It was 2-for-1 night for Western Michigan in the regular season finale.
The No. 17 Broncos scored four pairs of goals – all 100 seconds or fewer apart – as they slammed Miami, 8-4 at Lawson Arena on Saturday.
The RedHawks, who wrapped up the regular season in seventh place in the NCHC, will head to Minnesota-Duluth to open the conference tournament next weekend.
It was the first time since Jan. 12, 2018 that the RedHawks had allowed eight or more goals.
Miami (8-21-5) has lost seven straight road games and is now 0-8-1 vs. the Broncos (18-13-5) in the last nine meetings.
RECAP: Miami got on the board first on the power play when Casey Gilling emerged from a scrum in the corner with the puck and centered it to Gordie Green, who shot it in off goalie Brandon Bussi at the 2:04 mark of the first period.
Western Michigan tied it on a bizarre play as Ethen Frank pitchforked a backhander from a bad angle that hit RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin in the back and bounced in with 7:01 left in the opening frame.
Austin Rueschhoff put the Broncos ahead 45 seconds later on a slap shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Larkin on the short side.
A couple minutes after that go-ahead goal, Larkin and WMU’s Rhett Kingston collided at the faceoff dot as Larkin came out to play the puck. Larkin was down for several minutes and left the game, while Kingston was assessed a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct.
Ben Kraws replaced Larkin.
Miami tied it 46 seconds into the second period when Karch Bachman ripped a point-blank shot that was stopped by Bussi, but the rebound caromed out to the slot, where Derek Daschke buried it.
At the 4:24 mark, Western Michigan went ahead for good as Cole Gallant intercepted a clearing attempt at the blue line and threw it behind the net, where it caromed to Hugh McGing for a bad-angle rip that snuck in the short side.
Twenty-seven seconds later, WMU’s Cam Lee centered one from the boards that found a streaking Gallant in the slot, and he picked the top corner to make it 4-2.
With 12:57 left in that frame, Rourke Russell threw a shot at the net from the blue line, which was tipped by Chase Pletzke, and the rebound kicked out to John Sladic on the left side of the cage, where he pitchforked it home to cut the deficit to one on the power play.
Paul Wache made it 5-3 Western Michigan with 6:44 left in the frame on a 5-on-3, as he tipped in a centering pass in the slot from McGing, who was near the boards.
It was 100 seconds later that McGing blasted a one-timer past Kraws from the faceoff dot on a cross-ice pass from Lee.
The RedHawks made it 6-4 when Alec Mahalak threw a wrister in from the blue line that was blocked, and the loose puck found Bachman, who played it to his forehand at the top of the crease for the tap-in 6:06 into the third period.
But Western Michigan added another pair, as Wade Allison shoveled in a slap-pass from the side of the net off a feed from Dawson DiPietro on the power play with 5:18 remaining, and McGing completed his hat trick 34 seconds later when he skated through the slot laterally and buried a shot across his body.
STATS: Bachman, Gilling and Russell led Miami with two points each.
Bachman had a goal and an assist and the other two finished with a pair of helpers.
It was Bachman’s second multi-point game in his last three contests, and he has six points in his last four.
Gilling has picked up seven assists and eight points during his team best-tying four-game points streak.
Russell has four points in four contests and has more points this season (13) than he did in his first two years combined (11).
— Green has scored in four straight games and picked up point No. 115 for his career, vaulting him into a tie for 36th on the the RedHawks’ all-time leaderboard with Marty Guerin and Bobby Marshall.
— Daschke became the seventh Miami defenseman to score 10 goals in a season.
— Sladic snapped an 11-game goal drought and moves him into a tie for tops on the team in freshman goals with seven.
— It was the second time this season Miami has scored three power play goals in a game, as the RedHawks ended the night 3-for-5. Amazingly, MU is 2-4-1 this season when netting multiple PPGs.
Miami is 7 of 18 on the man-advantage the last four games.
— It was the first time since Feb. 22-23, 2019 the RedHawks have allowed 40-plus shots back-to-back games.
THOUGHTS: Pretty much copy and paste this portion from Friday.
Western Michigan was flat-out better, and Miami did play hard but just didn’t have the guns to match a more talented Broncos team.
WMU was also in desperation mode, as it is on the PairWise bubble at No. 15, so each of these games were critical for the Broncos. For Miami, not so much.
— Never seen anything like a team scoring consecutive goals 45, 27, 100 and 34 seconds apart.
MU had no answer for Western Michigan defensively.
— Watching seniors who play like every game could be their last in a RedHawks’ sweater is one of life’s true pleasures.
Green is doing that right now. Four goals in four games, and away from the stats, he’s a step ahead of 95 percent of the skaters on the ice for both teams right now.
In the Cady Arena era, the winner of the Played His Final Games Like His Skates Were On Fire award would be Ryan Jones, who was an extra step ahead of the field every shift for the stretch run of his senior year and the playoffs, and Green is there right now.
Andy Miele and Carter Camper played like they were possessed down their final stretch run in 2010-11, as Miele won the Hobey Baker by scoring an insane 71 points, dwarfing – no pun intended – Camper’s total of 57.
Senior Power can take players to a superhuman level, the way defenseman Ben Paulides played the shut-down game of his life in the 2015 NCHC final to shut down St. Cloud State.
Blake Coleman and Austin Czarnik peaked late that season that well, as they could seemingly buzz the net and put up points at will.
Todd Grant and Joe Hartman both put it all together for their final games…there are plenty of others.
Anyway, back to 2020…
Other seniors are playing a step up as well in their final games.
Larkin posted two shutouts last weekend. Bachman created a ton of scoring chances in this game and generated two points.
Carter Johnson has been a force for several games. Christian Mohs has been a solid offensive threat in recent weeks.
Grant Frederic is playing easily the best hockey of his career and is one the team’s most consistent stay-at-home defensemen right now, plus he has two goals in the past month.
It’s been another tough year to be a Miami hockey fan, but if you watch closely enough, there’s still plenty to appreciate from this team.
— Larkin. Just saw the hit one time and unfortunately, NCHC.tv has the wrong link up for the game so there’s no replay available.
Based on that one look though it didn’t appear dirty. Two guys were going for the puck, and Larkin made a late decision to skate toward it.
Obviously the officials looked at it on replay and decided it warranted a major and game misconduct.
Fortunately, it sounds like Larkin isn’t badly hurt and should be able to go for the playoffs next weekend.
Because it’s the postseason, Miami will be able to bring all three of its goalies, so Grant Valentine will give the team another option should Larkin be unavailable at any point.
STANDINGS: Seventh place.
That’s actually a step up, as the RedHawks have finished in the NCHC basement the past two seasons.
This is the fourth consecutive season Miami has ended the NCHC campaign in one of the bottom two spots.
With 20 points, the RedHawks finished two ahead of 2018-19 but behind their output from the prior two seasons.
LINEUP CHANGES: None.
Larkin started in net for the fourth straight game but was replaced 15 minutes in when he was injured.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This game concluded Miami’s worst regular season by win total since 1991 when it went 5-29-3.
But that doesn’t matter now.
The next series is about survival, and Miami’s opponent – Minnesota-Duluth – will advance to the NCAA Tournament regardless of the best-of-3 outcome.
Remember that as an eight seed in 2014, the RedHawks took down St. Cloud State on the road, with Justin Greenberg’s famous goal in the closing seconds of regulation to break the tie and clinch the series.
When players are faced with playing the last games of their collegiate careers, sometimes heart trumps skill.
It will be a tough series, but the RedHawks shouldn’t be written off.