValle said. “If you’re just miserable going to the rink, you’re not going to play well. We made a good run and I met a lot of cool people on that team.”
With no definitive plans beyond juniors, LaValle had visited Miami during the Saturday the RedHawks beat Denver, 4-1 in early 2015.
The next fall he was a RedHawk, having fallen in love with the building and the energy of the crowd that night.
“I didn’t go on any other visits, I kind of went back and forth with my parents to see if I could make it work financially and that’s why I chose it, just because I fell in love with it right away,” LaValle said. “They wanted me, which felt good. They were like, we want you for who you are.”
Once in Oxford, he finished 3-6-9 his freshman year, playing in 31 games despite breaking his jaw when Matthew Caito dumped a puck into the offensive zone and hit him in the face.
After a slow start to 2016-17, he put up nine points the final 18 games to end up with a 2-9-11 line and was playing with Sherwood and Gordie Green on the top line by season’s end.
“End of my sophomore year they kind of put me in a role I like playing, that I’d played my whole life,” LaValle said. “It was fun to play offense and get things going with (Sherwood and Green) – those guys are such unbelievable hockey players.”
LaValle has dressed just 40 times the past two seasons, but he has been in the lineup for seven of Miami’s last nine games as he winds up his Division I career.
“It’s tough sometimes because you want to contribute, you want to do more, but I make the most out of what I’m given and if I’m in the lineup I’m going to work my butt off,” LaValle said.
Like Siroky, LaValle also found the net this past weekend. He scored his second goal of the season by poking a loose rebound home on Saturday.
He has played in 105 games, scoring seven times and setting up 19 more goals.
“He’s a super-skilled guy,” Melnick said. “The thing about him is he may not be as hard-nosed or as aggressive as Ryan, but I think the things he does, he does really well, and he does those things to the best of his ability, and I think that whatever what situation he’s put in, he’s going to excel.”
Siroky has played in at least 30 games each season, and for his career he has dressed 129 goals, recording 12 goals and seven assists.
“He’s super-tough to play against and I think over the years he’s done a great job to embrace that role,” Melnick said. “He’s skilled and he can score, but he’s so gritty and he’s so big and so strong that 90 percent of the time when he goes into the boards for a battle, he’s coming out with that puck. Especially in the past couple of weeks, you’ve seen it in games, and it’s a little bit of a kick-starter for us. He brings some momentum for our forwards and when I see him go out and be able to possess the puck down low, I think that lets other guys know that they can do the same. His hard work and determination has given him success on the scoring sheet as well.”
Both have plenty of praise for each other’s game as well.
“(LaValle’s) playmaking ability, his ability to pass the puck, he sees, he’s got good vision, good awareness out there so he can see a lot of plays before they happen, and he’s been really successful at that,” Siroky said. “Especially when he gets on his hot streaks, he’s hard to stop.”
Said LaValle: “I’m super proud of (Ryan). He had a rough start to last year and kind of came into his role. He used to be more of a goal scorer and now he throws the body around and parks himself in front of the net. He really came into that role this year and he’s dominating. Scoring goals when he’s on the power play – I thought he was playing awesome. We needed that out of him and he stepped and I think he did really well there. He’s still doing really well.”
Playing together as often they have over the past four years is a huge plus when they’re together on the ice.
“It’s fun – we kind of feed off each other and I know where he’s going to be and how he’s going to play,” LaValle said. “I know that he’s going to go in the corner and get the puck and I know how to support him. Once you have that chemistry and you know how a player plays, you just kind of know where to go to help them.”
The RedHawks lost in the first round of the NCHC Tournament each of their first three years and are currently in seventh place in the NCHC, but both have nothing but praise for Oxford, for the school and for the hockey program.
Set to graduate this spring, Siroky and LaValle are quick to highlight how integral the relationship building has been at Miami.
“I’ve met amazing people, made so many cool relationships and just had a blast in such a fun little town,” LaValle said. “It’s kind of like a bubble – I don’t think I’ll be able to live like this ever again. It’s so tight and compact and the community is so close, it’s awesome.”
Said Siroky: “The people that I’ve met I’ll cherish for a lifetime. We talk about The Brotherhood and I think that is real here: The comradery between teammates and friends. In terms of hockey, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs, so I think it’s really developed me as a player and a person, knowing and learning how to win games but also knowing and learning how to lose games and then how to come back and develop from that. We’ve gone through a lot of adversity here but we always seem to come through it together, so I think that’s big. Overall it’s been the best four years of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Denver salvages split with Miami
It’s official: Miami will open the NCHC Tournament on the road for the fourth straight season.
Denver beat the RedHawks, 5-2 at Magness Arena on Saturday, which dropped MU 13 points behind the fourth-place Pioneers with four games remaining.
The top four seeds host best-of-3 series in the first round of the conference tournament.
RECAP: Denver’s Jarid Lukosevicius buried a one-timer from just inside the faceoff circle, set up by an Emilio Pettersen feed from the wall at the 3:31 mark of the first period.
The score remained 1-0 for over a period and a half until Miami’s Josh Melnick tied it shorthanded, whipping a shot just under the crossbar on a 2-on-1 after he and Brian Hawkinson played give-and-go with 5:17 left in the second period.
But the Pioneers would break it open in a 17-second span of the third period on a pair of goals Jack Doremus. He redirected a wrist shot by Griffin Mendel into the net at 5:17 and fired a slapper that beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin moments later.
