OXFORD, Ohio – The team that scores first has yet to record a win in the four games played between Miami and Western Michigan.
The RedHawks were unable to hold a pair of two-goal leads, allowing three third-period markers in a 3-3 tie vs. the Broncos at Cady Arena on Saturday.
The teams combined for one goal in the first 40 minutes but netted five in the final stanza. WMU (3-8-3) won the shootout, 2-0 to earn the second conference point.
The Broncos scored first in both games played in Kalamazoo last weekend, and the RedHawks struck first in both of this series’ games. The team scoring first was 0-3-1 in those contests.
RECAP: After over 36 minutes of scoreless hockey, Miami (4-8-2) took the lead when Ben Lown threw a puck at the net from the right point that was tipped by teammate Chase Pletzke, and goalie Alex Aslandis made the initial pad save but the rebound came to the RedHawks’ Monte Graham, who rifled one just inside the near post.
MU extended its lead 37 seconds into a wild third period, as Ryan Savage created a turnover in his own zone, and the loose puck was sent ahead by Joey Cassetti for a Savage breakaway, which he buried glove side.
Western Michigan cut the deficit to one on the power play at the 7:59 mark, as Michael Joyaux sent a pass down low to Ty Glover, who received it on the backhand, shifted to the forehand and shoveled it past RedHawks goalie Ludvig Persson.
Miami regained its two-goal margin less than two minutes later when Matt Barry stole the puck behind the Broncos’ net and centered one to Alec Capstick in the high slot, and Capstick skated in, eluded a defender and shoveled a backhander home.
Just 13 seconds after that, the RedHawks turned it over in the defensive zone, and WMU’s Brett Van Os centered a pass to Jamie Rome for a one-time rip that squirted through Persson’s legs to make it 3-2.
The Broncos tied it with 7:29 remaining when Ronnie Attard blasted a slap shot from the right point that snuck through Persson.
WMU outshot Miami, 13-7 in the third period and 5-2 in overtime.
The Broncos’ Josh Possolt and Ethen Frank scored in the shootout, while the RedHawks’ Savage and Barry failed to converted their breakaways.
STATS: With his assist, Barry extended his points streak to four games (0-5-5), the longest stretch of any Miamian thus far this season.
— Savage led the team with two points on a goal and an assist, and he became just the second RedHawks this season to score in back-to-back games (Barry is the other).
Savage finished 2-1-3 on the weekend.
— Graham found the net for the first time in 11 games, and Capstick’s marker was just the second of his career.
— Cassetti, Pletzke and Lown picked up the other assists for Miami.
— The RedHawks killed off one of two penalties and were 2-for-5 on the penalty kill on the weekend.
— Miami actually led in shots on goal after two periods but were outshot, 18-9 the final 25 minutes and lost the battle of the shot counter, 34-28. It was the 16th straight game the RedHawks have been outshot.
THOUGHTS: It’s hard to watch a team squander leads, and that’s exactly what Miami did both nights this weekend, but moreso in this game, when the RedHawks led by two goals twice until midway through the third period.
Miami started slowly again, and a whistle-filled first period that saw just 12 combined shots could’ve cured insomnia.
But the RedHawks controlled the second period, culminating in the Graham goal, and they came out in the first minute of the final frame and extended their lead to two.
Western Michigan had two breakaways within a minute of each other in the second period, but Persson stopped both and a 2-0 lead appeared almost insurmountable as the first minutes of the third period ticked away.
But the Broncos took advantage of a power play, and an uncovered Glover had plenty of time to shift the puck from backhand to forehand and bang it home.
Two minutes later it appeared MU had again sealed it on a hard-working shift by Barry that led to his assist on Capstick’s goal.
That lasted 13 seconds. Less than three minutes after that, the score was tied.
Western Michigan’s second goal was a point-blank rip that squirted through Persson. He normally comes up with those but he wasn’t really at fault for giving it up.
The third one definitely appeared to be one he would’ve liked back, as it was from long range and not in a difficult spot.
But when your goalie is one of the only reasons your team has four wins this season, it’s hard to get too upset when the tying goal leaks through late in the third period.
Persson was outstanding the first two periods, shutting down a pair of breakaways as part of his 16 saves to that point.
But he was shaky the rest of the way, nearly allowing another goal on a seemingly-innocuous shot late.
Still, he made five key saves in overtime to preserve the tie, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t return to top form next weekend.
— Nice to see Graham find the net. On a team that had much production from its forwards, Graham has played stellar defense, won faceoffs and dished out the body. Those things are very important but don’t show up on scoresheets. It was his sixth point of 2020-21.
Really underrated is the tip by Pletzke and the initial save by Alex Aslanidis, as the puck completely changed direction and Aslanidis made a great reaction save but couldn’t control the rebound, which Graham rammed home.
— Capstick started off inauspiciously, taking a cross-checking penalty in the opening minutes, but the sophomore’s defense is much better than his rookie year, and he made an impressive move en route to his backhand goal.
— And what a shift by Barry on that goal. He crashed into the offensive zone to help Miami hold the puck in, created the turnover and centered the pass for the goal. He has become the team’s most reliable points producer, and he more than earned his primary assist.
— While seeing six potential points dwindle to one is tough to stomach from a Miami perspective, Western Michigan does deserve a lot of credit for its comebacks this weekend, and as always, Andy Murray is one of the best in the business at in-game coaching.
— It was strange having four different officials for the back end of the weekend series.
LINEUP CHANGES: RedHawks coach Chris Bergeron made one change up front and two on defense.
Caleb Rule returned to the Miami lineup, replacing Michael Holland, and on defense, Andrew Sinard and Dylan Moulton were scratched and seniors Alec Mahalak and Rourke Russell dressed.
Forward Scott Corbett missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury, and forward Jack Olmstead was out for the third consecutive contest with a lower-body injury.
Defenseman Bray Crowder has not played since Dec. 15.
STANDINGS: With the point, Miami moved a point ahead of Colorado College and into a tie for fifth with Denver, but both of those teams have games in hand over the RedHawks.
Miami has 10 games remaining on its regular season slate – four each vs. St. Cloud State and Minn.-Duluth and two against Western Michigan. Five of those games will be on the road and the other five are scheduled to be played in Oxford.
FINAL THOUGHTS: If Miami had been able to hold its leads and had earned all six points this weekend, it would be tied with North Dakota for third place this morning.
But for a number of reasons, the RedHawks came away with an 0-1-1 record for the series and just one point.
The schedule gets a lot tougher from here, as SCSU is first in the league by six points and Duluth is second. Eighty percent of Miami’s remaining regular season games will be against those two teams.
Then the RedHawks will likely have to travel to a ranked team and win a best-of-3 just to advance to the Frozen Faceoff.
So this was a big opportunity that Miami squandered.
The RedHawks couldn’t beat the last-place team in the conference in Oxford with WMU’s starting goalie injured.
They will need to show a lot more the next 10 games if they hope to pick up more wins.