Yet another game got away from Miami late.
This time it was St. Cloud State tying the score late in the second period, taking the lead with 6:15 left in regulation and sealing a 4-2 win over the RedHawks at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center on Friday with an empty netter in the closing seconds.
Miami (6-15-4) extended its losing streak to four games and is winless in its last six, capping off a 1-5-1 January.
RECAP: Following a scoreless first period, Miami’s Matt Barry, behind the St. Cloud State net, somehow guided a pass through heavy traffic to Alec Capstick, whose wrist shot beat goalie David Hrenak for his first career goal at the 2:25 mark of the second stanza.
With 11:13 left in that frame, St. Cloud State’s Nick Perbix sent a pass from the blue line through several skaters to a wide-open Zack Okabe on the back door for a tap-in, tying it at one.
Miami regained the lead just 48 seconds later, as Barry went in alone and deked Hrenak on the short side after Ryan Savage had stolen a clearing attempt seconds earlier.
But the Huskies knotted the score at two with two minutes to play in the middle stanza on a slight redirection of a point shot by Easton Brodzinski as he skated through the top of the crease, deflecting it just inside the near post.
St. Cloud State (9-12-4) took its first lead of the game with 6:15 left in regulation, as Jack Poehling skated in alone on the left wing, wound up and blasted a slap shot past RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin on the short side.
The Huskies’ Micah Miller tacked on the empty netter with seven seconds to play.
STATS: Barry finished with two points, giving him six in his eight games with Miami. He also has the team’s longest points streak at three games, going 1-3-4 in that span.
Capstick’s goal was the first of his RedHawks career, and it was his third point.
Scott Corbett earned the other Miami assist, his fourth of the campaign and his first since returning from injury.
— The RedHawks managed just 21 shots, as they were held under 25 for the fifth straight game. They are averaging only 20.6 in that stretch.
— Miami didn’t score in the first period for the first time in five games. On the bright side, that frame snapped a string of 13 straight in which the RedHawks had allowed at least one goal.
THOUGHTS: The RedHawks seem stuck in a time loop, as they once again played a proverbial game of hot potato with the lead, jumping in front twice only to ultimately end up in the loss column.
This is the fourth time in five games Miami has followed the same pattern: Score the first goal(s), remain ahead much of the game, head into the third leading or tied.
Lose in the last 20 minutes, or at least give away points late in the case of the opener against North Dakota.
And each loss digs Miami a deeper hole in the NCHC standings.
— The first period was well played by both teams, and the final shot total of 10-3 in favor of St. Cloud State is deceiving: The Huskies blocked a lot of shots and Miami held the puck in the offensive zone a decent amount.
The second period was the most exciting, with the overwhelming majority of Grade-A scoring chances for both teams coming in this stanza. Again, both teams played quality hockey.
The third period started choppy and conservative, then St. Cloud State took over, putting the defensive clamps down and buzzing in the offensive zone much of the final 15 minutes.
It seemed like it was just a matter of time before the Huskies scored the go-ahead goal, which they did with six minutes left, and Miami never really had a high-percentage scoring chance after that.
Credit SCSU: The Huskies dominated when it mattered most then played textbook shut-down hockey once they took the lead.
— Barry has only played a handful of games for Miami, but this may have been his best as he was a direct contributor to both RedHawks goals.
He Gretzkied a pass to Capstick for the first goal, and he made a slick move and finish to score the other.
Barry also made a ridiculous pass to spring a 2-on-1 that Miami was unable to score on, and he more than held his own defensively.
— On a related note, Savage had missed the last five games due to injury and gave the offense a boost upon returning.
He made an outstanding interception at the offensive blue line that resulted in Barry’s goal.
The line of Barry, Savage and Scott Corbett was arguably Miami’s best.
— Speaking of lines, Karch Bachman was back on the top line with Casey Gilling and Gordie Green after moving down last Saturday.
The trio was held off the scoresheet, although Bachman did have a breakaway and Green nearly scored on a one-timer.
— A look at the goals against:
Perbix made an outstanding pass to Okabe on the back door for the first goal, but Okabe shouldn’t have been left alone right next to the goal.
Brodzinski’s goal was a thing of beauty, but he was able to skate unabated through the top of the crease.
The decisive goal was the result of a bad change, as both Miami defensemen were late getting to Poehling, who ripped one short side.
— We don’t do grades for games we don’t attend because one loses so much perspective watching on a computer monitor, but despite allowing 35 shots, the defense was pretty solid overall.
Jack Clement and Alec Mahalak both played very well, and Capstick was much better about holding his position, plus he obviously scored a goal.
LINEUP CHANGES: Other than Larkin alternating with Ben Kraws in net, Miami had just one among its skaters.
With the return of Savage, Christian Mohs sat. Mohs had dressed for seven of the RedHawks’ last eight games.
Forward Chase Pletzke, who played in 20 of MU’s first 23 games, was scratched for the second straight contest, and defenseman Andrew Sinard was out of the lineup for the third consecutive game after suiting up for 21 of 22 to start the season.
FINAL THOUGHTS: With these close-but-no-points games, it’s easy to get that Lucy-pulling-the-football-away feeling, and Miami’s record is getting uglier by the game.
But this season has always been about rejuvenation: Play hard and get better.
I don’t think anyone can argue that, with the exception of a few periods, this Miami team has busted its tails this season.
Progression? Let’s compare this team to last year.
At this point a year ago, the RedHawks had just completed on 0-7-1 January and were outscored, 16-3 in their final four games of the month.
MU visited St. Cloud State the same weekend in 2018-19 and was beaten by identical 5-1 scores both nights.
Last winter, Miami was in the midst of what would turn out to be a nine-game skid, a 15-game winless streak and a 2-18-4 finish after Thanksgiving.
The RedHawks were outscored, 29-5 in the seven-game stretch from Jan. 18 to Feb. 8, losing all seven games.
Granted, Miami is 0-5-1 in its last six, but it has a goal differential of minus-10 in that span, with two of those goals against being empty netters.
In other words, the RedHawks aren’t getting blown out: They’re losing by an average of 1.3 goals per game.
And this is a really, really tough stretch of hockey for MU. The RedHawks hosted the No. 1 and fifth-ranked team in Division I and are now trying to win in St. Cloud, one of the toughest places to win in college hockey.
Miami has been competitive against the NCAA’s elite. The RedHawks couldn’t say that as the calendar flipped to February, 2019.
Metamorphosing back into a winner takes time, but at least in the program’s crystal ball, the arrow is pointing upward again.
That hasn’t been the case for the past half decade.