BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Miami’s struggles to close out games continued on Saturday.
For the third time in a row when holding a lead after two periods, the RedHawks lost, this time 6-4 to Bowling Green at Slater Family Ice Arena to close out a home-and-home weekend series.
Miami (1-4-1) led 3-1 until midway through the middle frame, and after giving up a pair of goals in 17 seconds, regained the lead two minutes later.
But the RedHawks allowed three unanswered goals in the final stanza and Bowling Green (2-0-2) recorded five of the final six tallies.
MU is winless in its last five games as it opens NCHC play at Omaha in two weeks.
RECAP: Miami wasted no time jumping out in front, as Chase Gresock went in for a breakaway and shoveled a forehander home 35 seconds into the game.
The Falcons tied it at the six-minute mark of the frame when Ethan Scardina tipped in a hard pass at the top of the crease from Brayden Krieger on the power play.
Gresock connected again midway through the opening stanza, as he deked a defender and shot one off BGSU goalie Zack Rose that trickled across the goal line, giving the RedHawks a 2-1 lead.
Miami went up two when Ryan Savage whipped a hard wrister from the blue line that caromed in off the inside of the near post with 14:13 left in the second period.
But Bowling Green’s Max Coyle countered less than three minutes later, as he took a stretch feed from Ben Wozney out of the penalty box, skated in alone and beat Miami goalie Ludvig Persson to make it 3-2.
Just 17 seconds later, Nathan Burke slammed home a one-time pass from Austin Swankler off a 2-on-1 to tie it.
The RedHawks regained the lead with 9:01 left in that frame when Thomas Daskas ripped a rebound off a Joey Cassetti shot from the inside of the left faceoff circle over a sprawled-out Rose for the first marker of his Miami career as their power play was expiring.
That snapped the team’s four-game PPG drought.
But 35 seconds into the the third period – the same time Gresock scored in the first – BGSU immediately evened the score
A wrist shot by Eric Parker from the blue line was tipped by Taylor Schneider in the slot to Sam Craggs for a slam-dunk slap shot that beat Persson, who was unable to get across the crease.
With 10:22 left in regulation, the Falcons took the lead for good when Nathan Burke skated around the back of the net and threw it up the middle to Coale Norris, whose one-timer was denied by Persson, but the rebound kicked out to Swankler, who whipped it in from an off-angle.
Norris sealed it with an empty netter in the closing seconds.
STATS: Gresock’s first multi-goal game with Miami gave him 30 for his career.
The only other RedHawk with more than one tally in a game this season is Ryan Savage, who scored twice in the season opener at Ferris State on Oct. 2.
Entering this weekend, Ryan Savage was the only current Miamian with a career goal vs. Bowling Green, and his marker in this game was his third of the season.
So was Gresock’s, as the tandem along with Cassetti all have three.
— Daskas’ tally was the fourth of his career, as he netted three with Air Force in 12 games.
— Red Savage picked up two assists, and after being held pointless for the first four games, he has three helpers in the last two games.
— Cassetti and defensemen Derek Daschke and Jack Clement all picked up an assist as well, the second for all three in 2021-22.
THOUGHTS: Saturday was a microcosm of the first month of the season.
Since winning its opener in Big Rapids, Miami has played five games – all extremely close – and has lost in dramatic fashion four times.
VFTG just wrote about upcoming scheduling, so maybe this is the team’s attempt to draw interest in playing Miami. Host the RedHawks and impress current and potential fans with your third-period heroics.
The RedHawks will certainly be on the wrong side of highlight reels for Ferris State, Michigan State and now Bowling Green.
But what’s the problem? Conditioning? Confidence?
Bowling Green was faster than either of Miami’s previous two foes, but on the surface the RedHawks didn’t seem gassed in the sixth period of the weekend.
Coach Chris Bergeron admitted last season that confidence was a problem, as the team has a .277 winning percentage since he took over in 2019 and has not won more than 15 games since 2014-15.
With 18 of 20 players in Saturday’s lineup having only played under Bergeron at Miami – just Daschke and classmate and fellow defenseman Andrew Sinard – the hope was that any negative bleed-over would be squelched.
Even coming off a 5-18-2 COVID season, expectations were the RedHawks would start much better than 1-4-1 (.250), with four games of those first six meetings against teams that were 9-41-3 in 2020-21 and the other two vs. an in-state rival Miami has still been competitive against during its worst times.
