Freshman Swedish defenseman Hampus Rydqvist scored the game winner and rookie countryman and goaltender Ludvig Persson turned aside all 30 shots he faced.
Miami’s first-year European duo keyed its 1-0 win over No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena on Saturday.
It was the first win of the season for the RedHawks, the first career goal for Rydqvist and the first career win and shutout for Persson.
Miami (1-5), which had earned its only point this season in an overtime loss to the Mavericks, was able to hold off UNO (3-3) despite being outshot, 30-12.
RECAP: Rydqvist scored the game’s lone goal when he fired a shot from the high slot that was stopped by UNO goalie Isaiah Saville and the rebound bounced back to Rydqvist in traffic.
Rydqvist was able to bat it over Saville’s pad and into the net with 3:11 left in the second period.
Persson made a highlight-reel save in the third period when he stretched across the entire crease to shut down a one-timer from the inside edge of the faceoff circle.
STATS: It was not only Rydqvist’s first collegiate goal, it was the blueliner’s first-ever point in the NCAA.
— Casey Gilling, who had missed the previous two games with an injury, earned the primary assist for his second point in as many games and his second overall in 2020-21.
— Matthew Barbolini notched the other helper, moving him into a tie for the team lead in points with three (1-2-3), all in the last four contests.
— Dating back to juniors, Persson now has eight shutouts in his last 27 appearances.
— Miami had allowed two goals in each of its last six second and third periods and was outscored, 15-4 after the first 20 minutes on the season entering this game.
— The RedHawks were 0-for-1 on the power play, dropping to 1 of 22 (4.5 percent) on the season. But they killed both UNO man-advantages and improved to 85.7 percent on the PK (18-for-21).
— Miami’s overall scoring average dipped from 1.40 goals per game to 1.33, ranking No. 42 out of 45 Division I teams competing this season. Its shot output of 12 was the team’s lowest since March 4, 2017 when MU generated just 11 shots vs. North Dakota.
— With the win, the RedHawks avoided their first-ever 0-6 start. Their worst stretch to open a campaign was in 1979-80 when they lost their first five and tied Game 6.
— Rydqvist led the team with three shots, and the defensemen combined for six SOG. That means the 11 forwards recorded six total.
THOUGHTS: This is obviously a huge win for Miami, which had done a lot of things well the first five games but hadn’t put everything together for 60 minutes.
UNO is significantly faster than the RedHawks, and honestly, more skilled overall, but MU was largely able to neutralize the Mavericks with good defense from both its defense corps and forwards.
Oh yeah, and a 30 of 30 effort from the starting goalie didn’t hurt.
Miami’s confidence had to be compromised after five straight losses, a 2-15-1 run its previous 18 games and no wins away from Cady Arena since Jan. 10.
Hopefully this win represents a turning point for the RedHawks’ season.
— Coach Chris Bergeron went with a highly unusual combination of 11 forwards and eight defensemen, and he played all of his D-men regular minutes.
With 10 games in 20 days after no games in nine months, keeping his top D-corps guys from playing too much is obviously a concern.
There’s also still a very healthy competition on the blue line, and with that being the team’s deepest position in terms of numbers with 10 defensemen competing for seven jobs each night, this gave an extra skater on the back end a chance to prove his case for more ice time.
— For the most part, Persson made the shutout look easy, which is a huge compliment because it wasn’t, but he controlled his rebounds and was positionally sound all night. He did face a couple of Grade-A chances but handled them well, and his cross-crease blocker save would be on Sportscenter’s Top 10 if ESPN ever showed anything but basketball.
Persson’s save percentage is now .946. He’s been slightly better than sophomore Ben Kraws thus far, though with so many games in so few days, Bergeron will likely keep the rotation during the balance of the pod.
— Rydqvist took his second whack at the puck that got past Saville for the eventual winning goal sideways and with multiple bodies in front of him, so it doesn’t look like he realized it was in at first. His look of elation was priceless, and he seems to be gaining more confidence each game.
— Really liked Barbolini up front in this game. He also seems to be trending upward in the confidence department as the season progresses, and that is resulting in more scoring chances. Barbolini did assist on the game’s lone goal.
— Phil Knies also had a strong game without picking up a point. His line seemed to have the most offensive zone time, and he was very strong defensively as well.
— They didn’t generate any points and barely any shots, but I still liked both the second and third lines. Chase Pletzke and Monte Graham both continued taking major steps forward.
— On defense, Jack Clement played his best game of the season. He’s been in the difficult position of being on the top pairing the past two seasons, so he often plays against opponents’ top offensive weapons, but he was excellent in this one at playing pucks out of dangerous spots and winning 1-on-1 battles.
— Bray Crowder was very good as well and Alec Mahalak, who has seen limited ice time this season, also made some nice plays.
— The old hockey cliché is that every time you watch a game, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.
In the third period tonight, all three media timeouts occurred in a 40-second window.
Two key reasons for that. One, there weren’t a lot of whistles the first three-quarters of the period. Two, I’ve seen less icing on wedding cakes. Media timeouts cannot follow icings because of the hurry-up factor.
The first commercial break was with 4:11 left, the second 10 seconds later and the final one came with 3:31 remaining.
— Another thing COVID has stripped our site of is the ability to add live photos to these game reports. And in the case of freshmen exceling like tonight, we don’t have any images of those players because we haven’t been able to photograph them live yet.
LINEUP CHANGES: Gilling’s return meant someone had to sit, and with Bergeron dropping to 11 forwards, Brian Silver and Michael Holland were scratched.
Miami added a defense spot by going to eight, and Mahalak, Alec Capstick and Dylan Moulton all played after sitting Game 5.
Andrew Sinard – who had played all of the previous five games – and Rourke Russell did not dress.
The rotation streak continues in net: Six games, three each for Kraws and Rydqvist. Kraws is likely up next vs. Colorado College.
STANDINGS: Miami vaults into seventh place in the NCHC with four points, all against Nebraska-Omaha. But Colorado College, which is in last, has three games in hand over the RedHawks.
CC and Miami play twice in the next week.
MU is three points behind Denver and Western Michigan, who are tied for fifth.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami has four games left in the Omaha bubble, and two are against Colorado College, which still appears to be shaking the rust off after a late start.
North Dakota has half its team at World Juniors and the RedHawks played a close game against the Fighting Hawks. Denver is 2-4.
Then Miami plays Western Michigan, which may still be missing its starting goalie, four times in a row.
Gilling is healthy, Ryan Savage should rejoin the team soon and a lot of skaters are getting better every night.
The defense is bending but not breaking for the most part and has been much better about not allowing opposing forwards easy access to the slot.
Kraws has clearly improved, and Persson was flawless in this game and has been dominant.
It’s a ridiculously tough league, but despite the 0-5 start, here’s an opportunity for the RedHawks to build on this win and get back into the NCHC race.