OXFORD, Ohio – No. 7 North Dakota was not only the better team on Friday, it benefited from seemingly every odd carom of the puck.
The Fighting Hawks doubled up the RedHawks in shots on goal en route to a 4-1 win over MU at Cady Arena in the series opener.
UND never trailed, scoring midway through the first period and running off the first three goals of the game as it extended its unbeaten streak vs. Miami to eight games (7-0-1).
These teams will wrap up their weekend set at 5:05 p.m. on Saturday.
RECAP: North Dakota (7-3) took the lead at 11:24 of the first period when Riese Gaber took a point-to-point pass from Jake Sanderson, skated to the top of the right faceoff circle and picked the top right corner with a wrist shot.
Sanderson made it 2-0 with 5:15 left in the second frame when he fired a loose puck in off of a tipped Connor Ford pass from the slot, catching Miami goalie Ludvig Persson out of position on the broken play.
The Fighting Hawks opened up a three-goal lead when a bad-angle shot by Tyler Kleven was deflected in by Matteo Constantini at the top of the crease with 15:47 left in regulation.
The RedHawks’ Dylan Moulton wristed a shot from the left point that found the net through traffic seconds into a power play to cut the deficit to two with 6:40 left.
But North Dakota sealed it when Sanderson scored into the empty net from behind his own net with 2:17 to play for his second goal and third point of the game.
STATS: Moulton’s goal was his first point of the season and second marker of his career.
His other tally came on Feb. 13 vs. St. Cloud State.
Will Cullen and P.J. Fletcher both picked up assists on the goal, the third of the campaign for each.
Fletcher snapped a four-game pointless streak, and Cullen had not recorded a point since opening night on Oct. 2.
— Miami (2-6-1) scored on the power play for the fourth straight game, going 4-for-16 (25.0 percent) in that span.
The flip side? The RedHawks were also held to one goal last Saturday, so they have not scored at even strength since Derek Daschke’s game winner in Omaha on Nov. 5, a span of 124:06.
— It was the fourth straight game Miami failed to generate 20 shots and the third in a row in which opponents have more than doubled up the RedHawks’ SOG total. MU has 65 shots on goal – or 16.3 per game – during this four-game span.
— First it was Miami giving up clutch late goals, now they’re allowing too many tallies early. RedHawks opponents have scored in their last nine first and second periods, netting 13 goals.
MU has been outscored, 6-0 the last two games in the opening 40 minutes.
THOUGHTS: This is a weird game to dissect.
In short: North Dakota vastly outplayed Miami and deserved the three points, yet two of the Fighting Hawks’ goals came off of strange bounces and the RedHawks missed on multiple slam-dunk chances.
The biggest takeaways are 1) UND, which some were concerned would struggle because it lost a number of key players, moved the puck amazingly well and has great speed, and 2) Miami’s offensive braintrust just didn’t do enough to keep the RedHawks in the game.
Quick game summary…
North Dakota took charge the first couple of minutes but Miami surged back and missed a wide-open net and couldn’t convert another Grade-A chance.
Then the RedHawks got into penalty trouble. They took three straight, and after killing the first two, the third one was costly.
North Dakota dominated the rest of the period, as it led, 14-3 on the shot counter after 20 minutes.
Miami had an outstanding power play midway through the middle stanza, but the RedHawks could not even the score despite four quality looks.
Then North Dakota scored on the rush, an odd bounce of the puck and a weird play. That said, the Fighting Hawks earned that goal by creating an odd-man surge toward the Miami net.
At that point it seemed overcoming a two-goal deficit was a near impossibility considering the RedHawks’ offense anemic through nearly 40 minutes.
Miami created sustained offensive pressure in the third period when trailing by three, which was encouraging but too late.
— The transition game was brutal. UND seemingly skated the puck through neutral ice unabated all night while the RedHawks struggled even to clear their own zone with quality passes and were very poor between the blue lines.
— This was more a puck possession game than most of Miami’s previous eight, with North Dakota controlling most of the offensive zone time, but Miami created some extended shifts as well.
— Loved seeing another sold-out crowd. For whatever reason, early crowds have been exceptional, but the team has to give fans something to come back to, and this game wasn’t it.
— Defenseman Alec Capstick logged some power play time on the second unit. Daschke is the lone D-man on the first power play team and Cullen and Moulton have typically played on the second unit.
— Chase Gresock was not in the lineup, and that was costly. The RedHawks’ top points producer has been a key offensive weapon with a hard shot and solid puck-moving ability, and he plays excellent defense as well.
Gresock has been arguably the best forward on Miami this season, and the team cannot afford for him to miss significant time…
LINEUP CHANGES: …and there’s that transition pass we were looking for, as Gresock was a late scratch and his injury and long-term status are unknown at this point.
Jack Olmstead also did not dress up front for the RedHawks.
Joey Cassetti, who was ill last weekend, returned to the forward corps, and Chase Pletzke was in the lineup after sitting the last two contests.
On defense, Capstick returned after sitting out a game, and Andrew Sinard was scratched for just the second time in 2021-22.
Alex Murray was again the extra skater, playing in his second career contest.
FORWARDS: F. Twelve forwards combined for 11 shots and one point. Not nearly good enough.
DEFENSEMEN: B. This was a tough assignment, and with a couple of exceptions, the defense corps was solid, especially on winning physical battles in open ice and along the boards against an always-physical North Dakota team. Moulton scored the lone Miami goal and Cullen earned the assist.
GOALTENDING: B-. Persson stopped 28 of 31 shots. He made arguably his best save of the season when he came across to deny a one-timer in the first period. Gaber picked the corner for North Dakota’s first goal. The second and third weren’t really on Persson either. Weird moment in the third: A shot in hit a Miami defender then caromed off Persson’s pads, and he looked toward the heavens as if he thought it went in, but it was actually in front of him and was ultimately played out of harm’s way.
FINAL THOUGHTS: After the game, Miami coach Chris Bergeron called out the effort of 4-6 of his players.
Although he didn’t name individuals, it’s hard to understand how skaters can’t get up for a game against North Dakota on home ice, with a sold-out crowd a year after a pandemic reduced Cady Arena attendance to double-digits.
North Dakota did dominate on the scoreboard, and in the shot column, and in the puck-luck department.
Bergeron rightly points out that Miami didn’t play well enough to earn those fortunate bounces.
It was a 4-1 final, and after the Fighting Hawks went up by two it wasn’t really close.
Yet if a couple of bounces had gone right it feels like Miami might’ve been in another Omaha, Game 1 situation despite the lopsided box score.
Having all 19 skaters firing at 100 percent when the puck dropped could have made the difference.
The RedHawks are clearly outmatched in terms of talent this weekend, and when they’re not getting their best from everyone in the lineup, their chance of winning goes from so-so to zero.