The RedHawks cut the deficit to one, 3-2 when Zach LaValle lunged into the crease to poke home a rebound after Filip Larsson couldn’t control a wrist shot by Monte Graham with 11:47 left in regulation.
Denver regained its two-goal lead on the power play, with Lukosevicius shoveling home a centering feed in the slot with 7:46 remaining.
Colin Staub sealed it with an empty netter, as he chased down a clearing pass and tapped it in.
STATS: The four goals allowed in the third period is the most surrendered in a frame this season for Miami.
— Melnick extended his points streak to three games, as he has two goals and two assists in that span.
With 105 points, the senior is now 47th on the RedHawks’ all-time scoring list.
— LaValle’s marker was his first since Oct. 27.
— Denver led on the shot counter, 43-17. For the weekend, the Pioneers outshot Miami, 90-38.
— The RedHawks did not score on the power play for the fourth straight game, and they are 13-for-20 on the penalty kill in their last six (65.0 percent).
THOUGHTS: Miami played pretty evenly with Denver following the first goal and set itself up to steal some road points with the score tied at one after 40 minutes.
But defending the slot area was a major issue for the RedHawks, who allowed two deflection goals and a one-timer by a loosely-covered Lukosevicius, arguably the best scorer on the team.
Even the empty netter was scored from that area.
Miami battled hard in this game, tying the score at one and cutting a two-goal deficit to one, but the sixth period of the weekend at altitude ultimately spelled the RedHawks’ demise.
— Normally a 1-1 weekend at the seventh-ranked team in Division I would be considered a victory, and it is to a large degree, but because Miami has dug itself such a deep hole in the standings, it needed more than three points for any chance at home ice for the playoffs.
With that decided, at least the RedHawks know for sure they will be packing their bags for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the only question remaining is where they will be heading.
— River Rymsha dished out a solid hit in the closing seconds and was chased down by Slava Demin as the horn sounded, but little came from it.
After review, Rymsha was assessed a major and game misconduct for a supposed hit to the head that even the homer Denver broadcasters didn’t see.
According to the broadcasters on Altitude Network, Miami coach Enrico Blasi was initially confrontational with DU coach David Carle before his handshake, though that was not shown.
On replay, it appeared the skater’s head dropped down as he wound up for a hard dump-in. Going full speed, there’s no way Rymsha could’ve known that or reacted to it in time.
Someone ask Rymsha how he feels about replay, since this is the second time he gotten 5-and-10 for a hit none of the four officials saw live and he’s now one misconduct away from a one-game suspension.
Typically don’t like to call out college broadcasting, but DU’s on-air team on Altitude was defending Demin for running Rymsha because the hit was late in the game. So a player is supposed to get a free pass because of how much time is left?
Why not just call the game when the margin reaches three goals?
— While we’re on the subject, Altitude did refer to Bray Crowder, who is 6-feet-6, as the second-tallest skater on Miami. That is correct.
The tallest? That would be Alec Mahalak at 6-9.
That’s even more hilarious considering the box score from Denver had Andrew Sinard – the RedHawks’ actual tallest player at 6-7 – listed as on the ice for two goals against when Mahalak was actually out there.
Altitude also kept referring to Miami’s recent winless streak as being 11 games, which is very polite but inaccurate. The RedHawks lost 11 games during an 0-11-4 stretch.
That’s 15 games. Eleven was also in the game notes, which is likely where they got that info.
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LINEUP CHANGES: Only one from Friday: Crowder was back from his upper-body injury. He missed two games.
As a result, Carter Johnson did not dress as Miami went with seven defensemen.
STANDINGS: At 5-13-2 in league play, Miami is in seventh place in the NCHC, one point ahead of Omaha and three behind sixth-place Colorado College.
St. Cloud State clinched the league regular season title this weekend, so the No. 8 seed will head there.
UMD and Western Michigan will likely finish in the two and three spots, so there’s a good chance the RedHawks travel to one of those two campuses for the conference tournament.
MU is tied for No. 35 in the PairWise rankings.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Four games remain in the regular season – two away, two at home – and at this point it’s all about getting ready for the postseason.
The road win on Friday was definitely nice but Miami needs to play better for 60 minutes if it hopes to advance to St. Paul next month.
Speaking of Minnesota, the RedHawks are off to their favorite home away from home next week: UMD.
But what a statement MU could make if it could pull off a win or two in its final road series of the regular season against the No. 3 team in Division I, where Miami is winless in its last 11.
Analysis: Miami still battling despite odds
Miami has not won in six weeks, but its next loss will be its last of the season.
The RedHawks lost their NCHC Tournament first-round opener in their best-of-3 series, 5-4 in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena on Friday and now face elimination in that series.
Miami’s path from here on out couldn’t be more clear: Win or go home. The RedHawks would need to win on Saturday and Sunday at No. 3 UMD then run the table in the semifinal and final of the league tournament in Minneapolis.
That would earn them a berth into the NCAA Tournament, which, of course, is one and out.
An unlikely scenario made more improbable considering the first half of the opening sentence. Miami is 0-8-1 in its last nine and 1-11-2 since Jan. 14.
To Miami’s credit, it took the third-best team in Division I to overtime in the Bulldogs’ home building on Friday despite missing captain Louie Belpedio and losing stud goalie Ryan Larkin in the second period.
