OXFORD, Ohio – Chris Bergeron certainly made his NCHC home coaching debut memorable.
Miami had one victory in its previous 17 meetings with No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth heading into this weekend, but on Friday the RedHawks scored twice in the final four minutes to edge the Bulldogs, 3-1 at Cady Arena.
MU snapped a nine-game losing streak vs. NCHC opponents and a six-game skid against UMD, with its last win vs. the Bulldogs coming almost exactly two years ago on Nov. 18, 2017.
RECAP: The RedHawks led, 1-0 heading into the third period but Minnesota-Duluth tied it early in that final stanza, leading to Miami’s decisive late goals.
Neither team found the net until the 13:28 mark of the second period, when Miami’s Gordie Green carried the puck up the ice shorthanded and fed it ahead to Karch Bachman, who skated laterally through the slot and whipped it across his body and into the bottom corner of the net.
It was the first shorty for Miami this season.
But UMD (4-4-1) evened the score 43 seconds into the third period when Scott Perunovich whipped a shot wide from the blue line that Tanner Laderoute tipped home from the inside edge of the faceoff circle as a power play expired.
Miami (3-5-2) regained the lead for good on a bizarre goal with 3:58 to play. Phil Knies centered a pass from behind the Bulldogs’ net, and Monte Graham fired a one-timer that was blocked. Nearly everyone on the ice lost site of the ricocheting puck, which came to rest on the faceoff circle, but Derek Daschke skated over and coolly backhanded it through traffic and in to make it 2-1.
Graham capped off the scoring on an empty netter with 29 seconds remaining.
STATS: It was the second career game-winning goal for Daschke, and he has found the net in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
Graham had never recorded a multi-point game heading into last weekend, but after going 1-1-2 in this game, he has two points in consecutive contests.
Green and Knies, who both picked up a helper, also have points in two straight games.
Bachman’s goal was his fifth of the season, giving him the outright team lead.
Andrew Sinard notched his second career assist and his first point of the season.
STANDINGS: With its first win of the season in conference play, Miami has three points in the NCHC, tied for fifth in the league with Denver.
The RedHawks jumped to No. 38 in the PairWise rankings.
THOUGHTS: This was obviously a fantastic win for Miami on multiple levels.
Despite being outshot by over a 2-to-1 ratio, the RedHawks were able to hang with the sixth-ranked team in Division I that had been Miami kryptonite over the past few years and ultimately win.
This game was fast-moving and had excellent flow, making it fun to watch. Miami moved and possessed the puck well, and while UMD clearly has more talent, the shot margin didn’t do justice to how well the RedHawks played.
— Ryan Larkin was flat-out outstanding after allowing 10 goals at North Dakota last weekend. He stopped 35 shots, tying a season high, and without his effort Miami does not earn the win.
— Minnesota-Duluth went on the power play with 2:37 left, but with his maximum-effort work ethic, Scott Corbett powered through the neutral zone shorthanded and was able to cancel that man-advantage by drawing a crucial interference call with 1:05 to play.
— Sinard helped set up the Graham empty netter by wiring the puck from behind his own net to Graham at center ice, resulting in the clinching ENG.
— Lost in all of this was the return of defenseman Alec Mahalak. Mahalak had missed the first nine games of the season with a lower-body injury, and while he clearly was less than 100 percent, the defense overall seemed to feed off his presence in the lineup and played one of its best defensive games of the season.
— Poor Mahalak, dressing for the first time in 2019-20, had his name spelled incorrectly on his sweater. The third “A” was left off, as it read “Mahalk”.
— Graham and Daschke both were able to avenge third-period miscues. Graham took the late penalty that gave UMD the power play but sealed the game with an empty netter, and Daschke picked up the game winner after committing a rare turnover as he tried to clear the zone, resulting in the Bulldogs’ lone goal that tied it.
FORWARDS: C+. Shots on goal are certainly not the be-all, end-all of hockey stats, but this corps finished with just 14, with seven coming from Bachman. That means the other 11 forwards generated just seven. The Knies-Graham-Corbett (with Phil, Monte and Scott – we’ll need a better nickname than the PMS line, although they did make UMD irritable?) was arguably the team’s best in this game. Freshmen John Sladic and Chase Pletzke continue to get better every game, as does Graham, who is becoming one of the best two-way forwards on the team. This corps was solid overall in its own end as well.
DEFENSEMEN: B. Yeah, the Bulldogs finished with 36 shots, but there weren’t the slam-dunk opportunities for UMD that Miami has allowed other foes this season. The positioning by this corps was better, as the blueliners didn’t lose their opponents or get caught watching the play nearly as often. Daschke also recorded the game-winning goal, and Sinard earned an assist on the clinching ENG. Sinard was one of the top defensemen in this game, and Rourke Russell played one of his best games this season. “Mahalk” was not 100 percent but should return to top form in the coming weeks.
GOALTENDING: A. Larkin had no chance on the lone UMD goal and was outstanding otherwise. He faced a lot of good chances but wasn’t hung out to dry like he had been in previous weeks. He gave up a couple of rebounds early before settling in, and he was especially stellar during a second period that saw him stop 19 shots.
LINEUP CHANGES: On defense, “Mahalk” and Grant Frederic were back in the lineup, and Chaz Switzer and Alec Capstick sat out.
Frederic was scratched for the first time this season last Saturday at North Dakota.
This was just the second time this season Capstick has not played.
There were no changes up front, and Larkin started his fourth straight game.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It can’t be overstated what a win like this can do for a team’s confidence after years of getting beat up by the NCHC’s top echelon.
Also, with D-1 players-to-be committing on a daily basis this time of year, the timing of this win couldn’t have been better as the coaching staff tries to nail down recruits to build a winning team for years to come.
It would be shocking if Minnesota-Duluth didn’t come out flying on Saturday, and it will be imperative that Miami fend off that early surge.