With goalie Ryan Larkin out for the weekend, Miami had to rely on its other two netminders this weekend.
The RedHawks earned a tie on Friday behind Grant Valentine, and in the series finale, freshman Ben Kraws turned aside 32 shots to earn his first career win in a 4-1 victory vs. No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena on Saturday.
It was the first time Miami (4-6-3) had earned at least five points in an NCHC road series in almost four years.
The RedHawks ran off the first three goals and never looked back as they improved to .500 on the road on the season at 2-2-2.
RECAP: Miami opened the scoring on the power play, as Ryan Savage slid a pass through the slot to Gordie Green, who buried a one-timer from the side of the net at the 6:32 mark of the first period.
The RedHawks extended their lead to two 6:39 into the second frame when John Sladic fired a shot from the slot that goalie Austin Roden couldn’t handle cleanly, and Green jammed it home from the same spot as his first goal.
Miami went up three on a crazy sequence with 6:02 left in the middle stanza. Karch Bachman stole the puck in his defensive zone, starting a 3-on-0, took two point-blank shots which were both denied before carrying the puck behind the net, centering one to Jack Clement in the slot, and Clement wristed it home.
Taylor Ward scored UNO’s lone goal with 2:50 left in that period when he carried the puck from behind the net to the faceoff dot and wired one into the far top corner to make it 3-1.
But 26 seconds later, the RedHawks answered as Noah Jordan’s pass along the boards through the neutral zone found Chase Pletzke, who eluded a defender, skated to center and stuffed it through Roden from the top of the crease.
The Mavericks fired 17 shots in the third period, but all were denied by Kraws.
STATS: It was the sixth two-goal game of Green’s career and his second this season.
He is currently the team leader in goals (6), assists (9) and points (15) and owns a five-game point streak which equals the longest of his career.
Green is just six points shy of becoming the 53rd RedHawk to tally 100 points.
— Kraws made his third start and his 32 saves were a season high and the third most by a Miami netminder in 2019-20.
— Clement tied a career high with two points (1-1-2) and Pletzke notched his third goal of the season.
— Savage picked up an assist, giving him six points in five games.
— After scoring just three power play goals the first eight games, the RedHawks have netted at least one in five consecutive contests, going 6-for-18 in that span (33.3 percent).
They were also perfect on the penalty kill in this game (4 of 4) and the weekend (6-for-6).
THOUGHTS: Earning five of a possible six points in this road series against the No. 18 team in Division I at this point is well beyond expectations, especially without Larkin.
Miami just seems to get better every night to the point where UNO’s announcers were gushing over how well the RedHawks were playing.
It’s hard to believe it was less than two months ago this team was skating around with no structure, allowing point-blank chances seemingly every shift.
On Saturday, the RedHawks had sticks in front of UNO (6-4-2) shots constantly and put on a clinic in shot blocking (25 overall). Although the Mavericks did finish with 33 shots on goal, most were relatively innocuous.
— Defense has been the biggest area of improvement for Miami by far since Game 1. Derek Daschke blocked six shots and Clement rejected four.
The goaltending, which is obviously a key component of the D, has been markedly better as well as of late. In Miami’s last four games, it has used all three netminders, and they have combined for a .939 save percentage.
— Kraws was fantastic, and thanks to his teammates, many of those 32 saves were on low-percentage chances. Early he appeared to overcommit while sliding to cover the net, but his positioning was textbook after that, which is partly why he didn’t have to make a ton of difficult saves.
His rebound control was excellent all night.
— If you want to feel good about the future of Miami hockey, look no further than the effort of the freshman class. As documented above, Kraws was 32 of 33 in net and four rookie skaters combined to go 2-3-5.
Clement picked up a goal and an assist, Pletzke also scored and Savage and Sladic earned assists.
LINEUP CHANGES: Other than Kraws, only one other change was made to Friday’s lineup.
Defensemen Alec Capstick and Grant Frederic continued their rotation, as Capstick dressed and Frederic sat. This was the fifth straight game that duo has alternated.
STANDINGS: Miami vaulted into fourth place in the NCHC with the win with eight points.
The RedHawks also jumped two spots in the PairWise to No. 36. They were 40th entering the weekend.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It appears Miami’s days as NCHC doormat are over.
This team has made amazing strides in practically every aspect of its game since season’s beginning, and this five-point road weekend has to do wonders for its confidence.
With struggling Connecticut and St. Cloud State left on their first-half schedule, the RedHawks have a chance to improve to .500 or better before the New Year.
It seems surreal to be writing the above sentence considering how this team played in its first few games.