The RedHawks led three times in the game (2-1, 3-2 and 4-3) but were unable to close out the win, a common theme in 2016-17.
Backup goalie Chase Munroe had not logged a minute in exactly three months, and after stopping just three of the first five shots he faced, he turned aside 26 of the final 28. He faced a shooting gallery in the final 20 minutes of regulation and overtime, and didn’t get a lot of help from his skaters defensively.
It would’ve been easy for this team to mail it in, considering the near impossibility of its task of winning this tournament.
But the RedHawks didn’t quit, and in a season that will likely go down as their worst in a quarter century, that’s an encouraging sign.
Crazy things happen in conference tournaments, and it would take a run that makes 2013-14 look tame just for Miami to return the position it was in three years when it came within a goal of advancing to the NCAAs despite a 12-19-3 regular season record.
The RedHawks have their backs against the boards but are playing with passion, and in Game 2 we’ll see if that’s enough to extend the season.
– No idea what Larkin’s injury is or how severe, but when a goalie leaves a game and doesn’t return he rarely returns the next night. Already Belpedio-less, that makes MU’s chances of advancing in this round even more remote. If there is a bright spot it’s that Munroe earned valuable conference tournament experience, and as we recall, Jay Williams was shaky early before finding his groove, as was Charlie Effinger before him.
– Scorers’ list from Friday boom: Ryan Siroky and Zach LaValle, in the bottom six of the forward list on the lineup card all season, both scored in this one. It was just their third and second goals of the season, respectively, although LaValle especially seems to have picked it up a notch recently. This is encouraging because Miami was able to hang without its go-to snipers finding the net, and also the lack of scoring from non-top six forwards has been well documented here.
– Scorers’ list from Friday bust: Josh Melnick hasn’t scored in seven games and Anthony Louis has been stuck on 13 goals for 13 games. Kiefer Sherwood was limited to one shot. Scoring from tertiary forwards is great, but the top players need to be top players in the playoffs for teams to advance.
– Yet another Gordie Green update. Hate to be redundant but Green has been the hottest forward on the team with seven points in four games and 11 in his last 10 – more than anyone else on the team.
– Speaking of points surges, two assists on Friday give Grant Hutton eight points in his last seven games. He picked up three helpers the first 28 games but has five in the last seven. On a team that has struggled mightily the past two months, it says a lot that a pair of underclassmen in Green and Hutton are two of the RedHawks’ top points producers. Green is a freshman and Hutton is a defenseman.
– Shots were close the first two periods: 14-12 UMD. Shots after: 27-10 UMD. Miami has now been outshot in 13 straight regulation periods. The RedHawks have allowed 474 shots while generating just 320 during their current 1-11-2 skid.
Three late Denver goals doom Miami
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami was able to erase a two-goal deficit early in the third period on Friday.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, the next three markers would belong to No. 2 Denver.
The Pioneers beat MU, 5-2 at Cady Arena, sending Miami to its third straight loss and a 1-6-1 record in its last eight games.
The RedHawks (9-14-6) are also guaranteed a non-winning regular season for the third time in four years.
Despite Miami being outshot, 13-6 in the first period, the teams headed into the first intermission scoreless.
But Denver (21-6-4) finally broke through on the power play, as Evan Janssen twice tried to stuff the puck in the near side of the net, but after two denials by RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin, the puck shot out to Dylan Gambrell, who hammered it home 4:20 into the second period.
Just 72 seconds later on another man advantage, the Pioneers’ Will Butcher wristered one in from the blue line that was deflected away by Larkin, but Troy Terry batted it in out of the air. The play was reviewed for several and after initially being ruled the puck was played by a high stick, that call was overturned and the Pioneers went up, 2-0.
At the 4:15 mark of the third period, Miami’s Zach LaValle cut the lead in half when he stuffed the puck in the short side, as it somehow got through goalie Tanner Jaillet off a centering feed by Gordie Green from behind the net.
The RedHawks pulled even with 10:39 remaining when Jaillet gave up a huge rebound off an outside shot by Grant Hutton, who had stole the puck to keep it in the offensive zone seconds earlier, and Jared Brandt blasted it home.
LaValle’s goal was his first of the season, while Brandt’s was his first as a Miamian.
But that lead was short lived. With 6:04 left in regulation, Gambrell won an offensive zone to Butcher, who skated into the slot uncontested and fired one just under the crossbar to give Denver a 3-2 lead.
The Pioneers regained their two-goal lead when Janssen pitchforked a backhander toward the net, and it hit Gambrell at the top of the crease and popped over the shoulder of Larkin with 3:38 left.
It was 32 seconds later when Denver sealed it on an empty netter from Emil Romig.
In addition to clinching a non-winning regular season, Miami can finish no better than .500 in NCHC play, as it slipped to 5-10-4 in the conference. The RedHawks remain in seventh place, five points behind Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota.
These teams wrap up their weekend series at 8:05 p.m. on Saturday in a game that will be broadcast on ASN and carried by Altitude Network.
Secondary scoring huge for Miami
Miami broke out with seven goals on Saturday, and its scorers had a combined nine markers this season entering that game.
While it’s obviously insane to expect that kind of offense from second-, third- and fourth-line forwards on a regular basis, the RedHawks – at least for one night in a 7-3 win vs. Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena – appeared to be over the forcefield-across-the-threshold-of-the-net blues that plagued them for many of their first 22 contests.
