OXFORD, Ohio – It looked bleak for Miami approaching the midway point of the third period, as the RedHawks were being shut out and had generated fewer than 20 shots.
But MU scored three times in less than three minutes and fought off a late surge, puling off a 3-2 upset of No. 6 St. Cloud State at Cady Arena on Friday.
The RedHawks (5-14-2) checked a few boxes off on their wish list with the win. They beat the Huskies for the first time in nearly three years, snapping a 13-game winless streak and a string of 10 straight losses to SCSU.
Overall, Miami had not won in eight consecutive games (0-7-1), dropping the last six.
The victory was the RedHawks’ first on home ice this season and propelled them into solo possession of seventh place in the league standings.
RECAP: Five minutes into the first period, St. Cloud State’s Spencer Meier fired a shot from the top of the faceoff circle that snuck through Miami goalie Ludvig Persson.
The score would hold at 1-0 until the 9:55 mark of the final stanza.
That’s when the RedHawks’ Alec Capstick carried the puck through the neutral zone and fed Matthew Barbolini at the right point, and he put a shot on net that was kicked out by goalie David Hrenak, with the rebound finding a wide-open Capstick, who settled the puck and fired it over the sprawled-out netminder from the left side of the net.
Off the ensuing faceoff, MU’s Scott Corbett carried the puck into the zone on the left wing, beat his defender and wristed one on net that was stopped, but John Sladic buried a long rebound to make it 2-1 just 13 seconds after the RedHawks had tied it.
Ten seconds after taking the lead, the Huskies (12-8) evened the score at two when an outlet pass from along the boards caromed to Jami Krannila, who skated in alone and shoved a forehander under Persson.
The teams had combined for three markers in 23 seconds.
Miami regained the lead less than three minutes later on the power play when Derek Daschke forced a turnover in the neutral zone, and Barbolini skated across the blue line and centered one to Casey Gilling, who skated through the slot and wired a shot home on the stick side.
STATS: Barbolini led Miami with two points, both on assists. It was his first second career multi-point game with the RedHawks and his first with two helpers.
— Both Sladic and Gilling scored for the second time in four games. Capstick’s marker was his second in his last six.
— Daschke picked up his third point in four games.
— Phil Knies and Corbett earned the other helpers. Knies snapped an eight-game pointless streak, and Corbett had not picked up a point since Game 3.
— Persson stopped 36 shots in the win. He has a .958 save percentage in his last two games, turning aside 91 of 95 SOG.
— Miami’s last win on home ice was Feb. 29, 2020 – 348 days prior.
THOUGHTS: Neither team had a ton of high-quality chances through nearly 50 minutes, but the flow was still good and the hockey was entertaining to that point.
It seemed like both teams’ defenses really tightened up once skaters entered their offensive zones.
Then the game opened up. Miami scored twice on a pair of juicy rebounds that Hrenak probably would’ve liked back.
Back came St. Cloud State literally several seconds later on a strange goal that took a Huskies bounce at the neutral zone.
But the RedHawks didn’t self-destruct, as we’ve seen too often the past couple of seasons. Instead, they took advantage of a power play – not the team’s strong point overall in this game – and Gilling’s laser gave MU the decisive goal.
All that was left was to defend a one-goal lead for seven minutes, and Miami did a good job of that. Nails were chewed as SCSU went full throttle late, but the RedHawks held.
Despite the lack of early scoring, it was still an entertaining game to that point, and it got really fun the final 10-plus minutes.
— Persson gave up a soft early goal but was lights-out after. SCSU scored on its fourth shot of the game, and Persson was 33-for-34 after that.
The second Huskies goal was on a breakaway after a fluky bounce, and lost in the excitement of the period is Persson’s 2-on-1 save moments later.
He also robbed St. Cloud State on a one-timer from the side of the net in the closing minutes.
— Miami played eight defensemen and 11 forwards again, and the RedHawks lost Chase Pletzke at the end of the first period with an apparent upper-body injury.
With MU down to 10 forwards, Brayden Crowder shifted into a flex role and was on the ice at forward for the final seconds.
— On Crowder: He played an outstanding game in that utility slot. Miami has really lacked depth up front – the bottom six forwards from tonight in terms of offensive production have an average of two points – so why not shift a big, physical presence up front who can play defense when you have 10 D-men on your roster?
— Segue to the final two minutes: It’s telling who is on the ice in those most critical moments. It shows who the coach trusts at that moment.
Crowder was out there as a forward for most of that final two-minute surge, and following a faceoff with 35.5 seconds to play it was Corbett, Crowder and Gilling up front with Daschke and Jack Clement on defense.
— Two other individual standouts worth mentioning.
Knies was very good, thriving on defense especially in that nuisance primary forechecker role on the penalty kill. On offense, Ben Lown was back after missing four games due to injury, and the duo’s chemistry was evident.
They have largely been linemates for four seasons in Oxford.
— Barbolini played one of his best games as well, laying out two huge hits in the opening minutes and earning a pair of assists. When he’s at his best, he uses his big body to create space for his linemates and can win battles along the boards while still having good hands around the net.
LINEUP CHANGES: Miami has been a walking triage unit this season, especially up front.
Lown returned, but the RedHawks were without Joey Cassetti and Monte Graham due to injury.
Ryan Savage (upper body) also missed his fourth consecutive contest and probably won’t play the balance of the season.
On defense, Alec Mahalak was scratched and Rourke Russell and Capstick dressed after sitting last Saturday.
Pletzke was the latest casualty, as he was not on the bench for the final two periods.
STANDINGS: Miami jumped to 18 points, three ahead of last place Colorado College, but the Tigers have three games in hand over the RedHawks.
Western Michigan is six points ahead of MU in sixth place, and the teams play their final two regular season games against each other.
Denver is one point ahead of WMU in fifth, the only other team the RedHawks could conceivably catch.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami has suffered from a lack of confidence this season, and a comeback win over the sixth-ranked team in Division I has to help that, right?
Hopefully, although earlier signature wins didn’t seem to create any momentum for the RedHawks.
Miami is a longshot to win its first-round matchup in the NCHC Tournament regardless of what happens in its final three regular season games, so the fact the RedHawks showed so much fight in this game is definitely encouraging.