OXFORD, Ohio – Miami wasted no time generating offense on Saturday, scoring 39 seconds into the game.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, they led for a whopping nine seconds, as Western Michigan tied it at 0:48 of the first period and ran off three more goals in a 4-1 win over MU at Cady Arena.
The Broncos (15-10-5) earned four of a possible six points in the series, and Miami (6-17-5) – which saw its winless streak extended to nine games – finished the weekend with two.
RECAP: Miami took the lead when Rourke Russell threw a pass from the left point to Monte Graham on the right wing, and Graham settled it down and hit the far top corner of the net from a bad angle at 0:39.
Western Michigan made it 1-1 nine seconds later, as Rhett Kingston skated in deep on the left wing and slid a short pass to Cole Gallant at the top of the crease for an easy tap-in.
Despite the early exchange of goals, the score remained tied until midway through the second period, as Cam Lee eluded a defender at the left point, skated to the high slot and wristed one through traffic and past Miami goalie Ben Craws.
Less than four minutes later, Dawson DiPietro stole the puck, went in for a breakaway and beat Kraws on the forehand to make it 3-1.
The Broncos extended their lead to three when Paul Washe settled down an outlet pass at the offensive blue line, skated in on a 1-on-1 and shoveled the puck through Kraws.
STATS: Graham scored his fifth goal of the season and his second in five games.
It was point No. 13 of 2019-20 for the sophomore, who recorded seven points as a freshman.
Gordie Green picked up the secondary assist, giving him three points on the weekend and a team-high 30 for the season.
It was Green’s 109th career point. He tied Brian Savage for No. 43 on Miami’s all-time leaderboard.
Russell notched his eighth assist of 2019-20 and his third in his last seven contests. The junior’s assist and points totals (9) are both career highs.
— The RedHawks were 3-for-3 on the penalty kill, going perfect on a six kills for the weekend.
It was the first time Miami had not allowed a power play goal in a weekend series since its two games against Alabama-Huntsville to open 2018-19.
— MU is 0-7-2 in its last nine games and 2-10-3 at home this season.
STANDINGS: We’re down the final three weeks of the regular season, and all eight NCHC teams have six conference games remaining.
The RedHawks are still in seventh place, two ahead of last-place Colorado College and seven behind sixth-place Omaha.
Miami is 14 points out of the fourth and final home-ice spot for the first round of the league tournament.
THOUGHTS: It was just more of what we’ve become accustomed to seeing from the 2019-20 RedHawks.
They couldn’t sustain enough pressure in the offensive zone. They weren’t nearly tough enough to play against on defense. They turned the puck over far too often.
As usual, Miami did play hard for the most part, although the team generated just five shots in the third period and never really challenged to get back into the game.
And the RedHawks did have several very high-percentage chances from in close but either elected passing over shooting at an inopportune time, couldn’t settle the puck, just missed the net or had their attempt denied by goalie Brandon Bussi.
— What a kick in the gut it was to take the lead in the first minute and lose it nine seconds later, especially the way it went down. Gallant and Kingston skated in like they had VIP passes to the Miami offensive zone, and with their skill they had an easy tap-in to tie it.
The second goal came when Lee deked Christian Mohs at the left point, skated uncontested to the high slot and threw it through traffic and into the cage.
The third goal was off an offensive-zone turnover by usually-steady Jack Clement, resulting in the DiPietro breakaway and unassisted goal.
Washe corralled a half-ice flip pass at the blue line, and he was picked up late by Alec Capstick, but he didn’t do much to stop his assault on the Miami net.
— The first period was fairly even, with Miami finished up on its first power play. The RedHawks should’ve declined the penalty, as they did absolutely nothing with chance.
The second period was the RedHawks’ best, and they generated a handful of good chances, but none went in.
The third period was Miami’s worst by far. In Coach Chris Bergeron’s postgame presser, he called the effort in the final 20 minutes unacceptable and said it will be dealt with.
FORWARDS: D-. Graham’s goal saves this corps from a failing grade. This corps of 13 once again failed to outshoot the six defenseman, as both units ended the night with 10 SOG. Seven members of this group did not have a shot. The passing was subpar. They couldn’t finish and in some cases made bad decisions when they had excellent scoring chances. They couldn’t win faceoffs – normally steady Casey Gilling won 3 of 18 draws and took a penalty.
DEFENSEMEN: C-. This corps had a hand in three of Miami’s goals against through blown coverage and turnovers. Russell had the lone point among blueliners, and he led the team with five shots. Derek Daschke added three SOG and added three blocks.
GOALTENDING: C. The first goal was unstoppable, the second was from the high slot on a screen, the third was on a breakaway and the fourth looks like one Kraws would’ve wanted back. Kraws made several spectacular saves, and his rebound control – an area in which he has occasionally struggled – was very good. He stopped 33 of 37 shots overall.
LINEUP CHANGES: Bergeron went with the same 19 skaters as Friday, and by starting Kraws in net, he has rotated him and Ryan Larkin four consecutive weekends.
FINAL THOUGHTS: After the teams tied on Friday, we said that the Broncos didn’t play particularly well in that game and the RedHawks’ margin for error would be smaller in this game.
Western Michigan has more speed and skill and Miami didn’t play nearly well enough to overcome that in this game.
It looks like frustration has set in with this team as well, and in some cases, skaters aren’t playing with the same energy they had earlier this campaign.
Bergeron was quite candid in his press conference after the game, and it will be interesting to see who plays and who sits the final six games of the regular season and playoffs.
But he’s rightly taken a stance that mailing it in for the stretch run, which too many players have done the past few seasons, is not going to be tolerated.