The reaction from 800 miles to east, behind a computer screen in a cozy back room, was 50 percent what-in-the-world-is-going-on-but-this-is-awesome and 50 percent it’s-about-time-some-of-those-shots-that-had-been-whistling-just-wide-or-off-posts-the-past-four-months-finally-found-twine.
The obvious question no one has the answer to is: Is the drought finally over or was this a three-hour reprieve?
Miami entered this weekend 53rd out of 60 in Division I in offense. The RedHawks aren’t that bad.
Miami scored seven times on Saturday, and only one of those was by a usual sniping suspect: Anthony Louis.
The RedHawks aren’t that good. No team is.
The word of the night, and the series, and the past nine days for that matter dating back to the Bowling Green win, is encouraging.
Two more words could determine how the rest of this season goes for MU: Secondary scoring.
Team leader Jack Roslovic, who had nine tallies this season, has one goal in his last 10 games. Josh Melnick is second overall with six but has one marker in 11 tilts.
Miami has still won three straight.
This team has seven excellent defensemen and two fantastic goalies. It doesn’t need to lead the NCAA in goals.
The RedHawks are now at 2.38 per game, up to 49th, and an average of 3.17 during their current 4-1-1 run. If they can come close to that clip, the back end should take care of the rest, and this could be a fun couple of months.
Only once in the past 11 games has Miami allowed more than three goals, so three should be enough most nights.
Back to the secondary scoring.
Could Kevin Morris could find the net a few more times during the stretch run like he did in both ends of this series?
Or is it a reach to suggest that Zach LaValle, who seems to get better every game, could start pumping in the occasional goal?
How about an occasion tally – not three a night, obviously – from wide-bodied Conor Lemirande, who showed an ability to use his hands to find the net and was able to tip in a shot while in the goalie’s face (with help from linemate and cousin Andrew Schmit, who picked up primary assists on two of his goals)?
The biggest question of this set is Sean Kuraly, since he has the potential to generate the most offense of this group.
Can he continue to play at the level he has the last three games, during which he has six points?
These don’t seem like outrageous questions to anyone who has seen this team frequently, and if the answer is “yes” to most, that goals-per-game average should continue to improve along with the team’s win total.
It was just one game, of course, but that’s on top of two other wins vs. highly-ranked teams, which has to have a confidence carryover for the entire team heading into a crucial four-game homestand and the second half of the NCHC slate.
– Miami did get a little sloppy with the big lead and could’ve finished better. Amazingly, the RedHawks were actually outshot overall, 30-27 after netting six goals on 12 shots in the second period.
– It was comical that when UNO scored late, the scoreboard operator initially gave the score to Miami, as the top of the screen read 8-2. Force of habit from the previous period, perhaps.
– Coach Enrico Blasi’s starting 19 were the same on Saturday as Friday. Evan McCarthy was still listed as the backup goalie.
– Speaking of Blasi, let’s give some credit to the coaching staff as well for this mid-season turnaround. Two weeks ago Miami was 6-11-3 and one point away from the NCHC cellar. Somehow they got this team to turn it around and win a couple of close games, followed by this not-to-close game.
– Segueing again, if Louis doesn’t score with two seconds left to beat Bowling Green last weekend, does Miami go into Omaha Friday and Saturday and pound the seventh-ranked team in Division I back-to-back nights on its own rink? Probably not?
Miami scores 7, sweeps UNO
Miami took out a half season of offensive frustrations on Nebraska-Omaha.
The RedHawks, who had not scored more than four goals in any game this season, struck for six in the second period alone in a 7-3 win over the No. 7 Mavericks at Baxter Arena on Saturday, completing a series sweep.
That extended MU’s winning streak to three games. Miami beat UNO, 3-1 on Friday following a 2-1 victory vs. Bowling Green last weekend. The RedHawks have lost just one of their last six games (4-1-1).
Sophomore forward Conor Lemirande, who had netted one career goal entering this contest, recorded the first Miami hat trick of the season.
Miami opened the scoring when senior forward Andrew Schmit passed a puck off the boards behind the net, and the carom came to Lemirande, who buried it from the side of the net with 4:02 left in the first period.
The net seemed to double in size once the middle stanza began.
Senior center Sean Kuraly centered a puck from along the boards to classmate and forward Kevin Morris, who one-timed one home from the slot 42 seconds into that frame.
Kuraly made it 3-0 just over two minutes later when he slammed home a one-touch pass from Morris at the inside edge of the faceoff circle.
The Mavericks cut the lead to two when Ryan Galt played a puck on net, and when RedHawks senior goalie Jay Williams did not handle it cleanly, Mason Morelli jammed it home with 11:54 left in the period.
Lemirande answered, taking a pass from senior forward Alex Gacek from the corner and beating UNO goalie Kirk Thompson on the stick side midway through the period.
Lemirande completed his hat trick with 6:58 to play in the frame, tipping home a Schmit shot from the blue line to give Miami a 5-1 lead.
The RedHawks would add two more tallies in the next three minutes. Junior forward Anthony Louis ripped a cross-crease pass from Kuraly past Thompson, and Kuraly set up a goal by forward Zach LaValle.
Kuraly slid a pass from behind the net to the wide-open freshman in the shot, and LaValle wired it past Thompson on the blocker side to cap off Miami’s scoring.
Nebraska-Omaha did add a pair of scores on slap shots from the blue line to cut the final deficit to four.
