OXFORD, Ohio – With time winding down in the second period, it appeared Miami was headed for its sixth straight loss.
But the RedHawks – down two at the time – scored with a minute left in that frame to seize the momentum and ended up tying the game early in the third frame to salvage a 2-2 tie vs. Western Michigan at Cady Arena on Friday.
Miami (6-16-5) then earned the extra conference point by scoring 19 seconds into the 3-on-3 session.
The RedHawks are still winless in their last eight games. The Broncos (14-10-5) had won seven of their previous eight contests.
RECAP: Western Michigan opened the scoring just 81 seconds into the game, taking advantage of a neutral-zone turnover, as Cole Gallant slid a drop pass to Hugh McGing, who buried a wrister from the slot.
At the end of a long shift, the Broncos extended their lead when Ronnie Attard fed a streaking Austin Rueschhoff, who sent a pass through the slot to Mattias Samuelsson at the side of the net for a slam dunk with 6:22 left in the second period.
Miami finally got on the board at the 19:00 mark of that frame, as Derek Daschke ripped a slap shot from the high slot that was saved by goalie Brandon Bussi, but the rebound came right to Matt Barry, who wired it over the sprawled out netminder with two seconds left on the power play.
The RedHawks tied it 84 seconds into the final frame when Daschke whipped a wrist shot from almost the identical spot that resulted in the first Miami goal, with this one beating Bussi cleanly on his stick side.
Gordie Green scored 19 seconds into the 3-on-3 session, playing the puck to himself along the boards, skating behind the net and throwing the puck off Bussi’s pads and in, giving MU the addition league point.
STATS: Three Miami skaters recorded points, and all finished with two.
Daschke, who went 1-1-2, scored his fifth goal in his last nine games and now has nine points in 10 contests.
Barry also ended the night with a goal and an assist, giving him eight points in 10 games since becoming eligible. In his last five games he has six points.
Green dished for two assists, snapping a four-game point drought. He leads the team in goals (10), assists (19) and points (29).
That gives Green 108 points for his career, as he climbed past Josh Melnick and Blake Coleman into a tie for No. 44 with Craig Fisher on the RedHawks’ all-time leaderboard.
— The RedHawks snapped a four-game power play goal drought, going 2-for-3 on the man advantage. It was the fifth time this season Miami has tallied multiple PPGs.
— And the penalty kill was perfect on three chances. It was just the second time in MU’s last eight games the team did not allow a power play goal.
— All four Miami centers finished .500 or better in the faceoff circle. Percentage-wise, Barry led the team at .667, winning 8 of 12 draws.
— MU won on the shot counter, 30-28, the first time the team has beaten a team in that category in eight games.
STANDINGS: The RedHawks moved into sole possession of seventh place in the NCHC with 14 points, two ahead of Colorado College. They are seven points behind idle Omaha for sixth with Saturday’s game in hand.
Miami is now unable to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, since it would need to run the table in the regular season and conference tournament just to get to a game over .500, a prerequisite for qualification.
But if that were to happen, the RedHawks would obviously get in as tournament champion. They are in a three-way tie for No. 41 in the PairWise.
THOUGHTS: Miami was extremely sluggish in the first 10 minutes, turning the puck over in the defensive zone and icing it numerous times and allowing WMU skaters to get behind the defense almost at will.
The RedHawks tightened up somewhat later in that stanza, amazingly ending up ahead on shots, 9-7 for the period, and was much better the final 45 minutes.
It’s hard to blame rust due to a week off in February, in Game 27, but MU did appear rusty early. That explanation is certainly easier to live with than the players weren’t ready.
It felt like – and Coach Chris Bergeron alluded to this in his postgame presser – that when the Broncos went up two that the game might get away from Miami.
But MU converted on the power play late in that frame, went on the man-advantage again early in the third and tied it.
With the score tied at two, the balance of regulation and overtime were very even and extremely entertaining.
