Miami survived the first period, fending off two power plays and an early Denver surge.
Though the game was tied after 20 minutes, the No. 11 Pioneers pulled away with two crucial goals in the middle frame en route to a 4-1 win over the RedHawks at Magness Arena on Friday.
Massimo Rizzo finished with a goal and two assists to pace Denver, which has won its first six home games this season. Magnus Chrona stopped 24 of 25 shots.
Dylan Moulton scored the lone goal for Miami.
RECAP: Denver opened the scoring at 3:36 of the first period when Carter Mazur skated through the left faceoff circle and wristed one through traffic and into the far corner of the net.
Miami (2-8-1) tied it with 11:28 left in the opening frame on the power play when Joey Cassetti won an offensive-zone faceoff to Moulton, who stepped into a heavy wrist shot and buried it from the high slot.
But Denver (7-4) regained the lead for good at the 5:37 mark of the second period when Mike Benning fired a shot from the outside that was kicked out by RedHawks goalie Ludvig Persson, but Rizzo shoveled the rebound in the inside edge of the faceoff circle to make it 2-1.
The Pioneers extended their lead to two eight minutes later. A shot by Cole Guttman hit the post then Bobby Brink’s skate before pinballing to Carter Savoie at the side of the cage for a tap-in on the man-advantage.
Denver’s Brett Stapley capped the scoring when he beat Persson five hole from the right faceoff dot for a power play goal with 12:13 left in regulation.
STATS: Moulton scored his second goal of the season – his second in three games – and the third of his career.
If “lone goals” was a stat for teams that only scored once in a game he would lead the team with two, as he netted the only Miami goal in the team’s 4-1 loss to North Dakota last Friday.
Cassetti picked up the lone assist, his first point since returning from illness, snapping a three-game points drought.
— Special teams pro: Miami went 1-for-3 on the power play, extended its man-advantage scoring streak to six games (7 of 23, 30.4 percent).
Special teams con: This was the second time this season the RedHawks surrendered multiple goals on the penalty kill, and Miami is 13-for-19 (68.4 percent) in their last four games shorthanded.
— With seven PPGs in six games, Miami has been outscored, 19-8 at even strength in that span.
— This was the fourth straight game the RedHawks have surrendered at least four goals. Meanwhile, Miami was held to one tally for the fifth time this season and has not held an opponent to a binary number through 11 games.
THOUGHTS: It would be nice if Miami didn’t start every game in scared-to-death mode.
Denver skated circles around the RedHawks from the opening whistle, culminating in a Pioneers goal in the fourth minute of the first period.
DU continued to buzz until its tripping penalty 7:31 in. Miami not only scored on that power play, the team played the Pioneers evenly for the balance of the stanza despite having to kill two minor penalties.
But things went sideways for the RedHawks in the second frame. They were outshot, 18-6 and shot attempts were than four times in Denver’s favor.
The game was essentially over at that point.
The Pioneers went into shutdown mode for the final 20 minutes, and while Miami led 12-7 in shots that period, most attempts were from the perimeter and Denver was able to tack on an insurance marker.
— It would also be nice if the RedHawks could also field a consistent team without injuries, illnesses and other issues.
It’s tough enough to try to rebuild playing this league schedule, but it’s as if this team travels the country with a giant Bugs Bunny cartoon anvil perpetually suspended overhead.
More on that in ‘Lineup Changes’…
— Like last weekend, way too many bad defensive-zone and neutral-zone passes. That’s why Denver dominated in O-zone time. Bad clearing attempts galore and poor transition feeds galore.
— Persson was pretty average, as he didn’t see the first Denver goal, gave up a huge rebound leading to the second one and got beat five hole on the fourth. No. 3 was off a post (which maybe shouldn’t have happened?) then an inadvertent Denver skate then an open guy at the side of the net, so that was in no way on him.
Persson has allowed 24 goals in his last six games and by turning aside 32 of 36 in this game, he saw his save percentage slip below .890.
— Always trying to take positives away, Brian Silver played his first game of the season and showed some offensive prowess playing on the fourth line with senior veterans Scott Corbett and Monte Graham.
— Hampus Rydqvist was back after missing seven games due to injury and played pretty well. In a limited sample size he has been much better all-around this season vs. his freshman year.
— He rightfully gets plenty of praise already, but Derek Daschke played one of his better games on defense. He was physical, won boards battles and was shooting the puck when Miami’s SOG opportunities were limited.
LINEUP CHANGES: Three skaters that dressed for Miami’s Saturday’s game vs. North Dakota were subbed out: Defenseman Will Cullen and forwards Jack Olmstead and Chase Pletzke.
Rydqvist returned on the blue line and forwards Silver and John Sladic were also on the lineup card.
Cullen was out for personal reasons, according to coach Chris Bergeron, and he did not make the trip to Denver.
FINAL THOUGHTS: There are two types of losses: Ones where the losing team can say it played well and fell short against a better team, and those in which the team taking the ‘L’ did not play well and deserved to lose.
Unfortunately, this game falls into the latter category.
That said, Denver is extremely talented, especially up front, and it’s easy to see why the Pioneers have been flirting with the top 10 in the polls.
The argument could be made that DU – from a goal-output perspective – wasn’t its best either, as the Pioneers flat-out missed a few wide-open chances off of strange bounced off of boards and players.
If Denver had more puck luck this game could’ve been 7-1 or 8-1.
This wasn’t a constructive loss, and Miami needs a better start, a better middle and a better finish on Saturday or it will suffer a similar fate.