OXFORD, Ohio – Playing in front of an actual home crowd for the first time in 20 months, Miami’s offense appeared rejuvenated, as the RedHawks jumped out to a two-goal lead.
But MU was unable to hold that advantage against Bowling Green at Cady Arena on Friday, as the Falcons answered and the teams skated to a 2-2 tie.
This two-game set shifts north as Game 2 will be at the Slater Family Arena in Bowling Green on Saturday.
RECAP: Miami (1-3-1) took the lead at the 3:24 mark of the first period when Jack Olmstead fired a shot from the slot that created a huge rebound, which Joey Cassetti pitchforked in on his backhand.
At the 6:29 mark of the middle frame, Chase Pletzke, Red Savage and Ryan Savage all fired shots within a five-second window that were all kicked out by BGSU goalie Zack Rose, but a big rebound on a point-blank chance kicked out to Alec Capstick in the slot, and he skated in, was denied on his initial attempt but bulled his way to the top of the crease and punched it between Rose’s legs.
Just 20 seconds later, Bowling Green (1-1-1) cut the deficit to one when a centering feed by Brayden Krieger caromed off a skate at the top of the crease and kicked out to a wide-open Ethan Scardina, who buried a shot far past from the right faceoff dot.
With 4:15 left in the middle stanza, the Falcons’ Coale Norris banked a pass off the boards to an in-stride Austen Swankler, who had snuck behind the defense. Miami goalie Ludvig Persson came out to prevent a breakaway, but halfway out realized he wasn’t going to get there in time and tried to back up into the net.
Swankler seized the loose puck at the faceoff dot and whipped it into the open cage, tying the score.
Midway through the third period, it appeared Chase Gresock had given the RedHawks the lead when he fired a missile from the top of the faceoff circle, but it was called no goal on the ice and that call was upheld after review.
Neither team was able to find the net in the 3-on-3 overtime.
STATS: Cassetti took solo control of first place on the team goals list with three. He has one in each of Miami’s first three series.
Capstick netted the fourth goal of his career. After scoring just once in his first 32 games, the junior defenseman has found the net three times in his last 12 contests.
The Savage brothers both earned assists on Capstick’s goal, which was the first of the season for each.
Olmstead and P.J. Fletcher also picked up helpers. It was the second for both, and Fletcher is now tied for second on the team with three points (1-2-3).
— Persson stopped 30 of 32 shots and has a .928 save percentage in his last three games.
— Since going 3-for-5 on the power play opening night at Ferris State, Miami has not scored on the man-advantage in its 14 opportunities.
— The RedHawks have scored just two goals in the third period and overtime.
THOUGHTS: As someone who has watched this team for a quarter century and has missed three games since Cady Arena opened in 2006 (two to get married and one for a funeral), the atmosphere overshadowed the outcome.
In the five years leading up to COVID 2020-21, which saw Miami play seven home games in front of fewer than 100 “fans” – families of players – attendance and enthusiasm had dwindled significantly.
Cady Arena, which sold out every game its first seven seasons of existence with students setting up tents in the snow to take their places in line for into high-profile games, was seeing attendance figures at half of capacity.
And the decline was gradual, making it harder to witness. Miami went from maybe-we-should-bribe-the-fire-marshall status starting in 2006 – which meant seat licensing for season-ticket holders – to just at capacity, to whoa, empty seats, to whoa, I can actually buy single-game tickets, to whoa, that cursed season ticket waiting list is no longer a thing and I can get them, to hey, what time’s the game Friday, well, that depends on when can you get here.
This game night was fun.
Students are instrumental in creating a solid environment, and they showed up in huge numbers. It’s been at least five years since the line for student seating extended all the way across the councourse level, down the stairs, through the lobby and outside the front door.
Some familiar faces were around the seating bowl but a lot of new ones as well.
Why the attendance spike for the team that on the surface is 1-3 after winning just five games in 2020-21?
The best guess would be students and other locals are psyched to again see live sports, and more specifically, high-level hockey. Because there’s no better live sport on the planet.