— That second Broncos goal was tough to watch through RedHawks-colored glasses. Samuelsson was pretty much waving his arms in the slot with no white jersey in the same zip code for an eternity, then Rueschhoff received an uncontested feed while bursting through the offensive zone before feeding Samuelsson.
Wouldn’t those two stick out in the offensive zone if for no other reason because of the 20 combined letters in the last names on their sweaters?
What’s funny about that 62-second shift was that Miami had just possessed the puck in the WMU zone for close to two minutes straight just prior, and the Broncos whipped one over the glass and called timeout so it could change skaters right before that critical sequence.
Western Michigan coach Andy Murray always seems to call his timeouts at the perfect time, or else he is the master of getting his team to respond when he does use them. Or both.
— It’s rare to earn two points without scoring at even strength, but that’s what Miami did.
The first power play unit netted both goals, and Daschke was in almost exactly the same spot when he let shots go both for his goal and Barry’s, which came directly off a rebound.
— The officiating was especially inconsistent. Power plays were three a side and neither team gained an advantage from it, but a lot was let go and then other calls that made were much less blatant.
— We’ll have grades below, but RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin deserves a mention here. Like the rest of the team, he appeared rusty in the opening minutes – allowing a goal on the first shot he faced – but he was a stud down the stretch.
He stopped a breakaway later in the first period and made an amazing stop off a point-blank shot after a crazy carom late in the third.
Without Larkin’s stellar play, Miami would not have earned two points.
— How about winning the 3-on-3 without Western Michigan touching the puck? Casey Gilling won the draw to Daschke, who carried it behind the Miami net.
Daschke fed Green along the boards, and Green’s great individual effort resulted in the goal 19 seconds in.
FORWARDS: C-. Miami finished with 30 shots but this corps only generated 16 and took all three penalties that led to Western Michigan power plays, including two in the offensive zone. Green had zero shots in 65 minutes but ended the night with two assists and scored on a shot that doesn’t count for NCAA purposes in the 3-on-3.
DEFENSEMEN: B. The entire unit was awful in the first 10 minutes, as pretty much every member had an egregious turnover, but the blueliners really settled in after that and played very well. Rourke Russell and Jack Clement were standouts among this corps, and Daschke of course had a major hand in both goals and led the team with five shots. Bray Crowder added four SOG.
GOALTENDING: B+. The first WMU was a good one, no doubt, but at his best, Larkin gets a piece of that. The second one he had no chance on. Overall, it was an excellent game for the senior, whose rebound control was outstanding.
LINEUP CHANGES: On defense, Andrew Sinard was wearing a boot on his foot, so he will be out for a while. It was the fourth time in five games he was not in the lineup.
Also on the blueline, Grant Frederic did not dress after playing in 10 straight games and 22 of 26. Russell, who was scratched for the first time in 2019-20 in the St. Cloud State finale, returned to the lineup and was very solid.
After missing three consecutive games, Chase Pletzke returned up front as Miami went with 13 forwards and six defensemen.
Brian Hawkinson did not dress for the second straight game.
Former head coach Enrico Blasi seemed to like solidifying a set of 18 or 19 starting skaters heading into the stretch run, but at least in his first season, Bergeron has swapped bodies in and out more frequently late in the campaign.
FINAL THOUGHTS: One could go two ways with this game.
Are you happy Miami came back to salvage a tie against a quality NCHC opponent? Or are you unhappy the RedHawks put themselves in the position of being two goals down and needing to rally just to earn a couple of points?
With six wins in 26 games heading into this game and having seen Miami win 13 percent of its home games the past year and a half, we’re going to lean toward the former.
And adding that WMU is better than it played on Friday. The Broncos can score goals in bunches, and partly because of luck, partly because of Larkin and partly because they didn’t play their best, they only scored twice.
Bussi also wasn’t great. He stopped 28 shots but his rebound control was suspect at best (Barry scored on a juicy one following Daschke’s high-slot shot in the second period), and Green threw the OT goal in off his pads from a bad angle.
Western Michigan is well coached and will not struggle in those critical areas two nights in a row. That means Miami’s margin for error in the finale will be much smaller.