This wasn’t how anyone thought it would end.
Miami was a longshot to beat Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the NCHC Tournament, but the obvious expectation was that the RedHawks would have a chance to see their season reach its conclusion on the ice.
“There’s just really no closure,” senior captain Gordie Green told The Miami Student.
This campaign was Miami’s worst, both in terms of wins (8) and winning percentage (.308), since 1990-91 when the RedHawks won five games in George Gwozdecky’s second season.
But even bad seasons have good moments.
It was the first time this millennium that Enrico Blasi was not behind the bench. He was relieved in March, and Bowling Green head coach and Miami alumnus Chris Bergeron was quickly hired to replace him.
Bergeron brought in Barry Schutte, another former RedHawk and head of the Goggin Ice Center before joining Bergeron in Bowling Green, and Eric Rud, the head coach of St. Cloud State’s successful women’s team.
The start was not optimal. Miami opened 2019-20 with five straight home games, and despite a relatively weak schedule in that span, the RedHawks started the year 1-3-1.
But Miami went 1-0-1 in its first road trip of the season at Colgate, tying 3-3 in the opener thanks to three points by Green, and earning a 2-0 shutout in the finale on 29 saves by Ryan Larkin.
Bergeron had a rough introduction to NCHC play, as the RedHawks were blown out, 7-1 at North Dakota in his conference debut and lost by a more respectable 5-4 margin in Game 2.
When Miami returned home, it looked like a completely different team, winning its Friday game over Minnesota-Duluth, 3-2, with Monte Graham going 1-1-2, and MU fell just short in the Saturday contest.
The RedHawks earned five points at Omaha the following weekend, with Ryan Savage earning four points on the series and Ben Kraws notching his first collegiate win, stopping 32 of 33 shots.
Getting back to .500 seemed like a real possibility at that point. Through 13 games, Miami – playing its best hockey of the season to that point – was 4-6-3 with a series at Connecticut and a home set vs. a struggling St. Cloud State team remaining on the schedule before Christmas break.
Instead of continuing their upward trajectory, the RedHawks allowed 10 goals and were swept by an offensive-challenged UConn team and were outscored, 8-4 in its weekend series vs. St. Cloud, dropping both games.
That sent Miami plummeting to six games under .500.
The RedHawks came back from their three-week break and played one of their best games of the season, beating Bowling Green, 4-2 on the road.
During that game, Green recorded his 100th career point and newly-eligible transfer Matt Barry made his Miami debut.
The RedHawks followed that up with a 6-1 win at Colorado College before losing the finale of that series, 4-2.
No. 1 North Dakota came to Oxford the following week, and Miami battled to a 4-4 tie on Friday but lost 5-3 on Saturday, and it appeared once again the RedHawks were on the right track.
But a brutal NCHC schedule took a toll on MU’s confidence, and the team went 0-9-2 heading into its final home series.
The RedHawks had won two games at Cady Arena all season entering its home set vs. Omaha, which it dominated, winning 3-0 and 4-0 with Larkin becoming the second Miamian ever to post back-to-back shutouts in a weekend series.
But Miami could not carry that momentum into its regular season finale at Western Michigan and was outscored, 13-6 in the two-game set.
That was how the on-ice portion of the RedHawks’ season would end.
Miami traveled to Duluth for its NCHC Tournament first-round series, but quickly it went from the series being on as scheduled to being open only to parents and essential staff to canceled altogether.
In the end, it wasn’t Minnesota-Duluth or any other powerhouse that ended the RedHawks’ season, it was COVID-19.
But hopefully this worldwide crisis will pass soon and Miami hockey will return better than ever in October.