Knowing how much Coach Chris Bergeron’s staff is dedicated to bring Miami hockey back to the glory days of league titles and Frozen Fours, it likely played some kind of role in getting the fans out. That’s despite the team having its administrative payroll gutted since Bergeron has taken over.
Miami’s announced attendance of 3,209 was its highest since opening night, 2017-18 vs. Providence, when the RedHawks drew 3,257.
Tonight was the second-highest fan total at a RedHawks home game since they hosted a key late-season series vs. then-No. 1 North Dakota on March 6-7, 2015.
This team certainly has the attention of the campus and the region.
– Not at all opposed to ties, but this is one I didn’t want to see end that way, mostly because of the big crowd. Fans want outcomes, and unfortunately the biggest crowd this rink has seen in over four years didn’t get one.
— Weird that no one seemed to know what to do after the 3-on-3 overtime session. Players skated around aimlessly then eventually lined up to shake hands. This is what happens when you over-complicate the simplest of concepts for any fan, player or coach – wins and losses.
Someone near me asked why there wasn’t a shootout. Try summing that up in a couple of sentences.
— About the game: Overall, it was exciting with lots of end-to-end action and a bit sloppy.
Bowling Green came across as pretty fast and either well-coached, very intelligent or both.
The Falcons won a lot of 1-on-1 battles with their speed, and they got behind the Miami defense several times, resulting in odd-man chances.
They missed a number of scoring opporunities as well, as multiple players set up at the side of the Miami net uncontested but were unable convert on teammates’ feeds.
The RedHawks also struggled to convert Grade-A chances.
— Bad penalties didn’t cost MU in this game, but we’ve seen a handful early this season and this team can’t afford to play shorthanded a ton. Red Savage finished with six PIM.
LINEUP CHANGES: Miami only made one change to last Saturday’s lineup.
Will Cullen, who suffered a lower-body injury late in the first period of Game 2 at Michigan State, did not dress, and Bergeron went with 13 forwards, as John Sladic dressed for the second time in 2021-22.
FORWARDS: C. Comme ci, comme ca. Just 18 shots among this group, and too many members of the top nine weren’t visible much of the game. Cassetti has been one of the best at dishing out the body among this corps, and he’s scored in three of five games. Love seeing the Savage brothers generate a goal and hope to see a lot more from them.
DEFENSEMEN: C. Capstick’s goal was blue collar all the way, as he battled for his wo shots in the slot . Overall, this corps allowed BGSU skaters to get behind them way too frequently. The tying goal was the result of a defensive lapse resulting in a breakaway, and Persson was hung out to dry on multiple occasions because the D-corps pinched. That all said, this unit is miles ahead of where it was two seasons ago when Bergeron took over. Dylan Moulton has been pressed into power play duty the last five periods because of Cullen’s injury, and he seems to be gaining confidence with every shift. Really liked Andrew Sinard in this game, as he rode BGSU skaters off the puck multiple times and was able to clear pucks out of dangerous areas.
GOALTENDING: B+. Yeah, Persson is 80 percent responsible for the tying goal. It would’ve been nice if his defense wouldn’t have put him in a breakaway mode – which results in a goal a third of the time anyway – but he definitely misplayed the puck in that situation. That said, he shut down a 3-on-1, a pair of 2-on-1s and a breakaway, and he denied three high-percentage chance in the 3-on-3 overtime. In short, he more than made up for that play. It was the third straight game in which Persson has allowed exactly two goals. Any Division I team would be elated to get that caliber of netminding.
FINAL THOUGHTS: To return to the hockey: Positive process is great.
Miami needed a quality goaltender heading into last season. It has it in Persson.
The RedHawks were atrocious in terms of shut-down defensemen when Bergeron took the team over. They have added Drazner, Moulton and others have stepped up on the blueline since.
Scoring was the biggest issue for the RedHawks last season, and they’ve added four transfers plus Detroit draftee Red Savage, and all have made an impact already in 2021-22.
But at some point results matter. And after winning its season opener, Miami is winless in its last four.
The RedHawks seem to have addressed all of their major shortcomings since the coaching change.
That needs to start being reflected in the win column.