Following an eight-win season, Miami drew the unenviable task of playing No. 1 North Dakota in its season opener, without the benefit of an exhibition and after a nine-month layoff.
The result, not surprisingly, was a 2-0 loss to the Fighting Hawks at Baxter Arena on Wednesday.
The RedHawks (0-1) were held to 19 shots overall and just four in the first period and trailed, 29-9 after two periods in SOG.
Ben Kraws stopped 37 shots in the losing effort for Miami.
RECAP: Kraws stopped all 18 shots he faced in the first period.
UND’s Matt Kiersted finally opened the scoring on a power play, as he ripped a one-time pass by Shane Pinto past Kraws from the high slot with 6:57 left in the second period.
Just 67 seconds into the third period, Pinto carried the puck into the zone and centered it to Riese Gaber, who corralled it in the shot and whipped it into the far corner of the net.
STATISTICS: It was the second-best start of Kraws’ career in terms of save percentage, as he stopped 37 of 39 shots (.949).
Ryan Savage led Miami in shots on goal with four, and Hampus Rydqvist and Casey Gilling finished with three each.
The RedHawks extended their winless streak vs. North Dakota to five games (0-4-1).
THOUGHTS: Full disclosure: I had problems with the feed throughout the first period, but it looks like the RedHawks missed the opening 20 minutes as well.
Fortunately I did see him stop a shot with the knob of his stick in the first stanza as one of 18 first-period saves that helped Miami stay in the game.
But two things stood out overall in this game, seemingly at odds with each other: North Dakota probably should have won by four or more, and the RedHawks definitely played hard for 60 minutes.
Bad ice or rustiness led to the Fighting Hawks (1-0) missing on multiple chances they would’ve otherwise converted.
At the same time, Miami put up quite a fight against the NCAA’s top-ranked team and certainly made UND earn the three points.
The bottom line is: The better team won.
– Kraws’ effort was the storyline of the game for Miami. He was hung out to dry the last couple games he played in 2019-20, and this was his first outing in nine months. He was outstanding. Miami’s goaltending situation may be an ongoing battle this season, and Kraws definitely helped his own cause with this effort.
– Really liked Matthew Barbolini up front. He has good size and – although it was only game – he appears to have excellent offensive instincts.
– The overall compete level of this team was impressive. That wasn’t always the case last season, especially vs. the NCAA’s elite. It was encouraging to see Miami play hard for 60 minutes against the top-ranked team in Division I.
– On a personal note, it’s going to be tough for me to keep up with these bubble games, since they’re at weird times and mostly on weekdays. So we’ll try to get up as much as we can as promptly as we can, but these first few weeks might be a little difficult.
LINEUPS: Barbolini, Jake Olmstead, Michael Holland, Caleb Rule, Hampus Rydqvist and Robbie Drazner all made their RedHawks debuts, with the former four being forwards.
Senior defensemen Alec Mahalak was a scratch, as was sophomore blueliner Alec Capstick. D-man Dylan Moulton also did not dress.
Up front, senior Ben Lown and freshmen Brian Silver and Joey Cassetti were all scratched.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Having not played for nine months and with no exhibition, Miami largely hung with the top-ranked team in Division I.
With a few exceptions, there wasn’t that where-he-drifting-off-to? defensive tendency for Miami has demonstrated far too often for the past several seasons.
The RedHawks came ready to play and gave the best team in the NCAA a good game on opening night.
Considering Miami’s recent record, we’ll take it.