OMAHA, Neb. – Miami defied the odds on Friday, scoring twice late to beat one of the hottest teams in college hockey on the road and end a six-game winless streak with a depleted roster.
But there would be no such magic on Saturday, as No. 9 Omaha hammered the RedHawks, 4-1 at Baxter Arena as the teams split the weekend series.
Matthew Barbolini netted the lone goal for the RedHawks (2-5-1), who finally will host a home series next weekend after playing seven of their first eight on the road.
RECAP: Omaha (8-2) opened the scoring at 14:38 of the first period when a wrister from the left point by Nate Knoepke was tipped through the legs of Miami goalie Ludvig Persson by Nolan Sullivan.
Exactly one minute later, a shot by UNO’s Brandon Scanlin initially headed wide was ramped just under the crossbar from the side of the net by Taylor Ward, college hockey’s leading scorer to make it 2-0.
The Mavericks extended their lead to three when a point-blank shot by Ty Mueller was partially blocked but hit Miami defenseman Andrew Sinard’s skate and deflected in with 11:50 left in the middle stanza.
UNO blew it open when Chase Gresock hauled down Tyler Weiss on a breakaway, and Weiss found the net on his forehand to make it 4-0 in the closing minute of the second frame.
Barbolini cut the deficit to three when he took a feed from Matt Barry down low, went backhand to forehand in close quarters at the side of the net and rammed the puck past goalie Isaiah Saville with 14:09 remaining.
STATS: Barbolini did not score in any of Miami’s first six games but recorded a marker in both contests this weekend.
Barry’s assist gave him points in both games this weekend as well and five overall, tying him for second on the RedHawks.
Chase Gresock extended his points streak to a team-high three games by earning the secondary helper, giving him four points in three games and a Miami-best six on the season.
THOUGHTS: Entering the weekend with a 1-4-1 record against a fairly weak schedule, a split on the ninth-ranked team in Division I’s home ice is an overall win for Miami.
And while the RedHawks’ puck movement was better than on Friday, especially early, the Mavericks showed why they are a top-10 team in the NCAA, using their speed and transition game to pepper the MU net with quality chances.
The overall shot total was lopsided once again as Miami once again had to contend with a road crowd, a quality opponent and a rampant non-COVID bug that has decimated the team.
Despite being down four heading into the third period, the RedHawks battled until the final horn, trimming the final deficit to three and holding a lethal UNO offense in check.
The reason Miami’s record is currently underwater is its struggles late in its first six games.
MU scored the tying and go-ahead goals late on Friday and outscored UNO, 1-0 in the final 20 minutes in this game. Hopefully those issues are now in the past.
— Freshman defenseman Alex Murray made his debut, and while he saw almost no ice time the first 40 minutes, Murray logged several shifts in the third period and played well.
Assistant coach Barry Schutte patted him on the back after he came to the bench following an extended shift in which he looked completely comfortable handling the puck in the offensive zone.
He was on the ice for the final seconds of the game, likely a reward for a solid debut.
— Speaking of quality third periods, Logan Neaton relieved Persson for the final 20 minutes and was outstanding in net.
Persson was 26-for-30 in the first two frames, and Neaton stopped all 10 shots he faced, although the shot counters at Baxter were extremely stingy.
Neaton’s highlight was a sliding right pad save on a point-blank chance, and he also turned a shot aside with the shaft of his stick on a rip early in the stanza.
Neaton had not played since Game 2 at Ferris State when he suffered a 4-3 overtime loss over a month ago.
LINEUP CHANGES: Miami dressed a full lineup on Saturday after skating a man short in the series opener.
Scott Corbett was in the lineup for the first time this season after battling injuries and illness for the first month-plus of 2021-22.
Murray debuted as the seventh defenseman, replacing Alec Capstick, who is the 83rd member of the team to miss time with non COVID-related illness this season.
STANDINGS: Two games into NCHC play, Miami is in a four-way tie for third place with a 1-1 record and three points, square with Omaha, Western Michigan and Minn.-Duluth.
North Dakota and St. Cloud State swept their first series of conference play. The Fighting Hawks face the RedHawks in Oxford next weekend.
FINAL THOUGHTS: After playing seven of its first eight games on the road, Miami finally enters a home-friendly portion of its schedule.
Nine of the RedHawks’ next 12 games are at Cady Arena, where they sold out their lone contest there vs. Bowling Green.
Miami hurt itself early by failing to capitalize on a light early schedule but has a chance to get back to .500 or better on its home turf the next two months.