It was the first six-goal period for Miami since Feb. 26, 2010 vs. Ohio State.
Kuraly finished with a career-best four points (1-3-4), and his three assists tied a career high.
Lemirande became the only active RedHawk with a hat trick in his career. This season, no one on the team had scored more than one goal in any game.
In its last six games, Miami has scored 18 second-period goals vs. UNO, including 12 in its last four. The last time the RedHawks netted at least seven goals in a game was Dec. 5, 2014 vs. Nebraska-Omaha in Oxford.
Lemirande now has six career points, with four coming against the Mavericks.
LaValle finished with a goal and two assists, Morris notched a marker and an assist and Schmit ended the night with a pair of helpers.
LaValle had never recorded more than one point in a game, and it was the second career two-point tilt for Schmit.
With the three points on Saturday and six for the weekend, MU vaulted Western Michigan and moved into a tie for fifth with UNO at 16 points in the NCHC standings. The RedHawks also improved to 20th in the PairWise rankings.
Miami opens a four-game homestand with a two-game series vs. Denver on Jan. 29-30.
Analysis: Still hope for home ice
OXFORD, Ohio – Last Sunday, hopes were that Miami’s win over RPI was a momentum builder, as it scored three times in the third period for a boost heading into the heart of league play.
But it was business as usual for the RedHawks, Version 2015-16 on Friday, as once again they failed to hold a late lead and ended up tying Minnesota-Duluth, 1-1 at Cady Arena.
This time it was an equalizer by Tony Camenaresi with 5:38 left on a laser from the right faceoff circle.
It was the sixth straight NCHC game that Miami has given away valuable league point/points in the third period.
That bears repeating: In its last six conference games, the RedHawks have squandered at least one league point in the third period, many of which were lost late in the final stanza.
Let’s assume for a second that Miami had six more points. The team has given away two and three points in some of these contests (Friday it was just one, as the RedHawks won the 3-on-3), but add six points to its total.
That would give it a total of 16, good enough for third place in the NCHC. Plus instead of 6-10-3 – the RedHawks’ current record – it would be closer to 8-8-3, which would put Miami on the PairWise bubble with its brutal strength of schedule.
Instead the RedHawks have 10 and are mired in seventh place.
And yet, with all of the bad things that have happened to Miami this season, the team is just five points out of that No. 3 seed.
The team that holds that spot? UMD. So a win on Saturday would pull the RedHawks within two of the Bulldogs.
The top two seeds are off the board, as North Dakota and St. Cloud State are both 12 points ahead of the field. But home ice? Even at 2-7-2 in league play, Miami has every chance to get back into the race and earn home-ice advantage in the NCHC Tournament.
And unless the team’s record improves dramatically and quickly, home ice will be critical as the RedHawks hope to make the NCAA Tournament.
But none of these good things will happen for Miami if it can’t figure out how to maintain third-period leads.
– The RedHawks’ power play continues to have zero to do with power. Miami is 0-for-16 in its last six games and has allowed two shorthanded goals in that span for a net of minus-2 goals on the man advantage. That’s a special kind of bad. Not coincidentally, MU has scored two goals or fewer in five of those six games.
– Actually, the power play was so bad that Minn.-Duluth gained momentum on Miami’s first chance. The RedHawks were dominating early in the second period, but after doing zip on that opportunity, the Bulldogs controlled the pace the rest of that stanza and were the better team the rest of the way. Play was pretty even in the first period.
– Some perspective: UMD has a good team with excellent goaltending and talented forwards. It’s head-scratching that the team is 7-7-4, especially with so many key players back from last season. This team is poised for a second-half run, making Saturday’s game even more important for both squads.
– The attendance for this game was 1,743. When does this J-term end again?
– Was that actual rock music we heard in the second period? No kidding: An assortment of mostly standard rock selections was played in that frame before the powers-that-be returned to the same miserable crap fans have become accustomed to hearing. Hey, at least there was no Village Idiots or Neil Diamond in this game that normally makes hockey traditionalists want to jam ice picks through their ear drums.
– Per the NCHC, it looks like Miami will don its red jerseys for home games the rest of the season. Not sure what the point of changing that up is.
FORWARDS: D. This corps combined for one point (assist by senior Andrew Schmit) and managed a whopping 20 shots in 65 minutes. Freshman Jack Roslovic looked either disinterested or tired late, and with few offensive weapons this team needs him to be focused at all times. The Crash Cousins line, with Ryan Siroky, played well together, with sophomore Conor Lemirande also playing a role in Miami’s lone goal. The Zach LaValle-Kiefer Sherwood duo appears to be building chemistry, and the pair of freshmen will hopefully evolve together for the next three-plus years.
DEFENSEMEN: C-. Too many odd-man rushes, too many unnecessary icings. Not a typical shut-down effort from this group, although Coach Enrico Blasi did shake up the pairings as Louie Belpedio returned, which may have affected chemistry. Senior Matthew Caito took a 4-on-4 shot from the faceoff circle that whistled wide, and that’s how UMD scored its lone goal. That shot has to be on net, and he’d probably be the first to admit that, although he was his typical solid self otherwise. Grant Hutton has been a defensive staple in his freshman year but struggled in this game. He looks like a natural right D-man and was a little awkward on the left side. Chris Joyaux did score the team’s lone goal, which elevates this group out into the ‘D’ range.
