Miami’s offense had been stymied in its first 11 games, as the RedHawks had not scored more than three goals in a game and were averaging 1.64 tallies.
But MU netted three markers in the second period en route to a 5-1 win at Western Michigan on Saturday, capping a weekend sweep of the Broncos in Kalamazoo for the first time since the teams joined the NCHC.
Freshman Joey Cassetti scored the first two goals of his career, with the first one becoming the eventual game winner and both coming on the power play.
The RedHawks, who started the season 0-5, are 4-2-1 since.
RECAP: WMU (2-8-2) opened the scoring on a 3-on-2 when Luke Grainger carried the puck through the slot and whipped a wrister by Miami goalie Ludvig Persson on the glove side with 8:47 left in the first period.
But Miami (4-7-1) answered just 1:48 later when Matt Barry won a boards battle and fed Phil Knies, who backhanded a shot that was saved, and Ben Lown corralled the rebound and beat netminder Austin Cain on the forehand.
The RedHawks took the lead on the power play 2:33 into the middle stanza when Derek Daschke fired a shot from the point that hit a body at the top of the crease and caromed to Joey Cassetti, who banged it home from the top of the crease for his first collegiate goal.
Cassetti’s second NCAA marker came 2:11 later, again on the man-advantage, when Barry centered a pass to Ryan Savage, whose shot from the slot rang off the post, and Cassetti was there again to clean up the rebound.
Just 84 seconds later, MU’s Andrew Sinard slid a pass through the neutral zone that found John Sladic for a breakaway, and he shoveled one home on the backhand to make it 4-1.
That ended Cain’s night, as the RedHawks beat him four times on 12 shots.
Robby Drazner capped the scoring when he took a feed from Phil Knies and fired it home from the high slot with 13:46 left in regulation.
STATS: Cassetti’s two-goal game was the first of the season for Miami. The RedHawks’ last individual multi-goal game was by Casey Gilling on Jan. 17, 2020.
It was just Cassetti’s second career game with MU, and in that 2:11 span in which he found the net twice, he became the team’s power play goal leader with two.
— Persson stopped 31 shots, improving to 4-0-1 in his last five with a 0.60 goals-against average and .981 save percentage in that span.
— It was the first goal of the season for both Lown and Sladic, and Drazner netted his second of 2020-21, as he now has two in five games.
— Knies and Barry finished with two assists each. Knies has six points in his last five games and Barry has five in that span.
— It was the third assist in four games for Gilling, and Daschke picked up his second helper in three contests. Sinard earned his second assist of the season and now has two points in five games.
— Miami still has been outshot in every game this season. The RedHawks’ streak of allowing more shots than it takes is at 14 games, dating back to home double shutout of Omaha last March.
— MU had more power play goals this weekend than it did in its first 10 games. Entering this series, the RedHawks were 2-for-32 (6.3 percent) on the man-advantage, but they went 3-for-6 vs. Western Michigan.
THOUGHTS: After getting outplayed for the first 20 minutes, Miami logged 40 of its best minutes of the season to close this one out.
The RedHawks took a three-goal lead into the third period and never took their proverbial foot off the gas.
Don’t look now, but Miami is actually on a winning streak. That confidence that Coach Chris Bergeron has been talking about, that the RedHawks have lacked, they seem to have more of it.
Both nights this weekend MU fell behind by one but answered and never allowed another goal.
Without its regular starting goalie this season, the Broncos are hurting between the pipes, but still they’re a solid team, and even without fans, Lawson Arena is a tough place to win, especially back-to-back nights.
— Once again, Persson is a key reason for that success. Another 31 of 32 effort, he went binary for the fifth straight game and seems to make at least one impossible save per game.
The Broncos actually had a couple of quality chances when Persson was out of position but missed the net. Persson may have been in Western Michigan’s head at that point, as he had seemingly stopped everything the team had thrown at him.
GAA: 1.13. Save percentage: .963. No more words necessary.
— Cassetti sure started his Miami career the right way, as he has figured in all three of those PPGs. He didn’t earn a point on Friday but won the draw that held the puck in the zone that ultimately resulted in the RedHawks’ tally.
He’s a big guy who scored both of his goals by posting up in front of the net and collecting loose change. It’s been a long time since Miami has had a skated who could do that regularly.
And he wins faceoffs, an area MU has struggled in for some time.
Hopefully this is just the beginning for Cassetti.
— Since earning the ‘C’ on his jersey, Knies has taken his game to another level. His forechecking and passing have been exceptional, as he has created numerous turnovers and scoring chances for his teammates.
— Sladic picked up his first goal, but he has played much better than his 1-0-1 line indicates.
LINEUP CHANGES: Bergeron made one at forward and one on defense.
Forward Michael Holland returned to the ice after sitting the last two games, and Alec Capstick was back on the blue line for the fifth time, alternating for the ninth consecutive contest.
Out were Jack Olmstead up front and Alec Mahalak on the back end.
STANDINGS: Miami moved into a tie with Colorado College for sixth place with 14 points, and the RedHawks are just one point behind a slumping Denver team.
Omaha, which holds the No. 4 spot and the final home ice seed, has 19 points.
The RedHawks pulled six points ahead of Western Michigan, and with the teams playing two more games in Oxford next weekend, Miami could either step on the Broncos’ throats and relegate them to last place or let them back into the field.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Consistency has been the RedHawks’ issue for several seasons now, and with WMU in Oxford next weekend, they have the opportunity to make a statement by putting together consecutive quality weekends.
It’s a safe bet the Broncos will be ready to avenge these losses when the teams hook up again at Cady Arena, and Miami will need to be ready from the drop of the puck on Friday.
The RedHawks ran off five straight losses to open 2020-21 and are now within three games of .500, so hopefully they will continue their recent run of quality play.