OXFORD, Ohio – It was another fast start for Miami and a lot less energy as the game progressed.
That seems to be the team’s recent modus operandi, as the RedHawks were held to six shots in the final two periods as No. 5 Denver completed a weekend sweep of MU, 5-2 at Cady Arena on Saturday.
Miami is winless in its last five (0-4-1) and is without a victory in its last seven on home ice (0-6-1), with its last ‘W’ in Oxford coming on Nov. 15 vs. Minnesota-Duluth.
The RedHawks are 2-9-2 at Cady Arena this season.
This wrapped up a four-game homestand for Miami, which earned 1 of a possible 12 league points, going 0-3-1 vs. Denver and North Dakota.
RECAP: Denver (17-4-5) scored at the 2:10 mark of the first period on the power play when an Ian Mitchell seeing-eye wrist shot from the right point snuck inside the far post.
Miami (6-14-4) tied it with 9:35 left in the opening frame when Derek Daschke whipped a one-timer from the blue line that beat goalie Devin Cooley.
But with 36 seconds remaining in the first stanza, Liam Finlay fed a pass from behind the net to Kohen Olischefski, who was streaking from the wall toward the net, and he stuffed the one-time feed home to give the Pioneers the lead for good.
Denver extended its lead to two when Olischefski intercepted a clearing pass and quickly slid a pass to Emilio Pettersen in the slot, and he went settled the puck down and fired it top shelf to make it 3-1 with 6:23 left in the second period.
The RedHawks trimmed their deficit to one with 2:49 left in the middle frame when Monte Graham took a neutral-ice give-and-go feed from Christian Mohs, skated into the slot through three defenders and wristed one inside the far post.
But DU regained its two-goal lead 4:11 into the third period on a 2-on-1, with Jaakko Heikkinen shoveling home a Bobby Brink feed into the net from the side of the net.
The Pioneers sealed it when Mitchell tried to center a pass, but it deflected off a Miami skate in the slot and into the RedHawks’ net with 11:17 to play.
STATS: Daschke’s goal was his eighth of the season, which leads all NCHC defensemen. He is tied for third in all of Division I in tallies and is tied for No. 18 in college hockey in points per game (0.79).
He has scored four times in the last six games.
It was the fourth marker of 2019-20 for Graham.
— Karch Bachman picked up one assist, as he moved into a tie for the team lead with 17.
— Mohs and Brian Hawkinson both earned their second helpers of the season. Matt Barry notched the other helper, his fourth point in seven games.
— There were only 48 faceoffs in the game, and Miami won 27. Graham finished 5-0 on draws.
— The power plays were 4-2 Denver and 7-3 Pioneers for the weekend. The RedHawks generated just three shots on their power plays in the series.
THOUGHTS: The last three games, Miami took early 2-0 leads only to squander them and end up with 1 of a possible 9 points.
On Saturday, the RedHawks again played well enough in the first period to have the lead but found themselves down one at the end of 20 minutes.
Despite being outshot, 10-3, Miami hung with Denver for the of the second period, which featured a nine-minute span without a stoppage early in that frame.
The teams traded goals in that frame and it was 3-2 Pioneers heading into the third period.
But Denver put the lockdown on Miami’s offense, holding the RedHawks to three shots again in the final 20 minutes.
So for the weekend, MU’s shots by period were 25-10-9. Just 44 shots on goal for the series, and 19 the final 40 minutes of both Friday and Saturday’s games.
That means the RedHawks averaged fewer than five shots a period in the second and third periods both nights.
Coach Chris Bergeron talked about the reasons for the drop-off in his postgame presser.
“I’m not sure,” Bergerson said. “Probably (Denver), a little bit, maybe we wore down, which we’ll have to look at, but those are nothing but excuses. If we can do it in the first period there’s no reason we can’t do it in the second and third. Again, I think as a team transitions from where we are right now to where we’re going to be, they’ll underand that it has to be over the course of three periods. Again, when you’re playing teams like we played the last two weekends we have zero room for mistakes and we have zero room to take our foot off the gas, and that’s what we’ve done. When you play big-time teams, then you get the results that we’ve gotten.”
— Not helping Miami’s cause was a 10-minute misconduct captain Gordie Green took early in the RedHawks’ first power play.
He was bumped into the Denver net and said the magic word to the officials as he skated away, earning him the penalty. Though he came out of the box early in the third period, Bergeron benched Green for the balance of the game.
— Bergeron broke up the CKG line, dropping Bachman to the second line with Barry and John Sladic. The response: Bachman was arguably the best forward on the team, firing five shots and notching an assist.
— It was the second game back from injury for Scott Corbett. He has taken a minor in each game, with the puck ending up in Miami’s net both times. He has talent, smarts and a physically ability that few forwards on this team possess. But if he can’t stay out of the box, he’s going to hurt this team more than help.
— Ben Kraws was in net, and he stopped just 23 of 28 shots (.821), but his team did him no favors.
“Our margin for error is so small, and way too many pucks are ending up in our net again,” Bergeron said. “I thought that we had kind of got that out of our game, but that seems to be back in our game.”
Kraws should’ve stopped the first goal, a wrister from the right point.
The Miami defense lost Olischefski as he streaked toward the net from along the boards, as he scored the second Denver goal.
A bad defensive-zone outlet pass by Alec Capstick was intercepted and immediately fired home for goal against No. 3.
Miami got caught pinching on the fourth, and the fifth hit a RedHawks skater at the top of the crease and caromed in.
MU is ranked No. 55 out of 60 in Division I in goals allowed per game (3.62).
FORWARDS: D+. Not much energy the second half of the game, few shots, only one goal and costly penalties. Forwards whose last name was not Bachman combined for seven shots on goal.
DEFENSEMEN: B. A pretty good effort by this group, which helped hold a lightning-fast Denver team to 28 shots. Daschke also contributed offensively with the goal, as this corps finished with eight of Miami’s 21 SOG.
GOALTENDING: C-. Kraws should’ve had the first goal for sure and he never seemed to completely settle in, as he juggled the puck a lot on saves. He made one outstanding save and the rest of the A-plus chances found the net.
LINEUP CHANGES: Only one among skaters: Chase Pletzke sat for the first time since October, and Mohs dressed in his place.
It’s unclear if Pletzke was injured on Friday or if it was a coach’s decision. Pletzke has 11 points in his last 11 games.
Kraws was in net for Larkin, as the duo split the weekend for the second straight series.
STANDINGS: Western Michigan won again, so Miami is now 13 points out of the final home slot for the first round of the NCHC Tournament.
With 10 games remaining, catching the Broncos seems extremely unlikely, although they play each other four times down the stretch.
The RedHawks remain in seventh place, two ahead of last-place Colorado College and three behind St. Cloud State, which holds the sixth spot.
Miami remained No. 42 in the PairWise following the loss.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Following the nine-minute stretch without a stoppage in the second period, Miami was no longer able to hang with Denver as it had the first 4½ periods of the weekend.
This was a tough, tough homestand, no doubt, and the RedHawks played well for much of, although they absolutely are not as talented as North Dakota or the Pioneers.
But the last 25 or so minutes of this game is worrisome. It was far from a blowout, but Miami just kind of went through the motions that final period-plus.
Home ice for the NCHCs was within striking distance prior to this weekend. Now it’s not.
But just because the RedHawks will have to win a road series to advance to the conference championship, they can’t revert after making so much progress the first 3½ months of this season.
Bergeron showed on Saturday that he’ll bench his star player if he feels it’s warranted, so there’s no reason do believe he won’t do the same with others who aren’t meeting expectations.