GOALTENDING: A. There’s the hockey cliché of stealing a win, but can a goalie steal a tie? Jay Williams stopped 36 shots, and it was practically a shooting gallery his way the final 25 of regulation. There wasn’t one signature save on the night, but he was strong the whole game and was excellent at controlling his rebounds. His best effort of the season by far. The one goal was an absolute rip ticketed for the corner of the net. Without Williams, this game goes in the loss column for Miami.
LINEUP CHANGES: Up front it was Devin Loe out and Conor Lemirande in on Friday, perhaps because of the ultra-physical nature of UMD. With Belpedio returning from the World Juniors, he was back on the blue line after playing in Finland this week. His presence relegated fellow defenseman Colin Sullivan to the scratch column despite his strong play last weekend. Williams was in net for the second straight game, and he certainly has earned at least a split of playing time with Ryan McKay, who will probably start on Saturday.
Analysis: Turnaround needed soon
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami improved to 3-1-1 after a 1-0 win at St. Lawrence on Oct. 23.
The RedHawks have recorded two victories since, posting a 2-9-1 mark in the past 71 days, including a 3-2 loss to RPI at Cady Arena on Saturday that extended the team’s winless streak to seven games.
Although this weekend’s games are non-conference, Miami’s situation gets more dire with each loss. Now 5-10-2, the RedHawks’ PairWise ranking is 31st, a long way away from any kind of consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
On Saturday, Miami actually played pretty well. The team dominated the first few shifts, culminating in an early goal. The RedHawks were very good for large stretches of the second period as well.
They hit at least four posts.
It was the type of loss that, if Miami had played well overall the first three months, could be written off. Even the best college hockey teams don’t win every night.
But teams that are four games below .500 don’t have that luxury. Because of the deep hole the RedHawks have dug themselves, every game from here through March is paramount.
The tough schedule will give Miami leeway, but the team still has to win often against that tough schedule. The RedHawks play 14 conference games plus Sunday’s game against RPI (tied for 15th in the PairWise) and a home-and-home vs. Bowling Green (ranked 18th).
And losing repeatedly in dramatic fashion can’t help this team’s psyche.
Miami needs to finally score more than three goals, something it has yet to accomplish this season. Or win a game in the last minute.
Or get in a galvanizing skirmish. Nothing that would warrant mass suspensions, mind you, just something, ANYTHING, to help boost confidence and get this team on track.
The RedHawks lack offensive fire power this season, no doubt, but they don’t lack talent, and there’s no reason for them to have wins in fewer than one-third of their games thus far.
– Miami’s 6-on-5 in the closing minutes was disappointing. Once the players got set up in the offensive zone they stood there and passed the puck among themselves repeatedly. No movement anywhere. And then they wondered why there were no open shooting lanes.
– It’s frustrating to see RPI come in boasting one 10-goal scorer and have him net for the Engineers’ first two goals. It’s no secret Riley Bourbonnais is the team’s best offensive weapon, and Miami was unable to slow him down. One could say the same about RPI vs. Jack Roslovic, who scored once and set up the other Miami goal.
– Bourbonnais’ first goal came shorthanded and was a momentum killer for the RedHawks. Miami was up, 1-0 late in the first period with a chance to extend its lead via the power play, but Bourbonnais’ breakaway goal tied it and the RedHawks never led again.
– On a positive note, this was one of the best games Anthony Louis has played all season. His pass to Jack Roslovic for Miami’s slam-dunk second goal was a thing of beauty. Louis was better in the second half of both his freshman and sophomore seasons, and Miami needs his offense now more than ever.
– The listed attendance was 1,809 with the students out for the J-term, and that seems pretty generous. Unfortunately Miami has a lot of home games this month and won’t have a student section behind it. That figure could drop substantially on Sunday, going against the final week of the NFL’s regular season.
FORWARDS: B-. Louis and Roslovic were Miami’s best forwards and freshman Josh Melnick wasn’t far behind. This unit was very good at times and ineffective others. Same problem this team has faced all season: Miami has been unable to generate offense from its deeper lines.
DEFENSEMEN: A. RPI manged just 17 shots. Colin Sullivan has been the odd man out a lot this season, but he was very solid on D. Bad year overall for Miami or not, senior Matthew Caito has saved his best season for last, although he ended up in the penalty box twice. And this unit was without sophomore standout Louie Belpedio, who is at the World Juniors in Finland.
GOALTENDING: C-. Senior Ryan McKay just didn’t look like he seeing the puck that well all night. He made one spectacular save, stacking the pads on a point-blank shot, but he stopped just 14 of 17 overall. The first goal was a good shot on a shorthanded breakaway, but he still got beat. The second goal was pretty soft, hitting his glove and popping in, and the third he had no chance on.
LINEUP CHANGES: Freshman Zach LaValle was back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 13 with his upper-body injury. Freshman Ryan Siroky and junior Devin Loe were scratched, and Belpedio was obviously the missing D-man. Belpedio will miss Sunday’s game, and the smart money is on him being available next weekend.
Frosh help Miami complete Ohio St. sweep
OXFORD, Ohio — Miami’s youth continued to shine offensively on Saturday.
Freshmen scored all three of the RedHawks’ goals in a 3-1 win over Ohio State at Cady Arena in the series finale, a night after edging the Buckeyes in Columbus.
Forwards Josh Melnick, Jack Roslovic and Zach LaValle all found the net in the win, Miami’s sixth straight in its all-time series vs. OSU (0-4).