Now the RedHawks head into a meat grinder of a conference schedule that features the first six games against teams in the top 11 of the USCHO poll, and four of those contests will be on the road.
That picture is pretty bleak, but Miami did well enough overall against a very good Bowling Green team that has won at least 20 games seven straight seasons, including last year when they played just 31 games.
Plus the RedHawks have been a walking TRIAGE unit all season, and it’s hopeful several injured skaters will return to action soon.
— The third period alone deserves its own tab. Three shots on goal despite a five-minute power play. Outscored, 3-0 which makes it 9-2 in the final stanza for the season.
Funny that the power play snapped a four-game drought in this game because it was atrocious. The RedHawks went 1-for-5 on the man-advantage but that included a major, and they gave up a goal when they lost track of Coyle as he came out of the box for a Bowling Green goal.
Miami was only able to generate one quality scoring chance during its major power play. And while the RedHawks spent nearly 13 minutes with an extra skater, home team Bowling Green was on the man-advantage for a little under two minutes.
MU lost its two-goal lead in the second period but went back up by one by the end of that frame, but it seemed like that tying goal by Schneider in the opening minute of the final 20 minutes completed deflated the team.
Despite skating a quarter of that period 5-on-4, the RedHawks were outshot, 11-3. And they also spent much of the final two minutes with an extra attacker.
— If there are any positives to take out of this loss, it’s Gresock’s ability to not only score two goals but challenge for a third all night, and that we’re seeing quantitative stats from Red Savage, as he racked up his first three career assists this weekend including two on Saturday.
— Robby Drazner was hit and injured along the boards in the third period, which is why the five-and-game was whistled against Anton Malmstrom. It appeared Drazner was slipping as he tried to advance the puck and Malmstrom had already committed to dishing out the body.
From across the ice the play looked more fluky and there was no malicious intent, and it’s a little surprising he was ejected.
That said, Drazner will be seriously missed if he is out for any amount of time, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Fellow blueliner Jack Clement joined Dylan Moulton on second power play unit.
— We’ll say it one more time.
It’s unclear what Bowling Green’s issue is with playing Miami moving forward, but these teams need to meet every season.
Both games this weekend were incredibly exciting, and it truly felt like a rivalry.
The campuses are close enough that opponents’ fan bases can easily travel and the history between the programs is rich.
LINEUP CHANGES: None.
Miami has been decimated by injuries early this season, as defenseman Will Cullen missed this weekend with a lower-body injury.
Regulars Hampus Rydqvist has missed three straight games, Bray Crowder and Scott Corbett have yet to see the ice in 2021-22 and Drazner was injured in the second period of this game.
FORWARDS: B-. Gresock was easily the best offensive player of the game for Miami, and the Savage brothers combined for three points. That said, this corps combined for 13 shots and seemed lacking defensively in front of the RedHawks’ net during Bowling Green scoring chances. Even with four goals, too many forwards were invisible much of the game.
DEFENSEMEN: D. Too much pinching, with only two assists to show for it, and an abundance of odd-man rushes against. Bowling Green exploited Miami’s lack of coverage at the edge of the crease from the opposite point on Friday and cashed in on that on Saturday.
GOALTENDING: C-. When an opponent scores six it’s easy to blame the goaltender, but one goal was an empty netter and most of the others were on odd-man rushes or bad caroms. The rebounds the Falcons scored on were the result of tips or hard in-close blasts. Persson had his best save chance of the five on the breakaway.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami’s third period woes are officially a major concern heading into NCHC play.
The RedHawks have been outscored, 11-2 in the final 20 minutes and overtime this season – 19-2 dating back to the final four games of 2020-21 and 34-11 in that span their last 19 contests.
Miami had added several key defensemen to address a weakness there in the past couple of season. When netminder Ryan Larkin graduated, in came Persson, who has been largely solid in one-plus seasons.
The RedHawks were in dire need of offense entering 2021-22, and they brought in four key transfers and Detroit draftee Red Savage.
It feels like Miami now has a more competitive team, and it has had an opportunity to win all six of its contests to this point.
But the RedHawks’ recent late collapses are overshadowing all of that recent progress.