Roslovic set up Melnick’s goal to open the scoring when he whipped a cross-ice pass for a one-timer on the power play with 7:49 left in the first period.
Like Friday, after the RedHawks (2-1-1) took the initial lead, Ohio State tied it. A wrist shot from just inside the blue line by Mason Jobst eluded Miami senior goalie Ryan McKay 5:11 into the second period to make it 1-1.
Roslovic put the RedHawks ahead for good when he beat two defenders and roofed a shot with 6:04 left in the middle stanza. Melnick picked up the lone assist on that goal after a steal in the neutral zone.
LaValle jammed a rebound home off a shot by Kiefer Sherwood – another rookie – with 17:55 to play in regulation, sealing it. That goal also came on the man advantage, on which Miami finished 2-for-5.
Melnick and Roslovic finished with a goal and an assist each, as they are tied for the team lead with five points apiece.
Of the eight individual points earned by Miami in this game, six were by freshmen – two each by Melnick and Roslovic and one apiece by LaValle and Sherwood. Junior forward Anthony Louis and senior defenseman Matthew Caito also picked up assists.
Louis finished with nine of the RedHawks’ 41 shots.
McKay stopped 27 to earn the win for the second straight night.
The RedHawks’ first significant road trip of the season is this weekend, as they travel to St. Lawrence for a two-game set. Both games will be at 7 p.m.
Following those games, Miami travels to St. Cloud State to open NCHC play on Oct. 30-31.
Q&A with Miami’s Nick Petraglia, Part II
On Monday the Blog of Brotherhood published Part I of an interview with Miami assistant coach Nick Petraglia, which ran here:
Here is the conclusion of that conversation.
BoB: Another forward coming in is Ryan Siroky (Sir-OH-key). BoB saw him a couple of seasons ago with Green Bay and he looked like he had some talent but was 17 and raw at that point. He went 14-19-33 last year, including 1-7-8 in the playoffs after being traded to Muskegon.
PETRAGLIA: High-character kid, power forward, responsible. In the last year, year and a half, he has become very versatile in terms of being able to play different positions up front. He was recruited as a winger but was moved around in different teams’ lineups and learned how to play center, so that versatility is very important for us to be able to use him in different spots. He’s a kid that works hard, he has the ability to score goals – he has a little bit of offense to him, has a scoring touch in tight. He’s a complete player that is responsible and can contribute meaningful minutes to our team.
BoB: Next would be Zach LaValle (la-VAL). LaValle had a big year in the NAHL, going 20-41-61 for Janesville.
PETRAGLIA: He was a very successful three-sport, all-state athlete in Minnesota. I would say his strengths are his hockey sense and his playmaking. He had a really good year leading the team in scoring, and (Janesville) set a league record for wins and points and they ran away with the league, and he kind of league the way offensively. He’s a smart, playmaking forward, and he’s a guy that can probably play center and wing for us as well.
BoB: Another player who was a big points producer in juniors is Josh Melnick. At 5-feet-7 and with a line of 14-48-62 with Youngstown of the USHL, that looks like the scoring line of a playmaking center.
PETRAGLIA: Yes, that’s exactly what he is. He is one of the best passers that we could’ve found. He knows how to set the table, he knows how to run a power play, and again, hockey sense. Really, really smart, really smart and reliable, he can fly, he can make plays at high speed. He could probably shoot the puck a little bit more, but he really knows how to step guys up and make plays and produce offense, and he’ll be a guy that we think will transition very nicely into college hockey and make an immediate impact.
BoB: Kiefer Sherwood. Here’s a guy that absolutely blew up last season. He scored 29 goals and set up 27 more in his third season with Youngstown. What is your impression of him?
PETRAGLIA: He did (score a lot) in midgets and that’s where we recruited him from. Again, looking at what we’re replacing and what we’re bringing in, you lose a shot like Riley Barber – and by no means am I expecting Kiefer to come in and score 20 goals, it could happen but you don’t want to put that kind of pressure on a kid – this is a kid that can just shoot the puck and score goals. His one-timer is incredible. He’s got a really quick release, a hard and heavy shot, he can really skate. So when you look at the list of guys we’re bringing in, we’ve mentioned a few playmakers, this would be a goal scorer, a guy that can score and get up and down the ice and make a difference.
BoB: The final forward is a University of Maine transfer, Ryan Lomberg. He played two seasons with the Black Bears, going 18-14-32 in 66 games and sat out last season, joining Youngstown where he went 24-19-43. He will be a junior this year, and he did have an off-ice incident that led to his departure from Maine. Can you talk about bringing in a player with two years of collegiate experience on a team that lost a lot of forward talent?
NOTE: Lomberg pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge last summer stemming from a fight several months prior, for which he was originally charged with assault.
PETRAGLIA: He’s a kid very similar to Blake Coleman. Difficult to play against, can play in all situations. Very, very gritty and hard-nosed, can score, can make plays, but he’s a player that the other team notices and they don’t want him on the ice. And he’s an outstanding kid. Had a situation at Maine that was obviously tough for him to deal with but we can definitely speak to his character and say that he’s a really good person that’s learned from his mistakes and deserves a second chance. Still some eligibility issues with the NCAA in regards to his transfer, so we’re not quite sure if he’s going to be ready for us in the first half or if we’re going to have to wait until January. If we have to wait until January, we’ll get through it and he’ll be a big part of our team whenever the NCAA says that it’s OK.
BoB: So, worst-case scenario, he can come in this January as a junior and still play his entire senior season in 2016-17?
PETRAGLIA: That’s correct. Worst-case scenario…he can play (vs.) RPI, Jan. 2.
BoB: With all of the forward spots that are open from last season (7 – Czarik, Coleman, Murphy, Wideman, Mullin, Barber, Doherty), the spots are there for these incoming players to win starting jobs right away. Is that accurate?
PETRAGLIA: Yeah, and that’s how we’ve always recruited. We want to bring in guys to fill roles and we bring them in when they’re ready to contribute. No different than when Austin Czarnik came in, Austin Czarnik replaced Carter Camper…and Austin Czarnik was our leading scorer and No. 1 center for four years. And now Austin’s gone.
(At center), Sean (Kuraly) coming back, and what he brings to our team and the impact he’s going to have on the ice is huge. I don’t want to say who our No. 1 center is going to be, who knows? You could argue whomever. But Sean’s going to be a huge piece of our puzzle, and Jack replaces Austin and kind of fills that role. So you can see the different skill sets and the different elements that the (incoming) guys bring to the table. They’re brought here for a reason and hopefully they’re ready.
BoB: You mentioned Sean Kuraly a couple of times. He takes over the captaincy from Czarnik. Fans can see how hard he works and much of a force he’s become since coming to Oxford, but can you talk about the type of leader he is, which is something many people don’t see?
PETRAGLIA: He just gets it. First of all, he is the poster child of how to carry yourself, the perfect example of a human being in terms of humility, caring for other people, caring for his teammates, his selflessness. He’s so passionate and he works so hard. I think that’s one thing that people who don’t know Sean Kuraly that come to watch us play – I’m sure that if you’re watching that, oh, look at Sean Kuraly. Look how hard that kid works. He brings his best every single shift, and it’s not just on the ice. He brings his best in the classroom, he brings his best in terms of his attention span in a meeting, when he’s talking to his friends and his teammates. More than anything, he is respected by every single person in our program. If you were to take a poll, I’ll bet every single person in our program would vote him as our captain. It would probably be unanimous.
BoB: You have one defenseman coming in, who is Grant Hutton. He has bounced between the NAHL and the USHL and had an excellent playoff year with that tremendous Janesville team. He’s 6-feet-3, so can you talk about how he fits in to this team?
PETRAGLIA: Grant is a kid that’s built off of work ethic. He’s very strong, very well conditioned, great athlete. Obviously he has some size, and one thing about him – he can shoot the puck and he has a little bit of offense – but more than anything he takes great pride in playing D and shutting down the other team and keeping the puck out of his own net. He’s a player that hates to get scored on more than anybody I’ve ever met. It really bugs him, and obviously that’s a very important attribute to have on your team is a guy that really takes pride in taking care of his own end and defending, and that’s what Grant Hutton does. Another kid (with) great character from Indy, just down the road, so a semi-local kid that grew up loving Miami. (He’s) excited to be here and we’re excited to have him.
BoB: With Ben Paulides graduating and Colin Sullivan, who played very well when he was healthy last season, in the mix, it looks like there are going to be battles for those final couple of defenseman spots in the lineup each night.
PETRAGLIA: So with Mooney, you mentioned having a roster of 25, it gives us comfort knowing we have a guy like him that can play both positions as necessary based on the way things are going. But you mentioned the competition and that’s absolutely true, competition makes everybody better, it makes our team better, and we’re really happy with the makeup of our D-corps and the different elements and the competition that’s back there. We thought the guys did a real good job last year, playing both ends and taking care of the D-corps, so to have the majority of them back, and losing Ben Paulides, who did a good job for us. Grant comes in and has a similar skill set, defends in the same way that Benny did in terms of being a defensive defenseman, so we’re hoping for our D-corps to once again have a solid year, be a big part of our team.
BoB: Miami is bringing in another goalie in Evan McCarthy. He has been decent in the NAHL the past two seasons, so can you talk about him coming in with two other established goalies already with the RedHawks?
PETRAGLIA: So Evan’s coming into a situation where we obviously have two seniors who have played every minute for the last three years, and we’re going to expect a lot out of them, so he’s going to have an opportunity to compete and learn and be a part of that for a year. A year from now we’re going to expect Evan to step up and compete for a spot. We have a kid coming in who I’m not allowed to talk about until he signs his (Letter of Intent), but just having the competition that position, Evan’s going to have the opportunity to compete for playing time for four years. This year will be a little tougher for him because he’s got two seniors (in front of him), but after that it should be a good opportunity for him to battle it out. He’s a good that is extremely bright, very, very good student – he was valedictorian of his high school in Colorado – has a great work ethic. He has good size, he fills the net well, has a good skill set, so it will be a really good opportunity for him to learn the college game and adapt to this level of play and just get used to it before Ryan (McKay) and Jay (Williams) both graduate.
I’ve got one other thing to say, because it’s really important: Anthony Louis and Louie Belpedio. I would expect both of them to take huge steps this year. They were both great for us last year, but in terms of developing into elite college players, I think both of those guys are ready to take that step. When you talk about the guys that are leaving and trying to fill voids, both of those guys are totally capable of stepping up, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anthony Louis light it up.
John Lachmann writes for WCPO.com, the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Tristatefootball.com and GetSportsInfo.com. You can follow him at @rednblackhawks.